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Has anyone started re-taking music exams after a v long break

(18 Posts)
lavendersun Tue 16-Sep-14 06:35:15

I have restructured my time and actually have time to devote to music again.

My mother was a music teacher and we all had a good musical education. I did Gr 8 in music theory and three other instruments ... but 30 years ago.

I can still read music, play the piano (ish) and play the treble recorder, probably Gr 5-6 stuff on the treble but not up to that standard on the piano.

I have my first piano lesson today with my daughters teacher (fantastic lady - retired Professor of Music) and have booked a couple of recorder lessons with someone who specialised in it at RCM.

I have been looking at exams and thought I would aim to re-take Gr 6 in the spring (prob MT and TR with piano later next year).

Has anyone done this sort of thing? Not entirely sure why I want to do the exams again apart from thinking that I might aim for a Diploma before I am 50 (four years time).

DottyDot Tue 16-Sep-14 11:00:18

I think that's a great idea and definitely achievable if you did grade 8 previously!

The other option is to keep having piano lessons but not re-take any grades, just keep going until you're ready to take the diploma. In the meantime you could maybe take up another instrument so it's more of a fresh challenge?

I only mention it because I teach piano in the evenings - went to music college also nearly 30 years ago! - and had a go at learning the trumpet as part of a charity fundraising venture last year. We had to learn a completely new instrument and take grade 1 within the term. I took it and got a distinction (just!) and found it so much harder than I thought I would! It was a great experience, really tested me, made me practice more than I've done in a long time and I'm half thinking about doing it again with the oboe grin

You could also maybe take on some piano pupils yourself as this again is a different kind of challenge?

lavendersun Tue 16-Sep-14 12:26:26

Wow Dotty, learning the trumpet sounds fab (and fun).

One of my Grade 8's was oboe! It ended up being my least favourite instrument though, not sure why. I did hire one last year from Howarth for six months to see how I felt about it but struggled to get back into it. So I bought two lovely recorders, a tenor and treble (which cost half the price of an intermediate oboe).

Honestly I love playing them both although only tend to switch from tenor to treble after a month or two otherwise I get in a bit of a fix! The teacher who specialises in them is absolutely amazing.

I think I want to re-do exams, do you think that is mad? I sort of want to re-validate my skills (and my piano teacher is an examiner so I think she will encourage that too if I mention it).

I actually like the idea of teaching, I thought if I did the Diploma I could offer my time to my daughter's school for free and get a little recorder ensemble going.

DottyDot Tue 16-Sep-14 12:38:13

I think re-taking exams you've got is a bit mad but only because I would drive myself bonkers trying to get a better mark the 2nd time around..! grin

If it's something that's going to motivate you though, then why not? The teaching's a great idea - maybe talk to the school sooner rather than later so you know what they would expect you to have - e.g. disclosure and barring service checks and would they be OK with you doing it voluntarily - hopefully yes but it's worth checking what kind of 'contract' they might expect?

lavendersun Tue 16-Sep-14 13:06:33

Thanks very much Dotty - trouble is I was a v good student back then so I know I will only be disappointed but it was so long ago I feel like it could have been someone else! I did mention it to my mother who reeled off my marks and said I was mad. I feel that I am not that teenager any more and have barely touched music for a very long time so think I would feel like a bit of a fraud if I didn't re do them.

Already have CRB's etc. as a governor ... I think they will love it but very good point I will check.

lavendersun Tue 16-Sep-14 15:58:44

Dotty, I really loved my first piano lesson, best thing I have done for a very long time. Double sharps - had completely forgotten about those! Hopefully it will all come flooding back, bit by bit. And I brought a Gr 5 theory paper home with me to see what I have forgotten - not to be marked, just to show how little much I remember.

Really thrilled I have started again.

DottyDot Tue 16-Sep-14 16:03:01

Aww - that's fantastic! I failed my grade 5 theory the first time (when very young!) and remember dreading having to teach it when I first started teaching - was definitely a case of trying to stay one page ahead of the pupils! grin

I love the routine of practising and really wish (a) I had time to do more playing myself and (b) I could get some of my pupils to see how amazing it is to sit and practice for an hour and see the benefits!

Good luck with it all! smile

CannotGuaranteeNitFree Sun 21-Sep-14 22:10:24


I was just looking to see if there was a support thread for us oldies taking music exams. I've just submitted my entry online for grade 2 harp. I did G1 last December and got a merit, which is amazing considering I was so nervous my hand kept spasming and I couldn't play any of my LH scales!

I am a complete newby to the harp, but did the flute to G4 before I quit age 13 because it wasn't very cool.

I'm loving it. Some of it is coming back to me, but some (bass clef) is completely new and it's taking ages to sink in.

DD (12) is about six months ahead of me on the violin, and she previously learned piano so she can read the bass clef much better than me. And she loves the fact that I can't moan at her for not practising when she knows I haven't done any harp practise that day!

lavendersun Mon 22-Sep-14 06:55:47

Hi Cannot - this could be it couldn't it. That is great that you have taken up the harp, best of luck with your exam.

Are you doing theory exams too? I (sound like my mother here) think that they are really important. We had to do them at the same rate as our instrument exams when we were younger (music teacher Mum) and even though I thought it was torture at the time I do think Mum was right.

I love it all too and it is coming back really quickly. I seem to be spending a lot of time playing though - 2 hours non-stop at the piano on Saturday morning to the detriment of everything else that needed doing at home.

