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Music Lessons In Toronto: What is the RMC Method?

The RCM method, also known as the Royal Conservatory of Music method, is a popular approach for individuals pursuing music lessons in Toronto that was established in 1886. It is a comprehensive and structured curriculum rooted in Western Classical music and designed to provide a well-rounded musical education to students of all ages and skill levels. At its core, the RCM method emphasizes a combination of performance, theory, ear training, and sight-reading skills. Students who choose to follow this method receive a systematic and progressive course of study, ensuring a strong foundation in music fundamentals while gradually advancing their musical abilities.

One of the key components of the RCM method is the graded examination system. As students progress through their studies, they have the opportunity to take standardized exams at various levels. These examinations evaluate their proficiency in areas such as technique, repertoire, theory, and musicianship. Successfully completing these exams not only provides a sense of accomplishment but also offers recognized certification for their musical achievements and in some cases, high school equivalency credits.

In Toronto, the RCM method is widely supported and recognized by music educators, schools, and institutions. Many music teachers in the city are well-versed in this approach and incorporate its principles into their teaching methods. Additionally, the RCM organizes numerous events and competitions, providing students with opportunities to showcase their talents and receive further recognition. Interested in Toronto music lessons for you or your child and want to make sure that there is a standardized grading system with examinations? Contact Greater Toronto Music School today and mention that you'd like to follow the RCM method. Our top Toronto music teachers are ready to help!

Logo of Royal Conservatory of Music

How Many Grades Are In The RCM Method?

In the RCM method there are a total of ten grades to complete. These grades provide a progressive and structured framework for students to develop their musical skills and knowledge. Each grade encompasses practical, theory, and history components, ensuring a well-rounded music education. Once a student has completed all 10 grades, they are eligible to complete their Associate of The Royal Conservatory (ARCT), which is the highest level of achievement within the RCM examination system. The ARCT diploma is awarded to individuals who have successfully completed a rigorous set of practical and theoretical examinations and is seen as equivalent to a Bachelor of Music designation.

The practical component of the RCM method focuses on performance skills. Students are required to learn a set repertoire of pieces specific to their grade level. These pieces encompass various musical styles and genres, allowing students to broaden their musical horizons. Throughout their lessons, students work on technical exercises, scales, and arpeggios to develop their technical proficiency on their instrument or voice. Regular practice and refinement of these pieces and technical exercises are necessary to demonstrate their progress during examinations.

The theory component of the RCM method emphasizes the understanding of musical concepts and principles. Students learn about notation, rhythm, harmony, scales, intervals, and other fundamental elements of music theory. The theory curriculum progresses in parallel with the practical component, ensuring that students have a comprehensive understanding of the theoretical aspects related to the music they are performing. Theory examinations are conducted at various levels, and students must successfully pass these exams to advance to higher grades.

The history component of the RCM method introduces students to the rich heritage of music. Students learn about the composers, musical eras, styles, and significant works that have shaped music history. They study the historical context and cultural influences that have impacted the development of music throughout different time periods. This component broadens students' musical knowledge and appreciation, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the music they perform.

The practical, theory, and history components of the RCM method are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. The practical component enables students to apply the technical and musical concepts learned in theory and history, while the theory and history components provide a contextual framework for their performance. By integrating these three components, the RCM method cultivates well-rounded musicians who possess both technical proficiency and a comprehensive understanding of music.

As students progress through the grades, the difficulty level of the practical repertoire, theory concepts, and historical knowledge increases. This progression ensures a gradual development of skills and knowledge, challenging students to continually expand their musical abilities. The RCM method's comprehensive approach to practical, theory, and history components in Toronto music lessons offers students a comprehensive musical education that prepares them for both performance and a deeper appreciation of music as an art form.

Celebration Series RCM Books.

How Long Does It Take To Complete The RCM Method?

The time it takes to complete the RCM method while taking Toronto music lessons can vary significantly depending on several factors. These factors include the starting level of the student, the amount of time dedicated to practice and study, the complexity of the chosen instrument or voice, and the desired level of achievement. On average, students typically progress through each RCM grade within one to two years, although some may take longer or shorter durations. The frequency and duration of music lessons play a role in this timeline as well. Students who have more frequent lessons and dedicate ample time to practice tend to progress more quickly through the grades.

Moreover, the time required to complete the RCM method also depends on the ultimate goal of the student. For individuals aiming to achieve the ARCT diploma, which is the highest level of certification, it can take several years of dedicated study and practice beyond the initial grades. This extended period allows for the development of advanced technical skills, musical interpretation, and theoretical understanding.

It's important to note that the RCM method is designed to be flexible, allowing students to learn at their own pace and tailor their musical education to their individual goals and abilities. Some students may choose to complete only a few grades for personal enrichment and enjoyment, while others may pursue the RCM method as part of their professional music education.

A student completing her RCM examinations

Do Students With Prior Experience Need To Start From Level 1?

