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Support group for parents of children taking music exams!

(1000 Posts)
Wafflenose Mon 14-Nov-11 22:03:28

Hello, I'm feeling excited, nervous and wobbly because my daughter is taking her first music exam in three weeks. I'm a music teacher and am very used to getting children through the exams, keeping the parents informed, helping to focus practice, etc, but this is my first experience with my own child doing an exam and for some reason it's more scary than putting other people's children in! I think she will be OK (and the other thirteen I have entered this term) but I'm not!! Any tips for the 'other side' (parents rather than music teachers) for how to keep us both calm on the day would be gratefully received! Does it get easier as they become more experienced? Am thinking not...

She is taking part in the local music festival tomorrow, to gain performance experience. She's wildly excited, and I've got the jitters!!

Theas18 Fri 14-Jun-13 16:23:39

Good luck to all in this terms round of exams.

DS has grade 7 piano I think... he's so laid back about it he's horizontal. I think after AS's he's still recovering and he'll suddenly realise LOL.

DD2 has grade 6 recorder, but that should be fine. At least we do have the accompanist booked this time! It's at the most inaccessible centre ever so I have to tweak work to get her there.

NYRO audition Sunday slightly hampered but the fact her teacher can't help her with the studies which is a shame.

Wafflenose Fri 14-Jun-13 16:57:58

Good luck to everyone! Hopefully Theas DS will put in the work, and DD will do well. Why can the teacher not help with the study? Is it against the rules, or are they just impossible?! MiniWaffle wants to audition when she is old enough and good enough, but that won't be for a few years, and even then (if she is still interested) we would be looking at the Training Orchestra.

MiniWaffle did her Grade 4 Recorder on Monday, and got her 5th merit! (Only exam she hasn't had a merit for is Piano Prep Test, where marks aren't awarded). She played brilliantly in her warmup, then made quite a few mistakes in her two excellent pieces. She got 10/10 for sight reading, 9/10 for aural and everything else was fine. She says she wants to do Grade 5 in a year. I have said she needs to practise more if she plans to do that, and she definitely needs to get her treble level up now.

Next up: Grade 2 Flute, next term (groan! More expense!)

Smithlings Sun 16-Jun-13 21:53:32

Hello, just found this post and read it with great interest!

My DDs (age 9) are supposedly doing music exams at the end of term - one is doing Grade 1 piano and the other Grade 2 clarinet - but I'm having serious doubts about going through with it, especially for my little pianist. She started work on her Grade 1 in Sep so has played practically nothing but those three pieces for 9 months and they are still nowhere near ready...we are not a very musical family (unlike most on here)! In hindsight I think her teacher started her on the Grade 1 stuff before she was ready. I don;t think she's ever played one of her pieces through without a mistake and the trouble is as soon as she makes a mistake she insists on starting again from the beginning - I'm really trying to get out of this habit as I'm not sure how accommodating the examiner will be if she wants to restart every piece 5 times, and besides, it means the second half of the piece never gets as much practice as the first. I think it would be much more productive if she could concentrate on the tricky bits in each piece and really work on those rather than just playing the whole thing through every time, but will she listen?!. The scales are all right (though I've not heard any evidence of 'shaping', didn't know about that lol), aural pretty iffy and the sight reading appalling - she is very good at learning her stuff off by heart so never actually looks at her music.

Her twin did her Grade 1 clarinet in April - her first music exam (she got high pass) - and I really wasn't expecting her teacher to put her straight in to Grade 2, and I'm just not sure she'll be ready. She can get a lovely sound of that thing but not consistently and still struggles with the upper register notes.

Sorry to ramble on like this, but with only a month to go, I'm beginning to get a bit stressed about it!

Theas18 Sun 16-Jun-13 22:29:34

Smithlings my advice ( with grey haired old lady hindsight) would be don't do it, especially for the pianist. did she do prep test/initial at all? Talk to the teacher and maybe get her into better practice habits before going any further. Do do prep test/initial (depends on which board) and get an easy exam nicely under her belt for confidence ( both of the pre grade 1 tests don't get a mark just a lovely comment sheet from the examiner, you can't fail). Get her enjoying playing.

She could probably pass grade 1, just with a restart or 2 in her pieces, but as you say that approach meas she doesn't actually every learn the ending....TBH the kids now really learn stuff from the end- start with the last bit and work forward. Sounds potty but it means the last phrase is the best known and this is the bit that the listener will remember best.

Wafflenose Mon 17-Jun-13 10:01:03

I totally agree. It sounds like the pianist isn't ready - I have taught one like this before. He'd done three pieces for a year(with another teacher) and they sounded dreadful. When he came to me, we did lots of fun stuff and built his skills for a year, then learned new Grade 1 pieces. He passed!

