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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2711897 02/06/18 10:16 AM
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Just realizing today what a big jump it is between RCM levels 6 and 7. I'm working on the etude book and just finding it way more difficult than my skills. Maybe I'm going backwards. The speed and the technical difficulty are more than I can do today but we'll see tomorrow.


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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2711946 02/06/18 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by WiseBuff
Just realizing today what a big jump it is between RCM levels 6 and 7. I'm working on the etude book and just finding it way more difficult than my skills. Maybe I'm going backwards. The speed and the technical difficulty are more than I can do today but we'll see tomorrow.


I completely agree! Once you get past grade 6 RCM/ grade 5 ABRSM, the difference between grades seems huge. Over time it does start to feel possible though. I am sure tomorrow will feel better!

Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2712110 02/06/18 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by WiseBuff
Maybe I'm going backwards.


I certainly can relate to that feeling. Since starting AMEB grade 6 my pieces have become much more difficult. Although I can see progress over a long time there are days when I don't know if I will ever play them properly. On the bright side I could actually start some of my aspirational pieces now, if only I had the time.


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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2712113 02/06/18 07:36 PM
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I feel there is a big difference between 5 and 4, but there was little difference between 3 and 4. (RCM)


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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2712549 02/08/18 07:54 AM
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Thank you all for your experience...it's not just my lack of skill then. I'll be back to enjoying the work on it and if I master it, great. After all it is the journey not the destination.


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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2713034 02/09/18 11:30 PM
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Hi,

I thought I would join this exam thread. My name is Stu.

I work in technology (Silicon Valley) and have a family. My two boys (15 and 11) and I all take piano lessons.

Our piano teacher asked me if I was interested in taking piano exams and I said sure, let's try it. I am planning to take the ABRSM level 3 exam late 2018. I have never taken any piano exams before so I am racing through level 1 and 2 books with her.

After reading 90% of the posts in this thread and reading how life unfolds and interrupts practicing for exams, I thought I would join in the "fun".

-stu

Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2713074 02/10/18 04:51 AM
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Welcome Curious42! Are you starting as a beginner or as a restarter? It is great that you are taking lessons along with your sons. Enjoy the journey!

Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2713106 02/10/18 08:41 AM
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Welcome, stu. I had no idea you could take ABRSM in the US. I thought they just did RCM around here ;0


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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2713123 02/10/18 09:54 AM
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Welcome Stu! Hope you enjoy your exam track. It's a grueling effort sometimes and each finish line is the start of a new one.


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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2713587 02/11/18 10:38 PM
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I began "replaying" off and on when the boys started learning in 2010, but my 80% work travel schedule obviously limited my practice. Starting 2016 I didn't have to extensively travel, and this allowed me to practice more. I really learned that my brain felt incredibly good after practicing and playing and that my creativity and concentration level materially increased.

During this time, I realized that the music that I aspirationally want to play (both classical and jazz) were well beyond my capabilities. A new piano teacher entered the scene, coincidently, and asked me if I had considered taking piano exams.

I researched and thought about these exams over the next few weeks. This thought work eventually led me to think about what these exams would mean to me personally. I decided to take the exams with the intent that the exams create the "bridge" to help me play the music I aspirationally want to play.

Thank you for your encouragement, and I look forward to sharing and walking the path all of you are taking...life journey and all!

Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2714351 02/14/18 10:13 PM
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Hi all. I was really happy to see the exam thread because I just set myself a goal of doing the RCM level 5 exam.

I finished level 3 when I was a kid, maybe 1975ish, and didn’t touch a keyboard again until I acquired an old piano and started taking lessons a year ago. Surprisingly enough, it’s gone amazingly well until now. My teacher thought I should go for level 5 so that’s what I’m doing but I sure have my work cut out for me; catching up on all the scales, sight reading, etc that I haven’t done for eons. I am really hoping the workload will become more manageable once I master all the technical requirements that take me forever right now.

It’s really heartening to hear your success stories.

Carol

Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2714477 02/15/18 08:32 AM
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Welcome AngusOg! We will certainly cheer you on in your exam journey and remind you the exam is not the goal...it's just a guide for our work and a milestone to achievement. I have to remind myself often as I struggle with each level and the new demands. For me the technical expectations are most demanding. Cheers! (virtual glass of wine raised to you)


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Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2714682 02/15/18 10:31 PM
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Thank you WiseBuff

You are so right. I am doing this in the hope that my practice will give me a well rounded skill base.

