President of the Australian Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society, Merrilee McNaught reviews the Drumset Examination Syllabus written by Chris Quinlan in 1995 ....
These exams are not as well known but for the young drummer, they represent a unique way of developing their kit technique and having someone assess their progress.
The examinations are based on a series of books by Chris Quinlan. While students may select pieces from other sources including Ted Reed's "Syncopation" in the early grades, and up to Chester's "New Breed II" in the higher grades, students would be well advised to work through the grade book provided by the main examining body.
The books are very reasonably priced (from $20 for Preliminary/Grade One up to $44 for Grade 8) and easily accessed through the web-site order form. These books would stand alone as an excellent introduction to technique and move at a much steadier pace than many other texts.
The books introduce a number of techniques then apply them in a solo. They also introduce a number of "feels" at each grade through exercises then through solos.
The section dealing with double bass drums at Grade Five is very useful and the way he deals with the development of polyrhythms in Grade Six is very clear. Grade Seven had me sitting down shaking my head then working like crazy to play the "Velocity" pieces. The other solos in this book are equally challenging.
The standard required is quite high at each level and students must complete theory exams before they can receivea certificate at the higher levels. Students undertaking examinations must present four pieces one of which can be an original composition. They also undertake an aural test, a sight-reading test and a general knowledge test. The aural tests are very rhythm based and require an awareness of the genre studied for each grade.