Grade 1 Piano Exam

(25 Posts)
oldbeforetime Thu 27-Jan-11 19:12:50

My ds is sitting his Grade 1 in the spring. This may seem stupid question - but how perfect do the pieces have to be to pass? Are they looking for perfection?
Or are they looking for being able to read the music, rhythm?

evamummy Fri 28-Jan-11 13:10:16

You need 100 marks to pass, out of a total of 150 marks.

The three pieces are only one elememt (worth a total of 90 marks), there are also the scales, the sightreading and the aural test which are important for doing well overall.

Tangle Fri 28-Jan-11 14:13:11

There's a booklet written by the ABRSM called "These Music Exams", which you can download here - you might find it useful reading. I think I read in there somewhere that they start off with a pass mark, and then add/subtract from there depending on how things go.

I'm not a teacher or examiner, but I got to grade 8 on piano and cello. From recollection and instinct, at Grade 1 examiners want to encourage relatively new players to carry on playing. They'll not be expecting a perfect performance - that would be unrealistic. My gut feel is that at grade 1 the pupil should be able to play the pieces reasonably competently - they should know where the notes are and what order they come in, they should have a sense of the rhythm of the piece and some dynamics. Hopefully it will sound a bit like a piece of music rather than a collection of notes! He doesn't have to read the music for the pieces - he can do them from memory if he finds it easier or it gives him more confidence.

Your DS will be expected to read music though - one element of the exam is:
"SIGHT-READING*: a four- or six-bar piece in 4 , 34 or 24 in C, G or F majors, A or D minors, with each hand playing separately and in a five-finger position. Simple dynamics, note values, articulations and occasional accidentals (within minor keys only) may be encountered. See also p. 7."
(taken from the current grade 1 syllabus)

Have you sat down with your DS's teacher and asked these questions? They're not stupid at all - I get the impression you don't have a musical background, and it must be very hard to know how to help your DS to prepare when you don't know what he's meant to do. Most teachers don't want their students to fail exams - especially grade 1 - so I'd start with the assumption that your DS is only being entered because his teacher feels he'll be ready. But I'd still find a way to have a talk

oldbeforetime Fri 28-Jan-11 16:27:58

Unfortunately lessons are done at school, and I've never met the teacher let alone spoken to her.

A note has come home in his record book, that he's now being entered for Grade 1, so please ensure these are the pieces he plays.

He's 6 and has been playing since September.

He can read the music, but it's interesting the point about him playing from memory - when he has to look up and down that's when his rhythm goes awry, so for example I could imgaine the sight reading going:

C 1 beat D 2 beats E 1 beat F 4 beats

Him counting out loud:

1 2 3 44444444444444444444 1234

While he tries to see his place for what the note is after E.

Whereas with the tunes he knows he doesn't look, and counts the rhythm steady, and moves through the notes steadily.

I got Grade 1 in the violin when I was 9 - don't recall it being difficult nor practicing, but did not carry on with it. So my musical knowledge is very limited.

Scales he loves (odd boy grin) so practices those continuously and is very good at them.

ImNotaCelebrity Sun 30-Jan-11 20:52:07

Are you sure it's grade 1? That would be very unusual to be entered for after only 1 term of playing!

crazymum53 Mon 31-Jan-11 12:07:06

Agree with imnotacelebrity usually grade 1 piano takes about 2 years. There are now some pre-primary tests and this is probably what the school means.

Madsometimes Mon 31-Jan-11 12:20:48

Wow, he must be great. My dd is 7, and has been learning for a year and a half, and is working towards her prep test. You do not do scales for prep test, so he must be doing grade 1.

oldbeforetime Mon 31-Jan-11 20:50:47

Ok - I'm going to have to check with his teacher, I'll send a note back to clarify will come back.

He's ok, but IMHO not outstanding.

Re reading the note it says his first exam will be at the end of term. Maybe first exam was pre - I wasn't aware of those I saw first as 1 and presuming Grade 1.

He has to play 3 pieces, one piece given to him by assessor (so sight reading), and show his finger exercises (this is what he calls his scales).

The note is written to him, as opposed to me, if that makes sense.

Tangle Mon 31-Jan-11 21:07:06

My problem is that I'm cautious of advising as I took grade 1 a VERY long time ago - I remember taking the higher grades more clearly, but I'm not sure how pertinent those memories are in this instance.

When you say he can play the pieces he knows fluently because he's not looking up and down, is that because he doesn't need to look down at his fingers or because he doesn't need to look up at the music? Ideally his fingers need to know where the keys are relative to each other without his eyes needing to tell them where to go, especially for pieces that he knows. Sightreading is giving the examiner a way to gauge that skill - and it seems that at grade 1 the expectation is that if he puts the thumb of his right hand on middle C he should be able to know that his 4th finger will be over an F. He won't be expected to move his hand at all.

