Sight-reading requirements


Over recent months we have involved examiners and consultants, across all six woodwind subjects, in an in-depth review of the sight-reading requirements and have considered the progression in learning and the demands of assessment.

We compiled a draft set of new parameters, taking into account the proposals for new scale requirements for woodwind as well as recent revisions to the sight-reading for other subjects. We then commissioned a team of composers to write some indicative tests, which we are now pleased to share with you. Please take some time to review the proposals and sample tests for your instrument, perhaps trying them out with students. We would be grateful if you could then respond to our questionnaire by selecting the link for your instrument further below.

The proposals

The PDFs on this page outline the parameters for each instrument. Once introduced, these apply for subsequent grades, albeit with a progression of difficulty. They are followed by two indicative tests at each level.

With two tests per grade, not all aspects of the parameters can be shown for each instrument. As the parameters apply consistently across all instruments (except for aspects such as dynamics for recorders), a greater impression of the new approach can be gained by exploring the tests for more than one instrument.

The main changes from the current requirements are:

  • The tests are shorter, particularly at the lower grades, to allow greater focus on the musical detail
  • The keys and ranges are generally within those covered across the scales set up to and including the previous grade (note that the keys proposed here are based on the new scale proposals)
  • There is a wider variety of musical styles and the tests are more melodic, musically predictable and approachable
  • Descriptive titles are given for tests at Grades 6–8, to help candidates connect with the mood and style
  • For bassoon, the tenor clef is introduced one grade later (at Grade 6)

We hope that these new proposals will allow your candidates to fully demonstrate their abilities.

Some questions

There are some specific points that we would like you to consider. These feature in the current woodwind sight-reading tests (for some of the instruments) and so we are keen to know if you would like to see them retained or removed. However, they don’t feature in the parameters for other subjects whose requirements have been revised in recent years.

  • Should swung-style (see image) pieces Notes be featured and, if so, from what grade?
    For now, these have been included in the parameters for flute, clarinet and saxophone only (from Grade 6).
  • Should the 4/8 time signature be featured?
    For now, this has only been included in the parameters at Grade 8. The intention is that tests in this time signature would generally be in Baroque styles and would include some demisemiquavers.
  • Should demisemiquavers be featured?
    For now, they have only been included within 4/8 time (as described above).
  • Should changing time signatures be featured?
    For now, these have been included in the parameters (from Grade 6), but with the provision that the pulse should always remain unchanged.

Finally, a question for clarinet teachers to consider:

  • Should clarinet candidates be tested on transposing at sight?
    Horn and trumpet candidates, at Grades 6–8, currently take a transposing test as part of the sight-reading section of the exam. We have been discussing whether a similar test should be introduced for clarinet – for example, requiring transposition up a tone.
Your feedback

You can respond to the proposals by selecting the link for your instrument. If you would like to comment on more than one subject, you will need to complete the separate questionnaire for that instrument.

Please complete the questionnaire by Sunday 7 June 2015. If you have any queries, do contact us at [email protected].

I hope you enjoy trying out the tests and look forward to receiving your feedback in due course.

Nigel Scaife
Syllabus Director

Questionnaire links

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