Grade 1 Violin failure

(230 Posts)
Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 18:41:39

I've just had a text from my DD's violin teacher to say she's failed grade 1.

She has been with him for almost 2 years and has practiced regularly, particularly since we've been preparing for the exam (since last September). To my untrained ear the pieces sounded fine. After the exam the teacher (who accompanied her on the piano) said she had done well and he was pleased.

The scales and sight reading are done with the examiner only so he didn't hear these.

By text he said she talked through the pieces but I will get full story tomorrow.

I wanted to know how common it is to fail grade 1? Is it DD or the teacher? Should I try to switch?


Orangepuffle Mon 04-Apr-11 18:46:38

I know that teachers are allowed to contact examiners and question their marks and ask for them to be revisited. Find out exactly what your examiner has said and then ask your teacher whether he feels it could be "challenged".

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 18:47:40

I don;t think it's very common to fail - but you do get a detailed sheet with marks and remarks for each section so that should explain exactly where she went wrong.

Poor dd - how old is she?

iirc you get a sheet with comments on each section - not lots but may be a starting point for understanding which areas need work or where you might feel the examiner went wrong if that's the case

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 19:01:48

She's 9. I'm just pissed off because she's been having lessons for so long and we did everything asked of us. I don't think she should have been entered if there was a chance of failing (difficult I know). I hold teacher responsible. Maybe unfair, I know but...

What makes me cross is DH bumped into him a few days after exam and he'd gone from "she did really well" to sucking his teeth and saying he didn't know how she'd done. He was unsure as to whether you have to pass all elements as well (shouldn't he know that?)...and what made me angry was that it was only then that he said she doesn't concentrate very well in lessons....

I am emotional about it. It will be very difficult to tell her and motivate her from now on and I don't know if she would have been ok with a different teacher.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 19:02:33

It was like he was shifting the blame. That makes me think we need to switch. I don't think I can work with him even though DD loves him.

I used to teach violin and both my mum and sister are music teachers. IME it is pretty rare to fail grade 1.

I once had a child who barely scraped through, but she was severely dyslexic and unable to read music in any meaningful way so sight reading was always going to be a challenge!

I think it depends on how the teacher has approached this. If your daughter has practised regularly and has no particular issues that make it particularly difficult for her to learn an instrument then I would nornally expect that she would be able to reach a suitable standard for Grade 1 within 2 years, although obviously all children are different.

How experienced is the teacher? What grade do they teach up to and what is their pass rate? Did the teacher not raise any concerns with you in the run up to the exam? Whilst you make a judgement at the time of entering a pupil as to whether they are likely to be good enough by the time of the exam, I would have expected the teacher to have spoken to you on an ongoing basis in the run up to the exam if they didn't feel she was reaching the necessary standard so that you could get her to up her practice.

It is always possible that something catastrophic happened in the aural, scales or sight reading, but again I would have expected the teacher to include practising these skillls as part of the lesson and therefore to be aware of whether she was managing them ok.

Tbh if she was my daughter and was keen to progress on the violin I think I woukd probably move to an experienced teacher with a good reputation and references

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 04-Apr-11 21:10:21

You can only dispute the marks if there is a discrepancy between the comments dn the marks given. (an ABRSM examiner told me this).

The teacher should know how the exam works. You don;t have to pass all elements for ABRSM (I failed Grade 8 scales) but have to reach the overall pass mark.

Sometimes you get an examiner who marks harshly, last year my students had a LAMDA examiner who I felt really marked everyone down and of course there is no accounting for things happening on the day but as the teacher was actually in accompanying most of the exam should have an idea if things went that badly.

it doesnt add up to me.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:18:22

Thankyou everyone and thanks esp to pushmepullyou.

She does practice regularly and has no issues at all - she's very good at school all round, and loves music and dancing generally. She enjoys her violin lessons and has a nice relationship with her teacher. I don't know about the teacher's pass rate. He teaches up to grade 8 on both violin and piano but is a violinist professionally. He wasn't recommended - he is a neighbour of a friend. In retrospect I should have asked for more evidence of his work.

I don't think he covered enough sight reading in the lessons. I know that she didn't do much of that at home. In the exam I think she stalled and said she couldn't do it. But her pieces were good. I can imagine that she would stop if she made a mistake and ask to start again (she's a chatterbox) but the teacher gave no indication on the day that this was the case. I thought you could fail an element and still pass overall.

She started preparing for the exam in September with a view to doing it in December 2010 but the teacher forgot to enter her. When I asked him for the date of the exam he said he'd forgotten to enter her, then said she wasn't ready anyway. I thought it was unprofessional to (a) forget and (be) to suddenly say she wasn't ready but I know he had some personal problems so I didn't say anything. He entered her for this exam in January, when I asked him by text if he'd done it (on the last date for entering). He could say I put him under pressure but, hey, he should have said if she wasn't going to be ready.

No indication in run up that she wasn't ready - I would gladly have paid for more lessons to avoid this.

She's going to be heartbroken and it's going to be hard to persuade her that it's worth trying again sad.

CelebratedMonkey Mon 04-Apr-11 21:18:47

Poor thing. I barely scraped through grade 1 when I was in secondary school and I remember being terribly embarrassed at my low score. Thing is, I was dreadful and rarely practised. Though your daughter is younger it sounds as if she would be at a higher level. I would try a different teacher.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:20:19

elphabadefiesgravity - thanks just read your post.

You mean either teacher was fibbing that she did ok on the day, or the examiner was unduly harsh.

I am dreading talking to her teacher.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:22:35


She's practised for 10- 15 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. I think she practised as much as we could hope for given her age.

I think she needs a new teacher.

She's going to be upset about that too.

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 21:34:30

I wouldn't do anything until you see the report sheet. It's possible that froze on the aural, scales and sight playing and dropped a lot of marks there. But you dont have to pass all the elements - dd got below the pass mark for her sight singing in her Grade 5 recently but still got an overall merit..

Generally speaking they do their best to pass people. You start with full marks and they take them off for each thing that goes wrong rather than the other way round, if you see what I mean.

I'm really sorry but I was completely shit at the violin and can't carry a tune to save my life and somehow I passed Grade 1, if your daughter really does enjoy playing maybe it's worth just her having lessons for the enjoyment value rather than to pass exams.

2BoysTooLoud Mon 04-Apr-11 21:37:38

My father teaches music and was horrified when a pupil of his failed grade 1 recently. Wrote letters etc to examining board but don't think got far. I do think examiners vary.
My father did not avoid issue as so concerned child might give up music - she didn't.
On another note the violin is difficult to play well when nervous- though from what you have said that was not the case with your daughter.

pinkhebe Mon 04-Apr-11 21:41:35

my son only got 5 marks above the pass mark in his double bass. The comments were really harsh. Luckily he took it all in good humour. (he was nearly 10 when he took thw exam)

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:45:46

I agree, Seeker. I will try to keep my powder dry.

I just can't believe she couldn't get enough marks on the pieces. But I feel that the teacher should take some responsibility if she wasn't prepared for the other elements of the exam. If he doesn't, then he will have to go - I can't work with him if he doesn't admit that he didn't prepare her properly, at least to some degree.

What I don't get is how positive he was on exam day and how catostrophic the outcome.

2BoysTooLoud I hope this teacher is horrified too. It's a bloody awful situation to have to break this news to poor dd. I would rather have withdrawn her than face this. Sorry, I am a bit overwrought!

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 21:49:28

What did she say about the bits the examiner wasn't there for? Just remembered tha dd failed the scales bit of grade 3 clarinet too - but she knew she'd screwed up and told me as soon as she came out. Still passed the exam though.

lucysmum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:55:34

if her teacher genuinely thought she should have passed why not put it in the past and move on ? no requirement that she should pass grade 1 before doing grade 2. You could also get another teachers view on her playing. Are you musical at all ? I am a bit and I know if my DD has prepared well or not for an exam and that is usually born out by the result. Also at this age they do not understand that they may be 'fine' with the teacher/you but nerves will affect them in the exam so they need to be better than fine ie be more prepared than they think they need to be. I am still telling my Dd (aged 10) this and she is grade 4/5 on two instruments. But saying all of this - her teachers have always told me pretty truthfully imo where they think she is up to and not put her in for an exam if they don't think she is ready.

maggiethecat Mon 04-Apr-11 21:59:18

Honeymum, I feel for you. As others have said wait until you see the results sheet in order to make sense of what's happened.

Although she may have played her pieces beautifully there are 3 other elements to take into account so although you do not have to pass each element you must have enough marks and you cannot rely too heavily on the pieces.

The other thing you mentioned was stopping and starting - this is something my dd was told repeatedly in the run up to her exam last year - never stop and start again - you must play on (I think that may be true of pieces, scales and sightreading but I remember teacher emphasising this instruction for her pieces).

She's young and hopefully will bounce back.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 22:08:40

Seeker - she said she'd not been able to do the sight reading. I don't know if she said anything about the scales and aural.

Lucysmum - I will have to ask the teacher about what he heard/thought at the time. I am not musical, no. But I can see that she's really improved over the months and played the pieces pretty well. I am concerned that me and the teacher aren't having any real conversations about how she is doing. He's not showed any concern in the run up to the exam though. I am not sure when he said she wouldn't be ready for exam in December, back in October when he forgot to enter her, whether he meant it, or whether he was covering his mistake.

Maggiethecat - I don't know yet if she stopped and started, just that she talked through the pieces which suggests to me she was stopping and starting.

Will find out more tomorrow.

Thanks all - will report back tomorrow.

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 22:17:22

Ah. If she couldn;t do the sight reading at all that might be the reason. If she only screped a pass on the other elements - and stopping and starting in the pieces won;t have helped, a very low mark on the sightsinging could have pushed her below the magic 100.

singersgirl Mon 04-Apr-11 22:26:03

DS2 (9) recently got 102 for his Grade 2 piano (2 marks over the pass mark) and his teacher was horrified. All her pupils got 20 points below her predictions, including the music scholar for whom she had confidently predicted a distinction (she got 108). I think she complained overall about the marks and was very angry, because it looked as if she hadn't prepared them properly.

The comments on DS2's report didn't stack up either. For example, he failed the scales but her comment was something like "Not always even but all were readily attempted" and he got the pass mark for the aural but according to the report only got one thing wrong; he got full marks the same week for the aural in his Grade 1 clarinet exam.

We've just ignored it and moved on. He was pretty upset as he really was much better than that.

Pterosaur Mon 04-Apr-11 22:36:27

They are very intimidating exams, particularly after the teacher/accompanist has left the room.

I don't think teachers always take that into account (they were probably pretty good at doing them themselves).

My DD2 took her first exam, grade 2 cello, last year, and the teacher came out happy with her pieces, but she had a bit of a meltdown during the scales. She pulled herself together on her third try at one (I'd accidentally wandered into earshot at the wrong moment - I could hear the fear sad). She got through it, but I think many children need to be prepared to a level which will allow them to lose marks in the actual exam.

DD1 also underperforms in music exams (she's perfectly all right in academic ones). She's supposed to be doing grade 5 violin this summer, but I want to be sure that she's well above the required level to pass, as she finds the exams such an ordeal. She doesn't want to stop taking them though, so we plough on.

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 04-Apr-11 22:36:56

I would be very concernted at her having talked through the pieces, talking would mean the examiner couldn't hear properly and she is not giving a performance if she is talking.

Talking whilst playing is a big no no.

Yes, it definitely depends on your examiner, which is why the attitude of the teacher is the biggest guide as to whether you need to be concerned re the quality of teaching.

The fact that he told you by text rather than calling would concern me. If he hasn't taught her to keep going at all costs that would also concern me. It is the fact that he doesn't seem to have communicated any issues with you so that you can support her practice that is the biggest worry for me. Sight reading, aural and scales should be heard in every lesson in the run up to an exam imo and parents advised if additional specific practice at home is required. I used to write the names of the scales on pieces of paper and get the pupils to pick a certain number to do out of a pot every day so that they all got practised over the course of a week. There are also books of practice sight reading that I would lend to pupils if they were weak in that area.

I'd be looking for a different teacher tbh as it doesn't sound like this one is teaching/preparing for exams in a way that suits your DD.
DD1 managed to pass grade 3 clarinet despite playing one scale going up and a totally different one coming down, but as the examiner said "she approached everything with enthusiasm" so despite not being particularly musical, she did a lot better than DD2 who seems to fall to pieces in music exams despite playing ten times better than her sister.
We've found that it's the singing that lets the DDs down as neither of them can hold a tune (take after their dad wink) and DD2 especially is too embarrassed to just have a go

houselikeashed Mon 04-Apr-11 23:05:53

Why would she be talking during the pieces? You don't do that. Have I misunderstood something?

Colleger Tue 05-Apr-11 00:02:32

Two years seems a very long time to get to grade 1 on the violin. There could be a number of problems:

Teacher is useless
Student is not very able
Not the right instrument for student
A mixture of both
Student totally cocked up exam

schilke Tue 05-Apr-11 10:14:44

Oh dear I hope your dd bounces back and marks it down to experience. Dh is musician/ music teacher - he gets upset if I just put teacher!

He has only had one failure in about 18 years. This child was borderline and he warned the parents before she was entered for the exam. I would have thought your teacher should have known she was borderline and let you know.

You'll know more when you get the mark sheet and then have a chat with teacher. We swapped teachers after ds2's grade 1 violin exam - mainly because teacher was so busy and was difficult to pin down a time for a lesson. She expects more from ds2 and he has stepped up to the mark - so glad we changed.

marialuisa Tue 05-Apr-11 10:24:06

I have a DD the same sort of age who is on the musical side and I can't help but wonder if your DD really needs to do the early exams at all and could just enjoy playing and building her confidence for a while? Has she been playing anything other than exam pieces since September? If not she must be bored out of her mind and it would probably help explain why she "can't" sight read. Does she play the violin in a school or music centre group at all as may help things too?

maggiethecat Tue 05-Apr-11 10:39:32

Hmm Colleger, no gently gently with you.

NormanTebbit Tue 05-Apr-11 10:48:36

I was eight when I failed my grade 1 piano exam. <y parents were furious, I got a real telling off. I think they were embarrassed.

Truth is, music exams are hugely stressful and I had never been in that environmnt before. I just kind of froze, I couldn't do the sight reading or any of the other stuff. It was awful. I was the same with my driving test.

That said, I got to grade 6 piano and grade 7 Oboe when I was a teenager as I knew what to expect.

Don't be too hard on your kid, or their teacher. It's a learning experience and next time it will probably be fine.

crystalglasses Tue 05-Apr-11 10:49:24

There's no reason why a child should be devastated at failing a music exam, or any exam in fact. Failing is part of life and as long as she knows she did her best, that is all that matters. The op may feel angry or disappointed with the music teacher but this shouldn't be conveyed to the child imo.

