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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
rmns2bseen #2910696 11/11/19 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
One flexible aspect might be that no one is required to take all the exams. With few exceptions, prior levels are not required for each successive levels. So a student might only take level/grade 8, and this does happen. ...
Yeah, as I understand it (though I could be wrong) one of the requirements is passing the theory exam at Grade 5, I believe. Now that *is* a good idea, regardless, especially for non-keyboard players whose training is sometimes so absorbed in tone production that theory can be given short shift. I think keyboard players may often have a leg up when it comes to that area.

One of the odd things I just read in the last two weeks is that RCM doesn't require the theory component for US students. If that's true, I wonder why that would be? Is it just that piano teachers in the US just don't teach theory as often to their piano pupils and RCM realized if they made theory a requirement in the US, as it is in Canada, that very few students would be qualified to take the exams at level 5 and higher?

I wonder if US conservatories find that their US students are much less prepared in music theory than their European counterparts? I really should ask my sister if she recalls being taught any music theory by her piano teacher, before the university.


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2910698 11/11/19 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
One flexible aspect might be that no one is required to take all the exams. With few exceptions, prior levels are not required for each successive levels. So a student might only take level/grade 8, and this does happen. ...
Yeah, as I understand it (though I could be wrong) one of the requirements is passing the theory exam at Grade 5, I believe. Now that *is* a good idea, regardless, especially for non-keyboard players whose training is sometimes so absorbed in tone production that theory can be given short shift. I think keyboard players may often have a leg up when it comes to that area.

One of the odd things I just read in the last two weeks is that RCM doesn't require the theory component for US students. If that's true, I wonder why that would be? Is it just that piano teachers in the US just don't teach theory as often to their piano pupils and RCM realized if they made theory a requirement in the US, as it is in Canada, that very few students would be qualified to take the exams at level 5 and higher?

I hope not. If so, piano pedagogy here is in a sorry state. I remember one of the first books I got when I first started taking piano lessons as a kid was a theory workbook.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2910720 11/11/19 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
One flexible aspect might be that no one is required to take all the exams. With few exceptions, prior levels are not required for each successive levels. So a student might only take level/grade 8, and this does happen. ...
Yeah, as I understand it (though I could be wrong) one of the requirements is passing the theory exam at Grade 5, I believe. Now that *is* a good idea, regardless, especially for non-keyboard players whose training is sometimes so absorbed in tone production that theory can be given short shift. I think keyboard players may often have a leg up when it comes to that area.

One of the odd things I just read in the last two weeks is that RCM doesn't require the theory component for US students. If that's true, I wonder why that would be? Is it just that piano teachers in the US just don't teach theory as often to their piano pupils and RCM realized if they made theory a requirement in the US, as it is in Canada, that very few students would be qualified to take the exams at level 5 and higher?

I wonder if US conservatories find that their US students are much less prepared in music theory than their European counterparts? I really should ask my sister if she recalls being taught any music theory by her piano teacher, before the university.


I believe that was incorrect information. I read it in the same post you did. I went to check and unless there's a different syllabus for the US, which I don't think so, that would be incorrect information.

I got to the following site from the RCM US page and it is exactly the same as the Canadian criteria. Maybe I'm missing something? Maybe if you did it through specific universities?

https://www.rcmusic.com/learning/piano-syllabus,-2015-edition-prerequisites-and-cor

Here's another one, a brochure for the US market:

https://files.rcmusic.com//sites/default/files/RCM_USA_Guide-to-Examinations_Online.pdf

As compared to the Canadian brochure:

https://files.rcmusic.com//sites/default/files/RCM_CANADA_Guide-to-Examinations_Online.pdf

There is a difference. US students can receive a "practical" certificate if they don't do the grade 5 theory exam. They will only get a "comprehensive" grade 5 certificate if they do the grade 5 theory. It looks the Canadian students don't have the option to receive a practical certificate only. So I stand corrected.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 11/11/19 10:59 AM.

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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910789 11/11/19 01:59 PM
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The teaching of theory is rarely, if ever, mentioned when teachers talk about their teaching methods in the Piano Teachers Forum, which leads me to believe that US piano teachers don't regard it as part of their remit as piano teachers to teach theory. I also noticed that one or two have suggested to their students to attend separate theory class (presumably a purely academic class, with no musical instrument in sight). Incidentally, aural training is hardly ever mentioned either.....do they also regard it as surplus to requirements?

