Pursuing Western Music Certification or diploma in India


Pathway to International Music Education

India is culturally rich and has celebrated music from across the world. In recent times, the interest towards the western music has risen tremendously. Many aspiring musicians wish to learn and master western musical instruments - piano, violin, guitar or they wish to develop their vocal prowess. A way to formalize it, is by attempting music exams from the world's renowned western music universities/colleges. After passing these exams the student gets awarded with international music certificate or diploma. Few renowned institutions/academies which offer such programs are London college of Music, Trinity College of music, Associated board of the Royal schools of Music and Rock school of Music, London.  Let’s deep dive to find more about their programs.

London College of Music

The London college of Music is one of the colleges out of the nine schools under the University of West London, which got established in the Year 1860. The London College of Music (LCM) is a globally recognized institution known for its comprehensive music programs. It offers wide variety of music programmes from Music performance (Guitar, Piano, Violin, Singing, Percussion, Woodwind, Strings etc) to audio production.

LCM also offers a wide range of certificate and diploma exams across multiple musical disciplines, making it a prime choice for aspiring musicians in India. Attaining a fellowship diploma can open doors to opportunities for performance, teaching and collaboration on a global scale. LCM is accredited by Ofqual to award graded and diploma qualifications in music as part of the Qualifications and Credit Framework . In laymen terms to understand what is Ofqual, we can say that it is equivalent of India’s UGC or AICTE.

Graded certification

The college offers graded exams upon completion of which the student is offered a certification. There are usually 8 grades. With LCM, before progressing to the grade level exams, the student has to give pre-preparatory, Step 1 and Step 2 exams.

One can appear for their exams after completing each grade. These exams can be given at a test centre, live online or through a recorded video. If the exam is in person at test centre or live online then a student has to display following capabilities - play 3 pieces, Technical exercises, Sight reading, Aural tests.

Otherwise, if it is a recorded video, one additional piece has to be performed in lieu of technical, Sight reading and aural tests.

After completion of Grade 8, a student is granted UCAS points (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). UCAS points assist them in getting admission to the degree programs at the University of West London. After grade 8, a student is awarded 18-30 UCAS points.

LCM provides 9 pieces in their core book with 18 external selection pieces. Their exam books cost at par with ABRSM and Trinity exam books. The graded practical exams are priced lowest in comparison to other exams boards in India. LCM refreshes their syllabus every 2 to 3 years.

After achieving the grade certificates, a student can either opt for the performance or teaching diploma.


The college extends associate, licentiate and fellowship diplomas which carry a nominal number of credits of a degree course. Like stated earlier, student can choose to enrol in a degree program (performance or teaching) at the University of West London through a pathway by earning additional UCAS points (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

Pathway to the University of West London

Each diploma carries a nominal number of credits (typically 20 credits, representing one degree module, or one-sixth of the total number of credits required to complete one year of the degree course).

Prospective students of Bachelor of Music or Masters of Music, who hold an LCME diploma are automatically eligible to bypass the relevant module or modules on the degree course.

Source: LCME

Trinity College of Music

Founded in 1877, Trinity College London (TCL) is an examination board based in London, United Kingdom which offers graded and diploma qualifications across a range of disciplines in the performing arts learning and teaching. Trinity College London is a registered charity that was established as a standalone charity in the year 1992, having previously been part of the Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance). It was established to advance education and the performing and creative arts for the public benefit.

Like LCM, Trinity College London is also recognised by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) in England. They also cover all major musical instrument exams and offer certificate and diplomas. Students can choose from string instruments, singing, piano, woodwind and percussion. Candidates are rated under three categories – the performance of musical pieces, technical work such as scales, and supporting tests such as sight reading and improvisation.

Graded certification

For Trinity, the student starts off with initial grade then moving on to grade 1 through 8 progressing to diplomas. Trinity, just like LCME, offers options for a test centre exam, live digital or recorded practical exam option. If given face to face at a centre then, following tests are conducted - 3 pieces, Technical exercises, Sight reading, Aural tests.

However, if it is recorded upload to their website then Trinity gives student an option to either choose technical work or repertoire option. If it is repertoire option then in that case student has to submit 4 pieces of repertoire in place of 3.

On completion of grade 6, trinity grants students 8-12 UCAS points. At grade 8, they are increased to 18-30 points.

