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Piano - should we go the grades route or not?

(9 Posts)
wingcommandermoi Wed 09-Nov-16 13:13:40

This is really a question for those who took piano lessons as a child, and who still enjoy playing as adults. Are there any out there?

DS is 8 yo and has been taking piano lessons for the past 3 years. First Suzuki, and now mainstream for this past year. He's doing great (although mostly by ear so sight reading not so great).
He's just moved on to the next book up and I was asking his teacher if we should be looking at grades.
Her answer was "is he an exam animal?", which I don't think was about him because he does well at exams in general, I think it's more about her not being that into going the grades route. But she said she'd be ready to prepare him for grade exams if we wanted. Didn't sound very enthusiastic though.

All I want is for him to have the level he needs to enjoy himself and to be able to play socially. I know that in my twenties whenever there was a decent piano player at a party, a lot of girls would gather around, and I think DS would like that too - it's good for self confidence!

That said, if he continues being good at it, maybe that could eventually get him a scholarship to some nice school. In which case maybe he needs the grades?
I don't really know...
Does anyone have a view on this?

SugarMiceInTheRain Wed 09-Nov-16 13:19:00

I teach piano and I certainly think the grades can be very useful to make sure you're covering all the areas, able to play a variety of different styles, competent at scales (which help you get to grips with pieces quicker) and good at aural skills - plus they give you an idea of where you're at. As you said, if going for some kind of music scholarship in the future then they;re definitely worth doing, but if he knows he only wants to play for fun, then as long as he makes sure he develops skills all round, there's no point in putting him through the stress of exams! Anecdotally, in my experience, the pupils who don't do any exams aren't making as much progress as the exams give students something specific to work and aim for, whereas the ones who don't want to do exams aren't pushing themselves because they only want to play pieces they'll enjoy.

OhThatThingAgain Wed 09-Nov-16 13:43:51

I'd go for the grades, but I wouldn't place a massive emphasis on it.

I had Grade 8 at 10. My mother was obsessed with me playing piano 'properly' as she'd learned by ear as a child.

The scales and arpeggios are great, although as an 8 year old I'd have argued that point. I'm not sure if it's the same now but to get past playing grade 5 you need to take theory too. I have a UWL Diploma. I've never played in public and took my main degree in Computer Science. My piano is purely personal.

I rarely play classical now (only Chopin and Beethoven), just jazz and pop, the grades helped me to become accomplished. I can take on most pieces because of my training.

Give them a try, if he's not keen just go with what he likes. I didn't touch a piano for 20 years because of the drilling I got as a child. I love it now and have just played a little Elton John and Fleetwood Mac for relaxation. There is a lot to be said for playing for pleasure, whatever your taste, but formal training gives you the skills.

My children want lessons. I started at three. I've told then they have to wait until they are 7, until then it's just middle C and nursery rhymes for fun. They are 3 and 5, the 3 year old is showing my talent already, I don't want to push her.

Fun, just have fun wink

ATisketATasket Wed 09-Nov-16 14:17:46

I think it depends on the child.my brother started learning at about 6-7 and his teacher started pushing for grades and it turned him off learning completely.i started learning at a similar age and didn't mind the grades thing...gave me something to work towards.got to grade 8 at about 16, and still enjoy playing now when I get a chance.

I think they have a bit of a purpose and pull, I remember at uni interviews (even though I didn't study music) the panels commented on the achievement of grades.

I suppose you could look at doing one exam and if your ds enjoys that way of working, great, if not don't push with anymore for the time being.you don't have to do them all, so you could look at doing a higher grade when he is older.

ThatsNotMyToddler Thu 10-Nov-16 01:13:13

I would agree with the points above about the advantages of grades.

However they shouldn't take over. My piano teacher always said if you couldn't learn the pieces for an exam in a single term then you weren't ready. So we did pretty much one grade per year and lots of other lovely repertoire. My violin teacher on the other hand went from one grade to the next with no gaps, which made things very boring. All my violin repertoire is orchestral, really, and I would never now play on my own for fun - pretty sad considering I was grade 8 in that as well.

wingcommandermoi Thu 10-Nov-16 11:26:59

Thank you everybody that's really useful - I'll gently start looking into the grades then. I like that you can skip a grade and go on to the next - if you're ready obviously. That saves a lot of exam stress.

DrLockhart Thu 10-Nov-16 11:32:15

Some good advice, wish I had it when I was younger.

I did grades when really I just wanted to be able to "play".

The grades helped with the scales etc, but when I reached grade 5, I took it 3 times and kept failing by 2-4 points. I was 13/14 at the time and it just knocked my confidence so much that I stopped playing, instead of stopping exams.

I keep saying I will take it back up again and funnily enough I've just purchased a second hand full sized keyboard for Dd's Christmas present also for me

It definitely wouldn't do him any harm in trying for a grade a year and see how he gets on but don't put all the emphasis on the grades

OhThatThingAgain Thu 10-Nov-16 16:19:43

DrL do try playing again. I swore I'd never touch a piano again in my life. Now I try to play every day, pick up some 'easy to play' books and ease yourself back in. I found that I could still play but I couldn't add 'feel', practice brought that back. I actually enjoy practice, who would have thought?

I bought mine on an impulse. I walked into Chappell on Bond Street on my lunch break and sat down a played (really badly) and walked out the owner of a piano, that was 20 years ago, I love playing and can lose myself for hours (at the detriment of the housework).

DrLockhart Fri 11-Nov-16 21:42:34

ohthat I will play again now that I've brought a keyboard 😄 I'm actually quite excited about my daughters Christmas present

This was always my go to "show off" piece if I played a piano 😳😳 I went on my DF's piano the other week and it came back to me, but my fingers weren't quick enough!
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