When I was a student, I was taking ABRSM Theory exams grade by grade alongside the Practicals. Luckily, I started learning English a year before I started piano lessons, so I could keep pace with the level of English required to understand the stuff......


"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 Grade 4 Disaster
bennevis #2910792 11/11/19 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
The teaching of theory is rarely, if ever, mentioned when teachers talk about their teaching methods in the Piano Teachers Forum, which leads me to believe that US piano teachers don't regard it as part of their remit as piano teachers to teach theory. I also noticed that one or two have suggested to their students to attend separate theory class (presumably a purely academic class, with no musical instrument in sight). Incidentally, aural training is hardly ever mentioned either.....do they also regard it as surplus to requirements?

When I was a student, I was taking ABRSM Theory exams grade by grade alongside the Practicals. Luckily, I started learning English a year before I started piano lessons, so I could keep pace with the level of English required to understand the stuff......

Don't know what is done in general but my teacher assigned me the Snell theory workbook series from almost the outset of lessons, clarifies any questions that arise, and periodically checks my answers to the theory quizzes.

I'm just wondering why RCM has changed the rules for the US w/ respect to theory and offers the option mentioned by ebonykawai above. It maybe there are teachers in the US who just concentrate on the instrument, as you suggest. I'm just purely speculating here why they might offer a different option for the US that they don't offer in their home territory of Canada, and have no information one way or the other.


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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2910796 11/11/19 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
[
Don't know what is done in general but my teacher assigned me the Snell theory workbook series from almost the outset of lessons, clarifies any questions that arise, and periodically checks my answers to the theory quizzes.

That works because you're an adult, but if you were a young kid, surely you wouldn't be able to learn theory by yourself from a workbook?

Also, does your teacher do ear training with you?


"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 Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910798 11/11/19 02:27 PM
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As a young child, we did theory and aural training as part of my lesson. When I was around 10, we added an extra weekly lesson just for theory, aural and an occasional duet. This was from a small town, neighborhood teacher. .... without exams


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
bennevis #2910800 11/11/19 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...and offers the option mentioned by ebonykawai above...

oops. I meant WeakLeftHand, not ebonykawai smile

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
[
Don't know what is done in general but my teacher assigned me the Snell theory workbook series from almost the outset of lessons, clarifies any questions that arise, and periodically checks my answers to the theory quizzes.

That works because you're an adult, but if you were a young kid, surely you wouldn't be able to learn theory by yourself from a workbook?

I think children would need direct instruction.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Also, does your teacher do ear training with you?

We've certainly taken lesson time to talk about problem areas. For example, one big problem area for me right now is hearing a short melody and determining if the meter is duple, triple, or quadruple. We've taken lesson time to talk through this and work some examples. For the most part though, the RCM online aural training material is good enough to learn by oneself.

The big gap is that it doesn't really "teach" the material for aural training. It just quizzes/tests it. There seems to be an underlying assumption that if you are given enough problems to work, you'll eventually "figure it out." For example, if I am given enough melodies, and keep guessing duple/triple/quadruple wrong, eventually my "win rate" will improve just through sheer rote.

Literally, the only instruction that RCM gives for this is that the first beat of the meter is emphasized. Wonderful. I'm not sure a dog could hear the difference in tricky cases, which based on the RCM level quizzes amounts to 50% of the cases.


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
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"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2910808 11/11/19 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop


Literally, the only instruction that RCM gives for this is that the first beat of the meter is emphasized. Wonderful. I'm not sure a dog could hear the difference in tricky cases, which based on the RCM level quizzes amounts to 50% of the cases.


Ear training definitely needs to be properly taught, unless you have a very high innate musical gift. I don't see how you can learn it from YT videos, because you have to have instant feedback and explanation/answers while listening to different musical examples played by your teacher.


"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 Grade 4 Disaster
bennevis #2910816 11/11/19 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
The teaching of theory is rarely, if ever, mentioned when teachers talk about their teaching methods in the Piano Teachers Forum, which leads me to believe that US piano teachers don't regard it as part of their remit as piano teachers to teach theory. I also noticed that one or two have suggested to their students to attend separate theory class (presumably a purely academic class, with no musical instrument in sight). Incidentally, aural training is hardly ever mentioned either.....do they also regard it as surplus to requirements?

