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What are the benefits of learning scales and arpeggios?

Learning scales and arpeggios helps you to develop reliable muscle memory for common finger movements and improves your tone control across the full note range.

It helps you to develop your pitch and interval awareness, and become familiar with keys and their related patterns. It also helps to build an understanding of keys, giving you confidence when sight-reading, learning new pieces and performing.

You can develop many aspects of technique through scales practice, including:

  • Familiarity with the physicality of your instrument or voice
  • Articulation
  • Tone
  • Intonation
Video: Piano Grade 5 scales and arpeggios

What happens in the exam?

All scales and arpeggios are played from memory in the exam. Examiners will usually ask for at least one type of scale/arpeggio required at each grade and aim to hear a balance of the articulation requirements. Details of scales and arpeggios requirements for each grade can be found in the syllabus for your instrument.

Supporting resources

Scales and Arpeggios books are available for every instrument at every grade, which you might find useful when preparing. However, your scales and arpeggios must be performed by memory in the exam.

You can purchase these books from our online shop or from your local retailer. For Piano and Violin exams Grades 1–5, see our Scales Trainer app.

Marking

Download the marking criteria for scales and arpeggios.

Marking principles

In each element of the exam, ABRSM operates the principle of marking from the required pass mark positively or negatively, rather than awarding marks by deduction from the maximum or addition from zero.

All instruments (Singing not included) Grades 1–8:

Mark

Scales and arpeggios

Distinction
19–21

  • Highly accurate notes/pitch
  • Fluent and rhythmic
  • Musically shaped
  • Confident response

Merit
17–18

  • Largely accurate notes/pitch
  • Mostly regular flow
  • Mainly even tone
  • Secure response

Pass
14-16

  • Generally correct notes/pitch, despite errors
  • Continuity generally maintained
  • Generally reliable tone
  • Cautious response

Below Pass
11-13

  • Frequent errors in notes and/or pitch
  • Lacking continuity and/or some items incomplete
  • Unreliable tone
  • Uncertain response and/or some items not attempted

7-10

  • Very approximate notes and/or pitch
  • Sporadic and/or frequently incomplete
  • Serious lack of tonal control
  • Very uncertain response and/or several items not attempted

0

  • No work offered

Scales Trainer

Scales Trainer

Scales Trainer is an app that helps increase fluency with ABRSM scales and arpeggios requirements.

 

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