Most of my students do not take music exams through school or through the RCM program, so I have developed this method to help the student track their progress through learning the instrument. The coloured ratings are based off of coloured obi used in martial arts, which is more fun to think of than grade numbers. There is not a test involved, and no timeline; as the teacher, I simply graduate the student to the next colour when I feel they have met the requirements. The colours are as follows:

Level 1 – White

  • Can play in 4/4, 3/4, and 2/4 time
  • Can play basic rhythms (whole, half, quarter, eighth notes, etc)
  • Can play dotted quarter and dotted half notes with accurate rhythm
  • Plays in keys with one sharp or one flat
  • Can play a chromatic scale from C to C (does not need to be memorized)
  • Can play “do-re-mi-fa-so” on the mouthpiece
  • Can play notes that are slurred, staccato, accented, and tenuto
  • Plays with dynamics (forte, piano, etc)

Level 2 – Yellow

  • Can play music in 2/2 and (slowly) in 6/8
  • Plays in keys up to two sharps or two flats
  • Plays low D and C-sharp with the third valve slide
  • Can play a full major scale on the mouthpiece
  • Can play chromatically from low A to D
  • Can crescendo and decrescendo while playing
  • Plays sixteenth notes; can play dotted eighths and sixteenths with accurate rhythm
  • Can follow repeat signs accurately
  • Lip slurs second to third partial easily

Level 3 – Orange

  • Can play triplet eighth notes
  • Plays 6/8 time comfortably, can play difference between 6/8 and 3/4
  • Follows DC al Fine and DS al Fine
  • Plays in keys up to three sharps or three flats
  • Can play simple songs on the mouthpiece
  • Can play chromatically from low G to E
  • Knows common Italian tempo words
  • Can ritardando and accelerando while playing
  • Lip slurs second, third, fourth partials
  • Can hear good and bad intonation when playing together with teacher
  • Can name some types of ensembles or bands that trumpets play in

Level 4 – Green

  • Plays in 3/8, 9/8, 12/8 time
  • Plays in keys up to four sharps and four flats
  • Can play two octave chromatic scale from G to G
  • Can play rubato or ad lib in a piece
  • Can play most of their rep on mouthpiece as well as trumpet
  • Follows DS al Coda, DC al Coda
  • Lip slurs second through fifth partials
  • Matches tuning with teacher
  • Plays syncopations without losing time
  • Knows different Italian style words (cantabile, marcato, dolce, etc)
  • Can describe the different brass instruments in a section

Level 5 – Blue

  • Plays in 5/4 and 6/4 time
  • Plays in keys up to five sharps and five flats
  • Can play pedal F, E, Eb, D
  • Can double tongue eighth – two sixteenths – eighth rhythm
  • Plays common major and minor chords from memory
  • Lip slurs second through sixth partials
  • Blends well when playing duets with teacher
  • Plays offbeats without losing time
  • Can play triplets over a beat (triplet quarter notes in 4/4, for example)
  • Can describe different instruments in a wind ensemble

Level 6 – Purple

  • Plays in 7/4, 5/8, 7/8
  • Plays in keys up to six sharps and six flats
  • Increased ease lip slurring second through sixth partials
  • Plays ornaments such as trills, turns, mordents, etc
  • Introduced vibrato into their playing
  • Double tongues simple sixteenth note patterns
  • Can describe how dynamics change in different settings
  • Can describe different instruments in an orchestra
  • Can name some favourite trumpet players

Level 7 – Red

  • Plays in all sorts of time signatures
  • Plays in keys up to seven sharps and seven flats
  • Can triple tongue basic eighth – triplet sixteenth – eighth pattern
  • Lip slurs second through eighth partials starting on G, Ab, A, or Bb
  • Can glissando, fall, and horse whinny
  • Can improvise over a standard Bb blues
  • Can name the five main time periods of classical music
  • Can name some favourite film soundtracks featuring the trumpet

Level 8 – Brown

  • Plays in all major and minor keys
  • Can triple tongue twice in a row (like a 6/8 feel)
  • Lip slurs the second through eighth partials
  • Can improvise over some basic jazz standards
  • Makes good use of first valve slide for intonation
  • Demonstrates fluency in basic selections from H.L. Clarke’s Technical Exercises
  • Knows the role of the trumpet in Classical and Romantic orchestra music
  • Can name some favourite pieces for band or orchestra that feature trumpet
  • Has begun transposing music in concert pitch for B-flat trumpet
  • Ideally: has begun doubling on cornet or flugelhorn as accessible to them

Level 9 – Black

  • Plays comfortably in ambiguous keys or no key
  • Can learn to improvise over a new song on their own
  • Shows further fluency in double and triple tonguing
  • Shows further fluency in flow studies like H.L. Clarke’s Technical Exercises
  • Shows progressively deeper understandings of blend, intonation, timbre, sound, and emotional playing
  • Can perform a jazz shake
  • Is familiar with F.J. Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto
  • Can name some favourite chamber music featuring the trumpet
  • Knows the role of the trumpet in baroque and early music
  • Has begun transposing music in various keys for B-flat and (if applicable) C trumpet
  • Ideally: has begun to learn smaller trumpets such as the piccolo in A, as is accessible to them

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