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When I started lessons, I assumed I would want to take exams. There's something so definitive about it that's reassuring.

Now I have no desire. It would restrict what we wanted to work and I don't think I need the validation any more. But I totally understand the desire. Hold your head up high and, don't forget, they are more scared of you than you are of them wink

Luckily I'm not the only adult who studies with my teacher's studio - in fact I have my lesson in the middle of the day so the next guy that comes after me (Dick - know him? wink ) is another adult.


  • Debussy - Le Petit Nègre, L. 114
  • Haydn - Sonata in Gm, Hob. XVI/44

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When I first started back as an adult, I did so because I wanted to get a particular award offered by the National Guild here in the U.S. I had to play five sonatas from memory. It took me three years to learn them all, and I thought I'd quit after that. Instead, my teacher encouraged me to continue, and today marks my tenth anniversary of lessons with her! I am glad I did the program I initially started because it was highly motivating to me, but I wouldn't want to do another one. I think it's all based on how much structure motivates you and helps you enjoy what you're doing. Sometimes picking a goal means you're confined to a process in the meantime; sometimes a goal can help you enjoy the journey a little more. Think about your past experiences (school, sports, etc.) and how much you enjoyed/hated the experience of working toward an end result and that may help you decide.

Nancy


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I am studying for the ABRSM level 5...now that doesn't mean I plan to go somewhere and be examined. BUT I wanted to make sure I have the theory and ability at that level as a base. I've played pieces up to level 10 but don't feel my confidence and skill is solid enough so I assigned myself the exam process. My teacher will do the exam and she will be tough.


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Albynism, even if they are all kids, they'll learn a bunch of things from you. That humans never stop learning, for one thing. Also, there's nobody more desperate for validation from the external world than a teenager. Think what a service you might be doing to some frantic teenager, who's REALLY worried about being the oldest kid in the room - it'll shake up his/her whole perspective.



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I returned to taking piano lessons 4 years ago at the age of 47. I had previously quit taking lessons at the age of 15. Initially I had no interest in taking any exams as an adult, as I was just going back to the piano for my own enjoyment. My teacher frequently mentioned she thought I would do well in an exam, but never pushed me. Much to my own surprise, last summer I decided I did want to take an exam and am now preparing to do the Grade 10 RCM exam. It will take me a few years to complete as I have a total of 4 harmony and history exams to do as well as the practical. My reason for deciding to try an exam has nothing to do with wanting to obtain a certificate. I believe the experience of preparing for the exam will make me a better pianist and a more well-rounded and knowledgeable musician than if I just continued to play "for fun". When my exam day comes around, I will have already accomplished what I set out to do and the actual examination will just seem like "extra" (Not that I don't seek to do as well as I can) I will probably be 53 by the time I complete all exams and really don't care what age the other participants are. I think most people respect what adult students are doing as it takes more courage and dedication at this age than it would have 40 years ago! Good luck to you!

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Phew. It's comforting to hear some adults who are also taking exams and feel the same way about exam as I do. It IS very challenging and that what motivates me to do it in the first place. By the way, I'm in my late 20s. I figured I'd be 30 by the time I finished all the exams. Good luck to everyone who's taking it!

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I took the grade 1 exam when I started violin a while back, and the kid before me playing the same pieces was 7 years old while I was close to 50. Later I did two theory exams, and this time the majority of people taking the exam were between 15 and early 20's (it gets better). I haven't been able to afford lessons for a few years now, but when I get back I probably will do at least some of the exams. I can't even really say why. It seems to give an extra dimension to it, more feedback, dunno. The hardest was probably the first exam, just for doing it for the first time.

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Seems to me there are two issues here.

(1) Do you want to take exams and do you see them as a positive element of your development?

and

(2) The actual going to the centre, waiting with other candidates a fraction of your age - and how does that feel from a purely social point of view?

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I think it depends on your goals. If you are learning to play the piano for personal gain and enjoyment I wouldn't waste your time or money. If your goal is to do performance or teaching in the future then I would do the exams. I hope to teach piano, so I plan to do the RCM exams next year and all the required years. I am only doing this so I have the credentials to teach in a school setting, if I change my mind and choose to not teach I will stop doing the exams. I am 32yrs old and I don't care if anyone has an issue with my age and me being new to the piano. Life is short and we often worry too much about what other's think rather than what we think. I think you should do what you feel is right for you. I think it's amazing any adult taking on a goal like playing an instrument, we aren't children and it's a lot harder for us for so many reasons.


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I see no need for exams for myself but completely understand why others may want them. I do think though that it's that desire for quantifying that feeds the sense of embarrassment. The desire to measure where you are and check it against where you think you should be. Change that expectation and you'll change the level of embarrassment. I was the only adult in my teacher's recital and I wore it proudly. I even made a joke about it. My teacher was proud of me for being a leader in that many of her child students are desperately afraid to talk at the recitals. At the time of the recital, I had been playing about 8 months and I played pieces from a level two book that appealed to me with adult sounding harmonies and tonalities. I didn't play perfectly. I did have a small break in the Dvorak but I got a lot of comments about how inspiring I was for taking up the piano and playing at the recital at such a beginners level. My teacher even got the comment from a parent of a student that if a 53 year could take up the piano, she could go back to school and get a degree that she regretted not finishing. I hope I'm an inspiration to the child students as well; If an adult can struggle with what they struggle with, it must be worth something and not just a childish pursuit but rather a noble and useful pursuit.