The dc should be encouraged to pick herself up and carry on, if she really enjoys learning to play.

Pterosaur Tue 05-Apr-11 10:55:46

Marialuisa makes a good point about playing in groups; they help enormously with sight reading, are a change of scene and a social event. Performing in group can help with nerves too.

Perhaps the way forward, OP, is to forget the exam debacle, possibly find a new teacher, find a music centre or similar group, let her have a bit of fun with it, then eventually think about grade 2, when DD and her teacher are quite confident that she's ready.

I'd have been upset if either of my children had been put in the same position as your DD, not because the exam itself is important, but because of the possible effect on her confidence and enthusiasm. It's all mendable though; I'm sure she can make a fresh start with it.

LawrieMarlow Tue 05-Apr-11 10:57:08

Does the teacher mean she talked through the pieces with him afterwards? I would be surprised at someone talking during the exam itself.

NormanTebbit Tue 05-Apr-11 10:57:10

And yes, I play (badly) for pleasure. You wouldn't thank me for a recital. But I enjoy it and I'm glad I stuck at it as it enriches my life.

It isn't all about becoming a concert violinist.

Pterosaur Tue 05-Apr-11 11:11:38

I agree with crystalglasses about failure, but with music lessons, the problem can be that it's too tempting to give up completely, while with school exams, the child is obliged to get on with it. Anyone would want their child to have as positive an early experience of music as possible, in the hope that it leads to an enduring interest.

Norman - if my children play for pleasure as adults at any level, that'll be a great result as far as I'm concerned. DD1 has played in a local community folk band (she's put it on hold at the moment because she has too much on) and one of the best things about that is the fact that most of the players are adult amateurs, playing because they enjoy the music and the company.

seeker Tue 05-Apr-11 11:12:18

Lawriemarlow - I wonder if that was what he meant? I did wonder, but that makes perfect sense.

(BTW - bet Miranda never failed a violin exam...............!)

Asinine Tue 05-Apr-11 11:27:46

If your daughter is practicing and enjoying music that is the main thing. It would be a shame if she is put off by such a negative experience. I didn't get put forward for any grade exams as my teacher said it was a waste of time, she'd rather pick the music we were playing. She was the best teacher I ever had, she helped me gain confidence by playing in lots of groups,bands, orchestras and festivals. I ended up playing at a high level in adult chamber and symphony orchestras whilst still at school.
Importantly I still play for pleasure, which I think has encouraged my kids to see music as a life long life enhancing thing.
But my sight reading is abysmal blush

maggiethecat Tue 05-Apr-11 11:28:19

But why would he comment by text that she talked through the pieces, as in how she performed them, since he would know how she did having accompanied her?

LawrieMarlow Tue 05-Apr-11 11:46:29

I think i may be trying to read things into what the teacher has texted as thinking about it I agree with you maggiethecat.

Seeker I am sure Miranda would never have failed. Lawrie could well have done though...

I used to only just pass music exams. Sight reading and scaleS let me down.

newpup Tue 05-Apr-11 12:28:22

I have just suspended piano lessons for my DDs for a few weeks pending the results of their exam! We have always got on well with their teacher he gives me regular verbal feedback and they passed their first exam with good marks. DD1 was 2 marks away from a distinction.

However he decided to enter them for this exam with 3 weeks notice. I was a bit worried but he assured me they were ready. They took the exam but both came out saying they had been asked to perform a scale they did not know and had trouble in another section too. The piano is their second instrument and both have taken several exams before in other instruments so know the drill well. They were both upset and it had shaken both of them to not know what the examiner had asked. I phoned the teacher to discuss with him and he was very vaugue but sounded worried as if he realised he was in the wrong.

I am so cross as this will effect their confidence and he insisted they were ready for it. I have asked for a couple of weeks break until we get the results particularly the feedback sheet with a breakdown of their marks. If they have done badly as result of not knowing something the teacher should have taught them I will be looking for a new teacher. The Dds really like him but I could not justify keeping him on in that instance. sad

If I were you I would have a frank conversation with her teacher when you have the exam feedback

Pterosaur Tue 05-Apr-11 12:35:44

It doesn't hurt to keep an eye on the syllabus yourself (though you shouldn't have to).

newpup Tue 05-Apr-11 12:56:48

Quite right Pterosaur. I trusted their teacher though. They have done really well in all their other music exams but will definately be checking up from now on!

Colleger Tue 05-Apr-11 20:30:07

In the scheme of things I don't think parents should be worried about a fail affecting their kids confidence. Get a grip! How are our children ever going to cope with life if they never experience failure! hmm

Honeymum Tue 05-Apr-11 21:51:23

Hello again all

Wow this thread has grown like topsy!

Righto - I went to see the teacher today. All we know is that DD got 80 out of 150 for the exam. No mark sheet as yet.

We know that DD did not attempt the sight reading so that was 20 marks gone straight off. Teacher said she talked during the pieces and stopped and started, ie, when she made a mistake she said "oh I've made a mistake" and stopped before resuming again. I don't know how many times this happened, but I don't think it was too many.

DD tells me that the examiner wasn't very friendly and she was nervous but she did the aural ok and "most of" the scales. Until we get the mark sheet back we won't know the full story.

After sleeping on it I was thinking about DD as a learner. The thing is she is a flighty, imaginative child, not inclined to focus or concentrate generally. She wants to play and enjoy her lessons but she doesn't half fanny about and teacher isn't very good at stopping her. She's not naughty, just very chatty and distractable.

Her teacher is not strict enough with her IMO, and I now know why after our conversation today.....He told me he has aspergers. A lot of things make sense - why he might have problems managing DD, and why I feel like he doesn't communicate very well with me (hence the results by text). He also said no one else failed across all the grades he teaches.

We decided that (a) she has musical ability (b) if she can focus and bring some discipline to her playing she will be probably be ok and (c) we should carry on for a couple of months and see what happens with me sitting in on lessons and him itemising what he wants DD to do outside of lessons, with an emphasis on both cracking on with sightreading and scales and learning some new pieces to relieve the boredom. He said it's up to us whether we repeat grade 1 or try to move forwards.

I spoke to DD tonight and told her about the result. She was very upset and told me that she had found the exam very difficult and the examiner was not nice and she wanted a nice lady examiner next time. She is very keen to continue though, and understood that I had to set some conditions.

On a final note, I am still thinking of a change of teacher, though, as I think maybe a different teacher would have prepared her differently/better and perhaps, despite their good relationship, they just don't suit eachother. But I would feel bad jumping ship when I do think that DD's "learning style" for want of a better expression is a big part of this.

Thanks for all of your comments - they are hugely valuable and interesting. I hope I've answered most of the queries that have popped up. We should have the mark sheet next week. I'll come back and report on that next Tuesday after DD's next lesson.

Georgimama Tue 05-Apr-11 22:00:44

I'm casting my mind back a long time but I would think it is virtually impossible to pass if you don't even attempt the sight reading and stop and start during the pieces.

Playing in an ensemble is marvellous for sight reading and self discipline as a player - is there a junior strings group she could join?

Honeymum Tue 05-Apr-11 22:13:37

There is a local youth orchestra but I think you have to be grade 2 or above. I will look into the Council run music school which is on Saturday mornings I think. I agree that playing in an ensemble would help greatly.

Tangle Tue 05-Apr-11 22:24:12

Your poor DD .

I remember music exams being quite intimidating (and I got to grade 8 on piano and cello, so took a fair few). I don't think many of the examiners go out of their way to be intimidating, but the nature of their job means that's often how they'll come across. It might be worth asking your teacher to do a mock exam or two as part of your DD's exam prep before she has another go (at whatever level) - or even asking if there's another teacher who could do the same thing so it was someone she didn't know very well.

See how it goes, but if you do decide to change teachers don't feel like you're jumping ship - he might be a fantastic teacher but if he's not coping well with your DD's personality and current learning style (good phrase ) then he's not a fantastic teacher for her at this time. It does sound like your DD will progress faster once she's matured a little - and the right teacher will help her in that process. Is this teacher able to do that?

Groups are fantastic as a way to get out and enjoy music. They also tend to force you to keep going wink. Your teacher should have a handle on what groups there are around that are suitable for your DD's standard - or where she needs to get to before she can join. Otherwise, your County Music Service should be able to advise you. Hopefully there'll be something - when I started the local music centre had a Beginner String Orchestra that you could join as soon as you could play open strings, and then a couple of others that all met weekly up to about grade 5+.

I'm really glad she wants to carry on, though. My cello spent a few years in its case once I started working, but its out again in earnest now and I'm playing 2 or 3 times a week in different groups. I can't imagine life without music in it. If I can foster that love in DD then I'll fell like I've achieved something as a parent

catinthehat2 Tue 05-Apr-11 22:24:29

obtain & scrutinise the commentary from the examiner
thre may be something basic like not preparing the right syllabus pieces so she could not get the marks at all
it's a bit odd

she didn't take photocopies in - used the published books?

elphabadefiesgravity Tue 05-Apr-11 22:32:12

Yes I agree if she didn;t even attempt the sightreading that is a huge chunk off the marks.

Stopping and starting the pieces and commenting I have made a mistake more than once too would give low marks.

I faltered in in one of my Grade 8 pieces the examiner told me to carry on from where I left off and I did. I JUST about passed but I had a pretty good second & third piece that made up for the first.

I used to have a students that didn;t like male examiners. It is something they either have to get used to or stop doing exams.

Milliways Tue 05-Apr-11 22:33:30

My DD used to fall apart in her exams - burst into tears in one and scraped through with 104 or similar. She still plays now (age 20) for pure fun.

I failed my grade 2 violin (first exam I took), and my teacher thought the examiner marked me harder as I was older (13). Apparently I didn't have enough expression in the music, which is a bit harsh for Grade 2! Anyway, I took & passed grade 4 the next term, so all is not lost (and I still play now).

I second Tangle's idea about group playing, a great confidence booster. I do hope your DD is not too upset and caries on playing.

LilyBolero Tue 05-Apr-11 23:16:13

Sorry she got a disappointing result.

As a general rule, stopping and starting is the big no-no in music exams - mistakes are not disastrous unless it upsets the flow of the music, or the structure of the piece. But stopping and starting obviously means you don't present the piece as a whole. Continuity is key really.

Not attempting the sightreading was a bad mistake, as that will have got her 0/21. If she'd even played 1 or 2 notes (even if wrong) they would have had to give her at least 7 marks for attempting it.

If you look up on google "These Music Exams" there is a pdf publication by the Board with the marking criteria included - p39. The whole document is interesting, but that page will give you a description of what sort of playing gets what sort of mark.

I don't think 2 years is unreasonable to get to Grade 1 tbh - there is a lot of technique needing to be established, plus music reading, establishing a sense of rhythm. I think parents often think progress should be faster, but there is a huge step from 1st lesson to Grade1.

If you wanted to appeal (and it's probably not worth it tbh), you would have to write to the Board, with grounds for appeal, and they might let her retake the exam (they wouldn't just change the mark).

LilyBolero Tue 05-Apr-11 23:17:41

catinthehat - I believe that they can be marked if they prepare incorrect pieces, as long as the standard is comparable (and the teacher would get a stiff letter!). But it's unlikely on the violin as there is a published 'Grade 1 pieces' book, so unless you did all the pieces from the same list, rather than 1 from each list, it would be hard to get the pieces wrong.

Anaxagora Tue 05-Apr-11 23:28:38

This has reminded me how much I hate the exam system, especially for younger ones. The endless rehearsing of the same piece is just so stultifying - IMO it encourages perfectionist kids to be obsessive and anxious, and the happy-go-lucky ones to get bored and turned off with lessons and practice.

Dd2 is now learning the violin, and thankfully, thankfully her music school don't advise them taking any exams before grade 5. She learns a piece, practises/plays it for a few weeks, and then moves on to the next piece/s. They do lots of 'concerts' and lots of ensemble playing in addition to the individual lessons. The dc are progressing much faster because all their teaching is not centred around jumping through a bunch of very dull hoops to get a certificate.

schilke Wed 06-Apr-11 08:36:08

Well it depends Anaxagora. The exam system can be an amazing boost to confidence. My ds2 is able academically, but does not perform well in tests and therefore dreads school tests etc... He worries excessively, however he has realized he performs extremely well in his violin exams. The fact he has done 3 grades in 5 terms and got distinctions has given him confidence. He now believes he is good enough to join the local childrens orchestra. We hope that this music exam confidence will eventually pass over to school tests.

I'm going to defend music exams as my dh prepares pupils for them! It gives teachers a structure to work around. You learn the theory, scales etc.. Not many children are going to want to do scales for fun! If you want to be a professional musician I think you have to be a perfectionist ...

<wanders off listening to dh practising same line of trumpet concerto over and over again>

LilyBolero Wed 06-Apr-11 08:58:45

I like the exams, because it means you have to get both pieces and scales to a high standard - just learning a piece for a couple of weeks and then moving on to another might be more fun, but means you never actually achieve a really high standard of playing. For some kids, exams are not good, but for most, they are a good discipline.

Having said that, the crucial thing is not to start preparing for the exam before the child is ready, otherwise it really does become torturous. But dd for example did 2 grade 1 exams this term (2 instruments) - on one instrument she really hated the piece she was given, so she switched it 2-3 weeks before the exam, and still did really well on it, because she was at the right standard of playing, so it didn't take her long to learn it (I think she learnt it in a day!). Normally I wouldn't advocate this though!!!!

LilyBolero Wed 06-Apr-11 08:59:23

(should add am pro musician, so not just speaking from pov of a parent, but as musician and teacher as well).

It's such a fundamental thing to keep going if you make a mistake and to attempt everything that I honestly am amazed that the teacher hasn't drummed this in to her.

It doesn't sound that they are very well suited. Being a good teacher is not the same as being a good performer and it doesn't sound to me that he is the best teacher for your daughter.

I understand why you feel that you want to give him another chance, but if his teachning style and her learning style don't work well together I think I would be looking for a different teacher perhaps with more experience of dealing with children

Tangle Wed 06-Apr-11 09:39:23

I'd agree with the pro-exam camp. All the boring bits (scales, arpeggios, sight reading, aural) are so critical to getting a strong foundation as an instrumentalist. Its hard enough to get kids to practice them when there's a reason to do it, but must be nigh on impossible if there's no real requirement. When I was learning I hated them, but once I got a bit further on I really started to appreciate the benefits in my playing and I'm still reaping the benefits today. Without an exam to prepare for I don't think I'd have had the discipline to do as much practice on scales, etc, as I did.

