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GCSE music - second instrument useful?

(11 Posts)
AChickenCalledKorma Sat 24-Jan-15 22:31:41

DD1 is 12 and plays piano and clarinet. Piano is her favourite - she's currently preparing for Grade 4. The clarinet sits in its case most of the time, but she enjoys the lessons and (annoyingly) has just bagged Grade 2 with a good merit, despite minimal effort on her part.

Every so often, she considers giving up clarinet because she has lots of other things on her plate. But she's keen to continue music to GCSE. One reason she's keeping going is so that she has a second instrument under her belt. But I don't really know whether that's necessary. I feel that an ensemble instrument is probably a handy thing to have available, but I may be over-thinking it.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Sun 25-Jan-15 01:27:43

Its not necessary for GCSE music. There is a performance piece with others but this could be a piano duet.

JulieMichelleRobinson Sun 25-Jan-15 09:05:37

Not necessary but it means she has something she can use for playing in a band or orchestra. Piano can get a bit solitary.

I used piano, violin and viola at A-level but it confused the examiners to the extent that in one piece of coursework they assessed my accompanist not me... Funny bug I lost marks.

Ferguson Sun 25-Jan-15 18:37:56

As others say, not essential, but it would be a shame to stop clarinet.

You are right that an ensemble instrument is good, as she can slot into any kind of band/group that might be available. Clarinet could also lead on to saxophone, particularly if she likes music outside of the Classical sphere. And her interests may change and develop, as she matures - in age, and in musical awareness.

Piano is good, as it can illustrate music Theory in a 'graphical' way, more so than other instruments. And she may need Theory if she goes on to the higher Grades.

Lindor Sun 25-Jan-15 18:42:48

not essential. Both my dc were told to sing for their performances as it would be easier to get a good grade, even though they both played their instruments well! The school always gets excellent music results

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 26-Jan-15 16:46:00

Thanks all - that's useful stuff. At the moment, she's inclined to carry on, and agrees that an ensemble instrument is a good idea. Interesting about it being easier to get a good mark in singing, though. Why is that, I wonder?

Theas18 Mon 26-Jan-15 16:52:06

Not necessary but useful. Understanding of a transposing instrument is always good.

I'd say carry on in a low key way and just enjoy it. Piano is very solitary really- though remember for her " group" performance accompanying a solo/duet/trio or a piano trio/quartet would be very acceptable too ( depending on the standard of players available of course)

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 26-Jan-15 22:31:43

Singing a grade 4 song has to be easier than playing a grade 4 piece on violin, piano or oboe...

AChickenCalledKorma Tue 27-Jan-15 13:49:20

I don't see why it should be JulieMichelleRobinson. Surely Grade 4 should be equally difficult in all instruments (including voice)? Every instrument has its own different challenges but I kind of assumed the exam board would be setting pieces that are similarly challenging in their different ways.

So singing doesn't involve co-ordinating your fingers like you do on a piano keyboard or the valves of a wind instrument, but it does involve techniques that instrumentalists don't need to think about so much - like diction, bringing out the meaning of the words and making your body produce a wide range of notes with equal tone.

(Sorry - a bit of a side issue, but I'm a keen singer and this intrigues me!)

JulieMichelleRobinson Wed 28-Jan-15 14:08:47


I think it has to do with the way that you are assessed on the level of the musical performance rather than on the level of technique/practise required to achieve that performance level. Different amounts of lessons/practise would be required to reach grade 1 on, say, flute vs piano.

Most young people who sing for GCSE don't sing classical arias - they are likely to be singing pop songs or musical theatre. I'm pretty sure you could get an A at GCSE (which is roughly grade 4ish) by being able to sing in tune, in time, with reasonable expression and words that are clear enough to be understood. You also get more than one take in which to achieve this. I think it's fair to say that most people with any musical interest (say, enough to take it for GCSE) can sing a song reasonably well, but I wouldn't expect someone to play the Fiocco Allegro on the violin having never had a lesson.

Of course, I may be completely unrealistic as I won a choral scholarship at university having never had a singing lesson or sung in a 'proper' choir.

AChickenCalledKorma Wed 28-Jan-15 22:20:46

Interesting - have just had a look at the ABRSM marking criteria and I can see the point. There is hardly anything about mastering the technique needed to that particular instrument. And I see your point about a student who is basically musical having a good chance of delivering a song in tune and with a convincing performance.

(Goes away slightly depressed, but understanding better how come DD1 is able to snatch a merit out of nowhere after next to no practice on her second instrument grin )

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