Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul - Plato

Are you preparing for classical music exams India? Or looking to get information on singing certifications in India? Or you probably have a knack for music and a beautiful singing voice, but don't know how to get started. You may sign up for one of those talent competitions, even win it and land a solid contract with a hefty remuneration and voila! You are a star overnight! It's true. Take inspiration from Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal who followed the same path to get started on their singing careers.

There is also that option of becoming a YouTube star by posting your music videos and getting thousands of likes and shares before someone of importance take notice and signs you up for their next gig or production.

Having the perfect pitch and raw vocal power is definitely the start to having a flourishing career in music. But not many are blessed with those since birth. In fact, most singers have worked hard and put in hundreds of hours of practice before getting that perfect tone and rhythm. They spend hours in the classroom learning music theory and a staggering amount of time following the teaching of voice coaches and taking lessons with singing tutors. And they all go through singing level exams in India  to cultivate their talent before making it big. Each level is carefully designed to ensure incremental and consistent development of your singing prowess.

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The Origins of Levels for Singing Exams

Take your first steps as a singer by taking graded exams
Assessment of singing skills dates back to many generations in the past

The origins of grades of singing exams can be traced back to the last 19th century UK when Sir Alexander MacKenzie and Sir George Grove from two different Royal Music Academies expressed their wish to create a body to formalize levels for singing exams. The primary reason behind this was to curb the rampant corruption in the industry to certify singers of any caliber or no caliber at all, as long as the bribery amount was enough to fill the pockets of those in authority. The idea was to create a legitimate platform to students of music who could be graded fairly by honest examiners.

Associated Board of the Royal Schools for Music

The ABRSM is like the mother of all boards for music. You will find a lot of music schools in India with an affiliation to this board. Initially, the ABRSM only offered two certifications:

  1. Junior
  2. Senior

Gradually, it was further broken down to grades 1 to 8 to cater to the needs of younger musicians and singers. The argument was that, by the time the youngest vocalists were of sufficient age to test at those levels, they would have learned so many bad singing practices that they would fail or be disqualified from formal assessment. The ABRSM now has further divisions and incorporated new exams. For example, the aural exam was developed more than 30 years after the initial conceptualization and the development of the testing scheme.

For Hindustani classical music, these grades are, of course, a little different based on the level of difficulty and the content of learning.

Graded Exams at a Glance

microphone_recording
Grading is not compulsory for you to become a singer in India. But it is important.

The ABRSM lays down 8 different grades for assessing your singing capabilities. In India, especially in the context of Hindustani classical music, you will come across 7 different levels. There are two more advanced levels that anyone beyond the Visharad would have completed level. These are discussed in the next section.

Music Examination Boards

Globally, there are three major examination boards to assess and evaluate your music skills.

  1. ABRSM
  2. Trinity College of Music
  3. London College of Music

All these colleges have affiliates in India and you can take an exam right here in India and get certified from any of these colleges. You may also check out the  top music schools in India for a degree or diploma in one or more form of Eastern or Western classical music:

  1. Swarnabhoomi Music Academy
  2. Calcutta School of Music
  3. KM Music Conservatory
  4. Madras Music Academy
  5. Delhi School of Music

Expectations from Students

No matter which school you enroll in, as a student of music, you will be expected to,

  • Perform 2 to 3 pieces or segments from approved lists with musical arrangement
  • Sing at least one traditional music piece without musical arrangement
  • Demonstrate sight-reading capability appropriate for their level
  • Successfully complete supplementary tests as recommended in each level
  • Complete both theory and practical exams or viva voce.

Aim to get a distinction in each grade in order to catch the eye of suitable assessors and examiners. Your performance during the exam will be main determinant of how much marks you score.

Grades of Singing Exams in India

A guitar competition
Taking part in the competition is a good idea to get noticed | Source: Music School in Kolkata

As mentioned in the earlier sections, there are 7 levels in classical music exams IndiaEach level is designed to suit the capability of that level and to prepare for the next one. Needless to say, the lower levels are meant for the novice singers while the higher levels target those vocalists and musicians who have already had some exposure and gained experience and theoretical knowledge. The exams are made progressively challenging to test the aptitude of the students.

7 Levels for Singing Exams

Here is the entire list of singing level exams in India:

  1. Prarambhik
  2. Praveshika Pratham
  3. Praveshika Purn
  4. Madhyama Pratham
  5. Madhyama Purn
  6. Visharad Pratham
  7. Visharad Purn

A person who has entered the Visharad Pratham level has already qualified as a good singer and an expert in Hindustani classical music. 

There is one more advanced level for those looking to add to their singing certifications in India. This is the Alankar grade, which is again divided into:

  1. Alankar Pratham
  2. Alankar Purn

The lower level from 1 to 3 are meant for entry-level singers; those with little or no exposure to music and with very little formal training. The level of challenge doesn't increase significantly between these three levels. Having said that, the selections form the song lists that the students are exposed to, add to their repertoire and the songs themselves have varying difficulty levels.

There are, however, major differences across the different levels when it comes to the musical theory portion. For example, level 1 candidates need to know notation basics, simple time signatures, and the important keys and scales. Once you enter the Madhyama level, you will be tested on your technical knowledge of these concepts as well as rhythm writing.

The Madhyama grade acts as the bridge between a novice singer and an expert. No prizes for guessing that this level is like an entry to the higher-level grades of singing exams. Equally important are the practical aspects of the exam- the pieces, traditional piece, harmonic vocabulary and modulation, sight reading, etc. The complexity of the practical exam changes and increases as you go up the singing level exams in India. 

Singing Certifications in India

Guitar lesson
If music is your passion, consider pursuing a career as a music teacher or singer | Source: Music of the Planet

Now that you have a fair idea about the syllabus of classical music exams in India, you may also consider getting relevant diplomas or singing certifications in India. Such additions can add to your career options and you can work as a piano teacher or with a theatre group or simply teach music to help aspiring students fair well in their examinations. 

Popular Institutes Offering Singing Certifications in India

You will be spoilt for choices when it comes to finding alternatives to or supplementing your classical musical degree of singing prowess. Here is a list of the top institutes in India that can help you with a singing certificate to further your career:

  1. Pandit Jasraj Institute for Music Research, Artistry, and Appreciation
  2. The Audiophile's School of Sound Engineering
  3. Urban Raaga
  4. Rabindra Bharati University
  5. Bhatkhande Sangeet Mahavidyalaya

You may wish to study sound engineering or aspire to become a vocalist, but you will have to have the basics in place and clear the different levels of singing exams and related music grades to get to where you wish to be. Remember that there is no shortcut to success and draw inspiration from the popular quote by Beethoven-

Music can change the world- Beethoven

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Pragnajyoti

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