Need Advice re: Grade 5 Violin Exam Timing

(19 Posts)
cingolimama Mon 21-Mar-16 10:59:26

DD will do her Grade 5 violin exam this year. Her teacher (who I generally trust and defer to in all things - I'm not one of those parents) is very cautious and wants her to do it in Autumn term (i.e. November) and is gunning for a Distinction. I'd massively prefer she do it in summer term (the latest week). The reason I want it done sooner is that in September she starts secondary school, which is a huge transition anyway - plus she will have a commute of 45 minutes each way. Plus homework. Her whole practice routine will take a bit of a hit, and it will take some time for her to settle into a new routine that works. DD hasn't had a great time in primary, and is looking forward so much to a fresh start - making new friends etc. It would be so great for her first term not to have to have this added pressure of a major exam.

I wonder if Grade 5 by summer is realistic, though? Here's where we are right now:

2 out of the 3 pieces are learnt, and just need developing musically. I piece needs learning from scratch.
6 out of the 10 scales are learnt - speed needs to be increased on these a bit. 4 new scales to learn.
Aural. We've been doing practise sessions with the ABRSM books, and also regularly doing some exercises with her piano/theory teacher. Fairly confident in this area and will continue to do regular work.
Sight reading. Biggest bugaboo really. Haven't done much.

If I'm honest, I think the summer is a little bit too soon, and the autumn is a little bit too late. But assuming we could get a slot in the last week of the summer term July 4th - that gives us about 3 and a half months to prepare. DD would rather work really hard and do it in summer, btw.

Any thoughts, experiences or suggestions much appreciated.

ealingwestmum Mon 21-Mar-16 11:31:49

Will you be keeping your violin teacher when your DD starts secondary or will it change (I'm not sure from your post if it's school or private teacher). If you are likely to change teachers, then I'd sit her in the summer.

It's definitely doable, if that's what your DD wants to aim for. I know there are teachers that don't like to be challenged but your reasons are valid as the first term in Y7 is a massive change and focusing on fitting in to the routine is sensible without any additional pressures.

Maybe not something you'd want to do, but she could always continue with the G5 syllabus, get her scales/sight-reading and 3rd piece mastered, then skip G5 exam to move to G6 with no pressure, especially if G5 theory is still outstanding...

We were slave to exams all through junior school, then abandoned in summer Y5 after sitting G6 (to meet scholarship app deadlines only, tick in the box exercise). Since then, full focus has been on technical/non grade repertoire/going back to basics to unpick bad habits etc. Working at around G8 level now in Y7...no exams on the horizon. Grades are a great indicator to show where one's at (especially for schools) but not essential, and should therefore not hinder her progress as the working towards a level is the hard work!

cingolimama Mon 21-Mar-16 11:48:11

Ealing, she'll definitely be keeping the same (private) teacher. Many thanks for the encouragement. One thing I should have mentioned in my post, was that the Grade 5 will be DD's first violin exam. Interesting thought about skipping this grade and going for Grade 6. Roughly speaking - how much preparation time between 5 and 6?

ealingwestmum Mon 21-Mar-16 12:41:17

Ah, makes sense, she may want to get the first one under her belt then?

I think the prep between grades does depend on the child's ability/motivation etc. It was a while ago but we went from G4 to G6, and wrongly so, she did G6 in a term. I know had she stretched over 2 terms, she would have come away with a clear distinction, but at that stage she got a 127, which she was disappointed with, but we were chasing a deadline. To me this was a great result, but you know your child's bar. In hindsight, she just did not have the maturity to play her pieces/sight read as well as she would do now, which is why we are holding off G8 (exam), but she's being stretched in other ways that should make that sitting, when it happens, a formality. And she's grown up a lot in 6 months, with lots of stuff on the go, which hopefully yours will welcome too come Sept.

It's a tricky one, but I'd be inclined to sit yours for summer with your teacher's support and buy in, and move into senior school with a clean slate as G6's aural and volume of scales changes. Her standard entering Y7 will be very good and she'll hopefully immerse into the school ensembles quickly in addition to her 121 lessons with a teacher that knows her well, and will work with her new, extended regime.

Good luck!

howabout Mon 21-Mar-16 16:27:41

Hi. My DD only started doing exams at grade 5 for piano and violin. I think it is a very big ask to work for a distinction at this level with no prior exam experience. We therefore went for getting a pass at grade 5 and then assessing what needed work. So using the exam as a learning exercise rather than for the result. DD got a pass in both and a year later a distinction at grade 6 piano. I teach her violin and am approaching it using the piano exam process to embed her oral training and to keep her new found exam technique. We are skipping grade 6 violin as there was not much 5-6 jump for her. Grade 7 is proving better for where she is.

I think the gap from 4-5 is quite big. I would see where you are on playing with an accompanist before deciding. The 3 octave scales are a new challenge but all the 2 octaves are really the same with a different as starting point - so may not be far to go there. Sight-reading depends on how much playing new pieces and learning quickly in ensembles you do.

Based on above I would say go for pushing for summer to get it out the way but only so long as everyone would be happy with a pass.

Madcats Mon 21-Mar-16 21:18:29

My DD is younger, but would rather go for distinctions a bit later than scrape. If sightreading is a "to work on", I think you are setting her up to get a disappointing mark. Also, is she used to doing solos at school/concerts etc? It will be a big ask to get her to play to strangers if she has just played to a teacher and you!

What's the hurry if you aren't hoping for a scholarship? Is it a disaster to delay a year?

It might be fine, or it might be hideous

cingolimama Tue 22-Mar-16 08:21:09

Hi Mad, no she's a very experienced performer, at least twice a term she performs publicly, and she will have performed all the pieces at least once (and with one of them, at least three times). It's the area I'm least worried about.

