The new RGT ukulele exams were compiled in consultation with a panel of 26 teachers of ukulele, who all contributed their considerable knowledge, experience and expertise to the development and content of the exam syllabus.
The syllabus was then put together by Tony Skinner and Pete Farrugia, who together have over 40 years experience of ukulele playing.
Read more and view demo videos of these exams in our “RGT Ukulele Exam Preview” article.
There are various ways that the ukulele is played: some players focus on the ukulele wholly in terms of its role as a chordal/rhythm playing instrument, while others prefer to also explore the melody playing potential of the instrument.
The RGT syllabus has been designed so that it can be utilised with equal success by both types of player – i.e. those who are developing both melody and rhythm playing skills, as well as by those who are focusing solely on chordal/rhythm playing techniques.
The RGT syllabus content is varied in musical style and includes, as an integral part, a free-choice component, so that any musical genre that the candidate is interested in can be included.
The syllabus caters for the range of ukuleles that use standard G C E A tuning – i.e. Soprano (a.k.a ‘standard’), Concert and Tenor ukuleles; these are the types commonly played by the vast majority of ukulele students.
RGT Ukulele Exam Levels
The exams range from beginner level Initial Stage, through Preliminary Grade and up to Grade 3.
The feedback from our panel of ukulele teachers was that very few ukulele students went beyond Grade 3, with many switching to guitar once they had reached an intermediate level.
Once these grades have had the time to become established we will consider whether there is a viable demand for higher grade exams.
RGT Ukulele Exam Content
RGT ukulele Grade exams contain the five components:
Component 1: Rhythm Study
The exam handbook for each grade provides a choice of chord charts with a one-bar notated rhythm pattern.
Candidates play one of these charts using the notated rhythm pattern throughout.
The chord chart should be played through twice without stopping.
From Grade One onwards, some rhythmic variation of the notated rhythm pattern of the candidate’s own choosing is expected during the second play through.
The range of chords and time signatures increases as the grades progress.
Component 2: Performance
The exam handbook for each grade provides four melodies presented in both standard notation and ukulele tablature. Candidates should play one of these melodies.
At Grade 3, as well as single-line melodies, some harmonised melodies are also included.
However, at all grades, candidates who prefer to focus on rhythm playing rather than melody playing, can instead select another Rhythm Study to play.
Component 3: Free Choice Specialism
Candidates play a piece of their own choice. This can be a melody, a solo piece, or a strummed or fingerstyle accompaniment to a song (candidates can sing whilst playing if they wish, but only the ukulele playing will be assessed).
Alternatively, candidates can opt to perform either another melody or rhythm study or a fingerstyle study from the exam handbook.
Component 4: Prepared Accompaniment
Each exam handbook contains three tunes with chord charts. The tunes are recorded on the CD that accompanies each book.
Candidates should select one of these tunes to play a chordal accompaniment to.
The number of chords and time signatures that appear, and the rhythmic complexity of the tunes, increases as the grades progress.
The style of accompaniment is left to the candidate’s discretion.
Component 5: Musicianship
Candidates will be given a range of tests covering aural awareness, musical knowledge and knowledge of the instrument.
For Initial Stage and Preliminary Grade the tests focus on aural awareness only. The range and difficulty of the tests will increase as the grades progress.
Each exam handbook includes example tests to indicate the range of topics that may occur and the style and format of the tests.
RGT Ukulele Exam Types
Two types of exam are available for individual ukulele candidates: ‘Grade Exams’ and ‘Performance Awards’.
Performance Awards do not include the Musicianship component, but instead focus on performance by requiring two pieces (rather than one as in the grade exam) to be played during the Free Choice Specialism component.
The remainder of the requirements for the Performance Awards are exactly the same as those for the Grade Exams.
Grade exams are traditional ‘live’ exams, where the candidate attends an exam venue at an allotted time and date.
For Performance Awards three options are available: Live Performance Award where candidates attend an exam venue and perform their pieces, or Filmed or Recorded Performance Awards where candidates submit either a video or audio recording of their performances.
Filmed and Recorded Performance Awards can be submitted by disc or uploaded online at any time throughout the year without the need to attend an exam venue and so are particularly useful for those who find it hard to take time off for an exam, as well as for those who get overly nervous in a traditional exam situation.
In addition to exams for individuals, later in the year RGT will also offer ensemble exams for ukulele.
These are for a minimum of two people playing ukulele together; there is no upper limit to the group size.
Ensemble exams will be organised on an ‘on-request’ basis initially, so teachers should contact the RGT office if they wish to arrange an ensemble exam for their students.
RGT Ukulele Exam Entry
The exams were officially launched at the 2014 RGT Conference in London on 21st September, however candidates can enter now, with the first Grade exams being held in the UK in the winter (November/December) session (entry deadline 1st October).
Entry forms can be found at the rear of each grade handbook.
If you have students that are keen to take a ukulele exam before then, they can enter as soon as they like for the Filmed or Recorded Performance Awards and these are normally assessed within a few weeks of the recordings being received.
Entry fees for all exams can be found on the RGT website.
The above is only an outline of the exam content. Fuller details can be found in the Exam Information Booklet – available to freely download from www.RGT.org or contact the RGT office if you’d like some printed copies free of charge to distribute to your students.
RGT Ukulele Exam Handbooks
A highly detailed exam handbook is published by RGT for each exam level.
Each handbook includes a CD containing audio demonstrations, making it easier for candidates to listen and learn.