If you already have experience playing an instrument or have received music training prior to starting the RCM method, you generally do not need to begin at the very beginning. The RCM method is designed to accommodate students at various levels of proficiency and experience. When starting the RCM method, you Toronto music teacher will begin with an assessment or evaluation to determine your current skill level and knowledge of music theory. Based on this assessment, the teacher or examiner will recommend an appropriate starting point within the RCM curriculum.

The assessment may involve playing a selection of repertoire or technical exercises, demonstrating your understanding of music theory concepts, or discussing your musical background and goals. It helps identify your strengths, areas for improvement, and the grade level that aligns with your abilities. Starting at an appropriate level within the RCM method ensures that you are appropriately challenged and can progress efficiently. You may begin at a grade level that corresponds to your current skill level, bypassing lower grades if deemed appropriate. However, it's important to note that some foundational concepts and skills covered in earlier grades may still be useful for building a solid musical foundation, so your teacher may recommend revisiting certain topics or pieces to ensure a comprehensive understanding.

By starting at your own level within the RCM method, you can build upon your existing skills and knowledge while following a structured curriculum that helps you progress systematically. This personalized approach allows you to make the most efficient use of your time and tailor your music education to your individual needs and goals.

In summary, if you already play an instrument or have prior music training, you can typically start the RCM method at your own level. An assessment or evaluation will help determine the appropriate starting point within the curriculum, ensuring that you are appropriately challenged and can continue your musical development in a structured manner.

students studying for the RCM theory component

High School Equivalency Credit in Ontario

In Canadian schools, the high school equivalency credit in the RCM system refers to the recognition of achieving a certain level within the Royal Conservatory of Music examination system as a means of earning credits towards high school graduation. This credit recognition is primarily applicable in the province of Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Education has established a policy that allows students who successfully complete specific RCM levels to receive high school equivalency credits. These credits are counted towards the compulsory arts credit requirement for high school graduation in Ontario.

Typically, students who have completed the RCM Grade 9 practical examination and the Grade 2 theory examination are eligible to receive one credit towards their high school diploma. Similarly, students who have completed the RCM Grade 10 practical examination and the Grade 3 theory examination can receive two credits. It's important to note that the high school equivalency credit recognizes achievement in the RCM examination system specifically and not private music lessons or other music programs. Students must provide official documentation, such as RCM examination certificates or transcripts, to their high school administration to receive the credit.

The high school equivalency credit in the RCM system offers students the opportunity to combine their musical achievements with their high school education. It recognizes the dedication and hard work put into studying and preparing for RCM examinations and provides tangible credit towards graduation requirements. It's worth mentioning that the availability and specific policies regarding the high school equivalency credit may vary between provinces and even between school boards within a province. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with the local school administration or guidance counsellor to obtain accurate and up-to-date information regarding the recognition of RCM achievements for high school credit in a specific region.

a music teacher in Toronto

Combining RCM With Contemporary Repertoire

While the RCM method has its foundation in classical music, students who are interested in more contemporary styles can still benefit from studying RCM and supplementing their Toronto music lessons with other repertoire. The RCM method recognizes the importance of musical diversity and offers flexibility within its curriculum. Although the core repertoire focuses on classical music, students can explore and incorporate other genres, including contemporary styles, as part of their musical development. During RCM practical examinations, students are allowed to include pieces from alternative repertoire lists that cover a range of styles, including jazz, popular music, and contemporary compositions. This provides students with the opportunity to showcase their skills and interests in genres outside of classical music. In addition to the RCM curriculum, students can supplement their music lessons with other repertoire that aligns with their preferred contemporary styles. At Greater Toronto Music School, our Top Toronto music teachers will assist students to select pieces from genres such as jazz, rock, pop, blues, or any other style they wish to explore. This allows students to expand their musical horizons, develop versatility, and cater to their individual interests and goals.

Many music teachers in Toronto are well-versed in multiple musical styles and can incorporate contemporary repertoire and techniques into their lessons. They can provide guidance and resources to help students explore their preferred contemporary styles while still following the structured approach of the RCM method. Supplementing RCM studies with contemporary repertoire not only allows students to enjoy a broader musical experience but also helps them develop skills applicable to various musical contexts. It enhances their improvisation, ear training, and performance techniques, fostering a well-rounded musical education.


The RCM method, also known as the Royal Conservatory of Music method, is a comprehensive and structured curriculum for individuals pursuing music lessons in Toronto. It emphasizes performance, theory, ear training, and sight-reading skills, and provides a systematic course of study for students of all ages and skill levels. The RCM method consists of ten grades followed by ARCT, with each grade encompassing practical, theory, and history components. Students can start at their own level based on an assessment of their skills and knowledge. The RCM method offers a graded examination system, providing recognized certification for musical achievements and high school equivalency credits in Ontario. While rooted in classical music, the RCM method allows students to supplement their studies with contemporary repertoire, expanding their musical horizons and developing versatility. At Greater Toronto Music School, our qualified music teachers in Toronto are familiar with the RCM method and can incorporate contemporary styles into their lessons. Contact us to enroll now!

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