What You Need To Know About The AMEB Guitar Curriculum

What Is AMEB?

AMEB stands for Australian Music Examinations Board. They’ve been around for about a hundred years and provide syllabi for many instruments such as guitar, piano, voice, trumpet and violin.

AMEB provide two main forms of curriculum; Classical and CPM.

Who Is AMEB For?

To be completely honest, I don’t recommend any AMEB courses to anyone unless they’re being “serious” about their guitar playing. Whilst it’s a great course, most young students find it incredibly difficult and usually give up in a matter of weeks. There are also “set works”  in each grade. These are songs that students must learn and perform to pass each grade. In itself, that’s fine, however I take issue with the pieces that are in the very first grade. Jazz standards and hits from the late 80’s and early 90’s are in the first grade, and these aren’t really a great starting point for many students (particularly anyone under the age of 20). In particular, Jazz tends to be an acquired taste that a guitarist develops over several years.

But a serious guitarist would look past any distaste in the song choice and simply learn them because it’s good for them.

What Is CPM?

CPM stands for Contemporary Popular Music. This is basically the range of courses for modern music and students learn “modern” content, such as rock songs, pop songs and jazz standards. Comparatively, the classical courses stick to “classical” content, so students here will (mostly) learn pieces by classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart.

Classical Or CPM - Which Is Best?

CPM is great for anyone wanting to learn contemporary guitar/music, whereas their Classical courses are best for someone wanting to learn classical styles and pieces. To be honest, I’ve never even had a student want to learn the classical course.

Here in Sydney, Australia, the vast majority of students want to learn contemporary music because that’s what we hear on the radio and social media. So it makes sense that this is what people want to learn.

The CPM Guitar Course

There are only four grades in the CPM Guitar course. This means that each grade is quite large and difficult, because the massive amount of content to learn is only broken up into four grades.

Each grade consists of the usual topics – scales, chords, sight reading and arpeggios, but students are also required to improvise over backing tracks from the very first grade.

Personally, I don’t think this is wise because most beginners have absolutely no idea about improvising and find it near impossible. I think they’re better off spending their time learning music and then improvising will come more naturally later in their learning path. But I do see some benefit in starting improvising in the first grade – after all, the earlier you start, the better you’ll be… in theory anyway.

What Do I Need For AMEB?

Aside from your guitar and amp etc, you’ll need a book for each grade. They physical copies are usually about $50, at the moment you can buy digital copies here for about $10 each. Students will need to enrol and pay for exams, which is usually about $120 per exam. Exams are typically held twice per year at popular locations in major cities.

To Sum It All Up

The AMEB CPM guitar course is great for serious guitarists, but not really ideal for students who just want to have fun, or for young beginners. It’s a good idea to tackle a few Ultimate Guitar Method grades first because it’s designed to make learning easy and fun for all ages.

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