What’s a Free Choice Piece?
In Rockschool exams from Debut to Grade 8, you’re welcome to perform pieces other than those in your Grade Book, as long as they meet a certain standard – we call these Free Choice Pieces. See below for more information on choosing Free Choice Pieces.
How many Free Choice Pieces can I play?
If you present more Free Choice Pieces than as allowed above, the additional pieces will be judged as inadmissible, and you’ll receive a mark of zero for these pieces.
What styles of music can I use?
You’re welcome to perform any style of music in your Free Choice Pieces – from classical, to jazz, traditional music and more, the choice is yours. Please note that Rockschool examiners are contemporary music specialists.
Backing tracks and accompaniment
Backing Tracks are no longer mandatory for Free Choice Pieces. They may be performed to a backing track, with live accompaniment, or as a solo piece (without backing track or accompaniment). If you present a Free Choice Piece with a backing track, please make sure that your part isn’t in the recording, otherwise you’ll receive a lower mark for that piece.
For Free Choice Pieces with backing tracks presented in face-to-face exams, candidates must provide a device containing the downloaded audio. This may be any device with a 3.5mm minijack output e.g., MP3 player, portable CD player, phone or tablet. We recommend that two different sources are brought, one as a back-up.
Backing tracks on USBs are no longer the preferred option, so please bring them on a device.
Candidates will be expected to operate their own devices. Examiners will provide a 3.5mm (minijack) lead to connect the device to the PA.
Audio can’t be live streamed directly as mobile devices must be turned off or to airplane mode during the exam. Examiners can’t stream or download any backing tracks on the candidate’s behalf.
Level of demand
Free Choice Pieces must demonstrate a comparable level of technical and musical demand to pieces in the Grade Books, which can be referred to as an indication of appropriate level. Refer to the Instrument-Specific Guides below for more specific information on choosing music of an appropriate level.
If a Free Choice Piece is judged by the examiner to reduce the level of demand / outcomes required for the grade, this will be treated as a ‘partial submission’ and this will be reflected in the marks and comments.
You don’t need to seek approval to perform Free Choice Pieces, as the examiner will make a judgement about the suitability of the piece in the exam. However, if you are unsure about the eligibility of your piece(s) you can seek approval.
Please email RSL Awards at firstname.lastname@example.org with details of the proposed piece(s)/adaptations, instrument, and grade. A full reply will be given no later than 4 weeks after payment of an approval fee which will be emailed to you.
Please bring a copy of the approval confirmation with you to show the examiner, or for a recorded digital exam submission please upload a copy of the approval confirmation with your video.
If you don’t seek prior approval, examiners will make a judgement about the suitability of a Free Choice Piece at the time of the exam, and if in their judgement it does not meet the requirements for the grade, this will be reflected in the marking.
If a performance piece overruns beyond the allocated time (as per the instrument-specific guidance downloadable below), the examiner may halt the performance and only assess the material demonstrated until that point.
Candidates must provide fully notated sheet music for all Free Choice Pieces, including Vocals Wider Repertoire. A copy must be brought to the exam, or for a recorded video exam, supplied when the video is uploaded.
Sheet music must fully reflect the version of the piece being performed, including all directions. A chord chart, lyrics sheet or tab is not sufficient.
Additionally, for vocals exams, for any free choice pieces sung in a language other than English, a translation of the lyrics into English must be provided.
Candidates may refer to their own copies during the performance. Examiners will retain all photocopied materials from the exam session.
If sheet music and/or translations are not provided for a Free Choice Piece, this will be interpreted as a ‘partial submission’, which will be reflected in the marking.
For more detailed information on Repertoire options and Free Choice Pieces, please see visit the RSL Awards website here.