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Grade 8 from scratch in one year
#2520899 03/14/16 09:33 AM
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Hi all,

A couple of months ago I started a project to see if it's possible to get to Grade 8 piano (ABRSM) from scratch in just a year. If anyone is interested in checking out my progress, you can find my blog here: www.proficiencyproject.com

Cheers,
Tom

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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520904 03/14/16 09:51 AM
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Do you have prior knowledge of music from playing another instrument? Don't forget you have to have Grade 5 Theory to do the Grade 8 Practical.

Are you a child prodigy?


"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: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520914 03/14/16 10:06 AM
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I have some experience playing guitar and used to play the drums (though stopped about 10 years ago). I wanted to learn a skill that I had no prior knowledge of though, so this is pretty much from scratch -I'm learning theory and how to read music as I go. Unfortunately Im not a child prodigy - I'm 28. I think it's such a shame when people think 'I'm too old to learn something new now, if only I'd done it as a child' - so part of me wants this project to prove that adults can learn new skills just as quickly as children can :-)

Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520916 03/14/16 10:11 AM
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How much time a week are devoting to this? I'm curious, what are the differences between the grade levels?


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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520918 03/14/16 10:17 AM
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This is very interesting... you practice like 5/6 hours a day on average which can be quite hard. During Christmas holiday I practiced 6/7 hours a day and it was heavy, how do you organise your days and practice time?


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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520919 03/14/16 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by thomascarding
I think it's such a shame when people think 'I'm too old to learn something new now, if only I'd done it as a child' - so part of me wants this project to prove that adults can learn new skills just as quickly as children can :-)

Do you think that children can get to Grade 8 ABRSM in one year - even talented ones - from scratch? Do you know of any who did so?

You're talking about playing Beethoven piano sonatas and the like.

Yes, adults can learn as quickly as a child - but not 10 times as quickly.

(BTW, I got my Grade 8 ABRSM after 8 years - 1 grade a year, from the age of ten. OK, I don't have your talent, but......)


"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: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520926 03/14/16 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by thomascarding
so part of me wants this project to prove that adults can learn new skills just as quickly as children can :-)

Except children don't practice anywhere near seven hours per day.

I am all for you learning a new skill as quick as possible. But for most adults your practice regimen is just not possible. I would venture to say that many would frown on that length of practice in a day (injury, mental fatigue, diminishing return). And there are some that would say you can get to your desired goal with far less time at the keyboard (bernhard comes to mind).

Congratulations on your blog and venture. Good luck to you!

"Practice time today: 7 hours 30 mins"


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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
bSharp(C)yclist #2520930 03/14/16 10:40 AM
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B sharp: I practice 40 hours per week. The complete syllabus for Grades 1-8 can be found here: http://us.abrsm.org/fileadmin/user_upload/syllabuses/pianoSyllabusComplete15.pdf

Bennevis: No, I've not seen anybody, adult or child, who has done it in a year. Whether that means it's impossible or not I have no idea. I don't really believe in talent though - at least I think it's of very little importance in comparison to the sheer number of hours that you put into developing a skill. I think the reason that nobody does it in the timeframe I'm looking at is because very few people have the time or patience to try and fit 2,000+ hours of practice into a single year. I just hope that I do! Time will tell :-)

f3r: My practice varies a bit, but a good rule of thumb that I try to stick to for a day when I practice 7 hours would be roughly 2 hours on technique, 2.5 on repertoire, 1 on sight reading, 1 on theory, 30 mins on aural training. Something like that...

Last edited by thomascarding; 03/14/16 10:48 AM.
Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520934 03/14/16 10:43 AM
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Interesting experiment! I wish I had so much time to devote to the piano. Well maybe I wouldn't play so much even then, I practice about 40 hours a month and I don't think my brain could take much more.

To be really honest, I don't think it's feasible. In 4 years maybe yes, if one is extremely motivated, has a great teacher, and learns only exam pieces. I see that after 2 months you're playing songs from the Alfred's books, that's great and I'm sure you're having a lot of fun, but playing grade 8 classical music is something else entirely. But good luck and keep it up! You will certainly get to intermediate level by the end of the year, and it's something that very few people can do.

Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520936 03/14/16 10:47 AM
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If people can do it in a garment factory, can we do it on piano?
Head on keyboard for a nap once in a while...or wake up like that in the morning.


