Whatever your musical ambitions, when you take our exams and work through our songbooks you’ll improve your technique while playing great rock and pop music. The song lists for our Drums exams include music by the Rolling Stones, The Who, R.E.M. and Green Day.

Our exams and songbooks are ideal for all drummers – whether you’re self-taught or taking lessons. We’ve designed the exams so they’re about performance and creativity, giving you the skills you’ll need as a rock and pop musician.

For each exam you’ll play three songs and perform one of the Session skills.

Demo videos

Watch our videos on the Drums grade pages to see professional musicians playing some of the music and demonstrating the technical skills you’ll be working on for your exam.

Watch our drums demo

Professional drummer George Double performs music by Elbow and Cream from our drums syllabus. He’s playing to backing tracks from the CDs in our Rock & Pop drums songbooks.

Songbooks and downloads

We’ve produced a songbook for each grade. Each book is an invaluable resource - it includes the sheet music for six songs, a CD with demo and backing tracks, performance notes and guidance on technical skills and Session skills.

And keep an eye on the website for more songs – we’ll be adding new tracks for each exam, available as downloads from our online store.

The music

As you progress through the grades you’ll explore great classic and contemporary rock and pop music. Our song lists will keep growing – new tracks will be available in our online store.

You decide the set list for your exam to show what you can do. As well as choosing two songs from our song list, you’ve got the option to play your own cover version of a song or a song that you’ve written.

This song may:
• be unaccompanied
• be played to a backing track (you can record this yourself)
• include your own vocals, performed live in the exam.
• include an accompaniment played or sung by any one other live musician.

Please see page 12 of the syllabus for full information on choosing songs and providing a copy.

Playing the songs

Drum charts for Rock & Pop graded exams have been written to explore a player’s technical ability, timekeeping, sense of appropriate style and to leave some room for creative interpretation where possible. Where a groove or fill has been written out, it should be played exactly as printed. There are specific points and longer passages throughout the syllabus where candidates are invited to ‘cont. sim’ or to make up their own fill or solo break over a particular number of beats or bars. Here candidates should use their creativity and stylistic sensibility to come up with suitable ideas to follow the directions on the score. Broad listening and development of stylistic awareness should be key to preparing for these moments.

Up to and including Grade 5 candidates may perform on either acoustic or electric drum kits, provided the electric kit is capable of all timbral variety that any particular arrangement may require. From Grade 6 all drum exams must be performed on a standard acoustic drum kit.

On all instruments, Songs 1 and 3 must be played along with the backing track. Only Song 2 may be played unaccompanied if wished.

For further information please see page 19 of the syllabus.

The Session skills

The Session skills - Improvising and Playback – develop important skills that musicians need.

When performing the Improvising Session skills test, drummers should carefully consider the style, the time signature and the form of the improvisation chart they are presented with. Players should think about variety and development of time patterns, stylistic and appropriately placed fills and to respond musically and creatively to the content of the playalong track. 

When performing the Playback Session skills test, drummers should follow the musical direction in the written score, and copy the expressive techniques heard on the track. No variation or improvisation is required – the song chart/recording should be copied as accurately as possible, including details of phrasing, articulation and dynamics.



2015-17 SYLLABUS