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Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement. I do have a high expectation of myself, how good I should be at my age etc, which I know is not healthy thinking! I need to frequently remind myself that I am in competition with myself, trying to better myself, instead of comparing myself to others.

Originally Posted by Mozart79
Life is short and we often worry too much about what other's think rather than what we think.


so true!

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Hi, dear friends, my name is Christina. I am 45 this year and I started learing piano with a conservatory teacher 2.5 years age (Sep. 2008). almost from zero! Last week I registed the BCCM (British Columbia Conservatory of music) level 7 exam for this coming June. According to my teacher, i should be fine. Actualy, the first 2 year I never thought of taking an exam, because I thought that will only slow my progress down. But this year I thought it might be the time. Because I was thinking, as an adult beginner, with lots of practice and passion, I might able to get to level 8 or even 9, but we never know. Maybe level 7 is already my ultimal level ( my hands are small, our fingers will nevel will be so flexible as the kids), that's why having a certificate is kind like having a souvenir to prove that I have really once been there. (please don't laught at me!) PULS: it does give me A LOT motives to bring my sight reading and ear test to a much higher level. Please wish me luck in the exam. Thanks. My email for facebook is christina989@live.com my skype user name is christina989qq hope to meet you there as well

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Hi Albynism, I did my first AMEB exam last year and liked the process so much that i'm doing it again in June. I had major lapses on the day but as someone else said, by the time you reach exam day you've already reaped the benefits. The exam itself and certificate are just icing on the cake. I really enjoyed just how jolly difficult it is to get so many pieces ready at the same time with scales etc as well. I know i'm a better pianist as a result ...so I'm doing it again.

PS the AMEB examiner said that it was a pleasure to examine enthusiastic adults (there were 2 of us) and seemed to enjoy the variety.

good luck!


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I started my piano journey on Sept, 09. Got my grade 1 RCM in June 10 and I am entering my grade 4 in August.

The certificate is nice but for me, if I do not set myself a solid, quantifiable goal, I would lose interest and quit. So I decide to go for exam and I really enjoy it, both the actual exam and the preparation.

It's lucky that the exam centre I go to is a tiny church, so there is usually only 1 other student (with his/her parents) in the waiting room. I chose the earliest time slot and arrived just in time so that the potentially embarrassing waiting time (for me anyway) is kept to minimum smile. But I agree with everyone, exams are not for everyone.


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Hi All, I just started learning piano for my own personal enjoyment, at the end of last year (Nov 2010). This question has been on my mind lately, should I take exams or not.

Currently I am leaning towards not doing them, as I am just learning for myself and don't require the validation that a certificate entails. On the other hand, it is a good measure of how I am improving.

I think I will just continue on my path and if my teacher brings it up, I will decide on the spot.

PS: loving the forums, only just found them smile

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Wow....I started in November too! I have not heard of these exams. Sounds interesting. Does anyone know where they are offered in the bay area? It would be nice to have something to work towards.


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I have experienced the same apprehension and worry when I started (again), so if it is encouraging to hear of others who tried, I can just say keep going.

I stopped piano at age 11 after having sat a poor RCM grade 1 exam, and took up rock electric guitar. 30 years later I wanted to teach my daughter what my mother had taught me - the basics of the piano - so I traded my guitar for a 61 key heap of nonsense and started to practice. Then I bought an OK acoustic. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the piano again. So, while I did teach my daughter some things, she moved to the clarinet, but I kept going. I sat in the rooms with the moms, with them wondering why I had the music books and no kid with me. (I only did private lessons, which I would recommend.) My hands shook like leaves when I sat the Grade 3 RCM exam, which only had 10 year olds waiting, but I just missed getting 1st class honours. Now I'm studying for Grade 6 and learning some grade 8 pieces for fun. AND, finally I can sit down and play some modern pieces.

This took about 4 years, and finding the time to practice is sometimes very hard, the looks from the adults in various settings is a tad disconcerting, but the playing is pure joy and escapism. Keep going!!

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Bob

What a great post! I would enjoy sitting for an exam and working my way up. I find piano a total escape as well.


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Out of curiosity, are you planning on doing an exam for every grade?
I actually skipped a lot (I would go through the grade, but no exam), but looking in retrospect, I wonder if that's why my technique is so horrible...heh.

Anyways, I think it is a good way to get yourself motivated and keep up with your playing! On the other hand, you'll definitely need to put in quite a bit of time.
I wouldn't be so embarrassed about it though. Back when I was younger, my Mum and I actually took theory classes together! And she didn't care. Not only that, but I doubt anyone will have much time to look around in the room when their main focus should be on the exam :P

Oh and off on a tangent but...
Anyone interested in monitoring their progress, recording is a good way to do it! The idea of possibly posting something up on YouTube actually motivates me to finish pieces. Actually, it's the only time I've been able to since I stopped taking lessons, lol.

Last edited by keetner; 04/16/11 04:25 PM.
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