Music grades as an adult after a long long break

(51 Posts)
colleysmill Sun 24-Jan-16 07:44:45

In my younger days I used to play my violin to a reasonable standard but it all fell by the wayside when I went to uni and I never played much again.

After a long hiatus (17 years shock ) I'm back playing regularly, mainly in orchestras and small groups and gradually I've dragged myself back up to a similar standard I was as a teenager.

All good so far and I'm really enjoying playing again. But the bit that's bugging me is that as a teenager (whilst I was playing at around the standard) I never actually did my grade 8 exam. And part of me has always regretted this and now it's like an itch that won't go away.

Part of me thinks I am crazy to even consider it - I've a family, full on job and playing for a number of groups on an ad hoc basis (who knew violinists would be so in demand as an adult!) as well as an orchestra(s) but I've looked at the 2016-19 syabullus and found a local teacher.

Has anyone taken high level grades as an adult? And does it differ in terms of confidence than when you are younger? I'd love to hear about anyone's experiences

Icouldbeknitting Sun 24-Jan-16 09:17:00

My husband went back to piano after thirty some years. He left school with a "mediocre" grade two and when we bumped into someone who was taking grade one piano as an adult it gave him the idea. He found a local teacher, bought a good digital piano and it ended up with him taking his grade 8 last year. The big thing we came across was him not being able to find his grade five theory certificate, he knew that he had it somewhere because he had taken grade eight violin before leaving school. We paid ABRSM for a duplicate and they did a fantastic job given that he couldn't remember whether he'd taken it at school or at music centre and he couldn't remember the year, never mind the sitting.

If you want to do it, go for it. DH says it felt strange in the exam centre when everyone else was about four feet tall, there are many older candidates but not at the time when he's been having his exams.

LooseAtTheSeams Sun 24-Jan-16 09:54:35

I only recently took grade 3 piano so can't comment on higher grades - though icouldbe's husband is an inspiration! - but I think if you're still feeling as though this is unfinished business you should go for it! You're doing it for yourself, so there's no time pressure and your teacher will work with you to get you there. Just from the fact you've managed to get yourself back up to scratch and you're playing regularly in groups suggests you've got the motivation to practise. You can't change work demands but I think if the family realise that practice time is your time and you mustn't be disturbed you should be OK. Nothing lost by trying and think of the huge sense of achievement when you do get it!

CeeBeeBee Sun 24-Jan-16 09:57:05

I only did grade 1 violin as a child and took up the piano as an adult. Did grade 5 a couple of years ago as my first piano exam and am sitting theory prior to hopefully sitting grade 7 practical in the summer. It is a bit strange when you are in the minority. However, I have found it very rewarding. There are plenty of adult learners doing grades. Check out the abrsm forum which has an adult learners section.
Go for it!

colleysmill Sun 24-Jan-16 12:10:03

Thanks for the replies.

I think you're right - it does feel like unfinished business! I did think about it years ago but with a levels it was all too much pressure, especially as I went into a career completely separate from music.

But now I feel like I need to prove it to myself more than anything. Interestingly as an adult I feel much more confident than I did as a teenager, perhaps a little more forgiving if I make a mistake?

Certainly not under pressure to complete it in a set time scale although I will need to have a goal in mind otherwise it will drift on until the last minute.

I think I already know I'm going to do it smile

colleysmill Sun 24-Jan-16 12:17:22

I think I will have to dig around the loft for my theory certificate - I know it would have been early 90's though I think I will need some theory refresher!

colleysmill Sun 24-Jan-16 13:03:22

Ha! Just had a rummage in my music and found a copy of one of the pieces on the list - bowed and fingered and a vague memory of playing it in the past. Would that be cheating ?? grin

RubberDuck Sun 24-Jan-16 13:14:07

I've started playing the piano again after failing my Grade 8 at the age of 18/19 (first year of uni - was a bit distracted and didn't practice enough!)

Teacher started me off playing Grade 6 pieces and scales and slowly working up through. Playing Grade 7 now and hoping to start working on Grade 8 when the new ABRSM books come out - I'll then have two years grace to work on the material before I need to commit to the exam.

colleysmill Mon 25-Jan-16 13:23:51

rubberduck i found my music fell right by the wayside at uni too (except for the choir who had an exceptional good social circle!!)

It does feel slightly daunting - although the pressures these days are much different life is still pretty hectic.

I think the new books are out from what I've seen on the website - I'm going to have to do some serious aural practice (actually this and the sight reading worries me more than the pieces!) But now I've decided to go for it I'm going to give it my best shot

howabout Mon 25-Jan-16 17:17:02

I am in awe of you for doing this. I play at grade 8 standard but have never done exams. I also teach DD. Putting her forward for her grade 5 (so she would have the confidence of an exam behind her which I lack) was the most stressful thing I have ever done.

colleysmill Tue 26-Jan-16 07:32:42

howabout that's very kind of you but I suspect I have a long way to go yet!

