"Do I have to sit exams when I learn Drums?"
"What's the point in grades?"
"Is it something I need to do, when i'm just learning for fun?"
One of the most common questions I get asked by my students is… “Do I need to do Drum Grades?”.
In this article I hope to help answer some of your questions, briefly layout some of the pro’s to taking your exams, and discuss my approach when it comes to my own students.
1. Do I have to sit exams when I learn Drums?
No. Absolutely not. Exams are optional.
I can talk from experience about this. When I was in school i started lessons and all of my lessons were structured in a way so that I can develop my skills without sitting an exam. I didn’t come to realise this until I began teaching myself, and looked back and reflected on what and how my Tutor taught me.
I would say that there may have been occasions where my Tutor cherry picked pieces and exercises from the grade material but for the best part of 14 years, i’d never sat a grade exam! Ever!!
By the time I actually got round to taking an exam, I had already played quite a few gigs in the local venues with an original band and previously played talent shows in school. I went on to perform with a marching pipe band and cover band, and already knew my way around the Drum Set.
I believe as long as your Tutor has built a solid curriculum and can guide you step by step through that, you can totally learn to play drums without ever sitting an exam. Sitting your Drum Exam is simply a way to assess your progress and receive feedback from another professional, other than your Tutor. If your Tutor has experience guiding students through exams; they should have a good idea on what criteria needs to be met to pass the exam, and have a good idea at where you are in relation to the Grades criteria.
2. What's the point in Grades?
Personally, I think there’s a huge benefit to taking your Drum Grades. I appreciate that Grades aren’t for everyone but I always like to offer the student the option to take their Grades, and I like to promote the benefits that achieving your Drum Grades brings.
Here’s a brief overview of some of the benefits –
- Achieve an Accredited Certification – Receive a certificate for your achievement, A nice little accolade you can frame on your living room wall that acknowledges your hard work and progress. It also demonstrates achieving a pre-determined goal whilst working on a deadline.
- Assessed by a professional other than your Drum Tutor – Receiving non-bias feedback from an Examiner can really outline whats great about your playing, what could be improved eg. technique, sight reading, time keeping etc.
- Monitor Progress – A structured course that will assess all areas of your playing, and help you to understand what level you have achieved compared to the criteria in the assessment.
- Work towards a deadline – This sets you a target to focus and work through all the course material before the exam, so that you are as prepared as you can be to achieve your grade.
- UCAS Points – This is one of the biggest reason i like to promote Grades to my students, particularly those still in education or considering University. You can begin to receive UCAS for University from Grade 6+. If you sit your Grade 8 exam, you could receive up to a maximum of 30 points depending on your result.
- Qualification are recognised worldwide – You can use these qualifications anywhere around the world, as they internationally recognised.
3. Is it something I need to do, when I'm just learning for fun?
If you just want to learn a couple of groovy beats, or learn how to jam to your favourite songs, and not take it too seriously, then that is absolutely fine to do that. You may have other things in life that take priority and this is just a way for you to escape and have fun. If you aren’t interested in pursuing music as a career or to go to University to study music, then Grades MAY not be for you. Some people enjoy doing Grades so that they receive an accolade for their achievements that they can hang next to their other trophies ,and achievements but if thats not you… honestly don’t worry about it.
The main thing is that you have fun learning something new and you enjoy it, otherwise whats the point right?!
If you wish to book lessons either to work towards grades or have a bit of fun, please fill out our web form on our “Contact Us” link.