When I was a student, I was taking ABRSM Theory exams grade by grade alongside the Practicals. Luckily, I started learning English a year before I started piano lessons, so I could keep pace with the level of English required to understand the stuff......


I don't know how "typical" American teachers handle theory, but I see it as a necessity.

I teach theory, starting from nearly the beginning for adult students and older children. I wait a while before introducing theory with younger children.

I even encourage my students to do ABRSM theory exams, but it's a hard sell! I've only had one student that wanted to take a theory exam - my adult overachiever who took G5 theory the same day as I took G6 last week.


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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910844 11/11/19 04:34 PM
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DisastrousBoy, I am guessing you do this for a hobby. If your doing this for a career in music, just make an informed decision. Here is data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on a career as a musician. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm

I just decided to take the RCM online theory courses. Started a couple of weeks ago with level 5. Unit one did ok, still working on unit two, it is rhythm, my weakness. Failed the pre-test twice, it is timed and I am slow. If I fail the level 5 theory, I will pick up and do it again. If we never made mistakes, there would be no learning. Be proud of yourself for putting yourself out there and reaching for it. The issue is not trying and failing, it is never trying because your afraid of failing. Is this test going to make a significant difference in your life, I would guess not. Enjoy the journey. If you look at the GROW model, I am a certified coach/mentor in the VHA system, and this is the model used.
Goal...........you got that, now put a timeline, remember this can be adjusted based on life circumstances.
Reality...............seems to be doable (realistic) though it will take more work. It is important to be realistic. For example, if I said I want to be a olympic runner, is it not realistic.. no way. If I say I would like to do the RCM theory through 8, that is realistic for me, although there will be challenges. Anyway, why do something if there is no challenge, that would be a bit boring. You are looking, I think, to push yourself and learn. It is nice to achieve goals, it makes us feel empowered.

Obstacles........just ran into one. What are some options for this, maybe a private teacher, additional reference books, etc....

Whats next? What steps are you going to take to complete your goal. How are you going to address your weak areas.

It is about the perseverance, do not allow yourself to give up, if you learned something from it you improved and will be better prepared for the next time.


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Dr. Rogers #2910880 11/11/19 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers
Originally Posted by bennevis
The teaching of theory is rarely, if ever, mentioned when teachers talk about their teaching methods in the Piano Teachers Forum, which leads me to believe that US piano teachers don't regard it as part of their remit as piano teachers to teach theory. I also noticed that one or two have suggested to their students to attend separate theory class (presumably a purely academic class, with no musical instrument in sight). Incidentally, aural training is hardly ever mentioned either.....do they also regard it as surplus to requirements?

When I was a student, I was taking ABRSM Theory exams grade by grade alongside the Practicals. Luckily, I started learning English a year before I started piano lessons, so I could keep pace with the level of English required to understand the stuff......


I don't know how "typical" American teachers handle theory, but I see it as a necessity.

I teach theory, starting from nearly the beginning for adult students and older children. I wait a while before introducing theory with younger children.

I even encourage my students to do ABRSM theory exams, but it's a hard sell! I've only had one student that wanted to take a theory exam - my adult overachiever who took G5 theory the same day as I took G6 last week.



I'm certainly learning theory. My teacher requires it for all her students. She's also a college music professor at 3 local colleges, so I'm lucky that she has so many books and resources at her fingertips. My first teacher never taught me theory, but I had a basic knowledge from playing violin for years.

As for RCM and its standards in the US, my thought was that it's not a US system. We don't have a national system of music learning here, generally kids are taught for free in the school system, which was how I learned violin and played in a orchestra. No idead how its done in other countries. So for us, RCM is just one of other country's systems that we might decide to use. I don't know why there's a difference for us, it seems like an accommodation to maybe get more people her to give it a try. It's not really popular, in my area, anyway, except with Asian families. There's perhaps a handful of RCM students in each town. I know my teacher has maybe a few. Americans are not used to being tested for music studies unless they major in it or go to conservatory. Just my thoughts.


Lisa

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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910885 11/11/19 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

I think children would need direct instruction
Certainly. When I mention the workbooks, it wasn't teaching myself from it. It was exercises across several volumes that the teacher would check and explain. I've never forgotten it over the decades. I'm 100% confident that the theory exam is one I could pass.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910991 11/12/19 12:30 AM
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Regarding the teaching of music theory......