IMO, if a child winds up rehearsing the same pieces endlessly and getting bored then their exam preparation has been badly handled.

ZZZenAgain Wed 06-Apr-11 11:02:35

how long is her lesson?

DeWe Wed 06-Apr-11 11:10:18

I had a lovely examiner for grade 3 violin. He was really sweet, checking that everything was fine and I felt happy. I failed the exam and my teacher learnt that he was struck off the examiners' list because he hadn't passed more than a couple of people that year.
When I redid the exam I panicked and messed up on a few things I knew easily and had done right the previous term. I passed with 100. Phew.

Bramshott Wed 06-Apr-11 11:10:27

I'm with Anaxagora re exams for littlies - don't see the point until about Grade 3 personally (which is where the wind syllabus used to start in any case).

Glad you had a useful chat with the teacher Honeymum.

ZZZenAgain Wed 06-Apr-11 11:16:07

for variety alongside these exam pieces, maybe your dd would enjoy those fiddletime books. Do you know those? dd had fiddletime sprinters which had some nice pieces in it (dominant gene and chromatic cats I seem to rmeember and some classical pieces, nice mixture)but they have other books in that series, am not sure what would be the appropriate level for your dd. In that series they also have a book on scales which is nice but you need to work with the teacher through it, it is not a book a dc can simply work through at home without a teacher's input since it involves the teacher playing a piece and the dc improvising to it in a particular scale and some things like that. Ask your teacher what he thinks?

this series

Also maybe if sight reading is something she struggles with, you could do a page or half a page in a nice theory book every day. That would do it. Would take about 2 minutes and she can start with the easy stuff. You don't want her overwhelmed, just needs more fluency.

She should be able to join an ensemble after 2 years of lessons. It isn't about whether she has passed exams but whether she can play well enough, probably she can. She could play 3rd violin to get into the swing of it for example and work up to the more difficult parts when she has found her place in the group. She sounds chatty and sociable, i think she'd love it.

ragged Wed 06-Apr-11 11:27:25

There are different ways to progress with music. I seem to know a lot of prof. musicians who have never taken an exam, some can't even read music. Obviously it's BETTER if you can read music. What I'm saying is that there are many credible paths to improvement and development. I'm self-teaching piano and No Way I will ever take an exam in it; that would not be enjoyable. I have no natural musical talent, so anything is a miracle achievement in my case.

Your poor DD, Honeymum.
DD is just starting to prepare for Grade 1 violin, so this thread has been a helpful read. I will definitely treat the exam as an experiment experience, I don't want "Grades" to be too important to either of us.

ZZZenAgain Wed 06-Apr-11 11:33:36

sorry just seen "joggers" seems to be the first book in that series. Have not seen it so cannot judge whether it would be a good level for your dd atm. She could have something like that to learn new pieces for fun whatever takes her fancy after her regular practice. They come with a CD (probably too fast for her to accompany) but to get an idea of how things are supposed to sound could be useful.

If exams stress her out, I wouldn't bother with them if you are otherwise happy with her progress and the lessons. It all comes across as very prescriptive to me this exam syllabus and really in a short lesson, I think there is little time for a teacher to cover everything and allow for the dc's personality, some quirkiness on the part of the dc - and improvisation and so on. I think the important thing is to be clear in your own mind what your expectations are and to communicate these to the teacher. You could try setting some goals for the next 6 months, if relevant, maybe lengthen the lesson (say from 20 minutes to 30) so that there is time to cover everything you have agreed should be covered.

After 2 years of lessons I should think she can join an ensemble. She needs to be able to play the pieces not have necessarily passed certain exams. She sounds chatty and sociable. I am sure she would love something like that.

If you do definitely want to go down the exam route, I think you should be looking around for a different teacher. If she likes the teacher, practises willingly and makes good progress, I wonder if it is all that bad really.

ZZZenAgain Wed 06-Apr-11 11:35:09

OMG rambling and repeating myself.... didn't sleep. sorry about that

maggiethecat Wed 06-Apr-11 14:26:50

I agree with those who have said that you should work out what you would like for your daughter bearing her mind her personality etc.

Your are on the right track in trying to establish what went wrong and seeing how you can go forward whether it is with or without this teacher. Supporting her continuing to play will be invaluable and in time you probably won't even remember this episode much.

I'll add my point about exams - after dd did her grade 1 last year I thought that we would take a break from them and her teacher agreed that she would not have to do all of them. My view was that she was bored out of her mind with the slavish repetition of exam pieces although to be fair her teacher at the time did allow her to play grade 2 pieces alongside grade1, perhaps to relieve this. I thought she could play a wider repertoire and be more free in her enjoyment of playing without exam focus.

Problem is that as Lily and Tangle have said, scales, sightreading and aural testing are important elements of development and unless a teacher is creative and persistent in incorporating these elements into lessons they get left by the wayside.
Also, dd learns pieces very quickly and started to play grade 4 pieces but I would say that they were perhaps not learned to the same standard as for exam level.

For these reasons I asked the teacher to put her in for her exam and it's interesting to see how her pieces, although good before, are better. She certainly pays much more attention to things like dynamics.

In a nutshell, I think the exam syllabus has its strengths so don't write it off, even if you don't want dd to continue taking exams at the moment.

Anaxagora Wed 06-Apr-11 15:30:27

Yy, I'm not disputed that exams have their place. And for some dc they can be extremely motivating.

I just find, having learnt an instrument outside the UK, where the whole exam structure doesn't exist at all, that I have been very struck by the extent to which musical education and instrumental learning is centred around grades. So people don't ask dc, "Oh, you play the cello, what kind of music do you enjoy playing, what are you playing at the moment?", they ask, "What grade are you on?" as if that was all there was to learning an instrument.

It just seems very reductive, and if it isn't working for your child, that seems like all the more reason to consider moving away from it. The notion that kids cannot or will not learn scales and sight-reading outside the exam structure is nonsense, otherwise children from non-UK countries where there is no equivalent of grade exams would be inferior instrumentalists, which is manifestly not the case.

Sportsmum Wed 06-Apr-11 15:45:20

Just remember - the exam itself is only a snapshot of how they performed on the day itself. It doesn't necessarily mean that they can't play the instrument - it could mean that they had a bad day. You need to boost your child's confidence if they feel down about the exam, let them decide whether they want to continue to play, if indeed they want to take exams (some do - others don't) and what type of tunes they want to play. Be careful just playing for taking exams - too many people simply allow their students to lumber from one exam to another without increasing their repertoire. Depending on what areas of the exam they found difficult may be an indication that they would benefit from a different examining board - Trinity instead of ABRSM or vice versa. Don't write things off and be lead by your child. Music should be pleasurable for them and NOT a chore.

maggiethecat Wed 06-Apr-11 17:36:41

I agree with much of what you say Anaxagora and Sportsmum. I was not suggesting that the OP continue with exams if she did not think it was right for her dd.

I do believe however that it is easy, as I have found, for lack of due attention to be given to scales, sightreading etc in some circumstances. A parent may have to be extra vigilant that these areas are being catered to.

schilke Wed 06-Apr-11 20:12:40

Absolutely exams are not the be all and end all. Dh has a few pupils who don't want to do exams can bet they don't practise those scales though! Generally he thinks the exams give a good structure. He has taught at a dodgy uni music department in the past and was totally shocked at some of the pupils. They had grade 8, but were terrible - probably taught to pass an exam. This is his pet hate. He has taken on pupils whose previous teacher has obviously just taught them to pass the exam. They have done nothing else but practise those damn pieces etc.. Sometimes they can barely read music as have just learnt it by rote.

OP - your teacher is dodgy. He must have known she was not secure at sight-reading. Did he do some mock exams with her? Does he have any teaching qualifications? You can be a fantastic player and a crap teacher. Not all authors would make good english teachers. Time for a new teacher I think. Fresh start and all that.

ragged Wed 06-Apr-11 20:26:05

DD's lesson group starts everybody off with Fiddletime Joggers, so not suitable (too basic) for someone who is nearly Grade 1. Sprinters or Runners might be ok.

ImNotaCelebrity Wed 06-Apr-11 20:37:41

For sight reading, I recommend 'Improve Your Sight Reading Violin Grade 1' by Paul Harris, published by Faber Music. It has little rhythm exercises at each stage, and music interpretation and understanding questions, as well as the actual reading and playing of the notes. Each stage builds up gradually, so by the end of the book they're doing a standard equivalent to grade 1 sight reading. There's a book for each grade and for different instruments. It's far better than the 'Joining the Dots' series, in my opinion. Whether they're doing exams or not, they're still useful for sight reading improvement.

Tangle Wed 06-Apr-11 21:21:20

I've heard from a few different sources that GB produces some of the best orchestral musicians in the world - in particular wrt their ability to sight read. The UK system must be doing something right!

Are exams the be all and end all of music? No, of course not.

Is an ability to read music essential to be able to participate and enjoy music? No - although it may limit your options as its a fairly essential skill for some areas such as chamber/orchestral music.

It is meant to be fun? Definitely - and if any child is trying to learn whilst deriving no pleasure then something's not right. But that's not to say it can be all pleasure if you want to get a solid foundation unless you have an extremely inspiring teacher who can make the mundane exciting.

LilyBolero Wed 06-Apr-11 21:29:10

The Associated Board examine in about 90 countries worldwide - it's not just a UK thing to do exams.

LilyBolero Wed 06-Apr-11 21:30:14

(Sorry Tangle, that was in response to an earlier comment, not in response to your post which I totally agree with!!!)

I think the sightreading comes from ensemble playing from an early age - whether recorder groups, orchestras, or even piano duets. It all helps to get that pulse established!

ShellingPeas Wed 06-Apr-11 21:46:47

Regardless of whether or not a pupil was sitting an exam a good teacher should have them practising scales and technical exercises relevant to the pieces they were working on.

I've been playing various instruments for around 35 years and teaching for the last 20 years and even now I still start every practise session with 10-15 minutes of scales and technical exercises. I do the same with my students. You select scales relevant to the pieces they're working on.

And sightreading is an essential part of playing. Anyone preparing a child for an exam who doesn't get the child to sightread on a regular basis really shouldn't be entering them for an exam. It's bloody terrifying to sit in front of someone on a one to one basis and have to play something you've never seen before.

bilblio Wed 06-Apr-11 21:48:00

When I learnt to play violin there were 7 of us had lessons together. 5 took their exams at Christmas, all passed with Merits & Distinctions. Myself and my friend were away for that lot of exams so we took ours the following Easter, we had a different examiner.
I passed by 2 points. My friend passed by 3! So it varies hugely on the examiner too.

I had a fantastic teacher, he was head of music services in the city I lived in and he was really anti-exams, so he was more than happy for me to never do another exam again ... I had 11 years of lessons and never got any further than grade 1.
But there was a fantastic orchestra scheme where I grew up though, you could join when you were at grade 1 level and every year you auditioned to go up to the next orchestra. He encouraged me to join that and it was the best thing I did.
I did feel a bit daft every year when I auditioned and said I was grade 1 But it was the audition that counted. (I hated the auditions too but at least they had a purpose.)

Encourage your daughter to play because she loves it, getting her in an orchestra will be fantastic at teaching her to keep playing.... even if she messes up, and she'll have to learn to find where she is when she's lost which will help with her sight reading too.
Plus it'll be fun and she'll make friends.

Exams put a lot of pressure on, and a lot of the time it's really unnecessary unless you want to be a classical musician or study it at uni.
Music should be fun!

One of the best musicians I know is my DH. He's amazing! He can pick up any instrument and get a good tune out of it, play along with anyone and anything... he's never had a proper music lesson in his live and can't read a note of music.

The only music qualification he has is a GCSE in music, he got a B... because he couldn't read the notes on the sight reading test. He got the rhythm spot on though

Honeymum Wed 06-Apr-11 22:35:22

Oh boy, so many comments!!

I have been out this evening. DD was in a musical at school (she loved every minute - it was such a joy to see her up on the stage) so if you don't mind I will add my tuppence worth tomorrow when I'm a bit more awake!

Thank you - very interesting thread and I hope useful for others starting out with music lessons.

seeker Thu 07-Apr-11 09:58:52

I'm finding this very interesting. My dd admits now, at 15, that she's really glad that she knows her scales and so on - she loves improvising and jazz. But if she hadn't done music exams there is no way she would have learnt them. He teacher had a very laid back approach to exams, but they were always there in the background - and that kept the scales and the sight playing ticking along while the fun stuff was going on in front.

also, sad though it is to say it, bits of paper are important to kids nowadays. I deliberately sent my dd to a dance school where they didn't do exams - and now she's in a position of having done 10 years of ballet and not a certificate to put on her CV!

singersgirl Thu 07-Apr-11 12:09:55

One thing that really helped DS2 with his sightreading was a downloadable computer quiz from Wieser called Sightreading Challenge; it's on the homepage here: It's very cheap and you can set it to different instruments so you get the right clef and range, and they just try to beat their score by reading the notes as quickly as possible. Very simple but surprisingly effective for speedy note recognition.

confidence Fri 08-Apr-11 00:03:10

Hmm, I think there are a number of factors here. I'm a music teacher with some contact with the ABRSM BTW.

It sounds to me like the fundamental problem is that your violin teacher is just not steeped in the culture of exams. If he was going to enter her for the exam, he should have known the general standard required, and known of the normal problems kids' face doing their first exam, such as panicking about sight reading. All of that should have been taken into account. She should have practised with him attempting the sight reading NO MATTER how bad the attempt. As has been said earlier a minimum of 1/3 marks is given for any attempt.

The fact that he "forgot to enter her" the first time chimes with this. It doesn't sound like he's the kind of teacher who's doing that all the time for lots of students. This doesn't mean he's a bad teacher of course - there are many different, valid ways of teaching. But he needs to know that failing an exam can be very distressing for a child, and if he's not up to overseeing it properly, he shouldn't be entering people.

It's rare to fail grade 1, and FWIW I have heard ABRSM examiners say that when it happens, they consider it purely as an indictment on the teacher, not the student.

There's also another issue, which is the huge difference between the many ways that "musicality" can be expressed in a free and creative fashion, and the incredibly tight-arsed structure and culture of ABRSM exams. There is an enormous gap between a student being able to "do something" in the sense of getting their instrument out when they're ready, having a chat, warming up, playing a bit, eventually finding their way and doing something quite engaging and creative; and going into a 12-minute exam and being told "you have these notes and only these notes on the page, you have one chance to play them: start NOW!" I know I have been guilty of underestimating that gap before, I think it's very easy to do because you get caught up in the pleasure of hearing creative kids do interesting things.