It might be worth contacting the school and asking them for advice - it doesn't seem right that you have no feedback with the teacher at all other than through DS. If he is genuinely ready to take Grade 1 on less then 2 terms of lessons that's fantastic. But it does seem very soon and I, as a parent, would want to be reassured by the teacher (preferably piano, minimum someone in school who co-ordinates her) that he wasn't being set up for a fall.

Tangle Mon 31-Jan-11 21:11:57

Sorry - X posted. Have a look here and see if this seem more consistent with what your DS is expecting to have to do. I'm still a bit confused as after a quick look at the leaflet I didn't think sight reading was required for the prep test - although it is aimed at students with 6 to 9 months experience.

Hope you get something useful back from the teacher

oldbeforetime Mon 31-Jan-11 21:12:24

He wears glasses with a very strong prescription, so looks at his fingers rather than at the music, not to find the notes, rather that it is more of an effort for him to follow the line of notes, and get his eyes to focus. (Those little dots are very small when you have very poor eyesightgrin)

oldbeforetime Mon 31-Jan-11 21:19:35

I'm now thinking is there an inbetween prep test??? Are there different examaning boards?

He's doing more than the prep test seems to be, but I had a look at grade 1 on the website, and he's not doing broken chords, he's just doing scales.

Can you do Grade 1 just scales? Or is it broken chords as well? If so then we must be doing a pre exam!

Does that mean I'm not raising Mozart the Second?? shock wink

oldbeforetime Tue 01-Feb-11 18:50:25

Had clarification from teacher - it's a pre assessment, and is an internal school thing, created so that they have something to aim for as grade 1 such a long way off!

Damn means I've not got a child prodigy grin

Like an exam they are awarded pass, merit, distinction.

Thank you for all the pointers.

LIZS Tue 01-Feb-11 18:56:22

2 terms is quite short to take Grade 1 unless he is inherently musical. dd has been playing 2 years and I'd say hers is more than a term or two overdue but her piano teacher went on ML and her stand-in wouldn't put her in for it hmm She took the Prep test after 3 terms , which they don't really pass or fail ! She passed her Grade 1 Oboe last term even with a bad cough, fairly disastrous (according to the critique) 3rd piece and misreading the key for sight reading !

JemimaMop Tue 01-Feb-11 18:59:44

Is it the Prep test?

DS1 did this last year, it is an ABRSM exam which comes before Grade 1. The book with the pieces of music in looks like this

wayoftheworld Tue 01-Feb-11 19:11:31

Tangle thank you ! My son is preparing for grade 1 and I have no idea about music so have not thought much about it. Reading your suggested web page is fab!! Now I am a bit more clued...

thelibster Tue 01-Feb-11 19:22:11

It's perfectly possible for a child to get to grade 1 in two terms. I have a pupil doing just that, although he is a little older, he's 8. The sight reading at grade one usually doesn't entail any hand movement so once he's in the right position he shouldn't need to look at his fingers at all. I'm sure that the teacher wouldn't put him in for it unless they were sure he would at least pass. smile

ImNotaCelebrity Tue 01-Feb-11 23:25:46

Yes, libster ... possible, but unusual. And particularly unusual at the age of 6!

oldbeforetime - that sounds like a nice idea. Gives him something to work for and an early idea of performing for others. Will give a 'purpose' to his playing.

thelibster Wed 02-Feb-11 10:18:04

ImNotaCelebrity Yes, unusual. I usually reckon on three terms. I've read the rest of the thread properly now and I, too, think it is a good idea. Anything that gives them a "goal" is good. I teach privately at home and I usually give a little, informal "concert" at the end of each term. Just here, at my home. I invite all pupils and parents and each one plays a piece, however basic (even the ones who have only been coming a term). The other children and their parents have all "been there", some of them not too long ago! I find they are all very supportive of the "littlies".

ImNotaCelebrity Thu 03-Feb-11 21:25:33

That's lovely, Libster - really good practice. Wish more teachers would do something like this!

ImNotaCelebrity Thu 03-Feb-11 21:25:33

That's lovely, Libster - really good practice. Wish more teachers would do something like this!

ClarsachOnABike Thu 10-Feb-11 19:59:06

oldbeforetime
if your DS is having difficulty using normal printed music due to a visual impairment, the RNIB music transcription service may be able to help:
RNIB music transcription

I would guess it may become more of a problem as he progresses - music for beginners is usually formatted quite bold and spaciously - so even if not relevant now it might be worth bearing in mind if he continues to learn and/or his vision deteriorates.

I'm involved with the service as a volunteer, would be happy to try to answer questions, or can vouch that the centre staff are very friendly and helpful (contact details on link above).

(first post for a long time lurker, finally have something which might be useful to say!)

oldbeforetime Fri 25-Feb-11 22:47:29

Thanks for that Clarsachonabike, I will definitely bear that in mind, as the print does get a lot smaller.

FloreatEtonia Mon 28-Feb-11 09:42:02

DS skipped grade 1 and went onto grade after two terms so it is not impossible. Some children are slow, some are fast and some are in the middle.

jordas20 Fri 21-Feb-14 17:11:38

Have a look at Grade 1 Piano for some helpful hints!

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