2018 Exam Dates
Closing date 9th February
Rock & Pop
Monday 12th March
Tuesday 13th March
Wednesday 14th March
Thursday 15th March
Wednesday 21st March
Thursday 22nd March
Wednesday 28th March
Thursday 29th March
Classical and Jazz
Friday 16th March
Saturday 17th March 1.30pm – 7.30pm
Sunday 18th March
Monday 19th March
Tuesday 20th March
Friday 23rd March
Saturday 24th March 1.30pm – 7.30pm
Sunday 25th March
Monday 26th March
Tuesday 27th March
Summer and Winter dates TBA
On The Day
Please arrive at MusicStation 20 minutes before your exam. There will be a waiting area and a warm up room. Please make sure you have your book or any other scores with you.
If you intend to use any downloaded materials for your exam, please show the examiner the receipt (in your name) before the exam.
For the Rock & Pop exams the examiner will have the music from the grade books ready on a laptop. If you intend on using your own backing tracks please let the steward know so we can set it up before you go in.
If you are using a piece of music that is not included in the Trinity Grade Books, please have a photocopy ready for the examiner. You will need the original copy, or a receipt for its purchase.
The steward will come and get you from the warm up room when the examiner is ready.
Please keep your instrument out of its case when you go to the exam room.
Please make sure it is tuned up before you enter the room.
Please let the steward know if you are a left handed drummer as you arrive.
Your result will be emailed to you as soon as the examiner’s session is over.
Your certificates will be posted or collected from MusicStation in 4 – 6 weeks time.
The Examination Room
MusicStation is one of the best equipped exam centres in the country. The examination room is soundproof and comfortably large with excellent acoustics and air-conditioning. There is a professional standard acoustic drum kit and cymbals provided with a designated drum monitor so students can hear the backing tracks at a good volume. We also provide a (Roland TD11 KV electronic drum kit for exams up to grade 5) if preferred.
Please let us know in advance. We also have Roland cube guitar and bass amps. For piano/keyboard exams we have a choice of the Yamaha U3 piano or a Roland digital piano (FP-80).
There is a high quality PA for track playback.
If you have any specific requirements please contact us in advance (email@example.com ), and speak to the steward when you arrive.
There is a waiting room upstairs or downstairs if you have mobility problems.
There is a fully equipped warm up room with a Roland digital piano, a Roland TD11-KV drum kit and Roland guitar and bass amps. There is usually time for a 15 minute warm up before your exam.
MusicStation is in the centre of Tonbridge, 10 minutes walk from the train station and close to shops, cafes
and car parks. We recommend the Castle car park as it is only a minute walk away.
MusicStation is the rep and exam centre for Trinity College London Rock & Pop graded music exams in the West Kent area.
We highly recommend the Trinity graded Rock & Pop exams for piano/ keyboards, drums, guitar, bass and vocals, as they feature real songs to learn and therefore are more enjoyable to study.
It’s much better to play your friends and family songs that they might know and enjoy. It also means that students might be able to play their exam songs live in a concert and perhaps join a group. Also, the choice of songs mean that the students are learning about music history and the classic bands and songwriters along with modern artists they might already know.
Because the MusicStation teaching method centres around learning Rock & Pop music, it is an excellent way to measure progress with Trinity Rock’s internationally accredited exams. From grade 6, students will
also gain UCAS points that can help to access the best universities. High marks from grades 7 and 8 are equivalent to an A Level.
The Trinity grading system is Pass – 60%, Merit 75% and Distinction 87%.
As a MusicStation customer we can get you all the exam books/ materials you need and enter you for the exam with Trinity (the price list for books and exams is below). We will then invoice you for any payment due.
Our Rock & Pop exams are held on weekdays 9am – 5pm, Saturday afternoons and all day Sundays. Schools are used to students taking time off to sit exams.
When one of our teachers thinks that the group or student is ready to start working towards an exam, they will let you know and get your permission to buy the book and start the work.
There are three exam sessions a year – Winter (November/ December) – Spring (March) – Summer (June/July). All the current dates can be found on this page.
Our teachers will always have a suggested exam session to work towards, but all groups/ students can sometimes work quicker or take longer to be ready. We never want to put any students under any undue pressure, so we will sometimes delay the exam if needed (it’s not a problem).