It's terribly important to remember that an exam's validity is only in relation to the parameters it set up for itself in the first place. A "music exam" is a test of SOME musical activities, VERY strictly defined and examined at one time. It's not, in any way at all, a test of "musicality". You can be naturally far worse at something than someone else but if you're put in a competition against them for which you know the rules you are being judged by and they don't, you will win.

I have sympathies with both sides of the pro/con exams debate. I certainly think there are a lot of children who are not suited to them; a lot of young children are forced to take them too early; and parents often make the mistake of attaching wider importance to them then is really merited.

Having said that, the violin is a very classical, reading-based instrument. If she enjoys it and is likely to want to take it further, then that's probably going to happen by reading music in an orchestra, not by jamming in a rock band. There's a case for pushing a structured exam-based approach more than one might on some other instruments.

I think I might look for another violin teacher, while simultaneously investigating other, less formal kinds of musical experience. Get a guitar and learn some chords; join an African drumming group; that kind of thing. If she's going to do the classical violin she needs to do it properly; but she may be more tempermentally suited to doing something else.

Honeymum Mon 11-Apr-11 19:06:33

Sorry for taking so long - rl has been a bit busy over the beautiful weekend. Thank you for some much brilliant advice and for the last words from confidence - really useful stuff. I am going to digest it and see how we get on over the next few weeks. DD is quite upset about the whole thing so it will be interesting to see how she copes. I take on board everything you've said about the teacher, and will see if we can find some opportunities for DD to play outside her lessons. She is a child who wants to try everything and I think now is the time for her to really focus on what she wants to stick with.

Thanks again and I'll be back in the next few weeks to let you know how we get on!!

Honeymum Sun 29-May-11 18:15:06

Quick update - DD is entered for her grade 1 again at end of June (not got date yet) and her pieces and scales etc are sounding much better. We've been working on sight reading too which is coming along. Fingers crossed for a better result.

Oh and she's joined Music School, 2 hours on Saturday morning, of playing with other kids in an orchestra. She's enjoying that so far and hopefully it will help.

Back after the exam with an update! smile

Dunlurking Mon 30-May-11 09:41:01

Good luck to your dd for the exam Honeymum.

I followed this thread while I was still lurking and found it very helpful when my dd got a pass for her grade 2 violin, and had been predicted a distinction (which she got for grade 1). Not quite the same situation but all the information posters had passed on stopped me interogating quizzing her teacher and helped me come up with the best things to say to my dd. Like you we are working on scales and sight reading and have found a summer school and a possible strings group to join as well.

Do post how she gets on.

goldtinsel Mon 30-May-11 19:54:31

Hope all goes well with the exam!

If you want a (free!) advice lesson over Skype do send me a message. I enter loads of Grade 1s each year smile

ZZZenAgain Tue 31-May-11 05:22:31

hope it goes well for her. I am glad she is enjoying orchestra.

maggiethecat Thu 02-Jun-11 23:22:36

You've got a good attitude Honeymum. Hope it all goes well.

thumbwitch Thu 02-Jun-11 23:38:19

I don't know how much this will help because my experience was different but anyway:
I failed Grade 1 piano.
I got 96, so only just - and the reason was because I was started too early on the exam pieces, so by the time the exam came, I knew them all by heart - except that with the nervousness induced by the exam, I forgot them and then couldn't find my place on the page to play it properly.

I changed teacher - the next one was far better for me, not as old-fashioned or strict and more fun - and passed Grade 1 no problem next time. But because of the nerves, I only did Grades 1, 2, 4 and 6 (after taking Grade 5 theory) as it seemed pointless putting me through every grade exam. I only did Grades 3 and 6 in Double Bass as well, for the same reason (passed both despite getting shocking disco knee!)

Just as a thought - does she sing? Singing can help a lot in terms of better sight reading, sight singing, picking out notes from chords, that kind of thing - can she join a choir as well?

wellwisher Thu 02-Jun-11 23:48:29

It sounds like the teacher is definitely not up to scratch - he should be teaching exam technique and behaviour. Stopping, let alone speaking, when you make a mistake in a piece is a huge no-no. For children who haven't taken an exam before, I'd go as far as to use one lesson as a "dress rehearsal" where the teacher pretends to be the examiner, so that they can identify any issues and the child knows what to expect on the day.

That said, I thought it was interesting that you say the teacher is "not strict enough" with your DD, while admitting that you only make her practise "10-15 mins a day, 5 days a week" - that's nowhere near enough, especially in the run-up to an exam, so I think you've let her down a bit as well. You don't need to be a tiger mother about it, but 30 minutes a day, every single day, should be doable for a 9-year-old.

maggiethecat Fri 03-Jun-11 15:38:12

Wellwisher I think you are being harsh. Practice time will vary according to the child and in some cases less is more. In fact, in the run up to exam I will probably give my dd a break from her pieces occasionally so that she does not get sick of hearing them but of course this will depend on the individual.

It sounds more like Honeymum's dd was let down by poor exam technigue.

ImNotaCelebrity Fri 03-Jun-11 22:28:44

I agree. 30 mins every day is unrealistic. At grade 1 standard, 10-15 mins, 5 times a week is more than enough. If it takes 30 mins every day, they're not up to scratch!

wellwisher Sat 04-Jun-11 01:12:45

Total rubbish, ImNotACeleb! I started piano at 6 and violin at 7, had to practise each for 30 minutes a day, and the only uncertainty over all my grade exams was whether I would pass with merit or distinction! It's appalling to say that having to practise for more than 10 minutes a day means you're not up to scratch - studying an instrument is a great way for children to learn that success takes work and you get out what you put in. God help your dcs if you're teaching them that everything should be easy.

So I stand by what I said, and I also think that if the OP didn't see this coming, the parents are not close enough to the violin learning - it isn't an easy instrument and almost all preteen kids need support at home from someone who knows the difference between good and bad playing. You wouldn't expect a child to succeed in learning Arabic or tennis with 1 hour of teaching a week and nobody at home helping - why do people think music is any different?

thumbwitch Sat 04-Jun-11 01:22:51

maggie I think you are wise - my biggest problem was overfamiliarity with my pieces, from having started them 9 months before the exam. Ridiculously far too long, IMO.

wellwisher Sat 04-Jun-11 01:41:13

I'm not saying practise only the exam pieces for 30 minutes x 7 days - you should mix things up with scales, sight reading, improvisation, revisiting old pieces, a bit of singing/conducting... it's OK for it to be fun!

Would be rather wary of the teacher taking her through the grades- sounds very unprofessional- and wouldn't be happy anyway because a good grounding in music is v. important. If he has lots of other good qualities (i.e. charismatic teacher, good at engaging her- although obvs. not if she's not concentrating well), then have another go of it. But I'd switch and make a clean break of it.

Good teachers go above and beyond and don't make a fuss about it. They might type up a checklist for practise i.e. all the scales, all the pieces, what the aural entails so the pupil knows exactly what they have to do. They go to seminars (if they're doing ABRSM) and refer to the syllabus regularly. They care about how much you practise at home and recognise the need for structure, especially with beginners. Don't be afraid to ask for a consultation/"probation" lesson which you can sit in on, ask for phone numbers of current pupils, really quiz them. If they're keepers, they'll be glad to tell you about them. It's not a cheap investment and it's best to have one teacher to grow a relationship with, so they've got to be worth it.

To push her confidence up, you could offer her Grade 1 on keyboard. It's not humiliating like a retake (although a retake isn't humiliating, failure is a part of life etc etc and if you're talented at music, it doesn't matter if you get average/below average) because it's on a different instrument, it's slightly easier and she'll know most of it. Chords are fun and useful when it comes to arpeggios later on and she might be attracted to the idea of all the different voice/electronica/rhythms etc. When she gets a good mark on that, she can move on to Grade 2 piano. Trinity Guildhall do keyboard exams.

10-15 minutes a day is good and regular, but you might want to consider making it a little longer. With scales, you just need to slog at them. Learn the first scale and the second, repeat, learn the third scale, repeat them all, then the fourth, repeat them all etc. To get stuck in takes more than 10 mins.

I haven't an ounce of musicality in me, but I somehow I manage to pass exams- mostly merits, but my Grade 5 theory was one mark above the pass cutoff grin v. lucky, I was getting 4/5 marks below in all the practise tests! I only did it so I could take G6, but I wish I'd done it sooner, as soon as I'd started playing. Lots of teachers in France insist on a year of pure theory for all prospective pupils, to test their enthusiasm and to give them a good grounding in music.
My first teacher tried to make everything fun, so neglected theory pretty much completely and gave me the books with the letter names printed next to the notes. When my dad found out he was shocked and switched me to a very theory full-on teacher, who couldn't believe I didn't know what a crotchet was after four years of playing and starting teaching me Grade 3 stuff...I still find it harder to read a bass clef now.

Anyway, do reassure your daughter, especially that it doesn't have to set a precedent.

ImNotaCeleb- but music is one of the things that you don't need terrifying talent to work with! Living example right here grin Seriously, if everything isn't easy straight away, you shouldn't give anyone the opportunity to get up to scratch? Gosh. The aim of practising is to get up to scratch- 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration!!

ImNotaCelebrity Sun 12-Jun-11 01:31:42

Sorry wellwisher and quirrel, we'll have to agree to disagree. (And how dare you say 'god help my dcs', wellwisher ... I haven't assumed anything about your parenting style, be polite enough not to make assumptions about mine.)

Young children of 6 and 7 don't have to be flogged to practice for 30 mins every day. I was a very lazy 'practiser', yet I have a music degree (1st instrument violin) and played professionally and taught violin and piano for a few years (many moons ago - am now a primary teacher).

Children who enjoy practising for 30 mins daily would be the ideal - of course they would - but it's not the norm at this age or standard and it's not generally necessary for beginners. If the children really did practice properly for 15 mins 5 times a week, with someone at home taking an interest and checking their practice notebooks, most of them would be absolutely fine. All the instrumental teachers I know (and there are many) tell their pupils to start off with 10-15 mins as often as they can manage. As time goes on, this can be increased. Lots of children will eventually find themselves doing half an hour without even realising. And quirrel - for young children, 10-15 mins often is 99% persperation.

DS is year 2, has grade 1 distinction and is doing grade 2 in a couple of weeks. He also plays piano at grade 1 standard. The amount of practice he does depends on his mood ... and he always has at least 1 day off during the week and 1 at the weekend. We don't have a practice timetable - I'm not anal enough for that, and it would be impossible to stick to, particularly on my working days when we get home late. Some days he just practices scales (takes 5 mins to run through them) or just plays his pieces (takes no more than 10 mins) or has a go at some new pieces for sight reading practice. Other days he's really keen and wants to keep going for ages on whatever happens to have taken his fancy! If I forced him to do 30 mins every day, chances are he'd have given up by now. Yes, he has to practise - he knows that is expected. Yes, he has to have more days practising than days off. And he knows that if he goes through a holiday without practising, it's bloody hard work when you pick it up again. (He hasn't made that mistake since!) He has a certain amount of natural ability, but he knows he has to put in the work too. He also knows he is entitled to a couple of days off.

I think that, unless you have the luxury of being a SAHM with the time to sit down and supervise practice at the end of each school day, this is the reality for many families ... you muddle through, fitting in as much as you can, feeling guilty when you don't. The last thing you need is someone telling you you've let your child down by not insisting they do more. Your comments to the OP, wellwisher, were very harsh and unfair, in my opinion. Sorry.

maggiethecat Sun 12-Jun-11 06:56:38

ImNotaCelebrity, I agree that Wellwisher's comments are harsh especially since the OP sounds like she is a supportive albeit musically untrained mum. Also, I think an enforced 30 min daily practice routine might turn some young children off.

I disagree with your comment though about a child not being up to scratch if a 30 min routine is required. A generalisation such as that is not helpful as depending on any number of factors a child may require more or less time and 30 mins, particularly for a 9 year old (age of OP's dd) cannot be considered excessive.


I was mainly contesting your point that if the child needs to do half an hour of practise, they're not good enough to learn music anyway, so they might as well not bother. Have I misunderstood? It just seems very unreasonable because, as I said, music is more about hard work if you want to reach the kind of standard that I expect the OP would want her son to reach- good and fluent but maybe not professional. I understand that 15 minutes is proportionally reasonable for young kids, but that wasn't so much what I was talking about.

Also Wellwisher said "god help your DCs if they grow up thinking everything is easy", which isn't too out of line- it will be hard for them if they have that mindset. It was a sketchy assumption, but on a basic value it was only conditional, not so heinous.

I also don't think that cases where children are discouraged by hard work and give up are necessarily unavoidable, I think they're more taught by example. In other words, who knows that you can't breed a love of music despite forcing a few unpleasant practising sessions at the start?
We know that kids at that age don't have that kind of perspective, so why do we pretend that they do, by pretending that they do know exactly what they want when they announce they're bored and want to stop?
They never need to be pandered to, and sometimes they need to be pushed. I don't think the word "never" is too strong- they're sitting down on a chair for a measly 30 minutes, not being strung upside down by their ankles. It's pretty much all within reason, and reason doesn't include "making sure they never have to experience a dull moment, the darlings". It's an important life lesson in itself, to learn how to stand being bored.

ImNotaCelebrity Sun 12-Jun-11 21:20:33

It was a throw away comment aimed to make the op feel better after being flamed for 'not doing her job properly'. And I didn't say if they weren't good enough they shouldn't bother. Jesus, if that was the case, I'd never have any children in my orchestra. Some of them slog away and hardly improve, some slog away until it suddenly clicks, many get by on the bare minimum and seem to make reasonable progress anyway, while a very very small minority just 'have it' irrespective of the amount of practice. They're all different. Hasn't this all been in the context of exams, anyway? OP's daughter has been failed by her teacher's inadequate preparation, not by OP letting her daughter do less than 30 mins 7 days a week. What I wanted was for the op to feel that she was fine, her daughter was fine, despite not doing the blasted 30 mins every day, and she'd carry on being fine if she stuck to her 15 mins 5 times a week ... for now. Of course, once she progresses, she'll have to up her practice time, and continue to do so with each step forward.
And you're assuming that I don't make ds play when he's bored and doesn't want to. Of course I do ... it's a rare child who jumps at the chance of practising scales! (Twice today - he hates me!) However, as he's only just 7, much of what we do is dependant on how tired he is at the end of the day. And I'm afraid I do bore the shit out of DS as I'm teaching him both violin and piano myself, so he can't escape - bang goes that theory! grin
TBH, no matter what our opinions are of what is right and proper in the world of practice time for grade 1, I just hope the teacher of OP's dd has sorted himself out and prepared her properly this time.

maggiethecat Sun 12-Jun-11 23:46:12

I think Honeymum has disappeared to brush up on her supportive violin mum skills smile

Honeymum Wed 27-Jul-11 13:59:36

Hello I am back.

