Explaining music exams(19 Posts)
Dd's piano teacher told me yesterday she'd like to be entering dd for grade 1 theory this autumn. She'll be just about eight.
I'm more than happy for dd to be doing music exams but how do I explain that while they are not the be all and end all, you do have to work. Her violin teacher was also talking about exams recently too.
For context, I have grade 8 in one instrument and grade 7 in another (and indeed studied music at university...) but was utterly hopeless at exams of any description.
Preempting slightly, but how do I explain the while exam thing? Dd's just done SATs so has experience of testing but you can fail music exams
as I know from bitter experience.
It will all be fine, it really will. It's rare to fail, I know you did but it's not usual because teachers don't enter them until they are more than ready. I don't think you need to make a big thing out of it, tell them that you turn up, do your best and go home (with some sort of a treat on the way). That's it. DS was seven and a half when he took G1, we had to have a talk beforehand about not chatting to the examiner about guinea pigs but the big thing for him was a couple of hours off school. It was exciting rather than stressful.
We went through the structure of the exam, what to expect so that he wouldn't be floored when they asked whether he was doing scales or exercises. It was more important for the instrumental than the theory because you can practise old theory papers under exam conditions but it's harder to practise the instrumental exam because it's a closer relationship with the examiner. You can pretend that your teacher is the examiner but it's not the same.
I assumed that my husband would be at home with all this seeing as he had a collection of exam certificates but his were so long ago that he couldn't remember much about them.
I tell the kids: It's about showing the examiner what you can do. They want to give you marks! So show off all the right notes, rhythms, dynamics, phrasings, tempo changes. Tell them the story in your pieces.
Yes, that's my issue exactly - it's been 27 years since I did my first exam!
Thanks for the advice, very useful. I've also looked at the ABRSM website and there are tips there too.
I could be playing flawlessly ten minutes before an exam and still fail it. Same applied to my A-Levels and every assessment scenario at university (aside from anything on voice).
I think the best policy would probably be to not share this problem I have with dd...?
Yes, some things are best not passed on to the next generation. Get practising your breezy air of nonchalance now and fake it for their benefit. Look on the positives, by the time they reach their GSCEs you will be feeling much better about their school exams because of all of the music exams they will have done by then.
I'm sorry you've had a bad history of performance exams but for all you know your children may be born performers who are totally at home in the spotlight.
It's helpful to play in non exam situations that have assessments too, like local festivals - if your username is where you're at now then bring your DD to this one next year, we're very friendly! www.hmyf.org.uk
If you look on the ABRSM website, there is a youtube video of a Grade 1 exam, which might be useful to watch.
I agree that it's probably better to not tell her that you yourself don't play your best in an exam, I am the same! I also tell my DC that the examiners are nice (they usually are, much less scary than when I did my exams!) and they want to give you as many marks as possible, but you have to show them how well you can do.
I would say this is a chance for you to show the examiner what you can do.
My dcs have grown up performing, doing musical festivals and taking music exams, so they just seem to take it in their stride now. Ds (8) recently got distinction at grade 3, despite a big fail on the sightreading section. I would advise being over ready in all areas so when she is asked scales or aural she can perform with confidence. Definitely get the pieces as perfect and as musical as possible too. My dcs tend to get marks of 27/28/29 for the pieces, which automatically puts them in a good position.
Cheers drummer, we're north but that looks most interesting! Never even thought of something like that.
Dd has practiced voluntarily today which is rare (violin needs no coercion, our poor neighbours...) so I'm hoping the thought of a grade might be a motivation to her (and while I've been writing this reply she's been merrily doing some theory!).
Well, the worst that can happen is you don't get a nice certificate... ;-)
You say it is 'Grade 1 Theory' in the autumn: is that really what you mean, as usually students start with the practical, PLAYING exams I would have thought, and Theory is tackled a bit later?
If she is doing Theory, will she also do the Practical?
@tokelau is right, the mock exam video from ABRSM that you can find on their website is great insight - takes the pressure off, shows you what to expect!
Totally selfish post here - but i have a question for you all: I'm currently recording ABRSM video study-guides for the company I work for (we sell these online, they're recorded by really inspiring/top musicians) and was wondering if that is something that you would purchase for/on behalf of your little ones? How old are they? I assume they're Youtbe-savvy and video-streaming experts!
Do you think watching practice guides online, detailed descriptions on how to study, how to play the pieces, how to pass the exam from a great artist would help them get more enjoyment out of practicing?
Good luck with their exams, I know they'll do great!
I would find something like that very useful. Ds (7) is doing grade 4 violin in autumn term and grade 1 guitar, while dd (11) is doing grade 7 violin and grade 6 cello. We always look on YouTube for ideas.
I would find more aural practises helpful as it is very difficult for the higher grades. Also watching 'how scales should be done' would be good too.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I am also confused - is it a theory exam or a practical exam? Because if it's theory, showing her a video will be totally irrelevant! And if it's practical, most teachers start with the Prep Test, which is like a "pre Grade 1" exam that you cannot fail. It gives young children exam experience and a nice certificate, without the pressure of having to get a certain mark.
cescla I don't think I would buy a video like that, to be honest. There are plenty of videos already online to show kids what the pieces "should" sound like. Advice on practise technique and how to pass the exam is what I pay her teacher for. I think she would feel rather undermined if DD1 was then going off and watching videos instead of practising in the way her teacher has advised her to. (Caveat - DD1's teacher is an ABRSM examiner so we are pretty confident that she knows how to help kids pass the exams )
To clarify: I definitely do mean theory. Practical will follow but dd really seems to understand theory.
I know it's unusual but given that dd's very nearly grade 1 theory now I don't see the merit in waiting for the practical to catch up as it were. Dd started theory at the same time as learning piano full stop which again I appreciate is unusual unusual!
Thanks for all the advice; it's much appreciated.
A bit late to this tread, but if anyone's still around, there's no problem with doing theory first and practical later.
The idea of "leaving theory until Grade 5" is completely daft. Pupils should be learning theory from their very first lesson, based on the pieces they are playing rather than on the AB or TG syllabus. Then it is just a natural part of their learning rather than a scary exam to be passed before Grade 6...
One can learn theory from day 1, but one does not necessarily need to take every grade examination in it. I took grade 1 violin in year 3; at that age, sitting a 90min written exam would probably have been beyond me. I took grade 5 theory in year 6 having not taken the previous grades, but by that age I was also old enough to sit in an examination room and write for two hours or whatever it is. By that point I had a whole timeline of composers and a pretty comprehensive musical knowledge for a primary school kid, just because of curiosity and a good memory.
I still don't know the German terminology and with a degree in music just scraped a merit at grade 6 theory last year... bonkers. General Musicianship is the way to go!
Would your company consider making resources for Trinity? Certainly there is a hole in the market for materials to help with practicing music aural. I think a tutorial to help with scales would be good. Most children hate music theory and it would be good to have some nice videos for teaching the finer points of music theory which are child friendly.
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