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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
sinophilia #2520940 03/14/16 10:54 AM
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Thanks. I have no idea if it's possible either, but I like a challenge - and not knowing if it can be done certainly makes it more interesting for me :-)

Good spot that everything I'm doing is out of the Alfred books. That's where my pieces are coming from at the minute, though I'm doing my theory work a lot quicker than it comes up in those. I look forward to being at the standard where I can tackle more challenging pieces though!

Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520944 03/14/16 11:05 AM
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Good luck. I think even if you don't pass the exam, you'll still be able to play and enjoy the piano. Have fun.

Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520954 03/14/16 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by thomascarding
B sharp: I practice 40 hours per week. The complete syllabus for Grades 1-8 can be found here: http://us.abrsm.org/fileadmin/user_upload/syllabuses/pianoSyllabusComplete15.pdf


Thanks. It's interesting to look at. I'd be lucky to pass Grade 1, lol ;0


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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520958 03/14/16 11:41 AM
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First of all, wish you all the best with the project.

I was listening to a young pianist last week, who is very talented and won the keyboard category in the BBC keyboard category some years ago, It took him 2 years to get grade 8 according to the booklet that was handed out before the concert, he started at age 6.

For myself, I wouldn't even dream of attempting something like this at my age, nor enjoy it, even if I did have the time, but for those that do, all the best to them I say. smile

May be its an age thing as well but there is no way I could practice 5 hours a day and feel I am productive doing it at this point.

The longest session I did was in fact last week, about 3 hours or so, that is after 22 months or so since starting, but that is not going to be regular thing for the foreseeable future, I just happened to have the time last week.

Of course you are relatively young by 20 years compared to me, but I'd be weary of injury too, especially without a teacher. I always stop playing as soon as I feel I am playing something with tension, and try to figure out where it is coming from, that is hard to do without a teacher, that is not to say I come up with the right solutions all the time, but at least it is something and all I can do. Just to mention it, to be careful in that area too.

I had previous music lessons moons ago and experience in other instruments too, but never piano. All that said, If I had the time for argument sake, and a teacher with a project like that, my gut feeling, l'd perhaps set myself the target of grade 4 perhaps at the very very best, Likely I wouldn't get that far even I feel. That is not to say one couldn't play some grade 5 pieces by then at some level perhaps, but there is a lot more like being able to sight read as well, all these are part of passing such a a grade, not just playing pieces.

Many teachers will say, at least I heard it said in piano discussions on youtube and places too, the really hard works starts at grade 5 or so. Those with much talent can sort of slip through to grades up to 4 without big long efforts in practice, but after that the grind and hard work really starts.

What will be interesting to see for yourself or if I were in that situation, I would ask, how far can I go rather than having a mind set on grade 8. I personally think that is an overly optimistic target, but to each their own of course.

The main thing is to have fun and enjoy what you are doing. I am not a very target driven person myself, as such I never think I would like to be at x level and be able to play y at time z. Whatever level I will be I will be at that stage, that is not to say I don't keep working or I am not motivated. We all work in our own ways, it works for some, not others.

In any case, all the best of luck with it and keep us posted. smile

btw. You may find the self assessment tests on the ABRSM site a handy tool along the way too. I used them a few times now and then compare that to what the teacher came up with in terms of giving a mark to any given performance, to judge how close you think you are to assess progress. They give detailed breakdown IIRC why the grade was given in videos, it's already quite a while ago I did that last time.

Of course it will never be as good as a teacher doing it for you, though surprisingly I did it for up grade 5 performances of other players. In the end I gave the overall same grade as the teacher every time in those in 12 total categories. Only in two categories did I award a little bit lower for scales, but the overall grade was still the same, so it gave me some sort of sense of scope at least, am I away off etc. being too easy on myself or way too hard ... and so on.

Last edited by Alexander Borro; 03/14/16 11:47 AM.

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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520975 03/14/16 12:36 PM
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I love this concept. I'm not hopeful for you (sorry to say), but it's exciting and will be really fun to follow.

Thank you for sharing this here. I'm always on the lookout for a good blog like yours.

:o))

Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
Alexander Borro #2520977 03/14/16 12:40 PM
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Please keep in mind that simply desiring to do so, no matter at what age an individual starts, is in any way a guarantee of success when attempting to learn the piano well, even with the very best of instruction, instrument, and even unlimited time to commit to learning. Only if a person possesses a good sense of eye and hand coordination and recieves and continues with proper instruction and practicing will a person have any possible chance at success.

