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Violin grades 4-8 - what is expected

(17 Posts)
Worriedandlost Thu 05-Nov-15 19:31:59

Can anyone share their experience or give advice what is expected at those grades in order to understand where we are moving and whether it is a right direction?

So far (up to G4) dd's teacher has been mainly working with Fiddle time series (almost finished Sprinters) and Suzuki books (almost finished book 2). Are these books ok for grade 4 level? My worry is that it is enough for taking exams but does it stretch a child? I know nothing about violin repertoire.... I guess I am also confused by dozens of YouTube videos where children up to 10yo or even younger are playing something like Bach double violin concerto....Are there concertos at all for grades??

So what is expected from a reasonably able child at these levels? Please advise.....

Ferguson Thu 05-Nov-15 23:30:54

Hi - if you don't get any replies to your queries, perhaps try sending a PM to JulieMichelleRobinson, as she seemed to be one of the most expert and helpful music teachers. I haven't noticed her on 'threads' recently though.

Re Concertos: No, I wouldn't have thought there would be proper concertos at lower Grades, as a Concerto almost by definition has to be advanced and difficult, and is one or more solo instruments playing with an orchestra.

I guess something similar at an easier level would be an Etude, or Study.

ealingwestmum Thu 05-Nov-15 23:45:48

Hi, hopefully some violin teachers or musical mums will be along to help, but I can try and start from a non-musical mother with a 12 yr old DD (Y7) who plays the violin at a reasonable level.

However, first of all, how old is your child? He/she enjoying music at school? Is your child learning 121 or in a group? Any access to orchestras/ensembles? Has your child developed good sight reading, intonation and technique with the teacher? Do they play scales, studies as well as pieces? Sorry, not very familiar with Suzuki method...

Lots of questions - just not sure what your objectives are, and comparing against other children (or YouTube!) can be unrealistic as all have different learning styles.

Grades are an odd thing, but I guess is the uniform way people can gauge the level of your child. We've come up the ABRSM way, doing most but missing a few. She's not done an exam since Easter Y5 but would be comfortably G8 level now. Exams were done religiously up to then to secure a music it box ticking.

However, if we had our time again, we would not have done things this way. In the last 18 months, she's had to go back to some basics, widen her repertoire, lots of technical studies etc. It's relatively easy to learn a piece (yes, even Bach Double) but playing them well is different. As the pieces get more complex, they need to understand the mood of the piece. Teaching a 10 year old to play Schindler's List but doesn't understand the history is tough thing to do, but wow, can it change once they understand what was behind the piece/composer's viewpoint.

Look at the wider exposure your child has to music, are the basics being covered (e.g. do they make a good sound...basic I know but honestly, not all do) because getting these elements right can make them fly later.

Mine has a lot of music experience via orchestras, quartet ensembles etc and attends residential music schools since 9, in addition to school stuff. This is what stretches her, not the 3 pieces learned to rote for a hoop to jump. Exams have been a necessary evil for her to be judged for school entry, but thankfully is not required for junior music colleges/conservatoires etc if that's where your child wants to progress. State schools that offer music scholarships tend to work on aptitude tests, so again grades not necessary.

Lots of really helpful people/teachers on the MN extra curricular music threads, where there's some exceptional children talent, but also lots of help to get through the tough music times.

Sorry, long answer (and tired) but hope it helps...

ealingwestmum Thu 05-Nov-15 23:49:45

x-post with Ferguson. Likewise, not seen Julie's name around but she may have name changed after the MN hack!

Icouldbeknitting Fri 06-Nov-15 07:38:07

The syllabus for the exam board you have been taking is on line, you will be able to see the set pieces for each grade. If you look for those pieces on YouTube you will get a better idea of what the repertoire sounds like at each level.

You need to have faith in your teacher, they've done this all before and they know what they are doing.

Worriedandlost Fri 06-Nov-15 12:51:30

Ferguson thank you for your advice, I also noticed that JulieMichelleRobinson was not here recently. Sorry, perhaps I didn't express myself clear - I was wondering if concertos are played at later grades?

Icouldbeknitting this is exactly what I did, but those are exam pieces and I was wondering what goes in between grades? To be honest I don't have absolute faith in any teacher, teachers are human and make mistakes too. Besides there is no "Narional curriculum" as such for music lessons and every teacher decides what he/she is teaching on individual basis and this is a bit dangerous taking into account how much money and time music lessons take.

Worriedandlost Fri 06-Nov-15 13:08:04

ealingwestmum thank you for your post - it reflects my current worries very well smile

To answer the questions - my dd is taking private lessons and on grade 4 level. It is classical study, not Suzuki, teacher just uses Suzuki books as supplement material. She goes to council orchestra once a week. Yes, they play scales, they play studies, she has good sight reading and intonation however her technique.... Basically I just realised that our teacher is not good at teaching technique (after asking some technical questions to our teacher and to another musician) this is number one priority at the moment...
Teacher is following grades religiously and insists on taking every grade.

