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Piano Exams - How good are the pianos? #2913493 11/18/19 01:50 PM
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OscarRamsey Offline OP
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Hiya,

Having had my ABRSM Grade 3 piano exam, I noticed some of the keys were a bit off/stiff when playing one of the pieces on the day. Perhaps I’ve become too accustomed to the action on my LX-705, or perhaps that’s just part of the parcel with exams, or perhaps I played unrealistically ‘P’ on an unknown/real action which meant I missed a note or two..

I’ve been to the same venue on the trot for all three exams - whether they use the same grand piano, or a different one each year I’m not sure (it appears the same to me though!). It didn’t feel smooth to me though.

Just interested in your experiences (this isn’t a moan).


Learning to play. Consciously incompetent, which apparently is a good starting point. smirk
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Re: Piano Exams - How good are the pianos? [Re: OscarRamsey] #2913500 11/18/19 02:09 PM
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I am a big fan of music exams. I take them myself and I recommend them to my students.

But you have hit on a huge problem with exams.

I have taken ABRSM Grade 5 and Grade 8. The Grade 5 exam was on a marvelous Steinway B that I suspect may have been a Hamburg Steinway because the action felt very much like the Renner action on my Baldwin SD-10. I was right at home on that piano.

But my Grade 8 exam was on a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" piano that was ready for the junk heap. It was unresponsive and sounded very bland. Furthermore, it had been placed up on cast-iron risers, so that it was at least an inch and a half higher than it should have been. The bench was low. There were rubber floor mats - rubber floor mats! - provided to stack up on the bench. So I did my Grade 8 exam sitting on top of a bunch of rubber floor mats, the the pedals awkwardly high off the ground.

There were other problems with my Grade 8 exam, but I think the examiner took everything into account. I was satisfied with my score.


Austin Rogers, PhD
Music Teacher in Austin, TX
Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko", Baldwin Upright, Yamaha P-255
Re: Piano Exams - How good are the pianos? [Re: OscarRamsey] #2913504 11/18/19 02:25 PM
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Moo :) Offline
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When i was a child i remember going to piano exams in people houses. They always had grand piano and it was the only time I got to play on one. I did however grade 7 as an adult i think bad piano and bad location. It a very dingy run. The piano was not a grand but as i never play on grand this was not an issue for me. It just felt a cheap and rubbish to me. The piano pedal did not really work. It did not seem to have a great dynamic range. I struggled to play quietly on it which made my first piece difficult. I have heard however that many centres have good pianos. I did no research and picked the nearest centre which may have been the problem. I also did not know the rules of the piano exam (apparently you needed photo copies of the pieces for the examiner to follow!). I did much better than I did as a child but bad piano is a definite issue. i have heard that going to a centre that also does piano diplomas tend to be better as you need proper good pianos for that.

Re: Piano Exams - How good are the pianos? [Re: Moo :)] #2913513 11/18/19 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Moo :)
When i was a child i remember going to piano exams in people houses. They always had grand piano and it was the only time I got to play on one. I did however grade 7 as an adult i think bad piano and bad location. It a very dingy run. The piano was not a grand but as i never play on grand this was not an issue for me. It just felt a cheap and rubbish to me. The piano pedal did not really work. It did not seem to have a great dynamic range. I struggled to play quietly on it which made my first piece difficult. I have heard however that many centres have good pianos. I did no research and picked the nearest centre which may have been the problem. I also did not know the rules of the piano exam (apparently you needed photo copies of the pieces for the examiner to follow!). I did much better than I did as a child but bad piano is a definite issue. i have heard that going to a centre that also does piano diplomas tend to be better as you need proper good pianos for that.


It is totally incomprehensible to me that an examination should take place on an instrument that is not properly regulated. That may well depend upon the organization that is running the examination and the people at individual locations who are responsible for choosing and preparing the venue for the examinations, but I see no excuse for a bad piano.

That said, the candidate doesn't have much choice, given the cost of some of the examinations; you have to do the best you can with what is there. Of course we have been told that a "good" pianist can play on any piano, but that's still not an excuse for a bad piano at an examination venue.

