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Music Exams For? Against?

(63 Posts)
morethanpotatoprints Mon 24-Jun-13 22:34:30

Just that really.

I would like to know why some people choose the exam route and why some don't.

What are the advantages and disadvantages.

What is the point?

My dd has done exams, and is doing one soon, so I am not really against them. However, have recently found I'm not for them either.

LilyBolero Thu 27-Jun-13 23:54:12

Duh, on iPhone, that should say I really LIKE...etc

Theas18 Fri 28-Jun-13 00:00:21

I've said it before, asp hope I'm not boring you!

there seems to be pressure at primary age to do at least an exam per year per instrument. why? mainly I think, in retrospect the teachers like it so they" prove their worth" . some kids like it and maybe need the push. certainly performance opportunities are good.

however, the best teacher we have had changed my view, and i wish we didn't do so many back then. now we do them when the time it's right out there is a reason.

however, having the certificates can be important when applying for ensemblesb scholarships etc . we are fortunate I guess that the teacher in question ifs very well regarded so if he says you are good enough to audition for something they won't say " but your last exam was only grade 5" ( yes but that was 3 yrs ago lol)

Theas18 Fri 28-Jun-13 00:01:44

worth making sure thou get grade 5 theory though!

FastLoris Fri 28-Jun-13 22:45:02

I'm a piano teacher and have gradually, but now pretty much completely, abandoned exams. Some of the factors that led me this way:

1. While exams can be a good performance opportunity, in the sense of working a piece up and being under pressure to do it well, they're not the best type of such opportunity for young people, particularly beginners. They need far more informal opportunity, where they can try things out and fail and start again and it doesn't matter. Really, people play music to and with each other all over the world in all kinds of ways, and the western classical academic paradigm of the formal concert that is VERY SERIOUS (upon which exams are based) is only one.

2. Exams too easily end up dominating lesson and practice content. Pieces need to be continued past their relevance, scales and technical work need to be chosen according to exam requirements rather than what is best for the student. Important other skills like improvising and playing by ear get relegated to occasional between-exam diversions.

3. One thing few people realise, but I perhaps do by virtue of having worked for a number of exam boards, is how arbitrary and of debatable relevance is the content itself of many (most?) exam syllabuses. I just don't buy that the particularly requirements of pieces, scales, sight reading etc as laid down by the ABRSM etc. are an accurate summary of what most people should learn as they progress on an instrument. Scales for example should be integrated with key and chord knowledge, analysis and improvisation; they should be taught as part of an integrated package of understanding how music works and how you can manipulate it. Instead, the exam syllabuses promote meaningless rote learning and superficial reproduction.

These problems don't matter too much when a student is very able and practices a lot, because they can do an exam now and then without it having to dominate everything. But for most, with a short lesson each week and limited practice and support from home, there are better ways to be spending the time.

Theas18 Sat 29-Jun-13 16:14:32

Fastloris I love you ! You have summed it up perfectly. It takes a very confident teacher to do this though doesn't it .

richmal Sun 30-Jun-13 08:07:16

Surely the most important thing is to listen to what the child wants to do? DD likes doing exams as she feels it means it shows her she can play.
I also like her to pick the pieces. I would rather her get a lower grade on something she has stuggled to master but found fun than an easy option from the sylabus.
For some reason she also likes doing scales and I tend to get her to leave this to the end of her practice as a treat.

MadeOfStarDust Sun 30-Jun-13 08:13:16

my dd always pick her own pieces - usually the off book ones so it costs us a fortune in buying extra music books... would not suggest an easier piece option as it really does show if a child likes a piece or not..

quip Sun 30-Jun-13 20:00:29

My ds has been playing his grade1 pieces all term. We're both fed up with them. Roll on next week. I won't be encouraging him to do more grades in a hurry.

MadeOfStarDust Sun 30-Jun-13 20:28:28

a term is a bit long for all of them together...

my DD takes a year over a grade and learns around 8 of the pieces (along with any easy piano pop stuff she wants) - the ones she wants to have a go at - then with a month to go she decides which of them she wants to perform at the exam and concentrates on those for speed/dynamic perfecting.... just doing 3 pieces is a sure route to boredom for everybody, it becomes just learning for the exam, not for fun.

LilyBolero Mon 01-Jul-13 08:29:18

Again, although I totally agree that some kids will get bored, my dd totally doesn't ; she really likes polishing and perfecting, and it is hard to stop her working on pieces even after an exam has passed. Kids are different!

Just to add though, although kids may get a little bored, the last stage of learning a piece (perfecting, polishing etc) is the stage that an exam tends to enforce, which kids may miss otherwise, but it is a reality of music!

morethanpotatoprints Wed 10-Jul-13 18:32:45

Hello, just thought i'd give you an update.
dd is doing grade 3 violin soon as we had already paid for it, she has worked hard and wants to do it.
She is then concentrating on good effective and fun practice for a year, then next summer taking a grade 5 violin, then winter gr6 sax and gr5 singing. Not sure about piano as not playing that long, but will do grade 5 rather than early grades.
Your comments have been very helpful, and whilst I'm not against exams found that with all the music she does, there was always an exam on the go. Many thanks again for all your valuable input thanks

quip Fri 12-Jul-13 17:10:59

Last time I posted I was hating the exam. Ds had gpt thoroughly fed up of all his scales and pieces. Then he did the exam and came skipping out telling me he wanted to do all his other grades. He got his result and he's even more keen than ever even though I told him he could have a couple of weeks off practice. So perhaps for ds the exams are a good thing.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 13-Jul-13 17:15:36


Wow, that is good. Obviously exams are good for your ds. Maybe it was the length of time spent in preparation that was the problem. Some teachers just get them to practice exam pieces for a year and nothing else.

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