Once you have been entered for an exam, you will get an appointment slip emailed to you from us. If there are any problems with the exam date or time please contact us immediately and we will try to accommodate your needs.
MusicStation directors and teachers were asked by Trinity for some tips on teaching rock and pop music.
MY TOP TIPS FOR TEACHING ROCK AND POP MUSIC: JULIE PARKER
I’m a keyboard player, music educator and rock and pop keyboards teacher who was originally trained in classical piano. I have been Head of Department in a large college, directed music education programmes from beginner to BA Hons level, taught students aged from 4 to 94, trained class music teachers for PGCE/ Cert Ed, and I play keyboards in various bands. I am now co-Director of MusicStation, a private music school exam centre in Kent.
Get into sounds, gear and your students’ practice set-up
The teaching of rock and pop keyboards is very different from classical piano. We now have the opportunity to use a range of sounds such as electric piano, organ, synth, clav and strings, alongside traditional piano. I use high-spec digital pianos in my teaching room – these have hundreds of great sounds, and I always try to find or create the right sounds for the song. I often use the Split function, or change sounds during a song when appropriate. If I can’t find exactly what I need, I connect the piano to an iPad and design the right sound using a virtual synthesiser. Students like setting up sounds, and it’s worth it because the songs will sound great!
If you know and take an interest in the instrument your student has at home, you can advise how to use it effectively (all manuals are online now), and discuss how they practise at home – this may include logistics/ headphones/ leads etc.
Trinity’s new Play Trinity Rock & Pop app can slow down, solo or mute different instruments and loop different sections, so it’s worth helping your students to get started with this and integrate it into their home practice. Playing with backing tracks is infinitely more fun than with a metronome – and it improves timing, ensemble skills and general musicianship.
Use notation and music theory Apps from the very beginning
Theory should not be avoided until the higher grades, and it’s not a separate subject. It’s integral, useful and relevant from the start, and it needs to suit the needs and preferences of today’s rock and pop students.
Instead of music theory and sight reading workbooks, my students are now learning faster, more thoroughly and more enjoyably using Apps on their tablets. After trialling many different Apps over the years, I now have some trusted favourites that I use regularly – I show students how to use them in my lessons, and then they work through various exercises in their own time. It’s been popular and it’s made a big difference to their progress. Good Apps tend to provide instant feedback, and they are addictive. The best ones can be customised in detail to fit the song you’re working on, which is really useful – so you can set up exercises to underpin all the relevant rhythms, scales, chords or note ranges, and even aural exercises to match. My top three Apps are: Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer, Tenuto, and Noteworks.
Build up detail gradually and teach transferable skills
When starting a new song, I teach a skeleton version first – this could be root notes for each chord for example – and play roughly through the whole song. I then build up the detail by adding new layers one by one, to gradually ‘flesh out’ the skeleton. Progress is more satisfying using this method, and the new layers – patterns/ rhythmic or melodic features etc – are all good teaching points. They are transferable techniques which can be applied to other songs.
Build improvisation and composition around the current song
Once the teaching points of a song have been addressed, you can put the new knowledge into practice, and consolidate it – for example by writing and playing an alternative chord sequence in that key, or by creating melodies over the chord sequence, using a certain scale or mode, or a particular rhythmic feature. If you do this from the start, and if you set specific and limited parameters, your students will gain experience and confidence, without fear or shyness. In using and manipulating musical materials, real learning will take place – the kind that stays with you and has been fully internalised – and your students in the future may have the capacity to become songwriters, composers, arrangers or producers. I used to worry that this kind of activity slowed down ‘progress’ towards grade exams – and you may indeed need to adapt your timeframe. But ultimately – and more importantly – as teachers of a creative subject, we should be teaching creatively.
Share in and encourage your students’ own musical interests
For me starting out playing piano, it was the end of the 1970s and the era of synth pop – I loved the synthesiser sounds of Kraftwerk, Human League, and Gary Numan, playing along with the songs and trying to work out the keyboard lines. Back then, my piano teachers didn’t encourage and share in this. I had some really great teachers, but they weren’t interested in the music I actually liked – this seemed to be a separate and unconnected interest that I had on my own.
