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What I Like about Rockschool Piano Exams

I love the idea of:

  • Students playing along to backing tracks. I firmly believe that this helps them to play along with a band. You don’t get that with classical piano unless it’s duets which aren’t mandatory in piano exams although I see that TCL and ABRSM of late have been including at least a piano duet as part of the recital component of their exams
  • Chords knowledge/voicing as part of technical work. I honestly think that knowledge of chords and how to play them are vitally important. I am delighted that Rockschool examines this aspect. However I also think that the scales and arpeggios portion of the technical work is rather demanding of students who are not motivated.
  • I think their improvisation and interpretation are very well structured. They improvise based on chords from the get go albeit in a more gradual and step-by-step fashion as compared to LCM’s jazz piano. For example, for Rockschool’s grade 1, candidates improvise only melodies on either hand based on a 4-6 bars of chord progression with chord symbols indicated. Compare this against LCM’s grade 1 where left hand is required. However, Rockschool may be considered more difficult than LCM as the candidate is required to play along to a backing track.
  • I like the idea of the general musicianship questions where candidate answer questions based on one of their pieces performed. I think this is pseudo theory but based on the pieces performed which makes it more practical and relevant than completing theory worksheets.

The key disadvantage of Rockschool is the limited set pieces. There’s six pieces per book and they aren’t cheap. However, the pieces are very likely to appeal to students who are into contemporary music. I wonder though maybe it’s a case of using Rockschool’s pieces for some of the other music examination boards that accept free choice pieces or vice-versa.

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