My husband phoned at lunchtime (he works away and was on his drive home), when I said that I hadn't done anything other than play the piano all day he said 'that is fantastic Lavender, well done you'. Makes it worse really doesn't it but he does actually mean it!

I have just (at 5:30 this morning) done a grade 5 theory paper and was surprised that there was only one question I couldn't answer as I thought I had forgotten everything.

I am doing a post graduate certificate for my day job and I have to say I am really behind this week because I have been playing the piano so much (as well as playing my treble recorder for a solo in a cathedral I have been invited to do). Hopefully I will find a balance otherwise I will be a bit stuck soon!

CannotGuaranteeNitFree Mon 22-Sep-14 20:23:26

I love the recorder. I think it's a massively underrated instrument. I have a descant, sopranino and treble. All plastic ones, nothing fancy, but I've had them 30-35 years and I still get them out for a play every now and then.

No I'm not doing any theory (guilty emoticon). I hated it as a teen, and my attitude so far has been that I'm playing the harp for relaxation / fun, so why make it a chore? You are completely right though that I would benefit from it long term.

lavendersun Mon 22-Sep-14 21:12:39

Hi Cannot - me too re recorder. I did grade 8 as a teenager and then ignored it for more than 25 years (as well as the oboe). I seem to have spent a fortune on three recorders in the last two years and am just about to spend nearly that again on a solo treble, I couldn't think of anything else to have for my birthday!

I had my second piano lesson today - highlight of the week, amazingly my theory paper was 100% correct - apart from the missing answer. Must be a fluke, at least 50% was a guess.

Theory is not for everyone, sadly I am a mathematician and I like facts/black and white (and probably have serious hangups caused by my mother making us all do it grade by grade).

Do you have lessons and a date for your exam?

ageingdisgracefully Thu 02-Oct-14 21:41:46

Hi Lavender. I've just got grade 8 Jazz Piano and I'm 54. I've had a break of 40 years. Started again 3 years ago. Still taking lessons and may aim for a diploma.

lavendersun Sat 04-Oct-14 09:09:01

ageing that is really wonderful. Were you surprised at how much you had forgotten at the beginning, I am.

This week I found that whilst I could play the notes and read the music I was having to try so hard that my timing was shocking, whereas when I play woodwind I don't have that problem.

ageingdisgracefully Fri 10-Oct-14 21:47:25

lavender I was actually rather surprised at how much I'd remembered! Theory-wise, anyway. But I had to start playing more or less from scratch: I was never taught technique and had a real shock when my teacher was distinctly unimpressed with my plonkings. I was also pleasantly surprised by the extent to which teaching had moved on since the old days. And even elementary jazz was a challenge-I've never swung or played off beat before. I also find things much easier when I've already heard the piece I'm playing.

Good luck with your musical adventure!

Just a thought: have you tried lurking around the abrsm forum?

lavendersun Sat 11-Oct-14 17:57:58

I do remember some theory (have been doing old Gr 5 papers and passing with distinction marks wise, moving onto a Gr 6 paper this week), but I can read and interpret much faster than I can play piano wise.

My left hand is currently slower than my right on the piano so I am working on that as it is slowing me down. I feel like it has improved this week, hopefully my teacher will think the same.

I didn't find the ABRSM woodwind forum very friendly to be honest so have tended to stay away .... maybe piano is different.

ageingdisgracefully Wed 17-Dec-14 13:29:05

Hi again. Just found your old thread. Glad you're moving on. I must admit to finding the abrsm forum quite a scary place initially but I'm used to it now, although not a regular poster. There's a heavy emphasis on classical too, which is not helpful if you're into other forms of music. I've also tended to assume that people on there are supremely knowledgeable but that's not always the case. So DO post if you want an answer to a question. Grade 5/6 level gives you a decent level of musical knowledge, really!

I love theory too and I've just taken Popular Music Theory at grade 8. I understand exactly where you're coming from about the mathematical side of music. I'm not a mathematician but I have a languages degree: apparently there's a connection between maths, languages and music.

Good luck with your playing! Did you decide on the diploma?

lavendersun Wed 17-Dec-14 22:17:46

Hi ageing, I am making progress!

My music lessons have become the highlight of my working week and I play my piano a lot. I am really pleased with the difference in my playing, Mr Lavender has noticed and comments every time he comes home from work (works away for a week at a time).

I do like classical music, I just found the ABRSM forum very serious and a bit try hard so I didn't go back. Neither of my amazing music teachers share the attitude on there and I just decided it wasn't for me and that if I wanted advice I would just go to them.

I haven't decided what to do exam wise yet, it is all coming back (surprisingly), I reckon my theory is still slightly ahead of my playing but that is probably a good thing. Of course my 76 year old mother is thrilled and keeps reminding me of the wonderful musical education I had!

What is really lovely is that my daughter (gr 2 ish) is really enjoying hearing me play the piano and can't wait until she can play some of the things I am currently playing. That is one of the nicest things, inspiring my 8 year old. I taught her a new piece last week and she surprised her teacher by playing it (really well) at her lesson last week.

I will think about what I want to do with it at some point but for now I am just enjoying it.

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 19-Dec-14 20:55:11

I'm also taking piano lessons after a break of over 20 years. Once a month or so. I listen to classic fm and Radio 3 and learn to play whatever take my fancy. It's great. grin

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