Taking jazz sax grades


They’re not for everybody, but if you’d like to try your hand at a jazz sax grade (or two) whilst taking lessons with me, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve had a lot of experience in preparing students for these exams, (as well as 100% pass rate at all grades), and I know how to make taking the exams a well-prepared-for and enjoyable part of learning the sax. Many students have also added to their tally of UCAS points by taking the higher grades (see below).

Let’s have a look at what the exams consist of;

You can take jazz sax grades with either the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) or Trinity College.

For each exam, you have to prepare three pieces of music – all three with accompaniment if you go with the ABRSM, two with accompaniment and one a solo study if you chose Trinity. You chose your three pieces from a list of fifteen or so offered at each grade level.

The ABRSM exam pieces and accompanying CDs are specially prepared arrangements of ‘real’ jazz pieces, whereas Trinity collects together a selection of already existing pieces for each grade.

Below, for example are the song choices for the ABRSM’s grade 3 jazz sax exam. You choose one piece from each of the three categories. All of the songs have sections for you to solo over. There are some really good tunes in this list, and the CD accompaniments are all excellent!

Roots & Blues:

  • Blue Train [John Coltrane]
  • Playing in the Yard [Sonny Rollins]
  • All Blues [Miles Davis]
  • Cold Duck Time [Eddie Harris]
  • The Preacher [Horace Silver]


  • Mercy, Mercy, Mercy [Joe Zawinul]
  • Honeysuckle Rose [Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller / Andy Razaf]
  • Tea for Two [Vincent Youmans / Irving Caesar]
  • Autumn Leaves [Joseph Kosma / Johnny Mercer]
  • Lady Be Good [George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin]


  • Sister Moon [Tim Garland]
  • Going Home [Mark Lockheart]
  • Mopti [Don Cherry]
  • All Is Well [Tim Whitehead]
  • Sara’s Touch [Mike Mainieri]

You also take short accompanying tests to demonstrate your musicianship. These tests are drawn from a menu of sight reading, improvising, scale playing, and aural recognition.

The grades from both Boards are included in the UK’s Qualifications and Credit Framework.

The ABRSM exams run from grades 1 – 5. Trinity exams run from grades 1 – 8.

Grades 4 & 5 are Level 2 qualifications, equivalent to a A*- C at GCSE.

Grades 6 – 8 are Level 3 qualifications, equivalent to an A Level, and – just like a regular A level – they also yield UCAS points, and thus count towards entry to higher education;


You can hear some recordings of  ABRSM grade work by former students on the audio snippets page.

You can find out more about what the Boards offer by following these links;

ABRSM jazz sax grades

Trinity jazz sax grades

Please feel welcome to contact me if you have any questions, or if would like further information on jazz exams.