It is not mandatory. You can get very, very far in music without extensive knowledge of theory.

I do include theory in my teaching of piano, but only for the really advanced kids, and only as much as they can tolerate. Kids on the exam track tolerate theory, and sometimes it is like pulling teeth.

And for my current batch of un-intelligent, un-talented, and un-assiduous students, I would be a complete moron to teach them ANY theory.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2911003 11/12/19 03:03 AM
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Well,

I'm a composer (for the older members, sorry for mentioning it), as well as a pianist, teacher, etc.

I also live in the UK and, being Greek, I find it VERY exam oriented.

This is a problem and a solution at the same time.

As a teacher I get much more work from parents (mainly) and students aiming for the exams and for good reasons: You see ABRSM (and Trinity) offer UCAS points after grade 6. So YAY overall.

At the same time, though, the exam mentality is stopping students in their tracks from practicing more pieces. It's awful to have a grade 6 student who's only practiced a total of 30 pieces in his life! It's honestly crippling.

The exams in the UK, also come from a point of view that they need to be very very sure of their marking, to avoid any backlash. This means that along with the GCSEs and all the other exams, the piano (and theory exams) can be proven that went well, or not well. And this is a real issue with music: How can you really judge a performance to mark it? Isn't there many ways to play Bach, or Chopin, or whatever? Same for theory, although as it's written it's easier to mark: They've stopped including the difficult to mark parts (composition. heh...). Go figure.

Now, as others have said, dear OP: Don't fret over the exams. It's one thing that went wrong. Think of it like dating: I'm assuming you tried dating and had a disastrous date before in your life, but other dates were absolutely wonderful. Well, it's the same.

There are different types of pianists: The extrovert and very happy to perform, the introvert who is reluctant to perform, the anxious, the nervous, the anything you want to call someone. And it's fine. Enjoy music for what it is. I don't know if you're in London, or the UK for that matter, but join in the piano clubs that are available in your area: Play for other adults who do so for fun and feel the fun element of it all. etc.

Enjoy

EDIT: Theory! It is useful and at some point you will learn about it, as you move forward into more complicated repertoire. You can't avoid learning about D# minor if you're doing the Scriabin Etude! ;D You are rather helped if you understand that the scale in the beginning of Pathetique is an Eb major one (fingering, etc). And so on. And you can do that while you're playing, if you can notice things fast enough. Same for chords, etc.

Last edited by Nikolas; 11/12/19 03:05 AM.
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Nikolas #2911051 11/12/19 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Nikolas
Well,

I'm a composer (for the older members, sorry for mentioning it), as well as a pianist, teacher, etc.

Welcome back to PW, Nikolas. I read some of your past posts and have to say I am happy you are recovering from the trauma of the last years. I can only imagine how difficult it was going from full-time caretaker of your kids for 3 years, to seeing them only one month a year.

Originally Posted by Nikolas
At the same time, though, the exam mentality is stopping students in their tracks from practicing more pieces. It's awful to have a grade 6 student who's only practiced a total of 30 pieces in his life! It's honestly crippling.

I think this might be one of the legitimate issues with the exam system which rmns2bseen raised. I'm preparing for my RCM Level 4 myself and finding myself working on pieces beyond the point that I would have asked my teacher if we could just move on. I do so to make sure I have them solid for the exam and to compensate for any last minute jitters on exam day. I tell myself that if there were no exams and only student recitals, I would have done the same, but would I really? And with student recitals, you only have to prepare one piece, not 5. So while I've read that unless you can make a piece performance-ready, you may not have really learned it, I wonder if this is lower efficiency learning (re: concept of diminishing returns).

Originally Posted by Nikolas
The exams in the UK, also come from a point of view that they need to be very very sure of their marking, to avoid any backlash. This means that along with the GCSEs and all the other exams, the piano (and theory exams) can be proven that went well, or not well. And this is a real issue with music: How can you really judge a performance to mark it? Isn't there many ways to play Bach, or Chopin, or whatever? Same for theory, although as it's written it's easier to mark: They've stopped including the difficult to mark parts (composition. heh...). Go figure.

So what is the real consequence of this? Are you saying that the only negative marks you get are on obvious technical faults and that fuzzy things like interpretation, etc., are just not graded?