Trinity books have 9 pieces with 12 external pieces. Trinity books and exams costs almost at par with ABRSM, LCME.


After the student gets certified with Grade 8, Trinity opens the doorway to the musicology diplomas. Teaching Diplomas and Theory Diplomas are available at two levels:

  • ATCL (Associate Trinity College of London): equivalent in standard to the first-year recital of an undergraduate degree
  • LTCL (Licentiate): equivalent in standard to the final year recital of an undergraduate degree

Whereas Performance Diplomas are available at three levels:

  • ATCL (Associate): equivalent in standard to the first-year recital of an undergraduate degree
  • LTCL (Licentiate): equivalent in standard to the final year recital of an undergraduate degree
  • FTCL (Fellowship): equivalent in standard to a postgraduate course recital at a conservatoire or university

    ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)

    ABRSM (The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is the UK's largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world's leading provider of music exams, holding over 650,000 assessments in more than 90 countries every year. As a registered charity, they also make significant donations towards music education initiatives around the world.

    Founded in 1889, they have a long and storied history. But their mission has stayed the same: to nurture a love for music, and to inspire achievement in it. They believe that everyone, wherever they're from, should have access to high-quality music-learning.

    The Royal Schools referred to in ABRSM's title are:

    Just like other schools, ABRSM too is accredited by Ofqual to award graded exams and diploma qualifications in music.

    Graded certification

    Like Trinity, the student starts off with the initial grade then progresses on to grade 1 through 8 and then to diplomas. One can book a practical exam at a test centre, live digital or submit a recorded video playing the music pieces. For the face-to-face exam, a student has to prepare following - 3 Pieces, Scales and Arpeggios, Sight reading and Aural tests.

    However, in case of a recorded video submission, 4 pieces are required to be played. One from each section A, B & C. A 4th piece can be of student’s choice.

    • List A pieces are generally faster moving and require technical agility
    • List B pieces are more lyrical and invite expressive playing
    • List C pieces reflect a wide variety of musical traditions, styles and characters.

    All grades from ABRSM are UCAS recognised, aiding Higher Education applications. On completion of grade 8, ABRSM grants students 18-30 UCAS points.

    ABRSM books have 9 pieces with 12 external pieces. Their books and exams are nominally priced if compared to its cohorts.

    Though, it is different than from other two schools because Grade 5 music theory is a compulsory to progress to higher grades.


    ABRSM also offers diploma courses in Performance and Teaching:

    • ARSM (Associate of the Royal Schools of Music)
    • DipABRSM (Diploma of The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)
    • LRSM (Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music)
    • FRSM (Fellowship of the Royal Schools of Music)

    ABRSM has recently revised their diplomas for both teaching and performance. Check out their website for latest updates.

    At performance level, ARSM exams are conducted face to face with a live online test option. At Diploma, Licentiate and Fellowship levels - students can perform and record the pieces and then send it to the evaluators at ABRSM. There is no face to face, however a candidate can fix a venue and perform live and record the entire performance. One can call their own audience too.

    At teaching level though, the exam is only face to face.

    Rock School of Music

    RSL Awards is a leading international Awarding Organisation, creating qualifications in Music, Performing Arts and Creative Industries subjects. They specialize in contemporary music education. They offer certification programs tailored to students interested in genres such as rock, pop, and jazz. RSL is the newest of all other schools in the UK.

    RSL operate in over 50 countries around the world organising, assessing and certificating over 100,000 candidates annually.

    From a small office in West London in 1991, RSL Awards had a dream to change the landscape of formal music education, and sought to become the first viable alternative to the traditional offerings available in Britain at the time.

    To simultaneously fill the void and satisfy a demand that they knew was out there, founders Norton York and Dr. Simon Pitt initially developed a guitar, bass and drums syllabus for the contemporary musician. Rockschool began offering these exams in the summer of 1991, making it the world’s first graded exam syllabus for popular music.

    Two years ago, RSL also added the classical music exams to their offerings.

    Graded certification

    At RSL or Rock school, London, the candidate starts their learning journey from debut to grades 1 through 8 and gets a certificate awarded at each level. Candidates can buy, download and access all the course work, including books online. Students who wish to learn contemporary pieces can choose RSL as their syllabus covers them.

