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Piano: Need a bit of help from experienced people please?

(12 Posts)
irvineoneohone Thu 11-Aug-16 19:24:30

My ds(8) started piano in February. He has been doing 20 minutes a week lesson at school.
He has a home work to get grade 1 book, choose 3 songs and practice over summer.
He managed to learn to play 2 songs ok-ish, and 3rd one, ok hands separate, but struggling to play hands together.

I am completely new to this exam thing. The teacher asked us to get CD with a book, so we got it. He can play almost perfectly in synch hands separate for first two tune.
Lessons seems have been the same. He was given tunes to learn for homework, she checks it, then move on to new ones .Learning new songs(although it's all short) every week.

But is it normal to work out pieces by himself and practice? Use of finger? He always get comment written on the page, "curly fingers".

I am not so keen on him doing exams, so is my dh, but ds wants to, since he is a kind of child who listen to what teachers says.
Is it going to be practicing same tune over and over once he decided to take exam?
Also I don't think he can read music properly yet.When he was playing some song, it sounded off, compared to the CD, so I pointed out, and then he realised it was something sharp/flat what ever. {confused]
What happens if he failed?

I am completely lost, I have no knowledge of these things. Could you give me some insight about how these things work?
Do you even think he is ready?

Threesoundslikealot Thu 11-Aug-16 20:14:00

I am by no means an expert but I didn't want you to go unanswered!

Grade 1 is very, very basic stuff. Yes, he'll practice the set pieces over and over. He is still learning to read music and musicians far more advanced than him will miss the old flat and sharp.

Examiners are very gentle with small children doing the early grades. He's unlikely to fail if he's being well taught - preparation for these things is bread and butter.

It's very normal to work stuff out in between lessons. That's what practice is for. 20 minutes isn't long.

He sounds like a good pupil and I'm sure he'll do well in his exam.

cudbywestrangers Thu 11-Aug-16 20:57:43

I'm sure I am not the best person to answer but did learn the piano as a kid. Having new tunes to learn each week sounds like a good way to make sure he doesn't get bored! In a week he won't be able to play them to perfection so exam pieces will be practiced over a longer period so he will learn them really thoroughly and be able to play them well even if a bit nervous. In my day there was a choice of pieces in the book so get him to choose the ines he likes best! There will probably also be some scales, arpeggios, sight reading and aural tests in the exam syllabus. I expect the syllabus is available online these days if you know which exam board it is. I failed a violin exam once. Nothing happens really (although i was gutted!) and you can resit if you want.

The curly fingers will refer to how he had his hands when playing. My first teacher always told be to imagine a little mouse in my hand and to wrap my fingers around it (does that make any sense???)

One thing I would say is that I wouldn't play along to cd's too much. It's good to listen to get an idea for how the music should sound but it's also important to be able to make your own interpretation of the music, (although maybe less relevant to a beginner it is nice to have that bit of freedom...)

Sounds like your son is keen which is great, and it sounds like he's doing a great job of his homework. I hope he continues to enjoy his music! Good luck smile

Greenleave Thu 11-Aug-16 22:23:16

Irvine: your son is doing really well and progressing to grade 1 within couple of terms without any previous musical background for piano is a big step. Its usually easier for kids to learn piano and pick up faster because they have already playing other instrument, can read music, knows scales, aural, sight reading etc. It took us 2 yrs to get to grade 1(we didnt practise much). Only your teacher can tell if he is ready. My daughter takes more time to learn aural, sight reading, scales/arpeggios than learn the pieces. Good luck, glad to find he found it fun!

irvineoneohone Fri 12-Aug-16 08:22:31

Thank you Threesoundslikealot and cudbywestrangers for your advice. And nice to see you again and thank you Greenleave

He loves piano, and the teacher seems great(I only saw her at the school concert once.), but fact I can't help him at all makes me worry so much about if he is doing right or wrong. Even just for curly fingers, it doesn't look curly to me, but if he says this is correct, I have to trust him.

I guess I just let him get on with his way of practicing and see how it goes about exams. The book teacher asked to buy is 2017/2018. So it must mean it will be a while until he actually takes exams.

