ABRSM Jazz Piano Syllabus

This ground-breaking examination syllabus was launched by the ABRSM in 1998 and is proving to be a popular alternative to classical piano exams for many teachers and their pupils.

The structure of the exams is similar to the classical syllabus in that students have to choose three pieces, one from each of the following categories:

Blues - Jazz Standard - Contemporary Jazz

Improvisation is compulsory and is built into all three pieces with suggested note choices given in improvisation boxes, as well as suggested left-hand accompaniments.

Supporting tests include:

• Scales and arpeggios: Including modes, blues scales and pentatonics.

• Aural tests: Rhythm tests (clapping, identifying grooves), pitch copying (singing) and improvisation (sung or played) over a groove played by the examiner.

• Quick Study: A short sight reading test - although this can also be taken by ear, when the examiner plays the test three times and the candidate has to play it back without seeing any music.

At present exams can be taken at centres all over the UK, at Grades 1–5. It is not known when the ABRSM willl make Grades 6-8 available.

Tim Richards is a jazz examiner, and also runs annual courses for classical piano teachers wishing to find out more about the syllabus and the skills required by successful candidates. These are currently available in The City Lit in London and at Benslow Music in Hitchin (Herts).