    For the practical exam, the candidate has to perform - 3 pieces, Technical exercises, Sight reading, Aural tests.

    Just like other exams, RSL also provides an option to appear for a face-to-face exam or recorded submission. Only difference is that for a recorded submission, the candidate has to perform 5 pieces instead of 3.

    With RSL, all grades are UCAS recognised, aiding Higher Education applications. Candidates can gain up to 30 UCAS points after they attain the grade 8.

    At RSL, there are 10 pieces in the book with a free choice to pick external pieces. On cost front, RSL books are almost double the price of the books of other exams. But they come with 10 pieces and audio files.

    The RSL exams cost almost at par with ABRSM and Trinity. On this front, London College of Music take the brownie points as they are easy on candidate’s pocket.

    There are two types of exams available at Graded levels - a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate, which can be booked as a face-to-face exam or recorded video exam and is also available in some centres as a live-streamed video exam.


    RSL also awards diplomas in teaching, performance and creative enterprise. Candidates can choose the path they are most interested in. They provide level 4 and level 6 exams. Level 4 diplomas are for students who wish to progress further after completing grade 8.

    Right Path for Musical Journey

    Being a musician myself, I know there are a plethora of options available. An advice I can share with readers is to follow your teacher’s recommendation. They provide training to many students and have extensive experience dealing with various UK music schools. They, themselves, are certified to teach/train by aforementioned schools and know the exam syllabus, structure and can give you well needed tips and tricks. Based on the student, their instructors can recommend an appropriate school/exam for them.

    Each institute offers a unique proposition and caters to different musical interests. One should look at following points before proceeding with any of the aforementioned exam.

    Important Points

    Musical Interest: Are you drawn to Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin? Or do you like songs from today. Consider your musical interest and then choose an appropriate school. ABRSM offers a rich choice to choose from classical pieces.

    LCM and Trinity, on other hand offers a rich mix of both worlds. RSL covers contemporary music but if opting for classical syllabus then it is a mix of both worlds.

    Instrument: If you are considering exams, supposedly, by now you have already chosen the musical instrument. All schools offer wide range of instrument choices.

    Music Institution: I recommend joining a music institute or school or an academy of repute near your area. There are plenty of western music institutions in Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi NCR which are close to your house.

    Joining them insures that you get a certified mentor, who can guide you well. Mastering a musical instrument is a practical aspect and requires proper mental and physical coordination. Without a good teacher, a candidate can get stuck in a never-ending vicious loop, gets frustrated and gives up.

    These institutions can provide custom services to you for your overall musical development. They offer group as well solo classes, cater to young as well as adult learners. And, their teachers can guide you no matter where you are in your musical journey - beginner, intermediate and advanced.

    Learn more about Theme Music Institutes by clicking here.

    Career Goals: Are you pursing these exams just to get better at your hobby or are you serious and wish to make it your profession? Your teacher can give you the right direction here.

    Examination Structure: Review the examination structure of each institution, including the grading system and repertoire requirements. Ensure that it matches your skill level and progression goals. Depending on the exam centre network, teacher’s suggestion, a student can option for any of the exam board - LCME, Trinity, ABRSM or Rock school of Music.

    Resources and Support: Consider the availability of resources, coach or tutor and support networks associated with each institution. Check which institutions have good network in your country? In India, all the aforementioned schools have a good network of exam centres and teachers. RSL also publishes a list of certified teachers on its dedicated RSL India website. A supportive learning environment can significantly impact your musical journey.

    Global Recognition: If you plan to perform or study abroad, consider the global recognition of the institution and its exams. Certificates, Diplomas and Degree from London college of Music, ABRSM and Trinity College of Music are recognized worldwide.

    Personal Fit: Ultimately, choose an institution that aligns with your personal values and goals as a musician. Your musical journey should be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

    Pursuing Western music certification in India is a gateway to global music education and recognition. The London college of Music, Trinity college of Music, ABRSM, and Rock School of Music offer diverse pathways for musicians to hone their skills and showcase their talent on an international stage. Whether you're passionate about the piano, guitar, violin or voice. Or, any other instrument or singing. These institutions provide the guidance and structure you need to excel in your musical journey. So, take that first step, choose the institution that resonates with your musical aspirations, and embark on a rewarding path towards mastering Western music.

    Be regular at classes, practice and listen to your teacher!