RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam Performance Preparation

Whether you are a student, or a tutor working with a student in your guitar lessons, preparing for the RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam can sometimes seem like a tough task. Though the exam is meant to fully test your abilities as a jazz guitarist, hard work and the right focus will make sure that you, or your student, is fully prepared for every section of the DipLCM come exam day.

There are four sections to the RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam that cover technical knowledge, performance, sight reading chords and sight improvisation, testing well-needed skills that any jazz guitarist would have to master at this stage in their development.

In today’s article, the second in a series of articles dedicated to the RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam, we will take a closer look at the Performance component of the exam, which is the section that I find my students enjoy the most in their exam preparation, but one that is worth a lot of marks and that needs to be address carefully and fully ahead of time to ensure that students pass this section of the exam.

Though this section does pose a challenge for anyone taking the exam, by learning the melodies fully, integrating other sections of the exam into the tunes you are learning, as well as developing a musical and technical approach to improvising over each tune, you can ensure that you, or your students, are fully prepared to perform the Performance component of the RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam

Click to read the first article in this series “RGT Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam Technical Knowledge Requirements.


Component 2 – Performance

This is the second section of the DipLCM exam presented in the Jazz Guitar Diploma Syllabus, which you can reference at any time for more detailed information on this, or any, section of the DipLCM exam.

In this section, candidates are required to perform two tunes from the Jazz Standard repertoire. The first tune is to be chosen from “All Blues,” “Footprints,” “Satin Doll,” and “Tenor Madness,” and performed along to a backing track in the exam.

The second tune can also come from this list, or be a “free choice” tune that is of the same technical standard as the required list, and the free choice can be performed either as a solo piece or with a backing track.

During my time spent preparing students for this exam, I have had a few students choose a second tune that was not on the prescribed list. The tunes that they chose were “Blue Bossa,” “Summertime,” and “Take the A Train” as they are all of similar difficulty to the required list of tunes.

If you are preparing for this exam, or are a tutor working with a student, and you want to play a “free choice” tune, I would recommend contacting the RGT office and double check that the tune is appropriate for this exam. Better safe than sorry when it comes to a free choice tune being considered appropriate for this, or any, RGT exam.

As well, both tunes need to be performed from memory, so working on this early on in the exam preparation period will go a long way in ensuring that any candidate has both the chords and melody under their fingers, memorized, and can improvise over these changes in the exam from memory without the aid of a lead sheet.

When working with my students, I have them learn these two tunes by ear first, I play the chords and melody for them and they learn them by hearing and not reading off the lead sheet in the beginning.

I find that this method of initially learning any Jazz Standard will help with memorizing the chords and melody over the long run. Then, when students want to run a particular exercise over the tune, even in the beginning, they can do so from memory straight away, helping them to be fully prepared to perform these tunes in the exam.

This section of the exam is worth 40% of the overall mark. Therefore, when I am planning out practice schedules with my students, I recommend that they spend roughly 40% of their practice time on this section of the exam.

So, as an example schedule, if a student had 1 hour to practice each day, I would suggest they spend 25 minutes on Performance (40% of the mark), 25 minutes on Sight Reading (40% of the mark combined) and 10 minutes on Technical Knowledge (20% of the mark).

From there, those percentages can be adjusted for any time length. So, for a two-hour practice routine it would be 50 minutes on Performance, 50 minutes on Sight Reading and 20 minutes on Technical Knowledge, as so on.

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.


3 Exercises for Performance Preparation

Within that 40% dedicated to the Performance component in any student’s daily practice routine, I have found a number of exercises and workouts that effectively prepare students to be successful in this section of the exam.

Performing these two tunes to exam level requires a strong knowledge of the melody, chord changes and a mature approach to improvisation that, though will take time to develop, can be developed in the woodshed as the student prepares for the exam.

Here are three exercises and workouts that I use when preparing my students for the Performance component of the DipLCM exam that you may find helpful in your own preparation.


1 – Melody Workout

While learning how to improvise on these two tunes is very important when preparing for this exam, or for any jazz performance, we can’t forget the most important part of any tune, the melody.