But I was hoping the technical part would get easier once I got caught up to level 5. 😊

Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2714984 02/17/18 02:51 AM
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Welcome AngusOg! Glad to know other people "revisiting" exams.


Last week during piano lessons we learned that our piano teacher needs to leave the country and return home to help her grandmother, who was diagnosed with late stage cancer. Family first, as we say. We are very grateful for the 2 years she has helped the boys and I. She was the instructor that encouraged me to take exams and push myself. We very much liked her enthusiasm and "can do" energy; this drive will be sorely missed.

She has been actively helping us identify piano instructors and reviewing the instructor bios for the boys and I. We are very grateful for this effort; she wanted to make sure that each of her students, especially those studying for exams this year, found a good home. A stand up act.

After talking with 7 instructors, we found 2 possible instructors. We are meeting 1 of 2 instructors this coming week. Wish us luck.

The tough part for us has been trying to find an instructor for 3 of us in the same time block ( 2+ hrs together) is not easy and that also has current/recent ABRSM teaching experience.

Side notes I learned during my 7 discussions with potential instructors this past week:

* Not many adults with kids come back to play with teachers long term (2 plus years); family, work, and life get in the way. Of these few parents and later life adults taking lessons, only a few from this small population, I am told, rarely perform at the piano school recitals. I found this personally true; when I began practicing with a teacher starting in 2010, I have been the only adult in the recital each year....standing in line next to the next oldest student...maybe 14 or 15 years...is nerve racking; especially when they play well! They all applauded that I am willing to stick with lessons and take exams. I think this particular exam thread is why I gravitated toward it; it has been lonely not being able to commiserate with other adult exam takers and or adults who play in recitals. We are a very rare bird indeed.

* Many were surprised that I was interested in taking ABRSM exams; most are teaching CM and RSM yet 3 grew up taking ABRSM exams themselves. I found that quite curious.


Last edited by Curious42; 02/17/18 02:55 AM.
Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2714986 02/17/18 03:16 AM
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I am sorry to hear that you are losing your piano teacher Cousious42. It is hard to find the right fit in the first place and harder to make a change! Hopefully one of the two you are trialing will work out.

The feedback that you had from potential teachers seems to be the norm. Few of us want the rigor of exams, and in the US they seem less oriented toward the structured exam course. ABRSM seems to be relatively rare in the US, possibly because of the dominance of RCM and state programs like CM.

Good luck in your search!

Re: Piano Exam Group
SwissMS #2719031 03/05/18 09:06 AM
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Greetings, everybody. I hope nobody minds me posting in here. I just took my first ABRSM exam this past weekend: Grade 5 Music Theory. It felt really odd, being the only adult taking the test. I was the oldest person there by a good 20 years!

I'm in a somewhat odd position: I'm a music teacher, but I'm also an adult "returner." I took piano lessons from age three up until sometime in my mid-teens. At that point I was seduced by traditional music, and took up the banjo (which I used to play competitively), fiddle, and even the Scottish bagpipes (there's good money in the bagpipes). My piano skills slipped considerably, but my music theory didn't, and my overall sense of musicality actually improved over those years. I've done a lot of teaching over the years, but most of my piano students were absolute beginners. Whenever I would get an advanced beginner or intermediate student, I would brush up on my piano playing, enough to make sure I was doing right by my students, but nothing too serious, and the students weren't all that advanced.

Then, about two years ago, I was suddenly hit with inflammatory arthritis in both hands. Almost overnight, I lost my acuity on the banjo and fiddle. Guitar is now a lost cause. The prescription from my doctor: piano! He said it's better for my fingers than any other physical therapy he could prescribe. So off to the piano I went, with a laser focus. I have managed to claw my way back up to where I was when I fell off back in my teens, and have even surpassed it. I'm probably playing at diploma level, despite that blasted arthritis. (A thousand curses on old Arthur!)

When I stopped taking lessons as a teenager, I was playing at or above the Grade 8 level (gauging by the ABRSM syllabus). I wish these exams had been available here in the States back in the 1980s - I would have been all over them! Heck, I probably would have sat for a diploma exam back then. But I had never even heard of ABRSM or the other exam boards, and the pull of trad was oh so strong.

I recently took on two amazing students who really inspire me to do better. One of them wants to do the ABRSM exams, so I've decided to do them as well. Thus the Grade 5 Music Theory. I'm pretty confident that I passed it, since I've lived, breathed, and slept music theory for so many years. The practical exams are another thing, however...

