If you want to develop your bass-playing skills while playing great music, then our new Rock & Pop exams and songbooks are for you. Our Bass song lists include music from Radiohead, Ramones, INXS and Muse.

Our exams and songbooks are ideal for all bass players – whether you’re self-taught or taking lessons. We’ve designed the exams so they’re about performance and creativity, giving you the skills you’ll need as a rock and pop musician.

For each exam you’ll play three songs and perform one of the Session skills.

Video demos

Watch our videos on the Bass grade pages to see professional musicians playing some of the music and demonstrating the technical skills you’ll be working on for your exam.

Watch our bass demo

Professional bass player Ben Hillyard performs music by the Kinks and Sly and the Family Stone from our bass syllabus. He’s playing to backing tracks from the CDs in our Rock & Pop bass songbooks.

Songbooks and downloads

We’ve produced a songbook for each grade. Each book is an invaluable resource - it includes six songs in both tab and staff notation, a CD with demo and backing tracks, performance notes and guidance on technical skills and Session skills.

And keep an eye on the website for more songs – we’ll be adding new tracks for each exam, available as downloads from our online store.

The music

As you progress through the grades you’ll explore great classic and contemporary rock and pop music. Our song lists will keep growing – new tracks will be available in our online store.

You decide the set list for your exam to show what you can do. As well as choosing two songs from our song list, you’ve got the option to play your own cover version of a song or a song that you’ve written.

This song may:
• be unaccompanied
• be played to a backing track (you can record this yourself)
• include your own vocals, performed live in the exam.

• include an accompaniment played or sung by any one other live musician.

Please see page 12 of the syllabus for full information on choosing songs and providing a copy.

Playing The Songs

The bass parts for Rock & Pop graded exams have been created to develop the candidate’s technique, musicianship, ensemble skills, timekeeping and stylistic awareness, whilst providing the opportunity to improvise, embellish and vary the bassline creatively when appropriate.

Candidates should familiarise themselves with the technical demands of each song, particularly when preparing Song 3, the Technical Focus part of the exam. Some songs specify certain requirements such as the use of a pick, or a suggested effects unit, and the candidate should observe these details where relevant.

The candidate may use a fretless or electro-acoustic bass guitar, and a bass with five or more strings may also be used.

On all instruments, Songs 1 and 3 must be played along with the backing track. Only Song 2 may be played unaccompanied if wished.

For further information please see page 15 of the syllabus. 

The Session Skills

The Session skills – Improvising and Playback – develop important skills that musicians need.

Candidates should respond to the bass Improvising Session skills test by considering the style, the time signature and the harmonic structure of the supplied chart. The improvisation should explore variety and development, whilst demonstrating a fundamental sense of feel for the suggested groove.

When performing the Playback Session skills test, bass candidates should follow the musical direction in the written score, and copy the expressive techniques heard on the track. No variation or improvisation is required – the song chart/recording should be copied as accurately as possible, including details of phrasing, articulation and dynamics.



2015-17 SYLLABUS