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To want to take a music grade exam?

(13 Posts)
BrittaPerry Sun 04-Nov-12 23:48:26

I play various instruments (mostly cornet and keyboard) and can sight read music, but only to a 'messing about' standard. I'm considering doing a grade exam in an instrument nd in theory, just to kind of give myself a goal. I did keyboard and theory at grade one when I was 11, and I know I have got better since then, but I have no idea by how much.

Is this crazy? I don't really have the time or money for lessons, but I would quite like a certificate grin

WorraLiberty Sun 04-Nov-12 23:51:44

It's not crazy at all.

I taught myself to touch type many moons ago by using 'Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing' grin

I got myself up to 62wpm from typing one fingered and I ended up doing a mini course just so I could get a certificate grin

frogspoon Mon 05-Nov-12 00:16:15

Music theory is easy enough to teach yourself following a book, and would not require the assistance of a teacher.

Practical music exams are a little harder. You can teach yourself the scales, pieces etc, but you should have at least a couple of occasional sessions with a professional music teacher who can assess your playing and determine what standard you are at (if you are likely to pass). You can also practise sight reading pieces, but you would want to ask a musician/ music teacher to confirm you have played it correctly.

You would also need to pass the aural (listening) component of the practical exam. Some of this you can practice at home by listening to music and making observations about pitch, dynamics etc, but part of it requires you singing back a tune, and you would need a musician (or someone with a very musical ear) to tell you if you have sung it back correctly and in tune.

Without lessons, unless you are an extremely gifted musician with a natural good ear, you would probably fail several parts of the practical exam, and would not be able to pass. I would suggest that you have a couple of occasional lessons e.g. once a month to ensure you are prepared.

For your information, here are the fees for taking the exams. As you can see, the cost of taking an exam is not cheap, and it would be a waste of money to fail it.

BrittaPerry Mon 05-Nov-12 19:49:02

Is grade 5 still equivlent to GCSE?

Does it need to be an actual teacher in the instrument? My family are brass bandy, so I have no shortage of musicians, but none are actual music teachers (well, m dad used to run the junior band)

quirrelquarrel Mon 05-Nov-12 20:12:25

The only thing is, you couldn't just turn up and take it. You'd have to train yourself in the style of the exams first. Which might ruin it for you from the curiosity point of view.

frogspoon Mon 05-Nov-12 20:18:04

From wikipedia:
ABRSM graded examinations are QCA-accredited at three levels in the National Qualifications Framework: Grades 1–3 at Level 1 (Foundation: equivalent to GCSE grades D–G), Grades 4–5 at Level 2 (Intermediate: GCSE grades A*–C) and Grades 6–8 at Level 3 (Advanced: A-Level).

So yes, grade 5 would be broadly equivalent to GCSE.

You don't need a qualified teacher with a diploma/PGCE etc (although they would probably have the training and knowledge to assist you more.) It's a bit like driving lessons- you could learn with a family member and pass, but you would probably pass faster with a qualified instructor. However, qualifications aren't everything, I know some excellent professional musicians and music teachers who are self taught and have no qualifications.

But you do need someone who is a highly competent musician (i.e. not an amateur) with a musical ear.

BrittaPerry Mon 05-Nov-12 20:23:02

So, would it be sensible to aim to take a theory grade being self taught, then find a tutor for one of my instruments?

picturesinthefirelight Mon 05-Nov-12 20:24:12

What about starting off with the prep test or Performance Assesment? The latter is designed for adult learned.

ReallyTired Mon 05-Nov-12 20:29:58

There are lots of stuff about grades on Youtube. I think it would be fairly easy to prepare yourself for a music theory exam without a music teacher. You would need to work through a few books first.

I think for a practical exam you would need a teacher especially if you are going for a higher grade.

ShellingPeas Mon 05-Nov-12 20:31:20

Umm, actually frogspoon for ABRSM and Trinity Guildhall exams you don't need to pass all sections to gain an overall pass - you just need to get an aggregate of 100/150 (for ABRSM) and 60/100 (TG). You could pass if you play all 3 pieces to a very high standard and then attempt all the other sections but fail them as they give you a minimum mark for just having a go.

Britta - my advice is look at the syllabus for the instrument you want to play (download from the websites), see what music there is, check out the requirements for scales/technical work and then have some lessons once you've had a try out of everything. You might not need them every week - I have a number of adult students who come fortnightly or monthly depending on what they want and what they're doing at the time.

Regarding theory, I wouldn't advise sitting any theory exams until grade 5 - run through the books and sample/old papers and then see if there is anything that you don't understand. ABRSM publish 2 books which are useful - "The AB Guide to Music Theory" parts 1 and 2 - which you can use alongside their workbooks.

ShellingPeas Mon 05-Nov-12 20:33:02

Oh and BTW you aren't being unreasonable - I sat music exams as an adult and enjoyed the process. Gives you something to aim for.

mysteryfairy Mon 05-Nov-12 20:42:28

Another complication is that you would need an accompanist for two of the three pieces for most instruments. I would not know where to start with getting one, other than via our music teachers. DS1 is grade 7 piano but finds it very difficult to accompany his siblings and I would never risk using him in an exam.

I think grade 5 might be equivalent to the solo performance aspect of GCSE, but its not equivalent to a full GCSE where they also do group performance, composition and listening. DD (age 10) has a grade 5 but could not achieve a GCSE pass.

Alitoomanykids Mon 05-Nov-12 20:42:43

Good luck if you decide to go for it. I've been harbouring thoughts about going back to do some of the higher grades on french horn after a 23 yr break! I currently play with two local wind bands but that's as far as I have got at present.

You dont need to do any music theory exams formally unless you want to sit one of the instrumental exams beyond grade 5 although (from memory and it was a long time ago) you may be asked the odd thing in the grading. Beyond Grade 5 you also need to have Grade 5 theory. There is an excellent series of music theory lessons on You tube by a Canadian chap, nickname is Lypur. Its roughly equivalent to Grade 5 theory I think. You used to be able to buy these little white theory booklets to work through for the lower grades, probably can still get something like these online too.

I think the ABRSM grading exams a are a little like a driving test in that there are specific things that the examiners will look for in the set pieces and you have to deliver technically what they are looking for as well as musically. Its not necessarily how you would play at home for fun or even in a band. I would have thought that some formal lessons in the run up to the exam would probably be worth the money. You can check out the syllabus online and buy the music yourself from any online musicstore. I like musicnotes.co.uk and I think they also list the current syllabus plus they also have cd's with the piano accompaniments for relevant pieces.

The Trinity Guildhall series of book of scales and exercises is good. Happy tooting!

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