Arguments pro music exams

(16 Posts)
Verycold Tue 19-Mar-13 09:26:42

You can often hear people argue against music exams, but what speaks for them? Would be really interested today of all days - two dd's taking exams today!

Wafflenose Tue 19-Mar-13 09:42:09

I would say the best part about them is the progress made while working towards them. They really focus all-round practice.

And then there's the sense of achievement when they pass.

Verycold Tue 19-Mar-13 11:22:13

One down here, one to go!

DeWe Tue 19-Mar-13 12:18:57

Actually both my dd's enjoy music exams!

I think for me what it makes them do is work solidly on a piece. If they don't have anything to work towards with a deadline they can produce a lot of pieces to a medium standard. When they have a grade it really makes them think carefully about the piece, and work on it over a period of time.

And I know dd1 would never do scales if she didn't do exams!

Good luck to your pair. Dd1 had her exam last week, dd2's is next week!

cornflakegirl Tue 19-Mar-13 13:17:19

I completely agree with DeWe. They make you really perfect a piece, not just move on when it's okay. I can still play one of my grade 8 pieces reasonably well without music due to muscle memory, despite the fact that it was nearly 20 years ago and I rarely play properly now.

Of course, you don't have to do an exam to achieve that, but they do rather focus the mind.

musicalfamily Tue 19-Mar-13 13:46:19

It tends to work as a motivator for most children, although some a lot more than others. My DS1 for example has shown a huge difference in motivation levels since the teacher told him he's doing his Grade 1.

My DD1 instead loves to practise the violin and is not really that focused/bothered about exams and doesn't change whether there is an exam or not. So they are all different. From a parent point of view I guess it can also be a benchmark of achievement, especially if that parent isn't musical so doesn't get a real feel for how their child is doing!

mungotracy Tue 19-Mar-13 14:26:26

Depends which exams they are and what they are for. The associated board exams are for example excellent classical training and represent a level of accomplishment and after grade five understanding of theory neccessary to study the subject on an academic basis. On the other hand they are a waste of time for any kid who wanted to play a saxaphone or a trumpet in other settings as they teach nothing of use for that (except theory) and do not in any way teach improvisation....meaning many children find associated board exams, the music involved and the neccesity for rigorous practice of those pieces mind numbingly dull...... however the new 'Jazz' exams address this and group/session playing but are less approrpiate for classical..... any music exam is worth more than the A level or GCSE which you don't need for uni entrance or anything really.

So its dependant on what your kid wants.....if they loathe classics if avoid AB exams like the plague as they tend to turn kids off in droves.....

Verycold Tue 19-Mar-13 22:29:33

They are doing the abrsm exams. My biggest problem, or rather my dd2's, is the aural, as she finds the singing bit really difficult.

DeWe Wed 20-Mar-13 09:49:16

I think they can choose to play back on their instrument rather than sing, if they like.
They certainly used to be able to do that as dh said he always chose to play it back as he's not confident of his singing voice.

Verycold Fri 22-Mar-13 17:49:24

Not many wanting to speak up for exams then!

CloudsAway Fri 22-Mar-13 19:21:59

I've discussed this on here before, and found that people don't seem to change their minds, whether for or against.

I am against the idea that exams have to mean doing only 3 pieces to death, and nothing more, and that they have to be horrible routines of scales etc without any fun. You can follow the basic syllabus for exams, and still do all the technique in fun ways, you can make the aural training far more general that just what is required for the exams, and include improvisation etc, and you can most certainly do many more than 3 pieces at each level. It's poor teaching that leads to the really restricted 3 pieces plus scales for a whole year experience.

I didn't do exams myself as a child, or only a couple on piano, none on my other instrument. I hated performing. I now kind of wish I had, in order to get me more used to it. But for piano at least, I followed the syllabus, doing a whole variety of pieces at each level, as well as the technique. It meant that I had to play pieces that I wouldn't have chosen, which was very good for me musically. I also had to do all the technical requirements that I might not have wanted to practice. On my other instrument, I didn't even do that, and I wish I had. I really notice now the lack of having good arpeggios and scales under my belt, and I have no idea how to get a piece up to proper performance standard, rather than just 'ok', good enough to move on, but not really special. Exams are good at focusing on really perfecting a couple of pieces, give some structure to what to practice, make you do new things that you might not like (I would always have chosen baroque pieces otherwise!), and make you do the technical stuff more than you might otherwise. I'd also have found it motivating to progress up the grades (wish there were more finely graded divisions actually), and have a structure to follow - that would have kept me practising more.

I also wish I'd had a lot more aural training. I found it hard for the exams I did, and even harder now as an adult coming back to do exams on a new instrument, and would have benefited hugely from singing/intervals/solfege, etc training at a younger age, alongside reading music.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 25-Mar-13 10:39:51

I think exams are great if the persons musical experience doesn't revolve around constantly preparing for the next.
It gives an indication of standard that many music schools, groups, orchestras etc use as a benchmark for entry. Although many say you don't need to have passed a particular grade they use that level for entry. So for example, if it says playing at grade 5 distinction level, you might as well take the exam when you have reached that level.
I also think that many wouldn't get the benefit of aural and sight reading practice if it wasn't for exam preparation.
My dd is taking exams on two of her instruments in the summer and the other 2 in the winter. But life doesn't revolve around exam prep, and in our house more about making music together.

Schmedz Mon 01-Apr-13 11:41:09

Agree they can be useful as one part of your musical training. Thoroughly object to them being considered the 'be all and end all' and have a little giggle when children say 'I'm Grade x' and they have only just managed to learn three pieces at that level and not particularly well!
And they are SO expensive...choosing some key points for my DDs at which to take them. In the meantime, I figure the fact that their playing speaks for itselfsmile

teacherwith2kids Tue 02-Apr-13 13:37:17

DS will take his first music exam - Grade 5 - at some point over the next 6 months.

For him, it is a useful 'descriptor / benchmark' to use e.g. in moving up between county jazz groups, in the school orchestra etc, and I am happy for him to do it on that basis (he and his teacher looked at the syllabus, and found that - amongst many other pieces - he was already playing 2 Grade 5 ones. The plan is to keep these up and perfect them as well as working on other pieces to develop particular aspects of technique, then feed those back into the exam pieces etc).

The only other exam he might take - if he carries on that long - would be Grade 8, again as a useful 'benchmark' qualification.

ReallyTired Wed 03-Apr-13 20:26:56

Exams have the advantage of making someone practice boring stuff like scales and arpeggios which do improve general playing ablity. It also gives the pressure of performing for an occassion.

I think there is a happy medium between nothing but exams and no exams. Ideally children should play a variety of pieces and actually enjoy music.

Verycold Tue 09-Apr-13 12:49:41

One dd passed with a merit, one with a comfortable pass. Phewsmile

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