So now I think it’s really important to share, engage with and find worth in your students’ music. A few minutes listening to, discussing or playing your students’ favourite song is not a waste of lesson time – it’s where you can take an interest, connect and share their enthusiasm about music – and this will motivate them to practise more. Many children start out liking everything (or nothing), so we should appreciate when they start to prefer a particular style, artist or band. You might not think it’s good quality music, but remember that their taste develops over time. There is always something to talk about – your own aural skills and experience can help you to identify a typical or interesting chord sequence, scale, sound, a rhythmic framework, a production feature, or a classic song they might not know, which has influenced their favourite band. Get them to remember the names of keyboard players they like, so they build up knowledge and awareness of different musicians. Your students will occasionally introduce you to great music, and you can ‘bank’ any interesting or useful songs for future reference and repertoire, whilst keeping your own knowledge of current music up to date.
MY TOP TIPS FOR TEACHING ROCK AND POP MUSIC: JAMES SEDGE
I am the co-founder/director of MusicStation, a private music school based in Tonbridge, Kent that specialises in the teaching of rock and pop instruments. My musical background is playing drums professionally since the 1990s in original bands, session work and West End shows. I am currently playing for Matt Berry and Cobalt Capel. Alongside the playing I have always taught drums. I started to teach in an FE college in 1999 and soon went on to co-write and teach on a degree ‘Popular Music Performance’ that ran very successfully until 2013.
All great rock and pop music comes with an important background or message. It could be deeply personal for the artist (Paul Weller ‘You do Something to Me’), political (The Specials ‘Ghost Town’), iconic (Jimi Hendrix ‘Fire’), iconoclastic (the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy in the UK’) etc. All these factors help us as musicians to connect with the music and to give a performance with depth. I find that students are fascinated by the history behind the songs, so a study of the lyrics for all instrumentalists will help to give an impassioned performance.
Learn about the original musicians’ other songs
For graded exams, I don’t think you can get enough information about the playing style(s) through learning just one song. I make Spotify playlists for my students to direct them to the songs that I consider to be the best examples. I don’t recommend YouTube outside of my lessons for younger students because of the sometimes idiotic, profane comments under the videos. Spotify is much safer (and also free).
For example, if I was teaching guitar rhythm playing in a disco/ funk style, Nile Rodgers would be my first call. My playlist for Nile Rodgers would contain his work with Chic, Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk etc. I look forward to using the new Rock & Pop Spotify playlists to access the original versions of the exam songs.
Encourage dedicated practice times
It doesn’t work if students only practise when they feel like it! They need to dedicate regular time slots that are strictly kept to for each day of the week. I get my students to analyse their commitments to find any spare time they might have in at least 15 minute blocks each day. I then provide them with a week calendar page to input the times they think they can commit to regularly. This goes in the front of their Practice Diary.
Set up a Practice Diary
It is often due to a lack of regular directed practice that students struggle to progress…
The filling in of a Practice Diary is an excellent way for the teacher and the student/parents to have a weekly dialogue about practice. My teachers write in the tasks during the lessons and the students (or their parents) write in how long each day they have spent on each task. Only 15 minutes a day adds up to over an hour per week – this is ideal for young/ beginner students.
They really enjoy running into the lessons with their Practice Diaries open to show how much they have done. This creates a positive peer pressure to practice each day amongst my students.
Identify song teaching points
We all know how dispiriting it can be to be stuck on a song for too long – the student is not ready to take the exam but is already tired of the song…By breaking the song down into its techniques/parts and working on them before starting the song, the student then only has to work on learning the arrangement. More emphasis can then be placed on groove, touch, dynamics connected to the song. This method really helps with the following tip.
Encourage students to memorise
To get a deeper connection with the music I think it is helpful to memorise the songs before a performance or exam. An over-reliance on reading the charts can result in a stilted, hesitant performance. The instrumentalist/ vocalist should feel as though they are in charge of the arrangement in order to be able to successfully set up chord changes, section changes, dynamic shifts etc.
I get my students to play the whole song with their eyes shut – it can be quite a powerful experience for some students to fully engage with the song from memory.
I sometimes cite actors initially learning their parts with scripts, and then ALWAYS performing from memory. It would be quite ridiculous for them to do otherwise because there would be no connection with the character or the audience. Shouldn’t it be the same for contemporary musicians?