Whether you are a tutor working with a student, or a student yourself, preparing for the RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam can seem like a daunting task. But, with proper preparation and dedication in the practice room, you can ensure that you, or your student, is fully prepared for every section of the exam.
There are four sections to the exam that cover technical knowledge, repertoire, sight reading chords and sight improvisation, all required skills for any jazz guitarist to master at this stage in their development.
In today’s article, the first in a series of articles dedicated to the DipLCM exam, we will take a closer look at the Technical Knowledge section of the exam, which is the one section that I have found gives my students the most trouble when preparing to take the DipLCM exam.
By breaking these technical requirements down, working out a proper amount of time to focus on this section in daily practice, and devising combinatory exercises that integrate this section with the other three sections of the exam, you can ensure that you, or your students, are fully prepared to perform the Technical Knowledge portion of the Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam.
If you are preparing for the RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam, I highly recommend picking up both the “Jazz Guitar Diplomas Handbook” and the “Guitar Play-Along Volume 16: Jazz Guitar” as these volumes contain all the background info needed to prepare for this exam, as well as the lead sheets, sample solos and backing tracks for the tunes required for the Performance component of the exam.
Click to read the second part of this series “Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam Tips 2 – Performance.”
Component 1 – Technical Knowledge
This is the first section of the DipLCM exam presented in the RGT Jazz Guitar Diploma Syllabus, which you can reference at any time for more detailed information on this, or any, section of the DipLCM exam.
The Technical Knowledge section is broken up into three categories, scales, arpeggios and chord voicings, in a similar way to previous graded exams in the Electric and Acoustic-Guitar Exam series.
Requirements range from modes of the Major, Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor scale systems, to Diminished and Whole-Tone Scales, 3-octave Chromatic and Blues Scales, as well as various versions of maj7, maj9, m7, m9, 7th, 7alt and other chords and arpeggios.
Because this part of the exam contains the most amount of material to learn, memorize and recall during the exam itself, one of the main issues that I have found with students taking this exam, is that they spend too much time practicing this material on it’s own, and not enough time on the other sections of the exam.
Though it contains the most material of any section in the Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam, it is only worth 20% of the overall mark.
Now, that’s not to say that this section isn’t important. But, when setting out weekly practice goals, and writing out practice guides for students, it’s important to remember this fact, and plan accordingly.
In my own experience, I have found that dedicating 20 to 25% of a student’s daily practice time to this section of the exam provides enough time to work through the material over an 8 to 12-month preparation period, as well as leaves enough time to fully explore the other sections of the exam each day, which are worth a combined 80% of the total mark.
3 Exercises for Exam Preparation
Within that 20 to 25% dedicated practice time, I have found that certain combinatory exercises work really well in order to solidify the Technical Knowledge requirements in the student’s fingers and ears, as well as introduce practical application of the various scales, chords and arpeggios required in this section of the DipLCM Exam.
Here are three of the exercises that I have found helpful when preparing students for this section of the Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam.
1. Chord-Scale-Arpeggio Combinations
Always practicing chords, scales and arpeggios together. For example, if a student is working on the Phrygian Dominant Scale (5th mode of Harmonic Minor), I would have them practice playing a 7b9 chord voicing first, to get that sound in their ears, followed by a fingering for the scale itself, and finishing with a relevant 7b9 arpeggio fingering in that area of the neck.
Here is an example of that approach over a 7b9 Chord and the related Phrygian Dominant Scale.
By practicing chords, scales and arpeggios in combination, the student is not only committing these shapes to memory, but they are solidifying these relationships into their ears, and learning how different scales and arpeggios can be applied to chords and chord progressions when taking these shapes to a practical, musical situation, all at the same time.
2. Singing and Ear Training
Another exercise that I find helpful when preparing students for this section of the exam is to sing along with the various chords, scales and arpeggios that they are working on in any given practice session.
Some of the ways that I recommend students practice singing along with these technical elements are:
1. Play a chord, for example C7b9, and sing the related scale over top of that chord, in this case C Phrygian Dominant.
2. Play a chord, again C7b9 as an example, and sing the related 7b9 arpeggio over top of that chord, C-E-G-Bb-Db in this case.
3. Comp a chord, such as C7b9, and scat sing a solo over top of that chord using only the notes of the related arpeggio.
4. Comp a chord, such as C7b9, and scat sing a solo over top of that chord using only the notes of the C Phrygian Dominant Scale.
5. Sing the bass notes for a ii-V-I chord progression, and improvise over those bass notes using the related arpeggio and/or scale for each of those three chords.
By singing along with these technical items, the student will not only begin to hear the connection formed between various chords, scales and arpeggios, but they will be working on their improvisational chops at the same time, something that will come in handy later on in the exam.
3. Practical Application
Taking each element from the Technical Knowledge section, and applying them to the prepared pieces, as well as sight-reading exercises, is a great way to solidify each technical item, while building one’s repertoire and sight-reading abilities at the same time.
Here are some examples of how I would work on this approach with students.
1. Solo over a prepared piece, we’ll use Tenor Madness as an example, and only use the related 9th arpeggios for each chord when improvising. This can be repeated for any arpeggio in the Technical Knowledge section, such as 7th, 7b9 and 7#9 arpeggios over each 7th chord in the tune.
2. Solo over a prepared tune and use only one scale for a certain chord, such as playing only the Phrygian Dominant Scale over every 7th chord in the tune, when building their improvised lines during their solo.
3. Focus on a specific shape or string set when sight-reading through a sample chart or tune. This could mean only playing chords on the top-4 strings when practicing sight reading, or playing every maj7 that they see in the chart as a maj9 chord, in order to focus on one specific technical item while working on sight reading at the same time.
4. Pick a specific arpeggio or scale and use it exclusively when practicing sight improvisation over a sample chart or tune. This could mean only playing the 9th arpeggios for every chord in the tune when building your lines, or playing a Lydian scale over every maj7 chord that occurs in the chart. Again, it is an example of taking a technical item and applying it to a musical situation in order to solidify the concept, and work on improvisation at the same time.
If you are a teacher working with a student on the Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM exam, or a student preparing for this exam yourself, you have probably hit a roadblock at one time or another when tackling the Technical Knowledge section of this exam.
By working on some, or all, of the exercises presented above, and dividing practice schedules into appropriate percentages based on how much this area is worth on the exam, you will give yourself, or your student, a better chance of succeeding during this tough, yet manageable, portion of the DipLCM exam.
Do you have any questions about this article or about the Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM exam? Post them in the comments section below this article.
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About Dr. Matthew Warnock
Matt Warnock is the owner of mattwarnockguitar.com, a free website that provides hundreds of lessons and resources designed to help guitarists of all experience levels meet their practice and performance goals. Matt lives in the UK, where he is a lecturer in Popular Music Performance at the University of Chester and an examiner for the Registry of Guitar Tutors.