Just a quick post as it's lunchtime at work.
DD took grade 1 again earlier this month and.....she failed again with 94/100.

We were with the same teacher and had decided to give it another go with some provisos. The main one being he wanted me to sit in lessons so she would fully concentrate. He agreed to spend more time on sight reading. See my earlier post.

She spent the weeks in between the two exams practising hard. To my untrained ear the pieces improve A LOT. She's also joined Music School (playing with a little orchestra) which she attended for the last half of the summer term.

In the exam the teacher (who accompanied her) was very pleased with the pieces to the point where he was using phrases like "text book". In the exam itself he said she made one mistake across all three pieces and played really well.

In the end when we got the mark sheet back she got 19/20/20 for the pieces (pass mark 20), compared with 18/22/18 last time.

Scales and Arpeggios: 14/21 (pass = 14)
Aural 13/18 (pass = 12)
Sightreading 8/21 (pass = 12)

She also said that she was asked to play an arpeggio that she hadn't been taught. Can't remember which but I have no reason to doubt her. She also was unclear on the fact that she wasn't allowed to refer to her book. Her teacher hadn't made that clear.

I'll post more later this evening on where we go from here but I thought some of you might be interested.

ZZZenAgain Wed 27-Jul-11 14:25:20

she failed then because of the sight-reading and the one piece she got 19 instead of 20 for? It all seems very complex. I wish she'd passed it this time round, I felt very sorry for her, she was really not prepared last time, was she?

How is she?

Honeymum Wed 27-Jul-11 14:57:18

She was 6 marks short. 94/100, ZZZ.
She is ok now she knows that she almost passed. She was distraught at the time. Especially since she answered the call from the teacher (I was upstairs hoovering!).
She wasn't fully prepared either time IMHO. I mean, she'd not been drilled on the aural or sightreading. Almost all of her lesson time was spent on pieces and scales. I expected more from the exam for those, however. Especially given the teacher's comments on the pieces in particular and how much she had improved.
Will post a bit more on her teacher's comments later on this evening - must dash.

LawrieMarlow Wed 27-Jul-11 15:21:55

I read this thread the first time round and really hoped she was going to pass this time.

Pieces are out of 30 aren't they? If she is going to carry on having lessons I really would change teacher. She wasn't playing the pieces perfectly if she was around a pass for each one. And again sounds like she wasn't prepared properly.

Hopefully more experienced people will have comments to make (I did piano grades 5 and 6 and taught my sister some early piano. She did get 30 for one piece I think which was probably my major success in life grin).

seeker Wed 27-Jul-11 15:29:23

Change teachers. He obviously has no idea what the examiners are looking for if he can say that about pieces she's sreaped a pass in.

were the examiner's comments helpful?

Bumpsadaisie Wed 27-Jul-11 16:19:21

This is bringing it all back to me. Goodness, music exams are character forming aren't they!

I think you need a new teacher.

To get higher marks on the pieces you need to show musical feeling and expression - the expression "text book" surprised me. Maybe your teacher is teaching your DD to play the notes but isn't helping her to understand how to play musically, to find that inside her?

After all what you are trying to do in a music exam is both to play correctly and well, but to create feeling in the examiner. Some people may say this is silly at grade one, but you can play even a grade one piece in musically beautiful way.

I had a great teacher who used to spend a lot of time getting me, even as a 6 year old, to think about how the music made me feel inside etc. Once you realise that you can then give expression to that.

Dunlurking Wed 27-Jul-11 17:31:43

I'm so sorry to hear that Honeymum. How discouraging for your dd. It sounds like you did everything suggested by posters on this thread except change teacher. She has had practice in sight reading by playing in a group - but hasn't been helped by the teacher working on her sight reading. Similarly the teacher hasn't given her the right support for her scales and arpeggios and aural.

My dd recently got a pass for Grade 2 when predicted a distinction and I have found this thread so helpful looking at what we need to work on.

Hope your dd doesn't give up, but you can find a teacher who she enjoys learning from!

mouldyironingboard Wed 27-Jul-11 18:39:34

Your poor DD - I'm sorry to hear that she didn't pass.

My view is that her sightreading was a long way off from the pass mark so she clearly didn't know what to expect. She should have been given sightreading to try during every lesson and it doesn't sound as if that happened.

Obviously, there is more to playing an instrument than graded exams but it's very important that children are fully prepared on the day.

I think you have to change her violin teacher after this. A really good teacher will expect to divide a half hour lesson up into a mixture of scales/technical work, pieces, sightreading, aural and/or improvisation whether an exam is looming or not.

Amaretti Wed 27-Jul-11 21:06:22

I am not musical at all, but DS1 is and has taken exams up to grade 5, all with merit or distinction. I don't think I would be able to trust your teacher's judgement, because he said the pieces were very good, but they weren't if they got those marks. I'm really sorry to say that, but he should know if they were good (it's possible to get 29, DS has done). If I were you, I would change teacher.

confidence Wed 27-Jul-11 21:26:11

I'm sorry to be blunt but your teacher is incompetent to be putting her in for an exam like that, thinking she played really well and then finding she failed.

It would be different if he had SAID all along she was borderline, or had said she should pass but had then been wary after the exam because she made some surprising mistakes. But to be that far off in his estimation, he clearly doesn't know the exam requirements. This is not really forgivable given that they publish those requirements quite openly, and he shouldn't be entering kids for exams in this case.

There could be some fundamental underlying problem in her technique, with intonation or bow control or whatever, that has brought her down in everything.

puglet123 Wed 27-Jul-11 21:33:40

I am a music teacher and I am really surprised they failed her - it is considered really bad form to fail a child on their first exam. Are you sure your child's teacher is not mistaken?
I really feel for your DD, but even if she has practised for hours on end, some people just find practical music exams, where you are put on the spot difficult - especially grade 1 as they don't know what to expect! Hope she is feeling better about it.

Honeymum Wed 27-Jul-11 21:34:46

We are definitely changing teacher now. DD is keen to carry on. She's been enjoying music school and is much, much happier to practice now than in the early days.

Comments on her pieces:
(1) "You produced a powerful sound but the pulse was somewhat unsettled and there was a tendency towards flatness. Expressive detail was noticed. 19/30
(2) The rhythm was more closely felt, but pitch was still very much an issue and most of the detail passed you by. 20/30
(3) In spite of some clipped values, rhythm was mostly steady, but pitch was very hit and miss and it was all too loud for the mood.

When we saw the teacher yesterday he suggested that if she wished to continue DD should find another teacher. He also wondered if her left-handedness was an issue (he's never mentioned this before) and suggested she might try the piano <sigh>.

All of which suggests that she's ineducable when it comes to the violin, I wonder?? Only a new teacher can reveal whether that's the case.

Thank you for all of your comments and suggestions. With hindsight I wish we had ditched the teacher after the first attempt but DD loves him (she cried when I said she'd have to have a new teacher, and said he's her friend as well as her teacher) and I guess my inexperience in these matters showed.

I feel like I've been through the mill a bit but we will try a new teacher in September and see how we get on and hope the experience is a happier one all round from now on.

Honeymum Wed 27-Jul-11 21:37:30

Cross posts!
Puglet - it's the 2nd time she's failed grade 1! The teacher must be diabolical - I know no one fails grade 1!!

Confidence, I agree. I was astonished at her low marks for the pieces, after all of his recent comments and his comments on the day.

Honeymum Wed 27-Jul-11 21:38:15

I missed out the mark for the final piece - it was 20/30

noteventhebestdrummer Wed 27-Jul-11 21:45:24

To pass at Grade 1 you need to play the right notes at the right time for the pieces - if the rhythm is 100% the examiner will be much more forgiving about less than perfect tuning.
Same for the sight reading - correct rhythm will guarantee a pass mark (14/21) even if there are loads of pitch errors.

I'd change teachers, find one who know how to teach your DD to feel the pulse as a regular, internal (to her) beat and not worry at ALL about her being left-handed - 2 of my DSs are lefthanded and this has been an asset to their violin playing.

motherinferior Wed 27-Jul-11 21:50:53

I am now going to say something heretical.

Does it really matter all that much? It's nice if she enjoys playing. It is also not the end of the world if she fails. If it is the fact that the violin is not actually the instrument for her, there are other instruments. Or not doing music at all.

I speak as someone who has grade 8 on the violin (and grade 7 on the piano) and led the school orchestra. And hasn't played either instrument for decades, but does sing at a quite high chamber choir level. And has one not at all musical and one reasonably musical child. Neither of whom can sing in tune.

beanlet Wed 27-Jul-11 21:52:19

Violinist here. It does sound, from her exam report, like a big part of her problem is that she has trouble playing in tune, which may indeed mean the violin is not the best instrument for her. Would she consider playing an instrument like the clarinet where pitching correctly is not entirely up to the player?

noteventhebestdrummer Wed 27-Jul-11 21:56:09

a good teacher can teach any kid to play in tune on the violin!

motherinferior Wed 27-Jul-11 22:01:37

God, some of these comments are really bringing back the sensation of being forced to practise every damn day. It made me intensely miserable.

ihearthuckabees Wed 27-Jul-11 22:02:14

motherinferior, I kind of agree with you (and I am a music teacher!). Exams aren't the be all and end all. It often seems to be parents who want their children to sit them, and peer pressure from friends is also a factor. However, it is obviously important to the OP and her daughter.

The teacher is clearly not very clued up about the ABRSM exams, and hasn't prepped the pupil properly. It is really quite difficult to fail grade 1, assuming the teacher has done their job.

Honeymum Wed 27-Jul-11 22:08:31

Motherinferior - I know, I agree (kind of).

I have two children. My younger DD is very musical - I think. She's not playing an instrument (yet) - she's almost 8. But her singing is great. She sings along with Adele on the radio and follows her perfectly. DD1 (the violinist) couldn't do that. She's inclined to drone on and never seems to follow a tune!! Maybe we are flogging a dead horse after all sad.

I would like her to try another teacher though and get a second opinion.

Honeymum Wed 27-Jul-11 22:10:27

I agree about peer pressure ihearthuckabees. DD has several friends who are learning violin and they all do the exams. I guess it is important to me as it shows she's making progress (or not, in this case).

confidence Wed 27-Jul-11 22:46:52

motherinferior - I certainly agree that exams don't really matter and people should be happy just to enjoy learning and not take them if that's what they want. However, IF a child sits one, it's surely important to pass it, simply because doing so fosters a sense of achievement and confidence, whereas failing it is dispiriting and demotivating.

Honeymum - it's interesting what you say about your two DCs. As a music teacher myself, I have always sat firmly on the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate, believing that anybody can be taught to play in tune and in time. It's a bit more difficult than that though since the groundwork for this is often laid not in the instrumental lessons when the child is 8, 9 or 10, but in informal, incidental music "learning" when they are 2 or 3.

As a parent, my experience is similar to yours. My oldest (11) has difficulty singing in tune and just doesn't seem very responsive to music. My youngest (5) has sung in tune since she was 3, danced since before she could walk and has the patience and concentration of an adult when exploring music.

It's great that your DC is so keen and wants to carry on. She may well just brush all this off and thrive. It seems extremely odd that she can play consistently out of tune and her teacher didn't seem to notice, and a better teacher may well be all that is required.

If tuning continues to be a problem, then maybe you could consider a woodwind instrument where the basis of it at least is digital rather than continuous. Or even (dare I say it) the drums!

Dunlurking Thu 28-Jul-11 07:10:53

Good Luck with the new teacher next term Honeymum.

And the left handed thing is rubbish - my dd left handed as well and it has never been a problem for playing the violin. DD's teacher also said it can be an advantage.

Am inclined to agree that you need a good ear for playing the violin - and often singing in tune crucial. I too think a switch to a wind instrument might work as an alternative. If you want one that has more rarity value so she can get into music groups, how about the oboe? The reed sound/technique is difficult to start with, but a lot of the fingering is the same as the descant recorder - so you can pick out a tune fairly quickly if you already play a recorder.

seeker Thu 28-Jul-11 07:38:18

I honestly don't see how this can be anything but the teacher's fault. It is hard for an even mildly motivated child to fail grade 1 at any instrument ( the exams and the marking are designed to help passes rather than fails) and to fail twice must be practically unheard of. So the teacher must be more than useless. Have you considered talking to the examining board about him? There must be some way of stopping him demoralising any more children.

pinkytheshrinky Thu 28-Jul-11 07:56:45

I have to agree that I think you are flogging a dead horse. She as failed twice, if she cannot hear she is out of tune how on earth can another teacher teach that to her... I am sorry if i sound harsh but it just seems a horrible loop she is in. If the other people who trained with this teacher have passed then surely it cannot be the teacher?

Re. a second opinion... No one is going to say to you, sorry your DD cannot do this. You clearly have ambition for her (understandably) but honestly, why is it so important that she posses these exams? Without sounding too harsh if at her age now she has failed grade one twice then her future is not going to be a musical one so passing these grades seems a bit pointless. Sorry but forget the grades and just let her enjoy playing.

If the teacher is telling you he doesn't want to teach her (and the left handed thing is to make you feel a bit better) then you need to hear that. He is saying she cannot do it an you are wasting your money.

roisin Thu 28-Jul-11 07:58:17

I think the most shocking thing is that the teacher was "very pleased with the pieces to the point where he was using phrases like 'text book'."

I wonder whether this teacher has much real experience or qualifications to teach? At my son's school students are not entered for exams unless they are expected to get at least a merit, and most do.

Through learning the violin she will have picked up lots of musicianship and also learned to read music. Maybe it's time for something else? I learned several different instruments as a child and always found the violin the most difficult. It just wasn't the right instrument for me, despite battling on with it for several years!

hester Thu 28-Jul-11 08:13:55

Oh no, I was sure you were going to come back and report a happy outcome - your poor dd.

Obviously the teacher has to go. And I would consider letting your dd rest on it over the summer then discussing with her the options of giving exams a rest for a while, and/or trying another instrument.

I got to grade 8 in piano, was considered very musical and my teacher wanted me to go to music college, but I needed a second instrument. I tried everything - cello, french horn, organ, flute, even harpsichord - but actually none of them really worked for me (or me for them). In the end I did singing.

If your dd struggles a bit with tune and tends to bang everything out at the same pitch, she might do better on the piano - instantly tuneful and with pedals to help.

hester Thu 28-Jul-11 08:14:56

And I agree with roisin - the violin is tough.

ZZZenAgain Thu 28-Jul-11 10:20:39

I agree that being left-handed does not hamper violin learning (how could it since you use your left hand for fingering?). My dd is left-handed.

