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Flute Grades

(19 Posts)
Keeptrudging Wed 02-Dec-15 10:48:03

DD has been playing flute for 2 1/2 years. She plays first flute in the region's junior orchestra (playing up to Grade 5), and also plays with school concert band and ceilidh band. She practices daily/willingly.

However, she has never done any grade exams. She was supposed to do her Grade 2 last year, her teacher felt she would find it quite easy but it would be good experience. We then moved schools. New teacher was going to put her in for it this year but is now delaying it until March next year.

Have raised my unhappiness (in writing) after checking with Orchestra leader as to DD'S ability (she said she's playing well above that level, and was quite incredulous re delaying it as it's quite easy?). Teacher isn't budging.

Is it time for me to get DD a private flute tutor so she can do her grades in line with her ability? At the moment she just has lessons at school, and I get the feeling her teacher is dragging her heels because it suits her, not because of lack of DD'S ability.

How quickly (generally) should a competent, hard working flautist be progressing through grades? I've read a few posts on here where much younger children are up at grade 5/6/7, or have gone up 2 grades in a year etc.

She practices for hours, all her teachers/band leaders have said she's very talented, yet no grades to show for it. sad

Keeptrudging Wed 02-Dec-15 12:55:36

Sorry, forgot to say she's just 12/at Secondary school!

INeedNewShoes Wed 02-Dec-15 13:03:07

Every learner is different so it's not about age or how long someone has been learning.

Some teacher's feel uncomfortable about pupils skipping grades.

But, it sounds as though your daughter is well advanced of Grade 2.

If she is practising well and enjoying it then private lessons would be worthwhile in any event as private lessons tend to be longer than lessons at school and school lessons are often shared with other pupils.

A competent, confident teacher will be able to give you and your daughter an idea of the level she is playing at (it's not just about playing the notes of a Grade X piece but also playing at a suitably musical standard plus other skills) and are likely to be happy to put your DD in for the appropriate grade in the next session.

The problem is that the next session is now March next year (there are three exam sessions per year: around now, Spring and Summer) as the entries have to be made a month or two in advance and you've missed the boat for this session.

If you would like recommendations of flute teachers and happen to be in either London, Beds/Herts/Bucks or Northumberland then I can recommend some teachers for you if that would be helpful (a bit random but I know of good teachers in these areas).

Keeptrudging Wed 02-Dec-15 13:46:28

Thanks very much for the information, I didn't realise there were set times for exams. That explains the delay - she changed primary school in February, her old teacher had planned to put her in for Summer, which she then missed as her new teacher was just getting to know her so left it until she went up to Secondary. Teacher in secondary had said she would do it in December, I'm wondering if she got dates wrong, hence new March date.

She's regularly (and confidently) playing the trickier (first flute) parts in Orchestra/gets solos - entry level for Junior orchestra is grade 2 (up to 5), so she is good.

Unfortunately we're in the frozen North of Scotland, so a bit far for your recommendations, thank you for taking the time though. Even posting this has made me realise it's actually really annoying me, mostly because it's not good for DD's confidence, so I'm off to hunt for a flute tutor!

Helenluvsrob Wed 02-Dec-15 14:15:41

Forget exams unless she is desperate to do them! Teachers seem to like them and the worst one make kids do one a year in a very dull plan to " progress".

Suggest that if she wants to do an exam in March she does 3 or 4 if she's really overshot the standard. You can buy the music on line and get a list of scales and other requirements too if she want to have a go at getting ahead of her teacher LOL

Keeptrudging Wed 02-Dec-15 14:42:15

She is desperate to do them because she feels like the only musical child who hasn't! She's quite a structured/organised child and she loves exams, she likes having something to work towards.

ProbablyMe Wed 02-Dec-15 15:43:25

If she wants to do them it's probably worth it. However, a member of my DPs family is a top class musician (UK champions in their instrument and members of renowned Orchestras and they have never done any Grade exams.

Seeline Wed 02-Dec-15 15:48:46

I didn't start flute until I started senior school, but did my Grade 3 after about 18 months. My teacher said the first two grades were too easy to bother with, and he didn't bother with them for any of his students. I progressed to Grade 5 by the lower 6th, but didn't bother after that because I need theory to go with it, and I couldn't fit it in with A levels. This was about 30 years ago though....