Slightly off topic:
For some examinations (RCM Toronto, for example) photocopies are forbidden ...
- "Students must provide the examiner with an original, published copy of all music to be performed at the examination.
- Students who choose to perform with music should bring two original copies to the examination, one to play from and one to give to the examiner.
- Photocopied music is not permitted in the examination room unless the student has a letter of permission from the publisher or website.
- Students who wish to photocopy one page of a selection to facilitate a page turn may do so only with permission from the publisher. [Piano Syllabus, 2015 Edition, pp. 96 and 99]

Additionally:
- In lower levels, two memory marks are awarded for each repertoire selection performed by memory for a total of 6 marks
- In levels 8 to 10, one mark will be deducted for each repertoire selection that is played with the music.
- For the diploma (ARCT), memorization is compulsory.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Piano Exams - How good are the pianos? [Re: OscarRamsey] #2913536 11/18/19 03:45 PM
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OscarRamsey Offline OP
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Interesting to read your replies.

I enjoyed watching people turn up to register etc, some with their own instruments. You could play a game whilst waiting: “have a guess at who’s taking the piano exams” because they would have travelled relatively light!

Even if they have a VERY good piano for you to play on, that the disadvantage to piano exams: it’s not your own instrument.

Regardless - if I miss the distinction threshold on this occasion, it’s totally my fault for not being disciplined with my scales. smile


Learning to play. Consciously incompetent, which apparently is a good starting point. smirk
Re: Piano Exams - How good are the pianos? [Re: OscarRamsey] #2913538 11/18/19 03:49 PM
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Yes this was discussed before about the RCM board requiring memorisation and giving points for this. It was one reason that I found fewer of us memorise here. It is a different exam board system in U.K. I did an exam board arbsm for grade 6 as a kid and trinity for grade 7 as an adult in 2015. You don’t have to memorise anything and you don’t get bonus points for doing so. Everyone I knew learnt grades and no one memorised. You were supposed to bring in photocopies of pieces not in the exam printed book so that the examiner would have the music. I did not know and it didn’t seem to matter. I remember when I was young I had to rub out all the markings and have clean scores but now it didn’t seem to matter and had fully marked scores. It is not so strict. Ben Nevis said you have to memorise to do a performance diploma. That is above my level and I don’t think I will ever do piano exams again.

Last edited by Moo :); 11/18/19 03:55 PM.
Re: Piano Exams - How good are the pianos? [Re: OscarRamsey] #2913556 11/18/19 04:17 PM
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In all my ABRSM grade exams, an upright piano was used. Just as well, as I'd never played a grand until I finished with Grade 8 and high school, and had a new teacher to take me to diploma level. He had two grands.....which I could hardly get any sound out of, so 'stiff' and 'heavy' they felt. (Now I believe that the 'heaviness' was due to their high key inertia). If I'd done any of my grade exams on those grands, I'd have failed miserably......

As for the quality of the uprights that I did the exams on, all I can remember is that they were no worse than the pianos in the school practice rooms, on which I did all my practicing when I was at boarding school - and far better than the tiny cheap upright I had at home. Actually, I was so nervous during all the exams that the last thing I took notice of was the action of the pianos, just as long as I was able to control the keys.

BTW, if you are fortunate enough to live in London, chances are you'll have a decent grand to play on during the exams: Fazioli, C.Bechstein or Schimmel, depending on which showroom is hosting the exams. More than once I tried to play in their biggest practice room (the one with the best grand - 6 footer) only to find that it was being used for ABRSM exams.


"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 Exams - How good are the pianos? [Re: OscarRamsey] #2913571 11/18/19 05:02 PM
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I have only taken two AMEB exams and both were at my local conservatorium. The pianos there are well looked after, so I don't expect to have a problem on the day. However, at my recent exam I was not expecting to play the best piano I have ever played. Not that I know pianos well, but I know what sounds and feels good. Even the examiner pointed out this was a very good Kawai grand, and I even think I played all the better for it.

In my first couple of years playing I used to have great difficulty transitioning to different pianos. The cure was to buy try more pianos but I still can't play those junk heaps you find at railway stations.


Following Trying to follow the Ling Ling 40 hour method

Kawai K8 & Kawai Novus NV10


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