Why Grade at all?
A grading system is great. It shows students a clear path to progression and a helps to break down the big stages of being a beginner or an expert into less daunting steps.
All of the grading syllabuses I could find however lacked a few important aspects for me. I looked into a good range of options before deciding that I needed to write my own.
The aspects I thought were missing were:
- Individuality (I don’t feel you should need to learn from a set list of songs)
- Learning to play full songs not just 1 minute clips.
- Song writing skills
- Improvisation skills
- Stage presence
- Music industry knowledge
I feel we should be passing on musicians who want to be in original bands, write music and perform, be interactive with their audience and learn to progress in the industry.
So how did I go about it?
I decided to bring my two loves together. Martial arts and guitar and take inspiration from the grading syllabuses they use.
In martial arts you have to show a range of disciplines for each grade and grade through a coloured belt system. So I took this and adapted it to the coloured guitar strap system. The grades are split into the following disciplines:
- Ability to perform (This is only to your sensei for the lower grades)
- Reading (TAB only)
For each grade you need to show a deeper understanding in all four areas. The grades are as follows:
Grey – Ungraded. Everyone starts here and receives the grey badge and sticker on their first lesson. Every student has passed onto white after just a few lessons.
White Strap – This grade shows an interest in learning and an understanding that it will take time and dedication to truly master the guitar.
Yellow Strap – . You have now mastered a full song and can demonstrate an understanding of some basic techniques.
Orange Strap – You now know how to play at least three full songs, have a good understanding of the basics and are developing a deeper knowledge of music.
Green Strap – You now know all the basics and are developing the more advanced skill set.
Blue Strap – Now able to perform a range of styles with a deeper understanding into how music works, you are getting deep into your journey of becoming a Guitar Ninja yourself.
Purple Strap – Now able to write your own songs, and perform basic solos. Music is starting to become another form of communication.
Brown Strap – Now able to perform full sets to an audience, with growing confidence and stage presence, song writing skills and theory understanding, you have almost finished your training.
Black Strap – The grade we all strive for. You now have all the theory and understanding you need to be a master, However this simply means your training is complete, this is where the journey starts, not where it ends!
Also in Japanese martial arts you have to perform KATA (pronounce ka-tah) with most grades, so the choice in discipline names is a play on words and is KATR (Ka-Tar).
Once you have reached your Black belt you can continue through the grades. As with the Japanese martial arts you can grade through the black belt Dan grades. With The Guitar Ninja’s Coloured Strap Grading Syllabus (CSGS) you progress through your Dan grades with a point system. These points are earned by either progressing as a public figure musician (playing gigs, releasing songs, growing a following etc.) or by becoming a sensei (teacher) and passing students through their grades and running events under The Guitar Ninja’s model.
How Grading works
There are four different gradings:
* First, you have your grey grade.
This is simply passed by attending your first lesson and presented in the lesson.
* Second, you have your white strap.
This can be passed and presented in a lesson with your sensei and requires you to be a member of the Guitar Ninja Group. This grade is covered by your initial membership fee.
* Third, you have all Gradings between and including, Yellow and 1st Dan.
These grades take place at an official grading event. Here you will have to show your abilities to a sensei covering all four disciplines. For later grades you will be required to then perform to the room.
Once all gradings have taken place you will be presented with your new strap along with plectrums, badges etc and your photo taken with your strap and certificate for the website (you can request for your photo not to be taken)
*Fourth, you have the Dan grades.
Here you have a range of points you can earn. These points will go up as and when you complete tasks or as and when performances are witnessed by a higher grade. You can then grade by simply attending a grading event with the correct number of points signed off. You will be awarded your grade in the same way as Yellow to 1st Dan grades.
How Do I start?
1) Go to www.theguitarninja.co.uk
2) Click on your location and book in for your first lesson
3) Book in for a grading
It’s as simple as that.