As to her not playing in tune, obviously this is a biggie and she cannot progress beyond even the first position realistically until she can more or less hear that she is getting that right. Can I ask you: do you tune her violin for her every day before she practises? she cannot play in tune on an out of tune violin. Get an electronic tuner. If she is tuning herself, she may not be tuning it right.

The piano thing is actually not a bad idea IMO. I am no musical expert but think about it - piano or keyboard - you hit the note and you are in tune. That would help her enormously with the violin, if she could do both. Naturally piano (or keyboard) is not at all easy , I doubt any instrument is when you want to excel at it but you do have the advantage of knowing when you hit the right key, you get the right note at that very basic level.

What I read out of those comments is: she is not listening to the notes she plays to hear if they are right, the rhythm is out but that will come with ensemble playing if you give it say a full year. The bow is too loud and harsh. This she can work on, at least she gets a sound out of it. I hear some children who get almost no sound at all out of the bow and I'm hard put to hear what on earth they are actually playing. She needs to press less, practise dynamics. So play say as loud as she can and then as quietly as she can whilst still getting the note. I don't know how you learn a beautiful intonation, I fear that may be one of those things you can or cannot do by nature but playing with a teacher who does have a beautiful intonation will be showing her where to go with it.

I would a) ask friends whose dc play in a way you personally like for teacher recommendations and do a few trial sessions; b) look at other instruments where getting the note by ear is not so essential in the beginning; c) if you continue with violin - and I think why not? - put her in a choir and make sure the instrument is always tuned properly

Bumpsadaisie Thu 28-Jul-11 10:29:30

If your DD can't really sing along to Adele at age 9, then maybe she would be better with an instrument like piano to develop her sense of pitch? The violin is notoriously hard to start with as your first instrument - personally I think better to start with something like piano to develop your musicality and then turn to the violin after a couple of years.

I think some small part of being "musical" is inherent, but you can improve a lot by practice and exposure. Or both are related - my DD can sing nursery rhymes and simple songs almost perfectly in tune at 26 months - but then we are a musical family back through several generations (many of us have perfect pitch) and I spent most of her infancy singing at her to break the silence! So although DD is young she has already had a fair bit of exposure (poor kid - my voice is no great shakes!) I'm expecting DC2 soon and it will be interesting to see if s/he can do the same - probably not but will be able to do all sorts of things that DD can't do.

Do you think your DD knows she is out of tune but just can't practically get her fingers in the right place (I remember finding this really difficult - my teacher would exclaim "look you obvioulsy know you are out of tune, why can't you correct it!!") or do you think she doesn't yet have a good enough sense of pitch to know she is not playing in tune?

pugsandseals Thu 28-Jul-11 10:43:58

Left-handed music teacher here!

1) Left-handedness I class as an unfair advantage on the violin
2) If you were to retake an exam, I would always recommend changing exam boards
3)If you train a monkey to play 3 pieces for months they will never pass the sight-reading
4) It is perfectly ok for Grade 1 pupils to play out of tune on a violin & Trinity Guildhall would never fail a child on those grounds

I have entered pupils for both exam boards this summer and the only fail I got was an associated board one. Other associated board pupils got a basic pass. My Trinity pupils got mainly merits & distinctions because they are examined by somebody that understands their instrument (unlike AB who could be anything from a trumpeter to a percussionist).

Exams are not everything (I only did Grades 2, 5 & 8) but they should be a positive experience. It may just be me, but I find all my Trinity pupils come out smiling, whereas my AB pupils are less positive. If they can enjoy the exam process then they are much more likely to play at their best. I know which exam board I am going to recommend to my pupils in future!

pugsandseals Thu 28-Jul-11 10:46:03

There is no reason to change her instrument in my opinion. The violin is a grossly misunderstood instrument which AB are doing little to help.

ZZZenAgain Thu 28-Jul-11 10:58:57

why is the violin grossly misunderstood?

seeker Thu 28-Jul-11 11:03:32

I think Grade 1 is being misunderstood too. It really isn't hard to pass regardless of instrument if the child is at all engaged. Which is why it's obviously the teacher's fault in this case. And Something Should be Done about him.

ZZZenAgain Thu 28-Jul-11 11:12:48

I think that honey's dd is still very young and she still enjoys her instrument. Another teacher can IMO teach her to play in tune but I would assume this means back-pedalling a bit and going back in some way to the basics. She will not be tearing ahead with the new teacher from exam to exam. It doesn't mean going back to page 1 of a beginner's book but maybe she needs a good year without exams working on pieces at her level but learning to play correctly and with expression etc. Not necessarily IMO (and I repeat I don't play anything so judge me accordingly) playing 3 pieces over and over to death. Lots of new pieces perhaps.

After a year, maybe look at exams again and yes, why not try the Trinity ones then? However on no account would I enter her a third time unless the teacher tells me she is ready. In this case ,remember, first time round the teacher said she was not ready for it and the exam went ahead really without him wanting her to do it at that stage. perhaps too the lapse of time between attempt 1 and attempt 2 was insufficient, not that the preparation was so much at fault but it needed more time?

pugsandseals Thu 28-Jul-11 13:56:14

Zzzen I just mean that progress is very different on a stringed instrument than a wind or brass. Other instruments can expect to pass Grade 1 in 1 year, Grade 2 in 2. Violin takes much longer than this to get going (upto Grade 2 taking upwards of 4 years on average) but students then tend to jump towards Grade 5 much quicker than other instruments. Sight reading is more complicated too as 4 notes can have the same fingering. I am not making excuses for any teacher, but the most common complaint about learning the violin is how long it takes pupils to get to Grade 1/2 standard. This is why the Initial or Prep test was invented!

ZZZenAgain Thu 28-Jul-11 14:02:50

I see, thanks for explaining that

pugsandseals Thu 28-Jul-11 14:14:29

smile Thanks for listening - I seem to spend my whole working life explaining this to concerned parents!

noteventhebestdrummer Thu 28-Jul-11 14:26:28

wow, most of my beginner Y3 violin kids take their Prep Test in the 3rd term and Grade 1 the term after...Grade 2 a year after this. I don't have any who take 4 years to get to Grade 2 unless they are SN.

I realise this is not particularly helpful to the OP. I am sure that what helps mine enormously is that they have a weekly group class as well as individual lessons, things like playing in time are reinforced fairly effortlessly in a group setting.

purplepidjin Thu 28-Jul-11 14:51:35

This thread has really shocked me - well the teacher has. I did music at uni, and while i wouldn't say i'm the best teacher in the world, i did some teaching on the side and for about a year after i finished.

i still managed a 100% pass rate over maybe a dozen children (piano, violin, viola, theory) and about five years. Some children were taking exams at the end of the first term, some I never entered for exams, and concentrated on getting them to enjoy playing.

IMlimitedE basic abilities will get you through grade one and probably two. if a child isn't playing in tune and in time by the end of about three months, the teacher is doing something wrong! There's loads of games you can play to improve rhythm; pitch on a stringed instrument takes a while to hear but can be taught at a basic level; and musicality at that level is really just obeying instructions about where to play loud and where soft!

<ponders giving teaching another bash>

Just one thing that I don't think you had mentioned OP - was it the same examiner both times?

I know examiners should all be marking to a similar standard, but my personal experience suggests that isn't really true and it is possible to get a particularly harsh examiner. Also, if you get one who has already failed you in the past then you are bound to be more nervous and less likely to do well if you get the same person again [thinking back to driving tests emoticon].

I remember doing a music exam once at the same time as my sister - our teacher thought we were both well prepared, and we had always done well in the past (typically merits or distinctions) so it was a great shock to find that she had barely scraped through, and I had failed (was gutted as she was younger than me!). I retook the exam at the next opportunity, which was very soon after so I hadn't done a huge amount of extra work in between, and this time passed with flying colours and I'm sure it was just due to having a different examiner.

I like ZZZen's advice too though, especially if tuning really is an issue for your DD (it's hard to tell without hearing whether it really is a big problem or the examiner was just being very harsh!).

DeWe Thu 28-Jul-11 15:35:20

I've followed this with interest as someone who played the violin pretty badly for some time.

When we started (the county provided free lessons for four children a year) I remember the (very experienced) teacher expressed concern on one child because they were left handed and in her experience left-handers found it harder.

I wouldn't regard myself as particularly musical (certainly compared to dh) but I did grade 2 after 4 terms and grade 3 a year later so I'm a bit shock at the suggestion that 4 years to grade 2 is reasonably usual.

My brother learnt with the same teacher (he's tone deaf but doesn't know it) and never got tuning over several years, he used to start flat and get sharper over the piece. Agony to listen to. He failed grade 1 more than once. So you can't necessarily blame the teacher.

Pugandseals, you sound like you've an axe to grind over AB exams. I thought (from several sources) that Guildhall were generally considered easier exams, and not equivalent grades, so you'd expect them to be getting better pass marks.

I'd go for changing instrument, probably to piano or something, with the thought that maybe going back to the violin later. I wished several times when I was playing violin that I could play the piano too as I think it would have been helpful.

pugsandseals Thu 28-Jul-11 15:40:26

Grade 1 within a year is only generally possible when teachers teach to the test IMO. This then slows progress later. There is also a huge difference between a 20 minute group lesson (mostly what I teach) and a 30 minute private lesson plus orchestra session per week.

pugsandseals Thu 28-Jul-11 15:46:24

Trinity exams are not easier ( as the UCAS point system proves)- My point was that Trinity guarantee a strings specialist as an examiner which means they understand the particular characteristics of learning the violin.

I have nothing against AB exams, just explained my most recent experience of similar students taking exams with the different boards showed better results with Trinity through the lower grades. I believe the situation is turned on it's head for the higher grades & trinity are actually harder!

mouldyironingboard Thu 28-Jul-11 16:56:08

I think an experienced teacher could develop your DD's musicianship while keeping the lessons enjoyable. The best way forward is to forget about exams but let her play lots of different pieces (and duets) to improve her sightreading and overall technique.

Above all else, making music should be fun and exams can spoil that. Unless your DD is wanting to audition for a particular orchestra or group there is no need for her to ever take another music exam unless she wants to. I don't agree that she needs to change instrument if she likes playing the violin.

Personally, I'm always delighted to teach students who don't want to take exams!

Honeymum Thu 28-Jul-11 19:30:02

Hello all

Just to clarify a couple of things:

- different examiner for second exam, yes

- the teacher didn't reluctantly enter her for the first exam in March. He originally was going to enter her for the December exam and forgot. Afterwards he said she wouldn't have been ready. However, he never expressed any concern that she wouldn't get through before either attempt (in March and July), in fact the second time he was pretty encouraging

- I didn't mean DD couldn't carry a tune, just by comparison to DD2 who is an ace singer. Both girls have always done lots of singing - been in the school choir (for which they had to audition), had singing lessons for a bit (in a group at her dance school) and has taken part in local singing weekends/performances for primary age children. I think if she was tone deaf/really couldn't follow a tune we would have been told by now.

Thanks for all of your comments - really interesting stuff. I've not changed my mind - I think DD should stick with the violin if she wants to....with a new teacher.

Honeymum Thu 28-Jul-11 19:33:12

Oh and DD doesn't tune the violin - it's generally just tuned on her lesson day by the teacher.

ImNotaCelebrity Thu 28-Jul-11 21:47:37

Honeymum - sorry she didn't manage a pass. It sounds, like the others have said, like the teacher let her down.
A few things that might help her:
*Improve Your Sight Reading Grade 1 by Paul Harris, which introduces rhythms and notes gradually, until by the end of the book the pieces are grade 1 sight reading standard.
*There is an aural test practice book which comes with a CD so you can practise at home.
*If she hasn't used the 'Fiddletime' series, buy her Fiddletime Joggers. It comes with a CD. It's aimed at beginners (but grade 1ish pieces by the end of the book), so she could sight-read her way through at least half of the book and play along with the CD. Lots of the pieces are lively and good fun, and you can hear how they're meant to sound, which may help her tuning as she plays along.
*Did the last teacher play along with her? I think that masses of demonstrating (not just the beginner pieces, but showing them complex stuff too) and playing along is pretty crucial, and I wouldn't trust a teacher who just sat and gave instructions.
*Video her! Let her watch it back. See whether she notices that she's out of tune. (Doing this sorted out DS's slightly wonky bowing and helped him discover the importance of dynamics!)
*Consider taking her to a concert to see professional violinists in action - it can be inspirational for young children.
I do hope she's not dis-heartened and you find a teacher who will give her the musical education she deserves.

confidence Thu 28-Jul-11 21:58:40

I have to agree that I think you are flogging a dead horse. She as failed twice, if she cannot hear she is out of tune how on earth can another teacher teach that to her... I am sorry if i sound harsh but it just seems a horrible loop she is in. If the other people who trained with this teacher have passed then surely it cannot be the teacher?

I have to say I strongly disagree with this and I very much hope honeymum doesn't take any notice of it.

Children don't generally just play an instrument like the violin in tune off their own bat. They are TAUGHT to do so by a proper teacher pointing out what to listen for. I leant the violin to grade 8 as a child before specialising in the piano and it just doesn't work that way. Yes, some people pick up intonation more readily than others, and some might require less teaching of it on the instrument because they naturally apply what they learnt doing Kodaly work etc in early childhood. But noone just "does it", and until a child has at least been shown what they are supposed to do it's very wrong to place that onus on the child rather than on the "teacher" who neglected to show them.

The key point that I think is being overlooked here is that the teacher didn't flag up the intonation problems. If the teacher had said all along - "gee, it's strange you know, I've tried to teach her to play in tune the way I teach everyone but she's just not getting it... oh I dunno, she might be ready for grade 1 but I'm a bit worried about her intonation" - and this situation had gone on and on despite attempts to rectify it, then you might have a point. But he didn't - he said that everything was fine and she would do well. He even said that after accompanying her in the exam room, so we know the failure wasn't due to freakish mistakes from nerves etc.

If the teacher is telling you he doesn't want to teach her (and the left handed thing is to make you feel a bit better) then you need to hear that. He is saying she cannot do it an you are wasting your money.

Yes, and we've established that the teacher is an ass who doesn't know what he's talking about. If he really knew that she had innate problems with the violin that would prevent her progressing, he would have said so BEFORE entering her for an exam she clearly wasn't up to. He's passing the buck to evade responsibility.

I could go and tell someone they're incapable of learning Japanese or Swahili because I haven't managed to teach them. It doesn't mean my opinion is worth anything.

Honeymum Sun 31-Jul-11 23:07:24

Confidence - thank you for your post. I too think that he's passing the buck. I had disregarded what pinkytheshrinky had to say (no offence meant!). I am sure that DD will improve with another teacher. I can't say, you see, if he's got other kids through the early exams. I think most of his pupils are adults or young adults. I think he is not the right teacher for kids.

