Announcing new exams in Singing for Musical Theatre at Grades 1–3.
- 4 October 2018 – our list of songs for Grades 1–3 becomes available online.
- January 2019 – you can start taking exams in Singing for Musical Theatre worldwide.
- Higher grades will follow in 2020.
Why take an exam in Singing for Musical Theatre?
Musical theatre is a vibrant and energetic contemporary art form, popular with increasing numbers of performers, young and old. Singers specialising in this dynamic genre now have the opportunity to gain an internationally recognised qualification with ABRSM. Our exams connect progress, achievement and motivation – so you can take to the stage with confidence.
“The new Singing for Musical Theatre syllabus provides a great opportunity for young singers to perform, learn, experiment, practise and most importantly have fun. The Singing for Musical Theatre syllabus provides many challenges with style, expression, acting through song, varying vocal qualities and techniques. The lists offer a variety of choices and encourage the discovery of new repertoire.” Rachel Lyske, Brit School teacher and ABRSM consultant.
With our new Singing for Musical Theatre exams you perform the songs you love, while developing musical skills that will help you flourish in rehearsal, audition and performance situations. Along the way you’ll also gain valuable interrelated skills – not just for music making but for life.
ABRSM Chief Examiner, John Holmes says:
“As with the development of all our syllabuses, we have taken great care to create a clear, well-structured progressive pathway through the assessment of this popular genre. Singing for Musical Theatre exams are new to ABRSM’s exam offer, and new in terms of what’s available out there, but familiar in terms of what we do best - providing reliable milestones of musical achievement, marked according to solid, well-established principles.”
From Gershwin to Sondheim, the West End to Disney. The songs in our new syllabus span the world of musical theatre across stage and screen.
To make sure the songs you perform in the exam room come from the latest musicals, the syllabus will only be available online. This means we can regularly refresh and update it as new songs are released.
Our material has been carefully selected by industry experts and is designed to reflect the different dramatic contexts and genres within musical theatre.
At Grades 1–3, we’ve selected material that encourages vocally safe singing for young and developing voices, as well as songs that are age-appropriate in content.
Whether you plan to use your exam as a springboard for an audition, as preparation for the industry or just because you love singing songs from musicals, we want to help you build all the skills you need to be a rounded and successful performer. We’ve designed the exam to support you to be your very best.
Take the stage
Each grade consists of three accompanied songs and one unaccompanied song. All four songs are chosen from lists containing a variety of songs from musicals dating from the 1920s to the present day. This allows you to explore different characters and styles of music – so there should be something for everyone.
You need to choose one accompanied song from each list. This is an opportunity to show the range of characters you can express, acting through song. Having live accompaniment from the piano in the exam mirrors usual practice for concerts and auditions, and interacting with the pianist is another important musical skill you build here.
Singing unaccompanied (a cappella) is a great way to train your ear, and really helps with singing in tune and building your confidence. It’s also great preparation for auditions and your chance to shine solo!
We’re also testing some key skills that will give you an edge, whether in auditions, rehearsals or during the show!
Being able to sight-read unfamiliar music is one of those skills that every singer should have. It helps you to join in more easily, learn things more quickly and access all kinds of music for yourself. It could help you to step into a new role at short notice, access session work and much more.
In the exam, the examiner will present you with a short piece of music that you haven’t seen before. We’ve designed all the sight-singing pieces to be relevant to Musical Theatre singers. They are in attractive, accessible styles with optional words in English. Each short piece starts with a piano introduction consisting of the final bars of the piece you are going to sing. The piano part either doubles (Grades 1 – 2) or supports (Grade 3) the melody line throughout, so you can use your musical instinct to find the tune, as well as reading it.
Aural training develops your musical ‘ear’. Having a strong musical ear helps you to feel a pulse, keep in time and understand harmonies and melody lines. These are important skills when you have to pick up tunes quickly with limited rehearsal time. Musical theatre singers are often very strong in this area and our tests give you the chance to demonstrate that.
In the exam, the examiner will play you some short melodies, rhythms, and pieces of music to respond to. Some are for you to join in with or copy and some are for you to notice changes or general features such as loud/quiet, fast/slow etc.
“To be able to sight sing is a priceless tool for any singer. Having this skill opens up a world of musical understanding that contributes to musical awareness and maturity in performance”
Rachel Lyske, Brit School teacher and ABRSM consultant.
All individual practical exams are marked out of a total of 150.
- Accompanied songs – each song is marked out of 30
- Unaccompanied song – marked out of 21
- Sight-singing – marked out of 21
- Aural tests – marked out 18
What’s the pass mark?
- 100-119 marks: Pass
- 120-129 marks: Merit
- 130+ marks: Distinction (cue standing ovation!)
Our Singing for Musical Theatre exams allow you to focus on the singing, and this means our examiners also focus on your singing. They assess your sense of pitch, time, tone, shape and performance rather than your technique, acting and dance skills, or costumes and props.
Our examiners are all professional musicians who are highly trained in assessing musical performance. At the heart of the exam is you, the candidate, and every examiner is committed to the motto “I’ll do my best to help you do your best.”
Grades 4 and above
We’re fully committed to making graded Singing for Musical Theatre exams available right up to Grade 8. Grades 4 and above will be following soon.
We’re working hard behind the scenes, and although we can’t yet tell you exactly what will be on the coming syllabuses, we can say that the higher up the grades you get, the more they’ll feature those big show tunes you know and love.
Practice material for candidates preparing for our Singing for Musical Theatre exams at Grades 1-3.
ABRSM Songbook series offers an unrivaled choice of core repertoire that will provide the bedrock for years of rewarding vocal study.
Songbook Plus features material from ABRSM's 2018 Singing syllabus. An essential collection for those preparing for exams.
Specimen Aural Tests provide teachers and students with practice tests for exam preparation.
“Vocal health has been a massive consideration when selecting repertoire - vocal challenges and demands increase as the syllabus progresses. Due to the nature of ABRSM exams the syllabus allows for focus to be on the understanding of music and the technical aspects of singing.” Rachel Lyske, Brit School teacher and ABRSM consultant.
“Industry experts and leading consultants have worked with us to create this appealing new exam. These exams will be authentic to the genre and capture the energy and fun of musical theatre, while giving learners a strong, structured environment in which to develop their technical and performance skills through the songs they love.” Michael Elliott, ABRSM Chief Executive.