It's just the unfortunate reality of it, hardly spoken, and a bit stick-in-the-muddish, but needing to be mentioned nonetheless.

Regards,
Andy


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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520982 03/14/16 12:44 PM
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That's exciting! It seems like an ambitious goal but hey, why not try your very best and see how far you get? Even if it takes you longer than a year, you are only 28 and have another 60 years to get there smile

I have no plans to pass exams necessarily, but I do hope to play some grade 8 pieces by next year, seeing that I am already starting to attempt grade 7. My mother in law who is a musician and a piano teacher says I am progressing faster than a typical adult in her experience, but I am not sure if she is just trying to get on my good side, lol. I do practice a lot though, every day after work for at least 2 hours, and longer on weekends.

Best of luck to you, it's really fun!


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Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2520994 03/14/16 01:08 PM
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Thanks for all the replies guys, there's a lot of really good advice in there :-) To be honest, a lot of the time I find myself agreeing with the majority that I'm probably being overly optimistic - but that's part of the fun of it. If I don't get there in a year I've still got a whole lifetime of piano-playing to enjoy (and that's actually far more important than any qualification). At the same time, it keeps me motivated to have the goal. I always think of the Leonard Bernstein quote 'to achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time'. I've probably ended up with nowhere near enough time but nevermind...

Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2521007 03/14/16 01:38 PM
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At first I thought you were doing this for the sake of passing an exam. Having read some of your blogs, seems you are simply learning as much as possible and practicing as much as possible, so 40 hours a week is about the upper limit for most people.

Since you mentioned that you would have about 2000 hours of practice in a year's time, and somewhere you also mentioned that your goal is to master the piano as your project, I will break the bad news to you that 2000 hours does not even begin to be enough for mastering the piano, and certainly not enough for the exams at ABRSM 8 (RCM 9). I easily have more than 2000 hours and I'm preparing for RCM 6. I would estimate for RCM 7, 8, would require as many hours as all the hours I've put in from RCM 1-6, and that much again for RCM 9 if not more. Also, building new pathways in an adult brain takes time. It's not just about how much you practice. Learning piano is not a math problem. If you were 20 years younger and willing to practice 40 hours a week, you probably could reach ABRSM 8 in a year studying under an extremely good teacher.

It's admirable goal to be doing this for a project, and also not everyone is able to save enough money and live within their means to not work for an entire year to devote to a project like you are doing, so it's great. While I do not believe at your current progress will reach ABRSM 8 materials with less than 300 days left, you will make good progress spending this much time and effort into it. Be careful not to get burned out. The most difficult thing about something as hard as piano is persistence when the music is no longer easy around grade 4-5. After that classical piano standards ramp up very sharply, and quality expectation is much higher than in the early grades. Often it takes years simply to learn to listen properly.

At some point, you should seriously consider practicing mostly on an acoustic piano especially for preparing for exams at the higher grades. Most students who practice exclusively on digitals do not do well on exams. Also, whether you end up in your project this year, you should seriously consider signing up for an exam 3 months ahead of your deadline at whichever grade you happened to be at. It is good to take an easier exam in preparation for the harder one.

If your project had the only goal of passing the ABRSM 8 exam in a year, I would say, drop whatever you're doing and start the ABRSM 8 exam repertoire and etudes immediately. I can see you imply you simply wish to learn as much as possible in a year while setting a high goal, so do consider taking the lower exams near the end of the year to get the experience of what it takes to prepare for one and pass. Also, the feedback of a lower exam would help you prepare for the eventual grade 8 exam.

I hope when you go back to work next year, you don't have to give up ABRSM, and continue to strive for your goal of ABRSM 8 in the future. It would be best if possible to immediately schedule and pass as many of the written exams as possible all the way to ABRSM 8 requirements all within this year since you would have relatively more time this year, and the written exams are not easy, so you could focus on playing next year when you have less time because of work. With this much dedication and determination, it is possible for you to complete ABRSM 8 in a few years.

Re: Grade 8 from scratch in one year
thomascarding #2521012 03/14/16 01:56 PM
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Thomascarding,
Have you thought about what you'll do if you fall short of your goal? Let's say hypothetically at the end of the year you reach grade 6, will you continue pushing through to see the shortest possible time to reach grade 8? Or will you settle into more normal practice routine and not care if it takes you a few more years to reach it?

In any case, I read through your blog and it's a very interesting project to be sure! I wish you much luck in your endeavors.


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