ImNotaCelebrity - thank you!! Lots of great points and tips. I think the teacher demonstrated but didn't necessarily play along with DD.

I'm currently looking for a new teacher - will let you all know how we get one once I've found one!!

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions. Wish us luck!!

goinggetstough Mon 01-Aug-11 08:51:46

Quick comment on the left handed comment... my DD is left handed and is grade 7 violin. It has never been a problem. Could it not be an advantage as the left hand does much of the work and needs to be stronger ? ( I don't play myself, so this may be way off track.)

snorkie Mon 01-Aug-11 10:53:04

I agree teacher is at fault here. I also wonder if a more Suzuki type approach might help her intonation and maybe even rhythm too. Listening to a piece being played perfectly on a regular basis, might well help her be more critical of he own performance.

workingmother2 Mon 01-Aug-11 14:30:55

People have given you lots of good ideas. It is really good that your daughter is keen to continue. A couple more things ...

She must have had an accompanist in the exam - what did s/he say about how it went. Or was it her teacher that accompanied her ?

Did your daughter have any practice sessions with the accompanist before hand ? These tend to be very useful for finding out how ready someone is to take the exam, and for helping a child get their intonation right. They are also just a good way to get a second opinion.

Also, did she listen to the pieces on the ABRSM cd that comes with the music so she knew how they should sound ? It is well worth doing.

Other people have mentioned things like video'ing herself so that she can see how she sounds.

It is well worth looking at the syllabus and seeing what needs to be covered, and checking that the teacher is covering everything. In our case a little chat with the teacher made it clear that he didn't feel he had much time to cover aural, so we found someone else to do a few sessions with our daughter (as it happened the same person that was going to accompany her in the exam). Over something like three sessions she went from potentially getting zero, to possibly getting nearly full marks.

For sight reading, read anything. In the early days my children sight read from nursery rhyme books, and later from easy play pop song book (I still shrink at the thought of the easy-play Abba book with a play-along CD) as well as more formal things. Just sight read something, anything, every day.

It is also worth doing a couple of practice exams before hand, just so the pupil can see what it feels like to play all the pieces through one after another with a pianist, and then be asked for random scales, and then do the other tests. Mini-concerts for relations are also a good idea.

Exams are a mixed blessing - when the results are good they can be very confidence inspiring. When the results are bad they can destroy the confidence. It is well worth spending a little time ahead trying to maximise the marks.

I am afraid I would change teacher. Do you know his other pupils ? How do they do ?

Where are you based ? Perhaps look for a teacher that has a program of group lessons.

Lastly, holiday courses are a very good way of meeting other children who play, and of meeting other teachers and seeing how other teachers work.

pugsandseals Wed 03-Aug-11 11:39:26

workingmother2 I agree that the ABRSM CD's/mp3 downloads are great to listen to. But I forgot to mention Speedshifter - a free download from the ABRSM site. It is great for pupils whose parents don't play piano/can't accompany them as they can set the speed they are working at and play along. It even works with any CD/mp3, not just the AB ones. I know many teachers hate pupils playing along with CD tracks, but surely it's better than never getting to play with the accompaniment until the exam?

Honeymum Thu 04-Aug-11 23:15:51

Workingmother2 thanks for your post.

The teacher was her accompanist so she played along with him a lot before the exam (and sounded great or so I thought sad). I don't know any of his other pupils - I am not sure if he teaches many children. Actually, there is someone from school who learns with him but I haven't seen her mum for ages to ask her....

Thanks for the tips about the ABRSM cds/downloads. We had one other teacher come in (at the teacher's suggestion) to give her a mock exam. But only once. I do wish I'd checked the syllabus. I trusted the teacher sad

We are based in Nottingham. Off on hols tomorrow but when we get back I'm going to pursue a couple of leads for a new teacher. I don't know of any holiday courses unfortunately.

Speedshifter soons good pugsandseals...will look into that.

We are both determined and I'm going to have a good old chat with DD once the dust has settled and we have the new teacher in place.

Honeymum Thu 04-Aug-11 23:16:21

Once again thank you everyone for all of your comments and suggestions. I hope that others find this thread useful!

Chandon Sun 07-Aug-11 13:41:08

Well, I have just come across this thread looking for information on violin grading for 8/9 year olds (isn't MN great!). And I have read this with great interest.

My DS is 8, and has been playing violin at his school. It is a state school and they don't do grading. We have only been practising 5 mins a day blush, which I know was actually more than the other kids in his group.

He loves the violin, and it was his own idea to take lessons when he was 6. His teacher keeps on singling him out to play a piece for the others to listen to (as he can keep rhythm mainly, as well as nuances in loud and soft play) which he finds mortifying. He has written a few simple tunes himself (bless).

But he is obviously still very much a beginner!

The thing is, he is moving to private school after the summer and they offer violin lessons there (and they are quite competitive about grades I think, it's a very academic and musical sort of school).

The thing I am wondering about is, whether changing to a system with grades will take away some of the enjoyment?

I care more about him enjoying it, and getting technically better in his own time than ticking off grade 1, 2, 3 etc.

Just wondering if having a private teacher would be more fun than a school teacher focussed on grades.

snorkie Sun 07-Aug-11 15:03:20

Chandon, grades don't necessarily prevent enjoyment of learning, I would say only a minority of children find them so. You don't have to do all the grades either, even at private schools teachers do realise they don't suit everyone. There are other pros and cons to having music lessons in school vs private lessons though, but I'd consider the taking of grades to be a relatively minor consideration for most children.

More important points:
1) Are you concerned that you will rarely see the teacher to get feedback.
2) Does it worry you that your child will miss other school lessons for their music lesson and may forget to go or turn up late sometimes but you will have no control and often no knowledge of this.
3) Do you value having free time in the evenings for other activities, homework or just chilling and not having to ferry your child to/from music lessons, sit around for 30mins and then take them home.
4) Do you want to have a choice of teacher or are you happy to use whoever the school employs.

If you do try the school lessons and your child is one of the few who doesn't get on with grade exams you can always switch to a private teacher who is happy not to do grades, but you may find that your child enjoys them (and if he has that good sense of rhythm etc, doing well at them might boost his confidence too).

snorkie Sun 07-Aug-11 15:06:06

Just remembered another biggie that sometimes arises... If the school has music ensembles or stage musical events, if your child learns outside school they may be overlooked and left out.

Chandon Sun 07-Aug-11 18:36:27

thanks Snorkie, that's a few good things to think about.

the music teacher has said that if I want him take lessons, I can meet the teacher (and sit in for the first lesson) and that I'll have her e-mail and phone number for any questions. So that's quite good I think.

I value free time in the evening A LOT. As with 2 DC, I want to get the balance right and not have an after school activity every day.

So those are all good points!

Colleger Tue 09-Aug-11 13:54:57

Clearly the Teacher is diabolical but I wonder if the violin is not the right instrument and she may be better with a wind instrument. I am a natural wind player and hopeless with all the stringed instruments. She could continue violin but start a wind instrument and the progress would be much quicker given her two years experience on the violin. Maybe her confidence will rise if she sees she can achieve on another instrument.

Good luck!

nickelbabe Tue 09-Aug-11 14:03:27

I would suggest you go to Dave Mann on Mansfield Road (it's just before you get to the road join from Victoria Centre)(it's a shop, not a random man)
He will have loads of tips on finding a new teacher for her - he'll have loads of contacts and know who is good for drilling for exams etc.

I hope you find her a teacher that can help her pass.
obviously it's not all about passing exams, but it sounds like she's just not been given enough tuition in how to do it.

Honeymum Sun 04-Sep-11 21:16:48

Hello again

I am the OP grin.

We now have a new teacher as of this week! She was recommended by a friend whose daughter is at grade 5 and she's 10 and a half (she's been learning the violin for about 4 - 4.5 years I think). We are very lucky to have found the teacher and to be taken on by her as she has a long waiting list but is very keen to take on DD as she is impressed by how committed she is despite the setbacks. She listened to DD play and said "with the right information" (a polite way of saying that DD was badly taught I think), she will be up to at least grade 3 standard this time next year.

The teacher teaches loads of kids, has never had anyone fail (she and her husband both teach), puts so many pupils through the ABRSM exams that the examiners come to her home and (probably best of all) is herself an ABRSM examiner. DD liked her a lot. Wish us luck!

PS Thanks to nickelbabe - asking at Dave Mann's was a good idea.

ZZZenAgain Tue 06-Sep-11 06:10:08

so happy for her - and you. Sounds excellent.

seeker Tue 06-Sep-11 06:26:16

That's really good news- hope she carries on enjoying it!

mouldyironingboard Wed 07-Sep-11 19:29:15

Honeymum, that's fantastic news! Please update on how your DD progresses with her lessons. I'm guessing that you will be able to hear an improvement in her playing within a few weeks.

belgo Wed 07-Sep-11 19:30:32

That's good news honeymum. Keep this thread updated, it's fascinating hearing about your dd's progress.

noteventhebestdrummer Wed 07-Sep-11 21:42:09

Excellent! And what admirable determination from you all!

ImNotaCelebrity Thu 08-Sep-11 00:22:53

Great! Hope she has many happy years playing. Definitely would like to hear how she gets on in the future.

unitarian Thu 08-Sep-11 02:33:33

Not a musician myself but I've sat in waiting rooms many times while DD took music exams - 20 I think. Some examiners are 'nice' and some are 'scary', and that's all I ever got out of her about how each exam went! I was always sure that her teachers wouldn't have entered her for an exam if she hadn't been ready though.

I hope the new teacher works out well for your DD. The previous one was certainly not preparing her properly. There is a preliminary exam they can take which results in an official certificate but no marks. The idea is that they have a taster of what it's like to perform for an examiner and then go for grade 1 a term or so later. He should have done this for your DD.

I hope the new teacher will allow your DD to skip grade 1 and head upwards. The landmark grades are 5 and 8, the rest are really stepping stones to those and it is perfectly OK to progress without passing every exam.

I admire your girl's grit. I won't be surprised if she turns out to be a really good player.

Honeymum Thu 08-Sep-11 09:09:44

Thanks all!! I will keep you posted on her progress. Practice is going ok so far. She's really enthused by the new teacher, bless her.

Ah yes unitarian - she is full of grit. Not sure where she gets it! She's got the books for grade 2 in 2012 so I guess the plan is grade 2 in the Spring. She'll be playing other stuff too and rectifying issues with her bowing and posture too.

Cyclebump Thu 08-Sep-11 09:24:57

I teach musicianship to children at a local music school and a large part of what we teach is sight sing, reading and aural skills because they're often not covered in individual music lessons. Often it's a lack of time. We also teach to play through mistakes and to carry on in performance as not doing that has been a reason for exam failure for a few people I know.

Your daughter's teacher should have told her to keep going I would have thought. I'm also a bit hmm that he would enter a child for an exam if she was so fearful of sight-reading that she completely refused to do it.

Singing is a great way to improve sight-reading and general music skills, could she maybe join a local choir? The music school I teach at requires all children to join a choir for just this reason.

unitarian Thu 08-Sep-11 11:41:29

A friend of mine fervently hoped her son would fail his driving test because he had never failed anything in his life. He passed and continued to sail through exams. Eventually he failed a relatively unimportant one and flipped. She had been right all along - he had never learned to cope with failure.

My DD is also a serial exam passer but years of music has taught her to keep going despite mistakes and to stay calm - to outward appearances - when something is going pear-shaped.

Your DD's early disaster might be a blessing in disguise - and well done to you for encouraging her to carry on.

maggiethecat Sat 10-Sep-11 00:08:01

Very pleased for you Honeymum. Believing in our children and supporting them especially when things aren't going well - you've shown how it's done!

Unitarian, I know how your friend felt. Last year dd aced exams in ballet, tap and violin and although very pleased for her I had an uneasy feeling that she had set herself up for being deflated later. So when she heard she had a merit for violin this year she was not happy despite everyone else being happy for her - she'll get over it and hopefully will learn that you can be happy with your achievement whatever it is.


Just in case there is anyone around who followed this thread last year.....I am pleased to report that DD passed her grade 2 violin in April and is now working on grade 3 which she will take at Christmas! Our new teacher is fabulous and DD is very happy learning with her, as is DD2 who has taken up the piano.

Thank you all again for your support and advice, it was all very helpful.

ZZZenAgain Mon 25-Jun-12 16:37:05

hello there, I remember this thread. Great that dd is doing so well with her new teacher!

belgo Mon 25-Jun-12 16:40:13

I remember this thread! Well done to your dd!

chrisrobin Mon 25-Jun-12 16:41:36

That's great, congratulations to your DD on passing her Grade 2! So glad you have found a good teacher.

ReallyTired Mon 25-Jun-12 16:53:06

Well done to your DD.

a) for not giving up
b) passing grade 2.

NeverAgain2 Mon 25-Jun-12 16:59:19

I remember this thread - very well done, not only to your dd, but also to you for having so much faith in her.

Lovely to see that paying off.

Hopefullyrecovering Mon 25-Jun-12 17:21:00

It's not easy this parenthood malarkey.

I have two children one musical and one (DD) not particularly musical. She is now 14 and has been playing the piano for 8 years. She's just about to take grade 4. She wasn't much interested in choir and progress on the piano has, as you can see, been painfully slow. Her sightreading is terrible, and she refuses consistently to practice her pieces because they are "Too dull to practice". She did pass all three earlier grades with distinction, when she eventually got around to sitting them.

The thing is, she actually loves playing the piano. She downloads sheet music by Coldplay etc and practices them until she is perfect. She plays with real enthusiasm and love and never less than an hour a day. I know when she is truly happy and immersed in the piano by the pieces that she is playing.

So I've come around to thinking - what is the point of these exams, exactly? To teach her music in a structured way. But she cannot be bothered with the structure or the discipline, she will never buckle down and deal with the gaps in her musical education yet she really loves the piano and the grades are getting in the way of that enjoyment.

FWIW, OP it sounds to me as though your DD was entered for these exams too early (for her) and the thing to be careful about is that she is not discouraged by repeat failure. Don't sweat the grades.

roisin Mon 25-Jun-12 17:36:02

That's great news! Congratulations to her!
And thanks for the update.

pugsandseals Mon 25-Jun-12 20:04:12

Congratulations!!! I remember getting my excellent violin teacher at the age of 14 - I jumped from grade 5 failure to grade 8 distinction in 3 years :-D . A good teacher can make all the difference

goinggetstough Mon 25-Jun-12 22:43:15

Congratulations to your DC for not giving up!

pianomama Tue 26-Jun-12 10:29:17

It really sounds like you need a new teacher - I doubt she failed on scales ,aural, and sight reading alone.

