Grade 3 Unpitched Aural Help


Trinity Unpitched AuralUnpitched aural tests on the drum kit are split into 4 separate parts. Don’t panic! This whole section of the exam is only worth 10 marks so you could say each part is worth 2.5 marks (although it’s not marked like that – a total is given out of 10). For parts 1-3 you will normally be asked to leave the drum kit and sit / stand somewhere looking away from the examiner (just follow the examiner’s instructions). For part 4 you’ll be invited back to the drum kit to perform the Playalong. You should practice all of these tests with your teacher before your exam so you know what to expect. If this isn’t an option you may want to pick up the ‘Trinity Unpitched Aural – Specimen Tests for Drum Kit‘ book and work through the sample tests yourself.

Part 1 – Time Signature Recognition

The examiner will play a short rhythmic phrase on the snare drum twice. The pulse will be given and accents will be played on the first beat of each bar. You then have to identify the time signature from the following options:

  • 2/4
  • 3/4
  • 4/4
  • 6/8

Time Signature Recognition Tips

TEACHER TIP: Get your pupils to listen different music written in different time signatures so that they can hear what different time signatures sound like! Also get them to play the examples given in the Unpitched Aural book – this helps develop a better understanding of what might be expected in the exam.


Part 2 – Style Recognition

The examiner will play a short beat / pattern on the drum kit twice. You then have to identify the style from the following options:

  • Straight 8’s Feel
  • Basic Latin Feel
  • 3/4 Straight
  • 12/8 Feel
  • Basic 2/4 March
  • Basic Rhumba
  • Indie Rock

Style Recognition Tips

  • Learn all of the above options as you may lose marks for using incorrect terminology
  • Also read the tips for Grade 2
  • Basic Rhumba – Almost always has snares off
  • Indie Rock – easy, trashy hi hat!
TEACHER TIP: Play the examples given in the Unpitched Aural book for your pupils and ask them to guess the style in a ‘mock exam’. Also get them to play the examples themselves so they fully understand each style.


Part 3 – Identify the Changes

You have to listen a short piece played on the drum kit by the examiner. On the second playing the examiner will change something – this will be either a rhythmic change (rhythm change) or a change to which drums are being hit (pattern change). For Grade 3 you need to tell the examiner whether the change was a rhythm change or a pattern change AND identify the bar in which the change occurred. So an appropriate response might be something like “rhythm change, bar 3”.

TEACHER TIP: Regularly conduct ‘mock exams’ with your pupils using the examples from the Unpitched Aural book and simulate what would happen in the real exam. Also get them to play the examples to develop a better understanding of the changes that might be introduced.


Part 4 – Playalong

The examiner will play a short piece on the piano. On the second playing you need to play the drums to accompany the music being played on the piano. The examiner will tell you what style you should play in, style options for Grade 3 are:

  • Straight 8’s Feel
  • 3/4 Straight
  • Basic Latin Feel
  • 12/8 Feel
  • Basic 2/4 March
  • Basic Rhumba
  • Indie Rock

Playalong Sample Test mp3’s

The following sample tests are provided courtesy of Trinity College London – original downloads available from this page. Note that audio samples aren’t provided for all styles that may be asked for by the examiner.

Sample Tests

Playalong Sample Music

The following sample music gives an example of what you could play in a Playalong test (excluding any fills / endings). The examples can be used across all grades and progressively get more difficult. For grades 1-3 the earlier exercises (exercises 1-2) should be just fine. Note that you are NOT allowed take this music into the exam with you!

General Playalong Tips

  • At Grade 3 level the playalong normally lasts for around 4-8 bars
  • On the first listen try to keep time in your head and count the number of bars being played
  • Listen for which beat of the bar the song ends on
  • For top marks end in time with the examiner
  • Don’t show off! The examiner is looking for good timekeeping and knowledge of the appropriate musical styles, not a virtuoso performance.

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