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across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2911052 11/12/19 07:41 AM
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A lot of the content of theory for ABRSM 8 or RCM 10 is actually very basic, apart some elements of composition (sorry for all those who had hard time learning it). Half of it is essentially just syntax and notational conventions. One way or another students need to know that, whether they learn it formerly as theory or as case-by-case items when working on pieces of music. It is like learning a language and not knowing the syntax.

The other half is a set of basic notions about chords, harmony, some simple conterpoint, structural elements. Again if one wants to learn a language, learning the grammar is essential. One can always learn by imitation, but true understanding and mastering of a language goes by learning the grammatical rules. Not to mention other aspects which are also extremely important such as style.

One can always play a piece by Bach as a finger or pure hand coordination exercice, but understanding the counterpoint, (baroque) harmony, style, expressive figuration participates to the ability of properly rendering the musical content.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2911101 11/12/19 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Originally Posted by Nikolas
At the same time, though, the exam mentality is stopping students in their tracks from practicing more pieces. It's awful to have a grade 6 student who's only practiced a total of 30 pieces in his life! It's honestly crippling.

I think this might be one of the legitimate issues with the exam system which rmns2bseen raised. I'm preparing for my RCM Level 4 myself and finding myself working on pieces beyond the point that I would have asked my teacher if we could just move on. I do so to make sure I have them solid for the exam and to compensate for any last minute jitters on exam day. I tell myself that if there were no exams and only student recitals, I would have done the same, but would I really? And with student recitals, you only have to prepare one piece, not 5.

Personally, I think 5 pieces is too many for an exam which is not at advanced level - you're not talking about a diploma student performing a short recital to earn his ATCL or whatever. And the inclusion of an etude as well? And playing from memory......OK, I've said my piece about what I think of that already smirk .

When I was a student, the exam preparation took up only two months per year, maybe three in the higher grades, where the music is much longer and more complicated. Of course, I didn't have to play any piece from memory, and no fellow student I knew of did either.

If a student only practices for exam pieces and nothing else, there's something wrong with the teaching, and/or the student is being pushed to skip grades by his teacher or parents (or by his own volition, if he's an adult). All my four teachers taught me lots of pieces through the year, obviously none of them having to be learnt to the same standard as the three exam pieces I did annually. And I never skipped any grades, nor did any of my teachers ever suggest doing that. And I also learnt quite a number of pieces by myself, for my 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 Grade 4 Disaster
bennevis #2911106 11/12/19 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Personally, I think 5 pieces is too many for an exam which is not at advanced level - you're not talking about a diploma student performing a short recital to earn his ATCL or whatever. And the inclusion of an etude as well? And playing from memory......OK, I've said my piece about what I think of that already smirk .

Just a correction to what I said - actually the 5 "pieces" that I refer to are made up of 3 repertoire pieces of 1-2 pages (one each of Baroque, Classical, and 20-21st century) and 2 etudes of 1-2 pages. So an etude might be something out of Mikrokosmos 3 for example (for RCM 4). So I didn't mean to imply there were 5 repertoire pieces. At RCM 8, a 4th repertoire piece is required, and at RCM 10, a 5th piece is required.

Also, I wanted to correct an error. I misspoke. On checking the RCM syllabus, I see there are no bonus points assigned for memorization, they are just points. So what that means is that even though memorization is not required for RCM levels 1-10, and only required for diploma levels, one cannot get the full 100 points without memorization. For example, for RCM Level 4, the max score without memorization is 94 as 6 points are allocated to memorization. They are "free" in the sense you get these 6 points automatically if you don't play with a score. However, they are not "free" in the sense of getting one more than the 100 points. (I think I said earlier that one could get 106 points - that is a mistake. 100 is the max.)


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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2911277 11/12/19 06:41 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
So what is the real consequence of this? Are you saying that the only negative marks you get are on obvious technical faults and that fuzzy things like interpretation, etc., are just not graded?

They are, but it certainly is more difficult to grade them. Compare any recording that Gould did to more "normal" ones. Performance quirks cannot be judged that easily, so...

And I truly think that the various exam boards have a very difficult job of choosing pieces for their syllabuses, exactly for the above reason: They have to offer plenty of opportunities for the examiner(s) to judge a performance...

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