Keeptrudging Wed 02-Dec-15 19:10:44

That's interesting Probably, I think I shouldn't have read the musicians thread on here, they're all on high grades at young ages, it had me worried!

Seeline, that's what the orchestra leader was saying re grades 1 & 2, she felt my DD was capable of doing higher grades but school want her to do 2 'for practice'.

Ferguson Wed 02-Dec-15 19:54:19

Provided a student is progressing and is happy, there is no huge need to do Grades - but it does give an indication of progress, and can be compared to other students (which may or may not be a good thing!) Sometimes an orchestra or ensemble will require that to join you need to have achieved a certain Grade, but even that is probably 'negotiable'.

If you get her a new, reliable teacher, maybe try Grade 4 or even 5 next March. Besides just playing pieces, there is sight-reading, scales, and probably a certain amount of theory that are required in each Grade. Style, interpretation and 'feeling' become more important as you progress through the Grades. Our DS did piano Grade 1, then saxophone Grade 4 and went on to GCSE and 'A' level music at school.

Noteventhebestdrummer Thu 03-Dec-15 06:32:37

Online advice from people who have never heard your child play may not be reliable...

Also! It's not the case that March is necessarily the next chance for the exam. There's a system of Special Visits where exams take place at other times of year - I have one in late December and another in January organised. Lots of teachers do this for their students.

Mistigri Thu 03-Dec-15 07:09:39

A 12 year old who is playing regularly in orchestras is probably going to gain very little out of doing grade 2. I'd expect a student of this age and who works hard at the instrument to be considerably it more advanced than this (and it sounds like your DD is). Of course it depends on the individual, but I think people underestimate how quickly older students can advance if they are motivated, especially on the relatively "easier" wind instruments. Teaching a 12 year old is not like teaching a 6 year old.

Of course grades are completely non-essential unless you are using them for boasting rights or for school entry ;) My 14 year old has never done any grades at all and I doubt she ever will. Her old piano teacher never did any either and it didn't stop him from getting a place on a good UK music degree.

For older students, finding the right teacher is really important - and a "good" teacher for a younger student may not be so good for an older one, so organise a trial lesson if you can.

catslife Sat 05-Dec-15 16:48:53

dd played in a Junior orchestra (different instrument) and needed to take some grade exams to move up to the next orchestra.
You don't need to take every single grade but the most significant ones are 3 (can move you from junior to intermediate orchestra), 5 (required standard for GCSE equivalent and may mean move to senior orchestra) and finally grade 8 (you would need to study pieces, scales and technique for grades between 5 and 8.
Difficult to assess without hearing her play but what range of notes can she play? what scales can she play music in i.e. how many sharps and flats? What is she like technically in terms of slurring, dynamics and tounging? I think you need to do double tounging for grade 5 (and possibly grade 4).

INeedNewShoes Sun 06-Dec-15 11:39:14

Double tonguing isn't a requirement for any grade (I say that as someone who couldn't double tongue if their life depended on it yet have managed to do grade 8 and a music degree with flute as my first instrument.)

TeddTess Tue 08-Dec-15 12:00:56

DD has been playing for 1.5 years and is now working towards her grade 2 next spring.
she rarely practices
she is not that talented

change teachers.

howabout Thu 10-Dec-15 15:04:27

I have an oboe playing DD. She started playing about 2 years ago and is 13. She is working towards grade 4 with her teacher at school. I would check with the school teacher about their attitude to the grade exams before moving to private tuition. My experience of her and her sister (trumpet lessons through the school) is that there is enough time in lessons to progress in the instrument, and it sounds like your DD is, but less scope to cover all aspects of the exam and logistics like finding an accompanist.

You don't have to do all or any grades. DD1 entered and passed grade 5 piano as her first exam. She would probably have been less nervous and better prepared and got a better mark if she had done earlier grades. However for UCAS points it is grade 6 and up and she now has a platform to work from. Neither of my DDs is contemplating a musical career or further education and so I am trying to err on the side of not pushing them to over commit but at the same time give them some exam experience and the confidence of success.

I regret not doing any exams.

