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October 9, 2008

Are You Ready To Rock???

Rockschool class number one tonight!

I'm looking forward to it but at the same time I'm wondering what level the course will be pitched at. As I understand it, 'Rockschool' is a formalised syllabus for learning to play guitar/bass/drums (pick one!). You measure your progress by working towards exams. I guess it's similar to the 'Registry of Guitar Tutors' courses, only focused specifically on rock/pop bands.

From their own website:

"Rockschool was set up in 1991 to bring the best in pop and rock into mainstream education. We do this by providing exams, publications, advice and support to teachers and educational bodies."

All sounds good, right? Well, obviously if you're getting one-on-one tuition it can be tailored to the individual and hence within the group setting it's not clear which standard will be taught.

According to the syllabus guide, Rockschool teaches 9 grades as follows:

Debut:
In Debut Guitar you will be concentrating on playing tunes. A player of Debut standard should be able to play up to 20 bars of music in 4/4 time, using simple first position melodies composed of whole, half and quarter notes and associated rests, as well as a range of basic first position chords. The pieces very often use open strings and melodies move mainly between adjacent strings.


Easy stuff. Nothing to see here.

Grade 1:
A player of Grade 1 standard should be able to play up to 32 bars of music using first position chords and melodies composed of whole, half, quarter and eighth notes and associated rests, tied notes, and dotted half and quarter notes. Performances should include basic legato and staccato playing where marked.


Still nothing too challenging...

Grade 2:
In this grade you are beginning to acquire a range of physical and expressive techniques, including palm muting and the use of double stops on adjacent strings, simple legato and staccato and slides, as well as simple dynamics. In this grade you will also begin to work on your stylistic appreciation.


Ah, okay, now we're moving forward... 'stylistic appreciation'! Can't say I remember The Stylistics too much, but iTunes has most everything now, so I can download some of their tunes...

Grade 3:
This grade continues the foundation work started in Grade 2. As a player you will be encountering syncopated eighth and sixteenth note strumming as well as developing the palette of expressive techniques to include fretting hand vibrato, hammer ons and pull offs, slides and simple bends. The pieces of music are now longer, covering two pages and you should be developing your stylistic awareness, taking into account amp and pick up settings for each song.


WHAT? Amps have more than one setting??? I'm starting to see the learning curve arc upwards towards the lofty goal of musicianship!

Grade 4:
In this grade you use a range of physical and expressive techniques with confidence, damping and the use of double stops and adjacent strings, legato and staccato, slides, fretting hand vibrato, hammer ons and pull offs, and accents, and you are experimenting with a range of dynamics from very quiet to very loud. In this grade you are continuing to develop your ability to play with stylistic authority.


Okay, sounds like Grade 3 only more so...

Grade 5:
You will be confident in a range of physical and expressive techniques. You will be able to demonstrate your abilities across a number of styles and have control over tone and sound adjustments to suit the playing style of your choice. Please note that some of the tunes may now be written out over three pages.


Right, joking aside I'm guessing that I'm hovering somewhere between Grades 4 and 5. That would put me somewhere around a Karate blue belt, right? Watch out, I'm more dangerous than I first appear!

Grade 6:
In this grade you are developing the confidence of the advanced player across the range of physical and expressive techniques. You will start experimenting with a range of techniques across a number of musical styles. There is a greater emphasis on personal expression and you will display your own musical personality through ad libbing and soloing. Please note that some of the tunes may now be written out over three pages.


Hey, I might stretch up to Grade 6 on a good day after a few espresso shots. Ever closer to black belt!

Grade 7:
In this grade you are now confident in your abilities across the range of physical and expressive techniques. You will be experimenting with a range of these techniques across a number of styles. You will also be comfortable with a range of rhythms and time signatures other than common time. Your solos will be musically expressive and you will have the confidence to apply modal ideas in a number of soloing contexts. Please note that some of the tunes may now be written out over three pages.


Well, I know what modes are and I use a few of them them on occasion but I don't know that I'd say I'm confident using them.

Grade 8:
You will play effortlessly with a wide range of physical and expressive techniques at your command. You will be able to use these at will across a range of styles and musical contexts. You will be comfortable playing pieces employing a number of different time signatures (including changes from bar to bar) and you will display mastery of a number of musical styles. Your solos will be highly musical and employ techniques across the range. You will also be highly sensitive to all aspects of musical presentation. Please note that some of the tunes may now be written out
over four pages.


Whoa! Grade 8 sounds great, doesn't it? Having said that, when I first read it I kinda thought it sounded like a horoscope. You know, "you will play effortlessly with a wide range of physical and expressive techniques at your command" sounds a bit like "you will have difficulties in the workplace but they will be resolved by an unexpected event". No? Oh, okay...

There's a lot more specific syllabus stuff on the Rockschool website in a pdf document here.

Looking at the theory side, I'm probably punching a couple of grades above my technical playing level. Having said that, 'knowing' and 'doing' are two very distinct things when it comes to playing guitar.

So, what do I expect to get out of the course? Well, when I turned up for Week 1 (actually, I think it was, like, Week 3 that I joined in!) of the acoustic course I did with WAES I initially felt that the material was old hat to me. Nevertheless, I persevered with it and what I found was that while I knew lots of what was being taught I was also having huge gaps in my knowledge filled in, not least of which was stuff like 16th note strumming patterns, chord inversions etc. After the final lesson I really felt like I'd benefited.

Now, if we start out on 'Debut' then it's not going to be much fun!!!! The course blurp said that it was going to be pitched at folk who already play guitar, so I can't imagine they'll go that far back! I guess we'll see. I did discuss my 'level' with the course administrator and she seemed to think it'd be fine for me, but then again, she'd obviously been looking to get more bums on seats...

Oh, and as an aside, I'd originally planned on taking my old LP copy to class, but I didn't manage to get it out of storage in time so I'm turning up at the first lesson brandishing Red... Maybe I should sit at the back...

1 comment:

Dave Jacoby said...

To quote Max Bialystock, if you got it, flaunt it.