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Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: Michiyo-Fir] #2505821
01/31/16 09:49 AM
01/31/16 09:49 AM
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boo1234 Offline
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Forgive me for my ignorance, but what is the purpose of these exams? Are they just for fun? Or are they requirements for getting into conservatories (like SATs)?

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Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: boo1234] #2505835
01/31/16 10:51 AM
01/31/16 10:51 AM
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bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted by boo1234
what is the purpose of these exams? Are they just for fun? Or are they requirements for getting into conservatories (like SATs)?

Both, plus being an objective measure (or, as objective as it's possible to be) of a musician's standard and attainment.

Have a look at the ABF and the Piano Teachers Forum, and you'll read about people who can (apparently) play difficult repertoire, yet cannot sight-read at all (or maybe, not even read music, because they've been taught by rote by their teachers, or from YT videos). And there're many others who play difficult stuff but can't tell the difference between a perfect 4th and perfect 5th, or the difference between a duple, triple or quadruple time. And so on.

Whereas, if a student pianist says he's passed (say) Grade 5 ABRSM, I have a good idea what standard he's at - in playing, technique, scales & arpeggios, aural skills etc - and what he's likely to have played (Für Elise for example), or can easily manage. People who've never encountered the ABRSM exam system might think all this is irrelevant to music, but if you think of playing a musical instrument and music as a skill that can be taught & learnt - the same way that mathematics is taught & learnt in schools everywhere in the world - then the standard you've reached can be 'measured' in an exam, just as academic subjects are tested in all schools. And teachers in countries using the ABRSM system cannot skip teaching aspects of technique or musicianship or theory, just so that they can get their students to show off in their recitals how quickly they managed to learn to play Für Elise, or whatever - because recitals as a means of judging students' (or their teachers') standards cut no ice, if the student can't even read music or possess no basic aural skills (which are tested right from Grade 1). There is no culture of student recitals in the UK.

In the UK (and many other countries around the world, including the obscure one I came from), the exam system for music students is ubiquitous, as I mentioned earlier. Requirements to enter competitions, join orchestras etc are often based on grades.

When I was a student at my new high school in the UK, I took it for granted that a fellow musician of a similar grade to me can play his instrument to a similar standard, sight-read music etc. Everyone took the grade system for granted - when I asked to join the school choir, the choir master asked me what grade I was at my instrument (not what instrument I played, or whether I'd sung before). When I told him Grade 5, he nodded, and handed me the vocal scores (in SATB) for the music the choir would be learning in the next few weeks, and asked me to try out both the tenor and bass parts (my voice had just broken at the time) to see which suited me best. He didn't ask me whether I knew intervals, or could sight-sing, or whether I could sing in tune etc - he simply expected me to be able to, because I had passed Grade 5 ABRSM.

Similarly, when I wanted to try out chamber music (particularly Beethoven's 'Spring' Sonata), I found someone in the school choir who was a violinist of the same grade as me, and who was also looking for a pianist of similar standard to play violin-and-piano repertoire with. We didn't need to 'check out' each others' skills - just the fact that we were playing our respective instruments at the same grade was sufficient. The first time we played together, we both sight-read through Mozart's K304 with equal incompetence wink - and we went on to learn it (and later, the Spring Sonata and others) properly, just for our own pleasure.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: Michiyo-Fir] #2505888
01/31/16 02:09 PM
01/31/16 02:09 PM
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laguna_greg Offline
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guess where in CA and WA
Originally Posted by Michiyo-Fir

I had used the RCM system as a child and never the ABRSM although the rest of my family (cousins) in the UK all did their exams through ABRSM.

My question is, does ABRSM allow repertoire substitutions like RCM does?



To point out the obvious, why don't you write, call or email the board and ask them? I know several people who've done that for various auditions at all levels. It almost always clears up the problem at one go.

Further speculation isn't going to help at all.


Laguna Greg

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http://www.linkedin.com/pub/greg-dempster/34/325/6b9/ (my day job)
Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: bennevis] #2505938
01/31/16 04:08 PM
01/31/16 04:08 PM
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But the ABRSM examination process is flawed too. Just because you 'pass' a certain Grade does not mean you're at the level that that grade deems you to be.

A quick example of this:

I once started teaching a 10 year old. She'd been learning the instrument for three years and had sat Grades 1, 2 and 3 gaining DISTINCTIONS (the highest mark possible) in each of her exams. Her mother proudly presented me the exam certificates and the feedback sheets (which took some deciphering)There was not one negative mark on any of those feedback sheets.

So, there I sat massively impressed and ready to start the lesson. I asked her to play me something, anything she liked. She opened up her Grade 3 book and in it EVERY single note had a letter name next to it. She played. There were many issues she displayed.

I asked her to play me some scales. She didn't know what they were. I showed her the C Major scale and she said she'd never played it before. I tried her out with some ABRSM GRade 1 (not 3) sight reading and she couldn't read anything in front of her. She had no knowledge of anything she was looking at on the page.

It turns out she'd learnt a grand total of 9 pieces over three years and any scales that she had learnt were long gone from her short term memory.

Yet, distinctions.

The mother was distraught when I informed her that she'd basically been taught by rote and didn't truly understand anything in front of her LET ALONE any musicianship qualities.

Anyone can train to pass an exam and, I think, given that the ABRSM have changed their syllabus to make it easier to pass (whilst bumping pu the prices - get those 4 year olds in!) pretty much says it all.

There are positives to sitting exams as well of course but, in my opinion, the ABRSM ain't all that!






Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: fatar760] #2505940
01/31/16 04:11 PM
01/31/16 04:11 PM
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bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted by fatar760
There was not one negative mark on any of those feedback sheets.



So, how did she manage to pass her sight-reading tests?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: bennevis] #2505941
01/31/16 04:18 PM
01/31/16 04:18 PM
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I have no idea! I'd liked to have found out.

Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: fatar760] #2505943
01/31/16 04:22 PM
01/31/16 04:22 PM
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bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted by fatar760
I have no idea! I'd liked to have found out.

It's not unknown for students to ask/cajole/bribe others to do music exams on their behalf wink .

After all, the examiner has no idea what you look like.........


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: ABRSM Repertoire? [Re: bennevis] #2505945
01/31/16 04:26 PM
01/31/16 04:26 PM
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fatar760 Offline
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Haha maybe....

Although their previous teacher was a male from Poland and she was a ten year old girl from Barbados...not really sure why they'd be looking for a new teacher if they had a nice 'deal' with their current one!

Plus, must repeat, that the mother was distraught when I explained to her that her kid wasn't at the level they believed her to be. They were a very religious family so any 'exam rigging' wasn't something she was aware of.


Last edited by fatar760; 01/31/16 04:28 PM.
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