The ABRSM Jazz Piano Syllabus…

The Jazz piano syllabus is so very different to that of the Classical piano, that it warrants a more ‘in depth’ description.

Jazz Piano Pieces Grade 1The ABRSM Jazz syllabus was first introduced in 1998, and is a comprehensive introduction to the world of jazz.  A rigorously planned syllabus provides you with what you need to play jazz with imagination, understanding and style.  It also sees you improvising right from Grade 1. 

While its format may be familiar to the classical student (three lists of pieces, scales, quick studies and aural tests for each grade) it is a very different concept in every respect.  The jazz piano syllabus is intended for jazz players of all kinds, but has specifically been designed to include certain kinds of candidates that may not be suitable for the usual Board examinations.   

For example –

  • Those who play by ear.
  • Those with minimal reading skill.
  • Those musicians who regularly play in jazz pubs and clubs
  • Those with excellent classical accuracy but lacking the jazz skill set

It is possible to learn the set pieces by heart at grade 1, and pass the exam but by grade 5 a significant amount of sight reading would be necessary.

For players with impressive classical training, sometimes it is necessary to go back to grade 1 or two to get a grounding in jazz style, rhythmic interpretation and work with unseen contexts.

The Jazz Exam Structure…

Five books of graded pieces including funk, rock grooves, swing, calypso, jazz waltz, gospel and many other styles.  

The pieces are arranged into three lists

  • Blues
  • Standards
  • Contemporary Jazz

Jazz Piano Pieces Grade 3The candidate plays one selection from each list. Additionally they perform a range of scales, aural tests and a quick study piece. The scales, aural test and study all include improvisation.

Unlike the classical syllabus, the exam content and pieces do not alter every two years, providing a flexible path forward. So why not try it?