For a lot of guitarists, taking an exam to evaluate their musical ability can be a daunting prospect. After all, many of us opted to pick up the guitar strictly for enjoyment, and some may fear that undertaking an exam could seemingly turn a fun pastime and expressive outlet into a chore. Still others may look at prominent self-taught musicians, and wonder if a graded exam might stifle their creativity or compromise their own artistic individuality. It is certainly possible to become a great guitar player without partaking in graded exams of any sort, and my students are never obligated to take exams of any sort. For those who might be on the fence about taking an exam themselves, or having their children enter exams, I thought I would outline some of the real benefits of taking a graded guitar exam through London College of Music (this is just one of the conservatories that offer exams):
1. You can gain an internationally accredited qualification on your instrument.
All London College of Music guitar exams are regulated by an organization called Ofqual (the government department in the UK that monitors qualifications, exams, and tests). The actual credentials/qualifications are awarded by the University of West London. These qualifications can actually count as high school credits for students in British Columbia.
2. Clearly identify your current level on guitar.
Many guitarists play music purely for relaxation and fun, and are not interested in evaluating their skill level – there is nothing wrong with this! For students who are interested in advancing their skills, LCM exams provide a very clear framework to assess where your skills stand currently.
3. Get in the habit of goal-setting.
This is a big incentive for students young and old. Clear goal-setting is not just a skill that will aid you in your musical development, but throughout life in general! Learning the exam syllabus from a qualified teacher is an excellent way to get in the habit of setting short-term goals for your guitar playing, and taking an exam annually gives you a clear, timely goal to shoot for each year.
4. Become a versatile musician.
Learning and testing yourself through the LCM exam system is a surefire way to become a well-rounded, versatile guitarist. You can be sure that passing these exams will leave you with no gaps in your playing! When preparing for these exams, you’ll be playing songs, reading chord charts, learning music theory, developing your ear, playing solos, developing your own specialist techniques, and much more.
5. Exams are available for all musical styles
Whether you play electric, acoustic, bass, jazz, rock, or classical guitar, there are graded exams available for you to study with the London College of Music syllabus.
So, there you have it. If you or your child are passionate about developing as a well-rounded musician, studying with a proven syllabus and getting acclimated to an exam situation is a great way to accomplish your goals. Studying with a qualified teacher is certain to get you reaching said goals in the fastest, most pain-free way. It’s important to remember along the way though, that music is supposed to be enjoyable, and that while studying a set curriculum is very helpful, many of our cherished performers have proven that it is not essential to captivate audiences and impact our lives.
Matt Chanway is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher residing in Surrey, British Columbia. If you are interested in taking guitar lessons in Surrey, visit surreyguitar.com.