I registered for the Grade 5 Practical exam at the same time as the theory. The practical exam will be in May. (I would probably have started with Grade 6 except for the music theory exam requirement.) If all goes well, I hope to do Grade 7 Practical in November, and then Grade 8 Practical next May. After that, on to the diploma! (I hope to do DipABRSM and then eventually LRSM - I don't think I my arthritic hands could ever handle FRSM.) More letters after my name, yay!

For my Grade 5, I have chosen the following pieces:

J. S. Bach - Prelude in E minor, BWV 938 (a tricky little bugger, but I absolutely ADORE J. S. Bach)
Chopin - Sostenuto in E flat, KK IVb No. 10 (easy peasy and a lovely piece to boot)
Shostakovich - Gavotte (No. 2 from Dances of the Dolls) (AARGH! I HATE this piece! I'm so sick of it! I may switch to Cool by Stephen J Wood if I think I can give a more convincing performance.)

I have provisionally selected my Grade 7 and Grade 8 pieces (and even my DipABRSM program), and I work on those here and there as I have time. The pieces aren't my problem at all - it's the scales and arpeggios. My fingers just don't want to cooperate! Especially when the weather is cold (thankfully not too often here in Central Texas), my hands just don't move. Some days this past winter I just had to go do something else - piano wasn't working. So frustrating!

Anyway, if anyone read my ramblings, many thanks. I hope to be getting moral support here on this forum. And anyone who is doing the exams, especially adults taking them, has my moral support all the way!

Regards,

Austin Rogers, PhD


Austin Rogers, PhD
Music Teacher in Cedar Park, TX
Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko"
Re: Piano Exam Group
Dr. Rogers #2719146 03/05/18 04:01 PM
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Hi Austin,

Thanks for sharing your story. I've never read a story like yours, being a music teacher while at the same time returning to take piano exams but unlike others, not really requiring as much preparation and getting to Grade 8 at lightning pace!

I'm interested to read more about your progress. Keep us posted :-)


Be yourself

Re: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2730261 04/19/18 07:47 PM
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For anyone preparing for ABRSM grade 8 out there, wondering if anyone has any tips on aural skills especially modulation. I find that to be so difficult. Scales there were a lot, but as long as I am memorizing it and randomly pick a few to play everyday, I don’t see a problem. Sight reading I am Ok too. The pieces, I am waiting on the new syllabus to come out in June and then pick. The only think I am worried is the aural part. It just seems very difficult.


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3. Mozart Sonata K330 1st Movement
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Re: Piano Exam Group
pianofan1017 #2730276 04/19/18 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by pianofan1017
For anyone preparing for ABRSM grade 8 out there, wondering if anyone has any tips on aural skills especially modulation. I find that to be so difficult. .

I assume you do a little sight-singing every day? That does wonders for your aural skills - pick a hymn in four-part harmony and sight-sing each part in turn (you don't have to sing in the correct key, BTW, as long as the relative intervals are all there). Like this one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWr0DrDewGM

You can find almost any hymn on YT with the score in 4-part harmony to sing along to.

As for modulations, I'd think the main difficulty is identifying the difference between a modulation to the dominant or subdominant, rather than to the relative major/minor. For that, there's no substitute for lots and lots of listening. If you can hear the bass notes, you've got the answer. Or if you can hear the leading note to the new key - in major keys, a modulation to the dominant has a sharpened leading note (as in the hymn above), but not to the subdominant. And the subdominant has the tonic note in it, whereas the dominant doesn't, so if you cannot hear the tonic note in the last chord, the modulation is to the dominant.

I don't know about you, but I hear the subdominant as sounding 'religious' (after all, IV-I is the 'Amen' plagal cadence). I found the aurals easy as a student because I sang in the school choir, and also, every school day during morning assembly, we all sang two or three hymns, and I got used to picking out the alto, tenor and bass parts (as played on the pipe organ) and sang them instead of the actual (soprano) melody.


"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: Piano Exam Group
WiseBuff #2730302 04/20/18 03:25 AM
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I do have a trick for the the aural modulations that works pretty well for me. Hum the tonic in your head after the examiner plays it. If the ending chord contains that note, it is the subdominant. If it does not, it is the dominant. For example if the tonic is C, the IV is FAC, if The V it is GBD, The dominate will clash with the tone in your head.

I am taking the Grade 8 ABRSM in November. The aural is pretty challenging. I can do the sing the lowest part of a three part melody, name the cadence, modulations, and describe a piece. I Am still struggling will naming the first of the three ending chords. The last two are pretty well defined by the cadence. The sight singing is still challenging for me.

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