Often times students come to me and they can only play the melody in one position, with one specific fingering, but from there they can’t move it around the neck or take it to different octaves when playing any given tune.

To help get over this hump, I’ve come up with 10 different exercises that anyone can do in order to ensure that they can always reference the melody, or adapt it on the spot, no matter what octave or position on the fretboard they find themselves in.

  1. Learn the melody in four different positions on the neck, one for each inversion of the first chord of the tune.
  2. Learn the melody starting on the first note on each string of the guitar. So, if the first note was C, you would learn the melody staring on the 8th fret of the 6th string, 3rd fret of the 5th string, 10th fret of the 4th string, 5th fret of the 3rd string, 1st fret of the 2nd string and 8th fret of the 1st string, keeping the entire melody in each of those six positions after that initial starting note has been played.
  3. Learn the melody on one string at a time, across all 6 strings.
  4. Play the melody in octaves across the neck.
  5. Harmonize the melody in diatonic 3rds.
  6. Harmonize the melody in diatonic 6ths
  7. Drop your finger randomly on any note on the neck, in any key, and play the melody by ear from that point.
  8. Comp the chords to the tune and sing the melody over top of those chords.
  9. Sing the root of each chord and play the melody over top of those root notes.
  10. Improvise over the tune, using only the melody and embellishments as the basis for your soloing lines and phrases.

By working out some or all of these 10 exercises, you can ensure that you will always have the melody line under your fingers no matter where you are on the neck. As well, you’ll be able to integrate the melody into your improvised lines, which can go a long way in portraying the tune itself in your solos and not just the chord changes.


2 – Arpeggios Up and Scales Down

One of the exercises that I’ve found works very well when studying the Performance component of this exam, is to integrate the Technical Knowledge components with the tunes themselves.

This will not only keep the Technical Knowledge requirements sharp and under your fingers, but it will allow you or your student to apply these items in a real-life, musical situation.

Though there are many ways that you can apply the technical items to tunes, one of the ones that I’ve found to be successful is to play the arpeggio up and the scale down for any give tune you are working on.

Here is an example of how that would look when applying 7th arpeggios and Mixolydian scales to the first 4 bars of of “Tenor Madness,” a Jazz Blues in Bb.

RGT Jazz Guitar Performance Exam JPG


After working the arpeggios and scales in this fashion, I like to take this approach further in the following ways.

  1. Play the arpeggio down then the scale up.
  2. Play the scale up and the arpeggio down.
  3. Play the scale down and the arpeggio up.
  4. Improvise over the tune, keeping to any/all of these restrictions when building your lines and phrases. For example, only soloing over the tune with arpeggios down and the scale up etc.

These exercises will not only help you or your student learn to outline the chord changes of any tune in the exam, but it is a great way to combine the technical and performance components in a real-life, musical fashion. A win-win in the practice room.


3 – Phrasing Exercises

The third group of exercises I like to focus on deal with phrasing when improvising over a given tune. As guitarists don’t have to breathe, we are often guilty of playing lines that never end, or over playing when leaving space would have been more effective.

As I’ve often told my students, “If fingers had lungs, we’d all be better soloists.”

To help get over this hump in the practice room, I’ve come up with a number of phrasing exercises that you can work on in order to develop more control of phrase length and spacing when improvising over any Jazz Standard.

Here are some of my favorite phrasing exercises.

  1. Solo for two bars, then rest for two bars.
  2. Rest for two bars, then solo for two bars.
  3. Solo for three bars and rest for one bar.
  4. Rest for three bars and solo for one bar.
  5. Solo for two bars, then comp for two bars.
  6. Comp for two bars, then solo for two bars.
  7. Solo for three bars and comp for one bar.
  8. Comp for three bars and solo for one bar.

Though tough at first, each of these eight exercises can help develop a stronger sense of phrasing and control in your improvised lines, which can go a long way in performing a successful solo during the Performance component of the DipLCM exam.

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 will want to ensure that you are fully prepared for this, the largest single component, of the 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 the Performance component of the DipLCM exam.

Do you have any questions about this article or about the RGT Jazz Guitar Performance 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.

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