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Music Exam Preparation

(12 Posts)
SaveMeNow Sun 16-Jun-13 20:47:58


This is probably a piece of string question - but roughly how long do children normally take to prepare for an exam - so from when they are first given the grade pieces to actually taking the exam?


Theas18 Sun 16-Jun-13 22:21:46

Gosh very much a "piece of string" question. Depending on the temperament and ability of the child and probably the same of the teacher LOL.

In school lessons it has, for us dragged on for months and basically a bit of an exam sausage machine where you just go from one to the next. Eg DD2 did a recorder exam every 2 terms to get to grade5 at year 6. Not an inspiring thing to do really. We've been off that treadmill a long time. Now they do an exam when the time is right, and usually we pay the fee pretty much as the pieces start being learned.

That's probably to do with age,maturity and underlying need to have the exam as a motivator, but it seems to focus them well LOL (and terrify me- I'd never have taken an exam if I hadn't got at least the scales sorted before the fee was paid!).

They also, take exams when they are performing well above the standard needed. This seems to be a HUGE mindset change compared to school lessons where there is push to prove how good they are all the time. It's nice to go into an exam knowing you can do things and perform, rather than knowing it's at the limit of your technical ability and the musicality isn't there as you are fighting to play the pieces.

HTH. If I was doing all this again I think I'd not get on the exam trail until my child was begging to do them! (unless we needed grades for say scholarship applications)

SaveMeNow Sun 16-Jun-13 22:42:08

Thanks! I am just asking because my 6 year olds piano teacher has mentioned she is almost ready to start preparing for her Grade 1. DD is hugely excited at the prospect (and extra motivated to practise hard!). However, I am also conscious that she is likely to have LAMDA exams coming up at Christmas plus ballet and modern either at Christmas or in March.....worried she is going to suddenly become overrun with exams!! Obviously need to manage it so this isn't the case!!

Phineyj Sun 16-Jun-13 22:44:13

Something to bear in mind is that too much practice of pieces (especially at the lower grades) can get very boring for the student and that may come across in the eventual performance! I would have thought 3 months max to prepare, assuming weekly lessons and practice, including learning the scales and arpeggios, practising sight reading and whatever else is required these days.

MadeOfStarDust Mon 17-Jun-13 11:46:41

We tend to do a grade a year... we get the books at the start of the year, listen to the CDs, get any additional music for the off-book pieces they like and learn maybe 8 of the exam pieces over the year so they can choose which to present.

(but we are laid back and not pushing for exams- some do at least 2 grades a year.. DD1 (12) is doing grade 3 this year. DD2 is doing the work but does not want to do the exams after doing grade 1 - which is fine with us)

interspersed with exam work is general "I want to learn that" - usually easy-piano pop songs of the moment... or Pirates of the Caribbean type theme tunes.

Scales should be part of lessons all the time anyhow and ours do 2 or 3 grade appropriate sight readings per lesson and we bone up on the Aural stuff in the final month...

Mine have a weekly lesson, practise 3 times a week when no exam due, and every day in the month before the exam. Spring is our usual exam time as it fits well with us - but have been pushed to summer this year due to DD1 moving to secondary school..

So to answer the question.... - we take a year - including choosing the pieces - some people do 2 to 3 months... most people somewhere in between...

Xenia Mon 17-Jun-13 11:57:28

A grade a year sounds sensible. I did a theory exam (1/2/3/5) and a singing grade a term (3/4/5/6 and 7) with the twins for a while which was quite fun but would not do that with an instrument and they got a music scholarship (not that you really need a load of grades for those if you're good anyway) but on their instrument they did about a grade a year which leaves time for other fun pieces and relaxing but also a more concentrated phrase to do the exam.

I think it depends on the practice. If a child never practises they may never get to grade 1 in even 10 years. 5 - 10 minutes every day is better than once a week.

flakjacket Mon 17-Jun-13 12:07:03

DD2 is taking grade 3 violin in a couple of weeks and chose her pieces just before Easter. DD1 is taking grade 4 flute and chose her pieces over a year ago but has wavered about taking the exam. In my opinion she should have chosen different pieces or just skipped the exam and moved on but there we go hmm.
DD2 generally has a term of playing all sorts, then chooses her pieces and goes for an exam (Grade 1 Easter 2012, 2 in November, 3 now). DD1 took grade 1 in July 2010, 2 in November 2010, 3 in November 2011 and now 4 is in a few weeks. She had a bad experience at grade 3 (another candidates dad shouted at her shock because his daughter was late and he wanted DD1 to give up her exam time) and it has taken her this long to work up the courage to take another exam.

hardboiled Mon 17-Jun-13 12:36:12

A grade a year. Both DS and teachers refuse to sign up for exams till he is playing at distinction level. It works and he gets distinctions but he plays the pieces for months and months because of the time between signing up and the actual exam date!

SaveMeNow Mon 17-Jun-13 13:25:12

So from when the child is at the appropriate level around a term to learn the pieces etc? However if they start the pieces before they are at the required level and learn them as they go along then anything up to a year?

hardboiled Mon 17-Jun-13 13:47:38

With the higher grades, if it is piano, I think it is a bit rushed only one term for the three pieces even if they are at the level. That would be about a month and a bit for each piece playing it note perfect plus adding the dynamics etc plus keeping up all the scales, aural, sightreading... from grade 5 that is tight.

It's not only about learning a piece. Once you know it that's where the real work starts to make it come alive, that is, to make it sound like music versus robotic reproduction.

SaveMeNow Mon 17-Jun-13 14:06:22

Sorry hardboiled - I'm thinking about the lower grades - my dd is only "approaching" Grade 1.

hardboiled Mon 17-Jun-13 16:06:24

Sorry I missed that smile

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