And no, it's not a disaster to delay a year, but I don't want her very first exam to be any higher than G5, as the experience will help her. So if her G5 is delayed a year, it puts us into a strange twilight zone.

howabout Tue 22-Mar-16 11:30:53

A couple more thoughts which occurred to me.
I don't like the bowing pattern for grade 5 scales. It changes for grades 6 and up to an octave a bow which to my mind is actually easier. So for me this would be another reason to get 5 out the way and move on.

Your DD sounds much much more performance ready than mine was. My DD1 had never performed a solo in public and was doing very little ensemble playing. She also only had one run through with her accompanist prior to the exam. She still passed.

I delayed DD2 sitting her grade 5 piano from March to the summer and I am already thinking I may regret it as she is feeling a bit in limbo despite having lots to work on.

schilke Tue 22-Mar-16 11:36:09

Does she have a lot on at the end of term? I know that my dc were in celebratory mood after SATs and residential trips and wouldn't have wanted to knuckle down to a music exam.

Also I know my dc would prefer to get a distinction than a pass, particularly ds2. If you go for an Autumn term exam it shouldn't hold her back. She can still move forward and keep all the G5 exam stuff ticking over. However if she wants to do it then go for it!

That was helpful wasn't it confused

ealingwestmum Tue 22-Mar-16 16:27:58

grin I felt a bit like that schilke! It's that fine balance of under-prepared vs over-cooked, in addition to not knowing the OP's daughter but giving advice based on our own experience...

DD would rather work really hard and do it in summer, btw

I think this speaks volumes though - a motivated child is never to be under-estimated. I agree that there is fun stuff with trips etc going on end of year 6 to contend with, but compared to navigating a new school/schedule and longer day & commute that completely screws up practice time in term 1, it depends on which is the preferable option for OP's DD

Let us know what you decide cingolimama!

NewLife4Me Tue 22-Mar-16 16:33:12

I think you either trust the teacher or not. When you start to question or want to do things differently, it's time to change teachers to one who will do it your way.
A warning though, a teacher who will do this isn't really very good as they should have their own knowledge of when a child is ready for an exam.

My advice is to go by what the teacher suggests, she will be fine in Autumn and perhaps gain a better result if she hasn't been rushed.
iirc there is quite a jump from grade 4 to grade 5 violin, and settling down at a new school is far more important than a music exam

NewLife4Me Tue 22-Mar-16 16:36:49

A teacher at dd school recently told me if you are working on pieces for exams for more than a few weeks you aren't at that level. Some teachers have them working on them for months and this really is no good.
Let them play all sorts of things without having to practice for exams all the time.
Grade 2 Piano has just taken my dd a month to prepare for.
Her other instruments are treated the same, whatever the level.

se22mother Tue 22-Mar-16 17:42:35

Is she by chance Suzuki trained?

cingolimama Tue 22-Mar-16 19:56:52

How and Ealing, thanks again for your thoughts. Schilke you made me laugh.

newlife, I do trust the teacher. I've never questioned his judgement before, even when I thought privately that maybe he was going too fast, or too slow - I just went with his superior knowledge and experience. But at this particular moment, I'm looking at the bigger picture, iykwim. As you point out, "settling down at a new school is far more important than a music exam". That's my concern exactly.

Se22 no not Suzuki. Kodaly though.

NewLife4Me Tue 22-Mar-16 21:22:43

cing

Has she done grade 5 theory exam yet? If not this could be a good distraction if her teacher doesn't think she is ready for a practical exam in summer.
You could also ask the teacher if dd could skip an exam all together and work towards grade 6 maybe spring next year.
I know she hasn't done any exams before but this might not be a bad thing starting at a later grade.
I know several dc including one of my own who skipped grades as it wasn't a good idea at the time.
Also at dd school they don't do any exams until the end of their second term during their first year attending. So, those who are ready for one when they join, wait until spring and take the next one.

Noteventhebestdrummer Sat 26-Mar-16 20:37:48

DS4 took Gd 4 with 3 weeks notice to him. At that point he knew 2 of the 3 pieces very well, could play scales and sight read pretty well and always aced aural. He got a good distinction but asked not to repeat the experience of polishing and learning in such a short time.
But with your timescale I wouldn't hesitate to go for it.

Noteventhebestdrummer Sat 26-Mar-16 20:38:31

His reason for not wanting to do things this way was 'It's not holistic learning' Smart kid smile

IslaSinga Thu 07-Apr-16 23:47:38

Ds (8) recently passed grade 4 violin with a high distinction. We have started looking at grade 5 pieces and scales, but I don't think he'll be ready to take the exam in the summer. The jump in level for the aural is quite a bit from grade 4-5 and I think that will take quite a bit of extra practise - they need to be able to answer questions on the style and period of a piece of music played, which he will need to learn about first. The jump to grade 6 is much bigger and requires grade 5 theory knowledge.
My Dc have done a lot of exams up to grade 8 between them and I have definitely learnt the importance of being as polished as possible in all areas of the exam to help to guarantee a distinction. I think I would trust the teacher's opinion on this and do whatever they think is best. Also spend time reading about the exam requirements and expectations for the different marking bands to help you get a good idea of the standard needed for the top marks.

IslaSinga Thu 07-Apr-16 23:52:43

I'm not sure I agree with that newlife -my dc learn by Suzuki method, so have a wide repertoire alongside exam pieces. They do spend around a term preparing for exams (while also progressing through Suzuki books and working on music festivals etc) and generally gain marks of 29/30 for their pieces as they are so well polished and 'exam ready'.

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