Grade 1 to Grade 2 clarinet in a term is madness, as it doesn't give long enough to master the high notes properly. Granted, some children get to Grade 2 clarinet within a year anyway, but if a term is spent on Grade 1 pieces, then the following term on Grade 2 pieces, I don't really see how the requisite skills have had enough time to develop. The clarinet twin might pass, but surely it's better to have good technique (and time to play lots of enjoyable pieces) before rushing on to the next grade? (I teach both instruments, but am primarily a clarinetist).

Smithlings Mon 17-Jun-13 12:47:24

Theas and Waffle, thank you so much for your response. What you say really confirms the thoughts that have been going round my head, usually at 5 o'clock in the morning! It will be painful to pull the girls out of their exams and tell them they're not ready, but I think it would be worse to do the exams and do really badly.

I just feel awful that I've let this situation go on for so long, when I've had doubts for a while about the way it was all going, particularly about piano-playing DD. I feel like we've effectively wasted this whole year, when she could have been having more fun playing easier pieces and building up skills and confidence before launching into exams. The trouble is they currently both learn at school, so I never see their teacher - they have the same one - the first time I ever met her was in April at DD1's clarinet exam. And as I don't know much about music or music exams, I have just gone along with the teacher, and she seems to be pretty exam-oriented. I have actually given notice for the piano lessons because I intend to find a teacher outside of school for next term, as I think a fresh start is called for, whether or not she does the exam now. And it's cheaper!

Both girls enjoy playing their instruments and they never have to be nagged to practise (although they don't always practise as effectively as they could do), and it would be a shame for that to be spoilt by exam disaster!

Wafflenose Mon 17-Jun-13 13:45:36

I'm glad you found our input helpful. Can you ask to go in and watch a school lesson? At the schools I teach in, that would be fine. Or can you get the teacher's number and have a good chat with her? Good luck to you and your twins, whatever you decide.

Lancelottie Mon 17-Jun-13 14:21:35

I'm similarly pondering pulling DD out of her piano exam, Smithlings, so you're not the only one.

Her teacher was breezily sure that 'if she starts working on them now she'll get bored if we leave it till next term', but like your DD, she's yet to play them right through without a stumble or two.

duchesse Mon 17-Jun-13 14:26:00

DD3 currently juggling GCSEs and upcoming grade 6 on July 8th. She says she'll practise loads in the fortnight from the end of her exams to the actual exam. Hoping that works for her... She did very well in grade 5 last year and ought to have taken g 6 at Christmas to get it out of the way but she/we didn't get organised in time to book her in.

I don't do anything re music at all though- she is entirely self-motivated. I don't believe in being the stick re practise and have never had to. The flip downside is so far only one musical child out of 4. The others are very good at other things. My MIL delighted there's one at least.

Smithlings Mon 17-Jun-13 21:59:09

Been mulling it over more today...

I don't know why I get so stressed about it really - there's nothing riding on whether they do the exams now, or next term or never... except that it's a blow to the self-esteem to be withdrawn from the exam. My violin teacher withdrew me from two exams when I was a kid and I ended up thinking I was rubbish. Probably true, but I find I don't want my kids to think like that! Plus I can't bear the thought of all that effort over the past year being for nothing - three terms of listening to Chattannooga Choochoo cheerfully played to a rhythm that is all her own...

I'm going to see the school music teacher and talk it over with her before ringing the clarinet/piano teacher. I think it would help to have a second opinion. Maybe DD2 is not so bad. Part of me feels if she could just sit the exam and pass it, even if only by one mark, we could tick that box and move on, whereas if she doesn't do it it'll still be hanging over us like a mountain to climb.

Good luck with your daughter Duchesse, she sounds like she is doing very well to cope with GCSEs and music exams. 1 musical kid out of 4 is not bad going - I have 0 out of 3! In a way it's nice if they all have their own talents - less competition.

Lancelottie Mon 17-Jun-13 23:23:12

Hi Smithlings,
Well, I've pulled DD out of hers, with the teacher's grateful agreement, having heard the right old mashup she was making of all three pieces in her lesson today. She was vastly relieved. And went home and played the first one better than she's managed yet.

Hmm, I don't think panic suits her.

maggiethecat Wed 19-Jun-13 21:59:45

Getting the balance between performing the pieces well (as well as being proficient in the other areas) and not dying of boredom can be tricky. But I think better to be overprepared than under.

singinggirl Thu 20-Jun-13 23:12:03

DS1 is taking Grade 4 violin on July 2nd, which is now giving me nightmares! Since his violin teacher wanted to enter him this term I delayed his Grade 5 piano till Christmas, but I think we should have done it the other way round! His pieces are nearly there (I'm accompanying him, so lots of practising together has been insisted on) but his scales are awful. And now his voice is breaking, making his aural somewhat dodgy - he generally gets full marks for aural. Aaagh!