Agreed about understanding mood of the piece... I try to give a little story behind every piece, though sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't but I feel it is important... (ha-ha, dd was playing theme from Love Story, when I told her the plot of the movie she refused to play it smile)

Yes, basically agreed with everything, know what dd has to work on, just trying to figure out plans for forthcoming years and re assess the situation...

Mistigri Fri 06-Nov-15 14:00:20

It sounds like your violin teacher is very exam focussed. Would it be worth shopping around for someone else, on personal recommendation if possible?

A change of teacher can be good for motivation, and for filling gaps that you may not even know existed. DD has a new piano teacher this year and the lessons are a step up in quality (and last year's teacher was good).

ealingwestmum Fri 06-Nov-15 14:04:18

I wish you good luck with her progress Worried.

Some children (like mine) pick up things very easily, get carried away but don't have a great patience handle on the detail. This leads to a lot of unpicking of bad habits years down the line (can you tell it's not just the violin here?) but a good teacher will pull the reigns in. This is not always the same teacher that taught your child to play from the outset, in our experience...

Once her ego subsided on the trophy collecting (not helped by people asking what grade are you on, self perpetuating the pressure for children) she started to focus on getting technique right. Also comes with a little more maturity, much better now she's in senior school.

Hope you find the right balance of development vs enjoyment, keeping them motivated is key, even though there are naturally ups and downs on progress, especially when other school stuff or activities get in the way!

1805 Fri 06-Nov-15 22:30:08

To be honest I don't have absolute faith in any teacher, teachers are human and make mistakes too. Besides there is no "Narional curriculum" as such for music lessons and every teacher decides what he/she is teaching on individual basis and this is a bit dangerous taking into account how much money and time music lessons take.


Parents too.

Worriedandlost Fri 06-Nov-15 22:44:28

Mistigri I think you may be right that this option should be considered eventually, but I have to be absolutely sure that it is a right decision as there will not be way back.

Thank you ealingwestmum!

Unfortunately you are right 1805.

betterWatchout15 Sat 07-Nov-15 16:31:15

there are some 'little' concertos for kids who are between grades 4 & 8 ... specifically Seitz, Reiding and Accolay - all good for developing endurance and momentum and general musicality... also, you could get the CD - 'Concertos from my Childhood' by Itzhak Perlman ( - great listening - and ever so much easier to learn those little concertos once you've actually heard them...

The Bach Double is part of the Suzuki repertoire (books 4 & 5) and also, they include a little Vivaldi concerto - (I think) along with the Bach A minor....

yes - there are loads of little kids playing concertos on YouTube - some of them have knowledgeable or monied (or both) parents who've been able to push. And some kids just love playing - they won't put the instrument down... as for the Suzuki books and the fiddletime sprinters... well - they present a specific curriculum but there is SO much more out there and a good teacher should be able to recommend lots of different pieces! one of mine did grade 8 distinction (violin) age 12 - and the graded pieces were only looked at after she'd covered all sorts of other material -- material that made the Grade 8 pieces seem easy.. I hope that this is helpful -

Worriedandlost Sat 07-Nov-15 22:31:38

This is very helpful betterWatchout15, thank you!

Ferguson Mon 16-Nov-15 19:55:41

Hi again - in case you haven't looked at it, here is a link to Fiddle Time site:

(I'll PM you again sometime.)

Worriedandlost Tue 17-Nov-15 01:05:42

I haven't, thank you Ferguson!

StompyFreckles Sat 28-Nov-15 23:17:32

I only have experience of learning violin through the suzuki violin method and can tell you a little of how it has worked for us. I have an 11 year old who is playing suzuki book 7 and did grade 7 in the summer. I also have an 8 year old who is taking grade 4 this term and is playing suzuki book 4 (including Bach doubles). The thing with suzuki method is the children learn to play pieces of a much higher level than the grade they are actually on (for example, suzuki book 4 has pieces set for grade 6 and 7), so when they come to learn the grade pieces, they find that much easier. I love this method as the children make so much progress in learning the pieces in the suzuki books and then dip in to exams here and there - it's never boring!

Worriedandlost Sun 29-Nov-15 23:27:07

Thank you StompyFreckles, it is interesting piece of information. Our teacher's method is roughly the same, but taking into account "traditional" repertoire of course. Well done to your dc, but to be honest I am not entirely convinced that it is Suzuki method miracle, I am pretty sure that they succeeded because they are bright and determined and not because they learned violin with Suzuki method smile I am sure they would be as good at violin with the traditional route smile

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