UhtredRagnorsson Thu 17-Dec-15 11:55:30

You don't need to do any exams. Except grade 8 if you want to do a BMus (and not even then at some universities - equally, some unis and conservatoires like grade 8 theory as well as grade 8 playing). However exams do provide a structure for progression. Orchestral pieces are not a good indicator of standard, especially in a junior orchestra where the entry level is pitched at about grade 2 standard. Grade 2 flute is pretty basic though, I can't deny that. Neither of my DDs bothered with that one, DD1 started at grade 3, DD2 did do grade 1 but that was because she likes certificates. There's a bit of a jump between the standard required for grade 4 and grade 5 (at least on the current ABRSM syllabus) however some of that jump is due to range of notes, both my girls were younger when they did grade 5 (and they are both physically small, especially DD2 who is the size of a 9 year old now (she's 12)) and the physical issues (degree of puff, strength to just hold the damn thing for the length of much lengthier pieces, extended scales) were evident - these things weren't a problem, but they weren't nothing either. Took a little time to get used to. The scales at higher grades can be challenging too, as can the aural if you've never done it. My girls always had an advantage with aural until recently, because their singing exams were always at least 1 grade ahead of their playing ones so they had already done the aural work to a high (distinction level) standard preparing for the singing exams. DD2 had to postphone her grade 6 singing this term because she had her tonsils out, she is doing grade 6 flute next term (and did grade 6 recorders last week) and her instrumental teachers have been a bit sad that this time round, she hasn't already got the aural sorted.

As for the technical requirements - some confusing info provided above...double tonguing isn't compulsory in any flute grade, but depending on choice of piece it can become a factor around grade 6. If you can do it, then all the better for you (it's much more important in recorders hence my girls are both fine with it). Scales and aural feature at every grade, getting progressively harder. There is a bit of a jump between the scales at grade 4 and grade 5. There's a bigger jump between grade 5 and 6 though because you have to do both melodic and harmonic minors. The wierd scales (dominant and dimished sevenths, pentatonic, that sort of thing) increase in difficulty too. The only theory you ever have to do is grade 5 - until you've done that you can't do grade 6 if you are ABRSM. But if you are trinity then you don't have to do any theory exams. As for GCSE - you have to be grade 3-5 playing ability for GCSE music. You don't have to have passed either practical or theory exams. But having grade 5 theory helps (in my day if you had grade 5 theory you could skip a whole paper. No longer, sadly). There is no real benefit to being grade 8 at GCSE, in fact in some ways it's a negative because you don't get any extra marks for playing a piece with higher technical difficulty but it can be demoralising to 'drop down' and play a safe choice in the practical bits. The last practical exam my DS took was grade 4 (not flute, clarinet) in Y7, he decided at that point that his life was jazz sax and he didn't want to do any more practical exams whether classical or jazz syllabus no matter what. He is playing at a solid grade 6-7 standard right now, and that's much more than he needs for his GCSE, in fact he is likely to submit a revived grade 5 standard classical clarinet piece because it's the 'safe choice'.

If your DD is playing well above grade 2 standard on pieces, then I suggest you get her the grade 3 and grade 4 syllabus books from amazon or similar online retailer (unless you have a handy music shop) and just see how she does with the pieces over Xmas. And then you'll have a better idea of where she stands. And look at the scales (which will be set out in the syllabus book) to see if they are within her compass right now. If they are then talk to the teacher at the beginning of term. But your DD will likely need to put in a bit of effort on aural, especially if she has never done any aural before. I think - but do not know for sure - that you can buy practice aural tests for all the grades, possibly with an accompanying CD... The other thing about exam prep is getting used to playing with a pinao accompaniment, if you buy the syllabus books that come with CD she can practice playing with the CD over Xmas too. It's not the same, but it can be helpful...

howabout Thu 17-Dec-15 13:17:46

Very helpful post Uhtred and very much chimes with our experience. Just wanted to add - yes you can get an aural book and CD to practice and this is all DD1 (age 14) did on her own for about half a dozen sessions before her exam. There is also an abrsm app to download and practice with.

DD1 has also just passed her grade 5 theory on her own by working through the grade books. This was to give her the option to do further practical grades if she gets the urge. Again it was not a massive undertaking. About 12 weeks of a couple of hours a week. There is an abrsm app for composition practice.

She is now debating her next steps so your insight with your DS is very timely.

Anchu Mon 11-Jan-16 15:06:28

Could you please provide me recommendation for Flute teachers in Hertfordshire.

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