Long time ago my DS failed sightreading on his first piano exam (which was G3) but still got a merit because of the scales and pieces.

So chances are the pieces were not up to required standard.There might be a serious problem with technique (or a lack of it) she has been taught.

If teacher claimes that he was pleased with pieces I would seriousely doubt his professionalism.

On a more cheerful note, its only G1 - your DD does not need to retake it.
She can easily go for next one or two up in a years time providing she get better instruction smile

ZZZenAgain Tue 26-Jun-12 10:38:20

she was just coming back with an update on an older thread. In the meantime she has changed teacher and her dd is doing very well, so it does seem as if the teaching was at fault

PandaG Tue 26-Jun-12 10:55:49

read this last year - really pleased to find the update. Well done DD!

waiting on my DD's grade 2 flute result now!

pianomama Tue 26-Jun-12 11:08:21


Thanks for all the good wishes everyone. smile I'll post again when DD passes grade 3!!

Wafflenose Fri 29-Jun-12 12:24:27

I've just found this and read most of it. As a music teacher, I'm horrified by the poor teaching which led your DD to fail Grade 1 twice (after being told how good her pieces were) but am so, so pleased that she carried on and passed Grade 2! Most children would have given up. Congratulations to her!

chocolatecrispies Sun 01-Jul-12 20:25:56

This thread has brought back all my memories of music exams, they were the most terrifying exams I ever took and I went to university at Cambridge... Got grade 8 distinction and now never ever play, the memories of being forced to practice and those exams are too awful. Sadly my mum finds this very distressing as she was so involved. Not sure what we'll do with ds but think we'll focus on enjoyment more than exams.

ImNotaCelebrity Sun 01-Jul-12 23:01:55

I remember your previous posts. Soooo pleased she stuck with it and you found a good teacher. It's a real 'feel good story' now!! Well done to your dd - and to you too!

Dunlurking Mon 02-Jul-12 21:00:11

Well done to your dd for carrying on and and getting her grade 2.

Thanks for the thread as well - there was sooo much useful advice on it. Dd did badly in her sightreading in grade 2 violin last year, so we followed advice on this thread, found her a holiday string course and a weekly string group and we are now keeping our fingers crossed for her grade 3 exam next week. Her sightreading is muuuuuch better thanks to your thread HoneyWithLemon

morethanpotatoprints Tue 03-Jul-12 18:40:25

I would change teachers immediately. This teacher should know the rules backwards, should have made sure she was ready for the exam. She should definitelt not have been entered unless he knew she would pass. Good teachers will do mock exams and can tell you within a few marks what the pupil will achieve. Sight reading is another part of the exam which needs to be studied the same as aural and scales.

ImNotaCelebrity Tue 03-Jul-12 20:43:37

morethan - the failure was from the beginning of the thread, which is very old. The more recent posts are because Honeymum was updating her dd's successes since changing teacher. She's now doing brilliantly.

Dunlurking it is a great thread, isn't it? It helped me enormously and I'm glad it's helping others smile

vlntrix Sun 12-Aug-12 14:28:45

This thread has been going on some time, right? Wonder if DD still plays? How did you overcome the "bump in the road"?

BeehavingBaby Sun 12-Aug-12 22:04:29

Lovely thread! Just looking for a teacher for DD1 and have read this all the way through.

loveyouradvice Sat 16-Mar-13 18:47:22

Amazing thread.... and what an impressive DD you have! Great news and hope Grade 3 passed with flying colours???

Learnt a lot ... I never did grades and my DD is about to start... hadnt realised there was so much to them!!!!

morethanpotatoprints Mon 18-Mar-13 22:59:34

I would be looking for a new teacher.

Firstly the teacher should have known her ability and assessed her as not being ready. He/she should never have entered your dd for the exam. After 2 years of dedicated practice, of doing what the teacher suggested grade 1 should have been achievable. If the teacher was any good.
Finally, the teacher hasn't prepared your dd correctly for the exam.

This is awful, your poor dd. Tell her its not her fault and praise her for trying so hard.
Get the examiners remarks and question these with the teacher.
My dd is 9 and doing grade 3 in summer, has been playing about 2 years. Her teacher wouldn't put her in for this exam until she was nearly ready for grade 4 so she was sure of a good mark.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 18-Mar-13 23:03:06

Sorry. This is twice this old thread has only shown me part of the story. Please excuse the last post.
I'm hiding it now

Hello! I'm the OP (name change).

Just spotted this thread again!

DD is doing grade 3 on Monday smile.

We were hoping she'd sit it last Christmas but her teacher (and me) decided to hold off til Spring in the end.

Will let you know how she gets on. I am really happy with our current teacher. She is excellent. DD is much improved though she is struggling with memorizing the scales and arpeggios. Her teacher thinks it might be a problem with how she learns. She did say her own daughter had the same problem with scales, and interesting maths, for a while, before things clicked. DD has recently improved vastly at maths, having been slightly below where she should be. She's a level 4b, after going up a whole level (that's three sub levels) in two terms. So maybe the violin teacher is right, IDK.

ZZZenAgain Mon 25-Mar-13 13:10:58

does learning visually help her? If so maybe try it with cards.

Don't know which scales she has to learn but you can have a card with the name of the scale on the front (G major) and, on the back say F# . Another card with the name of the scale on the front, the arpeggios on the back. And so on. She can just look at the cover and try and remember the rest, flip it over to check.

Once she knows for instance that G major runs from G-G in full notes and the only thing that is different is F#, it is not too difficult. If you have a keyboard, she can see this but if not you make a cardboard keyboard with the keys named. That might help her too.

I am sure there is some free site online for practising this kind of thing but I don't know of it, maybe someone else does.

In any case, exam today huh? Fingers crossed. Let us know how it went.

ZZZenAgain that's really good advice. I think we've been banging on about her needing to learn the scales without really thinking through how best she might learn them. It's interesting that I have kind of come to the flashcard idea (I think I'm a visual learner myself) over the last couple of days but too late to make a difference this time.

I'll make sure we are right on it with flashcards for grade 4, thank you.

As for the exam, I think DD was pleased overall. She came out of the exam smiling! Her teacher said her worst piece was her best on the day IYKWIM, but that's the sort of thing that can happen in the exam and I think overall she will have performed as expected in the pieces, ie solid passes but maybe not creeping into the merit bracket. We'll see how she got in the scales when we get the results but fingers crossed she's done enough to pass overall.

ZZZenAgain Mon 25-Mar-13 18:13:23

she's coming along so well on the violin now. You wouldn't have thought when you started the thread that she'd be learning for grade 4 at this time, would you? She's doing very well. I am sure she passed.

No, you are right. Studying for grade 4 seems a long way from failing grade 1!

maggiethecat Wed 27-Mar-13 09:44:22

Honey, well done to your dd and to you for your huge efforts - I remember the original post and thinking how supportive you are.

Have you considered not rushing the exams? I know they can be a good focus but I've realised that especially as you go up the grades the jumps can be bigger. There is so much technique to learn but also a lot more music that the child can enjoy. Our piano teacher was saying recently that sadly some children only learn 3 pieces between each exam.

I'm not saying that's the case with your dd but wonder if she is having the time to enjoy a wider repertoire than exam material?

Sheplaysmusic Tue 30-Apr-13 09:47:07

This is so inspirational and wonderful! Please continue to update us with her progress, I have enjoyed reading about her efforts in learning the violin, thanks.

Sheplaysmusic Tue 30-Apr-13 09:49:51

Also, I was wondering what have you noticed are the big differences between both teachers? And is she still practicing 10-15 minutes per day 5 days per week? I am having difficulty trying to find a good practice schedule for the long term, and I'm not sure what is too much and what is too little to make good progress.

mumsy27 Fri 31-Jan-14 02:32:07

I'm curious how's your DD doing now,keep us updated.
sorry to revive the thread(curiousity killed the cat)

landrover Tue 04-Feb-14 23:47:40


landrover Mon 10-Feb-14 21:00:03

Mmmm hope you don't mind me reviving this thread so see how it is going?

Salicus Wed 02-Apr-14 00:37:58

Hello, I'd love to know how she did at Grade 3 too and what she is doing now! I was so sorry to hear she had such a knock back. I'm not a mum but I do teach a lot of children singing and piano so just wanted to pass on some tips/ideas.

1) Most of the work takes place outside the lesson.
As teachers we might have 30 or 45 minutes a week to get our point across. We then expect the pupil to work on the things we flag. Extra lessons a week before the exam are not the answer and any good teacher will tell you this.

2) No child is unteachable.

3) Invest in a notebook. This keeps communication between teacher and parent open and shows what you have worked on in lessons.

4) The teacher is not a monster. Ask how you can support your child. Some children will need supervision to work outside of lessons.

5) Practice must be effective. Spending an hour playing your favourite piece is not practising effectively. A good session includes a bit of everything-scales, sight reading and pieces. Regular breaks will be needed to shift attention and keep good concentration levels overall.

I hope this helps. So glad your daughter was settled with the new teacher!

Chloerose75 Wed 02-Apr-14 01:15:22

Just read the whole thread and so impressed with the dd! Good on her for persevering. Impressive attitude and I'm glad she did progress in the end.

jem1980 Tue 29-Apr-14 15:04:16

Wow, read all 9 pages - lovely thread - regardless of exam results it is great to hear how you and DD persevered, and also about her enjoyment of the violin. Well done! It would be lovely to hear how it is going now if poss.

allyfe Wed 07-May-14 10:02:12

This made me cry :D I love that your DD wanted to keep going. And that she is doing so well. I love your support, and everyone elses. I agree it would be lovely to know how she is doing, if she is still playing. I hope so smile


Sorry for being rubbish and not checking this thread in aeons.

Well, DD got 113/150 at grade 3, and she's going to be taking grade 4 in July. To my ears she sounds like she will be ready, and I think her teacher is happy with her progress at the moment. She's been preparing for a while but she did play other pieces for a couple of terms, including a couple of her own choosing, before embarking on grade 4.

Getting her to do her practice can still be a struggle. We aim for 5 or 6 times a week and average 5, I would say. Often the sessions are 30 mins, but I often find myself shouting upstairs to her to carry on for a bit longer. There is a lot of nagging from time to time on my part, and now and again DH gets stuck in and threatens to stop the lessons! DD is not very good with her own company, and sometimes I pop in and listen and ask her to play for me, which helps. DD2 by contrast is currently working towards gr.2 on the piano and is better at settling down to play by herself. She's more of an introvert and gets lost in things quite easily whereas DD1 has a very busy restless sort of mind IYKWIM.

But, we had a conversation just last night about whether it's easier and more fun to practice now that DD1 is so much better, and she agreed it is. I hope that this continues. The music that she is making now is so much improved, I really enjoy hearing her play.

She started secondary school last September and it's a VERY music-oriented school (particularly for a state school). There is so much going on and the standard is very high. All kids are encouraged to join groups and ensembles which meet at lunchtime. We went to a recent concert and I enjoyed various ensembles/orchestras etc and then DD1 appeared with her string group and she was sat with her friend who is grade 1 standard playing the same part. I tackled her afterwards and she explained that she'd missed the sign up for orchestra and joined the string group instead and she didn't realised the standard was lower (!). She cried and said she thought orchestra would be too difficult so I've had a word with her music teacher who is going to make sure she joins the orchestra next term. DD isn't very happy pushing herself and I think doesn't always appreciate how much she can do. I'm hoping that as time goes on, if she keeps up her playing at school (she also gets to play in her music lessons) she will keep on improving.

Someone asked what the difference was between her two teachers. I think teacher number #2 is much more experiences than teacher #1, even though they are roughly the same age. I think teacher #2 has had so many pupils over such a long time, as well as two children herself who are excellent musicians, that it really helps her adjust to different children's learning styles. Beyond that I can't really say much more. I am not a musician, it's difficult for me to tell.

Once again, apologies for going AWOL. I am so glad that people have found this thread helpful. It was tremendously helpful for me at the time and it's lovely to have it to look back on, so a big, big thank you to everyone who has contributed. thanks thanks thanks

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 09-May-14 00:14:35

One suggestion - If your DD is not doing so well with the 30min practise on her own, maybe breaking it down into two 15min slots might be easier on her? Provided that doesn't disrupt the regularity!

maggthecat Fri 09-May-14 13:01:27

Glad you came back to share with us and to hear that dd has continued.
Music making can bring children so much joy (and of course pain) that I think it's worth sticking with it if possible.
You've done so well to support and encourage her - well done to you both!

Thanks Maggcat! It can be a slog at times. But it's something I really wanted to do for my DDs. It's not really something you can pick up in later life....(Though once I've finished paying for their lessons I might start myself!). And thank you JulieMichelle - all tips gratefully received!

A solid pass at grade 4 smile DD has been promoted to the concert orchestra at our local authority Saturday morning music school as well so that should accelerate her progress. Practice is still problematic but overall she is much more organised. She's already written herself and her younger sister a schedule for homework and practice for the new term so fingers crossed! I now have to buy her a full-size instrument - any tips?

JulieMichelleRobinson Tue 02-Sep-14 13:16:14

Basically... if you can afford it, spend a minimum of £300-£400. An instrument in that price range will probably last up until grade 8 if correctly set up (I'm pretty sure I took my grade 8 before we upgraded).

Make sure you put on decent strings - if you've been using Astreas or equivalent, move to Dominants or equivalent (i.e. £50 strings not £20 strings).

To pick names out of a hat: Hidersine, Paesold, Gewa, or a luthier-named instrument.

If buying a bow separately, it should be 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of the instrument, which seems a bit crazy but makes a difference.

Ideally, you should actually go to a specialist violin shop and try a few out.

Wafflenose Tue 02-Sep-14 13:57:12

I remember this lovely thread! I'm so glad she is still playing and enjoying the violin, and congratulations to her on passing Grade 4!

coconut0 Wed 29-Oct-14 22:00:55

I've just read this entire thread and I am so pleased it all worked out in the end. My 8 year old DD has been learning the violin for a year and has just done her prep test. For anyone who doesn't know what this is (it didn't exist in my time) it is like a beginner's exam where the child learns 3 pieces off by heart, 2 pieces with music and does simple aural exercises. It isn't pass or fail and they get a certificate with detailed comments before leaving the room. Although it costs about £40 it gives them an idea of what it will be like in a real exam and has given DD extra confidence (she is fairly confident anyway) and has made her look forward to the next stages of her musical journey.

loomyviolin12 Sun 21-Dec-14 11:37:21

I find that failing is not such a big thing. Maybe it was stress or the first time he took an exam? the violin teacher should be switched if she is really bad and doesnt know her thing.

This is a violin school my kids learn from. Maybe they can help smile

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