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Latest exam updates

Music Theory Exam update – session two

On the basis of government advice, we are cancelling the Music Theory exams due to take place later in 2020. We are sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your ongoing loyalty and support.

What’s changing

Flute, Clarinet, Saxophones, Recorders, Oboe and Bassoon

Our new syllabus for woodwind players will be available in July 2017. It will be valid from 1 January 2018 onwards.

The syllabus features revised sight-reading tests, new scale and arpeggio requirements, and refreshed repertoire for Flute, Clarinet, Saxophones, Recorders, Oboe and Bassoon.

Refreshed repertoire lists for all Woodwind instruments

With the new repertoire lists we’re offering a wider choice than ever before. We’ve expanded all the lists so that each one contains at least 10 pieces to choose from.

We’ve chosen pieces to provide a broad range of styles and to suit different tastes and preferences. While we’ve kept some popular pieces from the current syllabus, there are also plenty of new works. In particular, we’ve increased the number of famous classical melodies and colourful, appealing pieces from films, TV and musicals.

Wherever possible, we’ve used repertoire books across different lists and grades so that candidates can get the best use from the books they buy.

ABRSM books and recordings

Flute Exam PackIn July, we will be publishing new books of Clarinet Exam Pieces and Flute Exam Pieces for Grades 1 to 7. For the first time, we are also publishing books of Saxophone Exam Pieces for Grades 1 to 5. All the books will contain an attractive choice of music, including new arrangements and original pieces commissioned for the syllabus.

Recordings of every piece in our Clarinet, Flute and Saxophone books will be available as audio downloads, along with a selection of pieces for Clarinet and Flute at Grade 8, and Saxophones at Grades 6 to 8.

Revised sight-reading

We’ve designed the new sight-reading tests to ensure they encourage and support progression, while reflecting the needs and experiences of teachers and students.

Clarinet Sight-ReadingThe new tests have been written in a range of familiar and accessible styles to give candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their musical skills and knowledge.

At the early grades, tests are now shorter, while at Grades 6 to 8 the introduction of descriptive titles is designed to help candidates connect with the mood and style.

At all grades there is now consistency between Woodwind instruments with musical features introduced at the same point. The Woodwind sight-reading requirements also now match those for other instruments we’ve reviewed recently, such as Bowed Strings.

For the first time, the syllabus includes the main sight-reading parameters for all grades. This means that teachers can easily see the progression of requirements, including keys, length of test, time signatures and range.

Sight-reading resources

New sight-reading books for Woodwind instruments will be available in July from our website and retailers. Free samplers for each instrument, featuring one test per grade from the new books, are available for download below:

Flute 2018 (PDF)

Oboe 2018 (PDF)

Saxophone 2018 (PDF)

Treble recorder 2018 (PDF)

Bassoon 2018 (PDF)

Clarinet 2018 (PDF)

Descant recorder 2018 (PDF)

There are no changes in the requirements of the Braille memory test or the Aural repetition test for the 2018–2021 syllabus.

Scales and arpeggios

Saxophone Scales & ArpeggiosWe have reviewed and rationalised the scale requirements for all Woodwind instruments.

From Grade 3 onwards there are fewer scales and arpeggios to learn at each grade. Then at Grades 7 and 8 we have moved away from an ’all key’ approach to one which focuses more on technical development and consolidation. Generally there is less repetition and more focus on progression, with all keys covered at least once across Grades 6 to 8.

Other changes are:

  • Dominant sevenths will now resolve on the tonic to show harmonic context.
  • The ‘to a 12th‘ range is used for all instruments as a stepping stone between 1- and 2-octave requirements, giving smoother progression and development of range.
  • Grade 6 – we are setting five note centres (where major and minor scales and arpeggios start on the same notes). Three of these will be used as starting points for chromatics and dominant and diminished sevenths. We are also introducing a 1-octave scale in thirds.
  • Grade 7– will contain another set of five note centres. Four of these will be used as starting points for chromatics and dominant and diminished sevenths. We are also introducing an extended-range scale and a 2-octave scale in thirds (1-octave for recorder).
  • Grade 8 – will contain another set of five note centres, plus two whole-tone scales, alongside further examples of scales in thirds and extended-range scales, now with their arpeggios.

Scale resources

New books of scales and arpeggios for Woodwind instruments will be available in July.

Syllabus overlap period

There will be no overlap period for sight-reading or scales and arpeggios. The new requirements will apply from 1 January 2018 in all countries.

The usual overlap period will apply for pieces from the old syllabus, which candidates can play until Spring 2018 in the UK and Ireland, and until 31 December in all other countries.

Further information

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