There are four tests at this grade:

2A – Clapping in time and time recognition

Listen to a piece of music and begin clapping in time to the beat as soon as you can. Keep listening as you clap and give a louder clap on the 'strong' beats (strong beats feel more important than the other beats). You will then say whether the music was in 2 time or 3 time.

Beat and pulse are interchangeable words that mean the same thing in music. The beat in a piece of music stays the same, usually for most of the piece. If you are asked to 'Clap in time with the music' this means that you clap the beat steadily. In this sort of test in an examination the music will not speed up or slow down.

How to tell the difference between 2 and 3 time

To identify 2 time and 3 time listen out for the 'strong' beats. If you can walk in time to a tune (Left Right, Left Right), with a strong beat on every other step, it is in 2 time. If you can do three actions to the tune (such as three hand claps) with a strong beat on every third clap, the music is in 3 time. A waltz is in 3 time – you could to dance to it but you could not walk in time to it unless you had three legs!

2B – Singing 3 phrases (echo singing)

You will hear a key chord and then a two-bar count-in, for example: 'One, two, One, two' or One, two, three, One, two, three'. You will then listen to and sing back three short sets of notes (phrases), one at a time, like an echo. You can sing any sound (such as 'Lah lah' of 'Dah dah') or you could hum or whistle if you prefer. Aim to keep in time with the pulse (beat) of the music as well as singing the right notes.

2C – Hear the pitch or rhythm difference

First you will hear the key chord and the tonic note, then a two-bar count-in, as before. The tonic is the 'home' note, such as C in a C major chord. Then the examiner will play a short phrase, followed by that phrase again, but this time with one difference. The difference might be in the rhythm, or one note might have been altered to a different pitch (there will only be one change). You have to notice where the change happened and say whether it was rhythm or pitch.

About pitch and volume

Pitch means how high or low a sound is. High pitch is like bird song or the voice of a woman or child. Low pitch is like a lion's roar or the voice of a man. Pitch should not be confused with volume, which is how loud or quiet a sound is, regardless of pitch. Pitch changes often in music and helps us to recognize a tune or song that we know.

High-pitched instruments are smaller than low-pitched instruments, for example, a violin is high pitched but a cello is lower pitched, and a double bass is very low pitched. A piano produces a wide range of high to low pitched notes because it has strings of varying, graded lengths.

About rhythm, beat and tempo

Rhythm means the pattern that a sound makes in time. Rhythm, like pitch, changes often and helps us to recognize a tune or song that we know. Clapping your hands or tapping your feet to music will capture the rhythm, but not the pitch.

Rhythm should not be confused with the beat (also called pulse) of the music. The beat can also be clapped or tapped, but it is regular and does help you to recognize a particular tune or song. The beat usually stays the same throughout a piece of music, allowing the rhythm to change often while still keeping the same beat. If the beat of the music does change, either speeding up or slowing down, we call this a change in tempo.

2D – Listen and notice musical details

You will listen to a short piece played on the piano and then answer questions about the way the piece is played. You will be asked two questions. One question will be about whether the tempo (the speed that the music is played) changed, or not. The other question will be about one of two things:

  • Loud or quiet playing (i.e. the change in volume of the music).
  • Smooth and detached playing, also called legato and staccato.

How to tell the difference between legato and staccato

Smooth playing, called legato, means that the music moves smoothly from one note to the next one, with no gaps in sound between them. Detached playing, called staccato, sounds less smooth because each note is allowed to stop before the next one is played. Staccato notes can sometimes sound quite 'spiky' and short but staccato music is not necessarily quick in pace – sometimes the notes can move quite slowly. Legato is like a row of terraced houses where they are all joined together in a row, whereas staccato is like detached houses, each in its own space and not joined to its neighbour.

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