I've got an initial meeting with the teacher tomorrow to see where I am currently and what I've got to do to get to the point of starting it (i hope I'm being realistic!) - we've had a long chat on the phone and he sounds really supportive and encouraging and he does come highly recommended from two friends.

If anyone is interested I will happily update!

howabout Tue 26-Jan-16 09:18:39

Definitely interested in knowing how you get on.

capercaillie Tue 26-Jan-16 09:22:50

Another here who has the same itch - and was thinking about this the other day! You're already playing regularly which has to be a good start! I'm not so I think it's not the right time for me, although I would love to have a go.

flowery Tue 26-Jan-16 09:28:24

I'm vaguely toying with this as well. I did grade 8 viola when I was a teenager but never did a single exam on the violin, although I always played both. DH gave me a violin for Christmas and I'm the same standard on that and in terms of playing pieces, wouldn't be too far off I think. Would be nice to have grade 8 violin under my belt so I've got both.

Don't fancy brushing up my scales and aural to grade 8 standard though particularly! <lazy>

Jumperooathon Tue 26-Jan-16 09:47:02

I did it. They will still have your G5 theory on file somewhere so you don't need physical certificate. Even though I had changed names..

Enjoy scales! That's definitely the worst bit smile

RubberDuck Tue 26-Jan-16 09:55:18

I don't mind (piano) scales. I'm a computer geek so wrote myself a simple Python program to shuffle them for me for practice purposes!! I like them as a slightly mindless warmup (also do Hanon finger exercises for similar reasons).

It's aural I really struggle with. I've been working my way through these books: Improve Your Aural, but it's becoming increasingly clear that I just don't hear a lot of the differences they expect you to be able to. (Interestingly, I struggle to follow conversations in busy/noisy environments as well, so I wonder if it's the same thing).

Jumperooathon Tue 26-Jan-16 19:33:20

I find I can only do the aural if I shut my eyes. Try it?

randomsabreuse Tue 26-Jan-16 19:38:45

Did my G8 after a 12 year gap. Aural was the killer! First problem was hearing the lowest part - played a lot of Alto flute in an ensemble and consciously listened for the bass in church. Then remembering it. Cadences were ok but chord before cadence was impossible for me.

Good luck!

IrenetheQuaint Tue 26-Jan-16 19:46:01

Oh good luck! I have a similar history with the viola and would love to do this one day.

Jenijena Tue 26-Jan-16 19:58:59

In a very similar position, with piano. It's on my list, one day, but not yet. And the scales, oh the scales...

absolutelynotfabulous Wed 27-Jan-16 15:24:33

Hi OP. I had the same itch and was fortunate enough to be able to scratch it. I took two Grade 8s last year and somehow managed to pass!!

I'm partway through two diplomas now.

Edit: that's piano G8 practical and theory, through LCM.

colleysmill Wed 27-Jan-16 18:27:47

Well I had a little practice yesterday and I think I've got a longer road than I first thought!

Never mind I shall see how tonight goes! I'm excited but nervous. Thank you for all the supportive messages

goldenlilliesdaffodillies Wed 27-Jan-16 23:12:25

When I turned 40 I decided I had to have a goal and get my Grade 8 piano. I took grade 7 last year and passed and am working on Grade 8. Fitting in serious practise is a challenge at times when working and with children. However I see it as 'my time' and can forget about every thing else.

The exam last year was pretty terrifying. I don't ever remember music exams being that scary when young. However there were other much older exam candidates and the examiner was much friendlier than I remember the exam situation to be. When I passed I felt such a huge sense of achievement and am so glad I did it. Grade 8 is going to be very tough but am up for the challenge!

Good luck with yours. Don't worry if you have to go back a few steps first. You will probably have to play everything really slowly to start with which can be frustrating!

colleysmill Thu 28-Jan-16 07:09:33

Quick update

Well last night went better than I expected - interestingly the things I was concerned about (tuning, sight reading) he didn't think were an issue but there are tweaks to do technically (but aren't there always)

The biggest thing I need to work on is styling and getting the tone right for the different periods so this week we are going to individually look at the grid 8 pieces and decide together next week which ones I'm going to do and then start with some separate pieces to get the tone right before tackling the syabullus ones.

I finally know why I find double stopping so hard (violin needs some string adjustment but there is a workshop locally who can sort that out).

I'm really doing this!!!

colleysmill Thu 28-Jan-16 07:10:39

Oh and unsurprisingly my scale book is way out of date - I've ordered a new one!! smile

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