Royal Conservatory of Music Examinations
For many students, preparing for and sitting exams can be very beneficial and quite rewarding.
What does it entail?
Students generally prepare 2 pieces with piano accompaniment, several studies (short unaccompanied pieces), scales and arpeggios which must be memorized plus ear training and sight reading. Orchestral excerpts are required for higher grade levels (7 upwards). The pieces are chosen from a syllabus which is published by the RCM and sold in music stores. I have a copy so purchasing one is not necessary. It can also be accessed online. Click Here
How many levels are there and which should I choose?
RCM Grades are from Preparatory (beginner) to Grade 10 and A.R.C.T. (advanced). I, or any other teacher, can determine which level would be appropriate.
What are the benefits?
For students who achieve grades 4, 6 and 8 school credits are awarded. It is also important to note that Universities and Colleges are recognizing and acknowledging these exams. School councillors will be able to offer more advice on their relevance.
Preparing for exams is goal oriented. Exams are scheduled 3 times per year and having set repertoire means no surprises.
Preparing for any musical performance and/or exam also requires a great deal of self- discipline. Exam material must be extremely well prepared and performed with absolute accuracy. This forces many band students to examine dynamics and expression more carefully, play with rhythmic accuracy as well as focussing on producing a good tone.
Passing an exam provides a sense of achievement and increases confidence.
Are there any downsides?
An exam generally takes up to 6 months to prepare for (Grades 1 – 6). From Grade 7 upwards I recommend preparing for a full academic year. Some students become frustrated playing the same pieces for that amount of time. If the ‘glazed over’ look occurs, I usually introduce some duets or light-hearted music for a few weeks just to break the monotony.
Saxophone players must realize that the music is primarily classical in nature. There are occasional jazz tunes and studies to choose from but they are rare.
Generally, if a student is serious about their instrument and keen to explore music beyond band repertoire I do suggest preparing for exams as the pros outweigh the cons.
When and where do the exams take place?
The Royal Conservatory of Music exams take place 3 times per year. The practical exams are generally held in January, June and August at various centres around the lower mainland. The centre is generally chosen based on your location. If you live on the north shore you will apply to be examined there. Sometimes, if not enough students register at one location, students will be asked to travel to another centre within the lower mainland. This is a rare occurrence.
How much will it cost?
Exam fees increase as the grades become more involved. Preparatory costs $49.00 and Grade 10 costs $399.00. Visit https://examinations.rcmusic.ca/fees for more information.
In addition to the exam fee, an accompanist is required to play at the exam and for rehearsals beforehand. Although I do play piano I prefer to get a professional to play for exams and for the final rehearsal. It is important to have an experienced accompanist play for student exams. Based on two 30 - 45 minute rehearsals plus the exam itself, an accompanist can cost between $150 - $250 depending on the exam level. The fee increases when more rehearsal time is required.
Music must be purchased and this can involve buying 3 - 7 books. Additional books may be required as the examiner must have a copy to look at. I supply material where possible but occasionally it may be necessary to purchase a second copy of certain books.
For more information please visit the RCM Website www.rcmexaminations.org or contact me.