To help shine some light on the various RGT Diploma Exams, we will be talking to various candidates that have successfully completed one or more RGT Diploma Exams, to get an inside take on what it is like to prepare for, and succeed with, an RGT Diploma Exam.
In our first RGT Student Profile, we caught up with UK-based guitarist and guitar tutor Ric Armstrong, who recently completed the Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM exam, to find out how he prepared for the exam, and what advice he has for other candidates that are prepared, or considering preparing, to take any of the RGT/LCM Jazz Guitar Performance Exams.
To learn more about Ric and his work as a guitarist and educator, please visit the Ric Armstrong Facebook Page.
You can also learn more about preparing for the Jazz Guitar Performance Exams by visiting the following articles.
- Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam Prep – Technical Knowledge
- Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam Prep – Performance
- Jazz Guitar Performance DipLCM Exam Prep – Rhythm Guitar
RGT: You recently completed your DipLCM Jazz Guitar Performance Exam with the RGT, after preparing for the exam over the past 10-12 months. Why did you choose to do the exam, and plan for future RGT Jazz Exams, rather than enroll in a University or Conservatory Jazz Studies program instead?
Ric Armstrong: After gaining my BMus Degree I was looking for another challenge to progress as a musician, but one that I could fit around my current teaching hours.
I did have a look at various different Jazz Studies programs, but none seemed to fit the bill for me.
The great thing about following the RGT Jazz Guitar Exams is that I can work at my own pace.
It’s a more practical solution for a full-time working musician who wants to have a structured progression for their playing.
RGT: There are a number of technical requirements, as well as repertoire and sight-reading, on the Jazz Guitar Performance Diploma Exam. How did you budget your time to ensure that you were prepared for all three of these sections when it came time to take your exam?
Ric Armstrong: I’ve always tried to keep a varied practice routine, so I approached the exam in a structured manner, being careful to weigh my practice towards my weaknesses and the marking scheme of the exam itself.
RGT: Which tunes did your choose to perform on the exam and why did you pick this particular repertoire?
Ric Armstrong: My first choice was “Blue Bossa,” which wasn’t in the exam repertoire. But, as it is of the same level as the required tunes, I used it as my “free choice” standard.
I’m very lucky to have a great jazz-guitar mentor who has spent a lot of time playing in Brazil, so playing a tune with a Bossa feel seemed like a natural choice for me as we had worked in-depth on this style of music and could help me bring an authentic vibe to the performance.
My second tune choice for the Performance section of the exams was “All Blues” by Miles Davis.
When looking at the repertoire list, “All Blues” jumped right out at me. Kind of Blue was one of the first jazz albums I was introduced to, and so I was excited about working though this tune during my exam preparation.
RGT: What lessons did you learn from taking the first RGT Jazz Guitar Performance Exam that you are now carrying over to your preparation for the other three exams?
Ric Armstrong: I think it’s important to make sure that you’re enjoying the material that you are practicing at all times.
Of course there are going to be sometimes where you might have to work on something that you’re not crazy about.
But, with a little effort and creativity, you can make all of the exam requirements interesting and fun to tackle in the woodshed.
RGT: If you had one piece of advice for someone that is thinking about taking the Jazz Guitar Performance Exams, or is in the process of preparing for them, what would it be?
Ric Armstrong: I would say, start your practice regime well before the exam so that you are fully prepared come exam day.
As well, try enjoy every step of the way. Don’t worry, just practice and have fun.
Lastly, little and often will get you further than cramming in a stressful eight-hour session on a Sunday a week before the exam.
So pace yourself as well, biting off little chunks of the exam over time, rather than trying to gulp it all down the week before the exam comes around.
About Ric Armstrong
Richard Armstrong is a professional guitarist residing in West Yorkshire. Holding a BMus in Popular Music Studies, Richard has been playing guitar for over 20 years and has studied at prestigious institutes such as the Leeds College of Music.
Well versed in many different styles of guitar Richard enjoys a healthy gigging circuit playing with various different ensembles around the UK. As well as a performer Richard is a full time educator lecturing at Bradford College and running various different music workshops.