Rockschool: A Complete Beginners Guide

RSL Awards Academic Director Tim Bennett-Hart takes us through everything Rockschool

Rockschool is part of RSL Awards, an international awarding body based in London, UK. For the last 30 years we have been producing material to help people learn musical instruments and assess their progress.

What’s more it really works! Artists such as Ed Sheeran, Jess Glyn, and Wolf Alice have all taken RSL Awards qualifications and gone on to have incredible careers.

It’s not just for super stars. RSL Awards assess over 80,000 people each year across 50 countries – this is a world-wide community of creative people.

What’s in a Book

A typical book like Electric Guitar Level 3 contains – 6 full transcriptions of hit songs, 6 original songs, backing tracks and example audio to download, scales and technical exercises for the level.

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Ike & Tina Turner – Proud Mary
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69
Otis Redding – (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay

How Does It Work

At the centre of all our music qualifications is the fantastic material published in inspiring books.

We believe that learning music should be about playing the music you love, so for each instrument we work with we create books containing hit songs that people can play from absolute beginner (debut) to advanced level (Level 8). At the lower levels we arrange the music simply and make the pieces shorter (3 minutes is a long time for a beginner to play!), but they are still recognisable as the original hit song. At the highest level we include improvised sections and a high degree of technical skill. There are also supporting skills covered in the books like scales, technical studies, and improvisation exercises.

When students have learnt the music and they are happy with the skills they have acquired, they can take an assessment. The assessments can be undertaken in a number of ways:

  1. In person – where students can go to an assessment venue and perform for a professional musician.
  2. Live via video – where students can perform from their own homes or a venue and connect with a professional musician.
  3. Sending us a digital video recording – so that one of our professional musicians can watch and listen to the performance and send back video feedback.

Meet the Examiners

All our assessors are professional musicians at the top of their industry who will be able to offer real insight into the standard of the performance.

Because they are so highly trained, we are able to award UK regulated qualifications when students hit the standards. These can help students gain access to Higher Education courses. In the UK the assessments at Level 6, 7, and 8 gain UCAS points (University and College Admissions System) that can be used around the world to access higher education.

Specifically in the US, Level 6 and up can be used to enter Musicians’ Institute’s Certificate Programs (subject to MI’s normal policies and procedures).

Rockschool Instruments:

Electric Guitar
Acoustic Guitar

Also including:
Music Production
Popular Music Theory

Why Rockschool?

The underlying pedagogy behind the programmes is progressive mastery. Simply put, this means breaking complex activities into small chunks and using assessment to help all students understand when they’ve achieved the goals set. It’s nothing new. Musicians have been learning this way through benchmarked achievement for over 100 years, but we think our modern approach makes it really engaging. Teachers who use our material and assessment services tell us the same thing all over the world.

  • Students learn for longer – Because the material is inspiring and connects with goals, they keep learning when others give up.
  • Students learn manageable pieces – Each book is carefully put together to suit the abilities of students.
  • Sense of achievement – Learning the pieces and taking the assessment highlights progress and really helps students see how far they’ve come.
  • Benchmarking skills – Finally a student can say ‘I’m really great at playing’ with independent feedback on their skills.

Whether you’re a teacher looking for a fresh new approach to learning popular music, or an independent learner looking for inspirational repertoire, the Rockschool books are a great place to start.

Tim Bennett-Hart, Director of Academic at RSL Awards. Tim is an expert in creative arts education within university, college, and extra-curricular settings. He has a background as a professional songwriter and composer for TV, Film and Media.

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