He is practicing scales, but I have no idea about other stuff.
I guess I have to trust the teacher.

irvineoneohone Fri 12-Aug-16 14:56:58

How much practice should be ideal for a day?
He is spending more time practicing during holiday, but during term times, he has other activity(2 hours) x 3 a week, so 15 minutes on those days are almost max he can do, even less if he goes to park with friends after school, or has school clubs.

Ferguson Fri 12-Aug-16 20:29:19

Hi -

There is also another Test before Grade 1, called the "Prep Test" which some children do take, but DS can probably go straight to Grade 1, especially now you have some of the music and CD.

gb.abrsm.org/en/our-exams/other-assessments/prep-test/

Another series of Grade books, cover Theory for each Grade, explaining everything, and also having worksheets where the student answers written questions, or writes little phrases of music:

shop.abrsm.org/shop/prod/Taylor-Eric-Music-Theory-in-Practice-Grade-1/599624

And one of the best Theory books is a reference book, where you can look up everything about the early stages of Theory:

shop.abrsm.org/shop/prod/Taylor-Eric-The-AB-Guide-to-Music-Theory-Part-I/598230

Besides learning and practising his OFFICIAL pieces, if you can find sheet music of a similar level in charity shops or 'car boot' sales, practising reading and playing anything is good.

I'll PM you sometime with more information.

irvineoneohone Fri 12-Aug-16 23:05:50

Thank you, Ferguson. He started to show interest in trying different sort of songs. He got really excited when he received grade 1 book, and after listening to the cd, he said he wanted sheet music for songs not included in grade 1 book as well, so we might get them as well.
It's very exciting to see him learning and getting better at playing pieces little by little each day. So glad he started learning piano.

AlexandraLeaving Sat 13-Aug-16 14:04:17

Irvine, in terms of what the 'curly fingers' might mean, the teacher is probably trying to get him into the habit of playing with fingers bent rather than with them completely straight. You get much more control over the keys - in terms of loudness and speed - if your fingers are curled a bit; it's much harder if they're straight like drumsticks (but the drumstick approach is what some children go for to start with, hence trying to train him out of that before it becomes a habit that is hard to break). Cudby's comment about imagining you have a mouse in your hand (though I'd prefer a computer mouse to a live one...) is a good image - so they're not completely curled up like a fist, but bent enough so that the downward pressure is coming a bit more from the tip of the finger than exclusively the pad of the finger if you see what I mean.

You asked in your first post what would happen if he failed the grade 1 exam. Nothing. There is nothing at all resting on it, and therefore nothing to lose. I think the chances of failing G1 are pretty low, but even if he did it won't stop him progressing later. He could re-take it - doing the same pieces or a different set (sometimes it helps make a fresh start). He could skip it and move on to G2. Or he could abandon exams and just play.

He sounds to be doing great. smile

irvineoneohone Sat 13-Aug-16 14:27:18

Thank you Alexandra.
His hands doesn't look like he has mouse in his hand, and comment from teacher on the book every week suggests he isn't doing it right.
I'll keep an eye on it, I don't want him to get into bad habit and struggle later.

About the exam, still not sure, I'll see how it goes. Maybe I'm just getting worked up with nothing, Just scared he might lose interest if he failed.

drummersmum Sat 03-Sep-16 14:42:21

irvine I would be surprised if the teacher puts him up for an exam he's not ready for. When the time comes it will be very clear. If he's ready, he won't fail (unless of course nerves affect him, but examiners are usually very understanding, especially with early grades). You will alaso know because you will hear him play the pieces at performance standard.
I am surprised the homework was to start learning the gr1 pieces on his own, as there is fingering to set, etc. But he seems to be doing very well.

irvineoneohone Sat 03-Sep-16 15:45:00

Thank you, drummersmum.
It seems like her style of teaching, he has always be given homework to learn new short songs, after she plays it for him once during lesson. This time she told ds to get cd with the book.
But I don't know, it's what my ds says, she may have just meant him to have a go at it.
I think he is doing ok, he can play right notes(I think) now for all three songs.(But very far from playing them smoothly yet.)

Anyways, he doesn't even know what's broken chords etc. yet, so I think it won't be for a while. I just had a mild panic attack after watching you tube video of grade 1 exam.(that looks very formal!)

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