Wafflenose Fri 21-Jun-13 11:01:17

Good luck to him! My last pupil of the term is taking Grade 1 piano on the same day as your DS.

For the aural, the singing part is worth about 4 marks of the whole exam. If his voice is breaking, he's allowed to whistle instead of sing. Or he can play the tune back on his violin if he wants to.

For scales, I'd draw up a chart, and go through them all each day, marking off which ones are OK and which ones aren't. It helps to focus the mind!

Happypiglet Fri 21-Jun-13 14:44:43

Hi all DS1 took Grade 1 cello on Monday with Trinity. I had heard that results come through quite quickly for this Board but nothing yet- how long does it usually take? Does the teacher get the result first?
He seemed to do OK and 'enjoyed himself' which I guess is the main thing.
He takes Grade 1 piano on 13 July with ABSM (who I know take ages with the results!). I am glad he had cello first as his teacher accompanied him and I think that is a confidence boost as he was also able to warm up with him. Piano is such a solitary affair- his teacher won't even be there.. I remember from my exams how daunting it can be especially on an unknown piano...

RaspberryLemonPavlova Fri 21-Jun-13 22:20:07

At our exam centre, the local administrator was given all the results at the end of the week and posted the results to DS2s teachers on Saturday, who rang/texted me Monday evening.

When school is a centre they get separate examiners for different instruments but I think they are still supposed to wait until the end of the session. However DS knew in 24 hours this year.

nosuchwordascant Sat 22-Jun-13 08:14:19

well my dd 9 did her grade 2 singing on the 10th and grade 3 violin on the 11th june ABRSM and results were in yesterday ! very quick ... distinction for violin and high merit for singing 127 very proud mummy .... on to grade 2 piano and grade 2 oboe in November !!

Theas18 Sat 22-Jun-13 21:35:15

Brilliant results nosuchword junior!

Viewofthehills Sun 23-Jun-13 11:26:41

DD1 did grade 5 singing yesterday- first ABRSM exam (for singing) as the schools do their own version up to grade 5 to save us money. Does anyone know how forgiving they are likely to be over 6 forgotten words in the middle of the song? Accompanist says she picked it up well and carried on.

jalopy Sun 23-Jun-13 20:54:20

I should know this but I don't. My daughter will be doing her grade 4 clarinet soon. Will she be tested on italian words/terms? I cant remember and her tutor hasn't mentioned anything.

Theas18 Sun 23-Jun-13 21:57:12


Depends, look up the relevant syllabus on line. Trinity have a musical knowledge option (money for old rope if it's a 2nd/3rd study and you are functioning at a higher level on another instrument as you know all the terminology anyway!)

In fact with my old timer at on I'd say ALWAYS chect the syllabus on line. We have had " moments" in the past when the teacher has been wrong (most notably with DD1 singing when she had no folk song prepared and went out in a state to be told " don't be daft go in and sing the ash grove- which she did and got full marks .... but still!) to DS having to show a printout to the examiner to prove that his " old syllabus " piece was still valid for that one " overlap " sitting.

SaveMeNow Sun 23-Jun-13 22:28:25

My daughter will be doing her grade 1 piano in November and is also starting singing lessons in September (at the suggestion of her piano teacher after doing some aural work with her). My question really is how does Grade 1 singing equate to Grade 1 piano?? I know some instruments (eg violin) are much harder to get to G1 than an instrument such as piano - so I was wondering where singing sat in the whole scheme of things??

Emarri Mon 24-Jun-13 07:41:16

DD1 taking grade 1 keyboard today. Aaaah!

Theas18 Mon 24-Jun-13 07:45:58


All exams are supposed to be the same standard I believe. clearly a completely new thing like piano takes a while to get to grade1, whereas singing, which a child does spontaneously may be easy. THey've been singing since a few months old and learning to use/control their voice after all!

Always good to do some singing as it supports instrument work well. Be wary of the " exam sausage factory" though. Primary age kids seem to be pushed from one exam to the next all the time. Make sure it suits you and your child and that you are doing repertoire nor just exams. As an " oldie" I wish i'd have spotted this when the were 7-11yrs not post 11+ . THey'd have been just as good but less pressurised. Some kids like it /need pressure though!

SaveMeNow Mon 24-Jun-13 10:03:11

Thanks! I was just curious really as that's exactly what I was thinking. The hard part of the piano has been learning to read music - but now she can do that (at least to Grade 1 level anyway) I would of thought singing would be easier. Plus she continually sings whilst playing the piano. Wasn't sure if I was missing something though!

Thanks for the advice re the exams - it's certainly something I am going to keep my eye on as she does dancing and LAMDA as well so I don't want her to be just launching from exam to exam. I think it's good to get a few exams under your belt whilst you are little though - takes the fear out of them!

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