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Choosing Exam Pieces
#2982879 05/23/20 04:16 PM
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When preparing for exams I really take plenty of time in selecting my pieces. First, to be sure, I follow the advice that they all need to be contrasting. Second, I also consider if one piece is more popular than another so I'll check out YouTube and see what piece in my repertoire books have had less views than others. I don't want to choose a piece that is so popular that the examiners will roll their eyes and think "Oh, no! Not this again!". For my level 1 RCM exam I also purposely bought sheet music for a song that is part of the RCM syllabus but not found in the actual RCM repertoire/étude books.

In a nutshell when choosing exam pieces I consider:

1) Are the pieces contrasting enough?
2) I prefer to select something that isn't popular.
3) I will always choose one piece that I really detest and another that I really love.
4) I prefer to select something that is longer in playing time than all the rest of the other pieces (if possible).
5) My pick will always be something that has the most and varied dynamics (just because this is my weakness)
6) Can I pick something different and unique from other books that the examiners have heard seldom before?

Just wondering how others approach the task of selecting exam pieces.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982884 05/23/20 04:26 PM
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I think with RCM you have a larger repertoire to choose from.. with ABRSM the options are more limited..and since they had 600.000 exams last year... not sure anyone is worried about what piece has been overplayed.
I do think that if you have the option, you should choose to play something you enjoy rather than something you detest just for the sake of contrast (unless this is specifically request and none of the pieces are to your liking). Makes learning it not feel like a chore.
The only time I would worry about an overplayed piece would be for an audition such as for college admission.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982890 05/23/20 04:44 PM
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Since you're talking about RCM examinations, I can assure you that examiners are not looking for a "balanced" program in the grades up to level 10. The very fact that RCM examinations, starting at Level 1, require pieces from different "lists" representing different time periods is enough to assure some contrast in style among the pieces chosen. Examiners concentrate on the execution of individual pieces not on an overall program.

Choosing a piece that you "really detest" can be self defeating. You certainly wouldn't do it the same justice to such a piece that you would do a piece that you like. Why would you do that? Similarly, picking pieces that are illustrative of your greatest weaknesses could be self defeating. I don't understand your rationale.

How would you know which examiners have heard which pieces too many times? How would you know that the examiners would or would not like a very popular piece? Whatever pieces are on the examination lists, you may choose among them. Over the years, I have seen pieces disappear from examination lists; maybe one reason is that they were played too often or that they no longer failed to meet changing tastes of the examination board.

I don't see what purpose is served by picking a piece that is longer than all the other pieces in your examination repertoire.

You need to be aware that in some cases (see page 10 of the 2015 piano Syllabus) picking pieces of your own choosing requires advance approval from the RCM.

When I and my friends chose our examination pieces we always chose from each list either those pieces that we best liked or that we knew we could play better than other pieces on the same list.

I am afraid I don't understand the rationale behind some of your thoughts on this subject.

Regards,


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982903 05/23/20 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by SLQ
When preparing for exams I really take plenty of time in selecting my pieces.

Just wondering how others approach the task of selecting exam pieces.
I agree with BruceD.

Incidentally, when I was doing ABRSM exams, I learnt two or more of the pieces on each list, and my teacher picked the ones she thought I'd do best in (which usually were also the ones I liked best).


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
BruceD #2982908 05/23/20 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Choosing a piece that you "really detest" can be self defeating. You certainly wouldn't do it the same justice to such a piece that you would do a piece that you like. Why would you do that? Similarly, picking pieces that are illustrative of your greatest weaknesses could be self defeating. I don't understand your rationale.
I don't want to limit myself only to pieces that I immediately like. I desire to branch out, or extend myself, beyond music that I like. Once I've learned to play it well and brought it to performance level I start to enjoy it and find satisfaction in it. Hey, it worked for me!

Also, if I choose a piece that challenges one of my weaknesses then I'll work on it until I get it right. There's no need to run away from our weaknesses. Our weaknesses can become our greatest strengths. I've had three exams and so far I've always received excellent marks. I must be doing something right.

Originally Posted by BruceD
I don't see what purpose is served by picking a piece that is longer than all the other pieces in your examination repertoire.
Although this isn't a hard and fast limiting factor if possible, and when presented with it, I'll choose something that will challenge my memory skills. Typically, but not always, the longer a piece is the more time and attention I need to spend to perfect it. Almost like: why do some people want to climb the highest mountain when they can choose one that is easier and less challenging?

Originally Posted by BruceD
You need to be aware that in some cases (see page 10 of the 2015 piano Syllabus) picking pieces of your own choosing requires advance approval from the RCM.
I've pored over the 2015 RCM Syllabus and made sure that what I chose was 'by the book'. It worked for me during my last exam.

Originally Posted by BruceD
I am afraid I don't understand the rationale behind some of your thoughts on this subject.
I hope you're no longer "afraid" and that my explanations have been enlightening.

Last edited by SLQ; 05/23/20 05:13 PM.

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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982948 05/23/20 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by SLQ
I hope you're no longer "afraid" and that my explanations have been enlightening.
Sorry, but I still agree 100% with Bruce.

Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982956 05/23/20 06:56 PM
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SLQ, I’m going to describe how I choose my exam pieces for RCM but I won’t give you an opinion on how you do it because clearly, how you did it worked for you and I don’t think you’re actually seeking an opinion.

I choose all my exam pieces based mainly on if I like them and the process is like this:

* At the outset of a grade, I will listen to recordings of all the pieces in the repertoire book and the etude book several times using the code on the inside cover of the books.

* I will then circle half of the pieces that I want to learn. The other pieces I simply don’t want to learn and I won’t learn them. This is all based how how they sound.

* Of the half that I circled, I will shortlist a couple in each of List A, B and C that I think are good candidates for my exam. I learn these pieces first because I want to continue with the process of elimination. By the end of this process, I would’ve made my tentative decision on which pieces will be my exam pieces.

* My main consideration for my exam pieces are that (a) I must like how they sound, (b) I must enjoy playing them (fun factor), (c) I must play them well. I do tend to choose the more challenging pieces because they tend to sound better. I’m picky about my choices, but who isn’t, right?

* I will then present my chosen pieces to my teacher for approval.

For the next exam (grade 1), I will choose a piece that needs RCM approval because I really enjoy that piece and want to perfect it for the exam and add it to my repertoire.

I understand that certain pieces are considered to be overplayed, such as Fur Elise, for example. That’s not a concern for me yet but even if it was a concern I probably wouldn’t choose it in any event because I’m personally bored with hearing that piece.

Honestly, piano is my hobby and I refuse to overthink it. If I have to force myself to play pieces I dislike I would just quit. Life’s too short for that.

Unlike the ABRSM, the RCM syllabus has a ton of pieces for each grade level and list so I don’t have to learn pieces I don’t enjoy. And it also has Teacher’s Choice which gives even more flexibility.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
pianoloverus #2982960 05/23/20 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by SLQ
I hope you're no longer "afraid" and that my explanations have been enlightening.
Sorry, but I still agree 100% with Bruce.
This is a forum that encourages the exchange of ideas. You are entitled to your opinion and I support you.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982967 05/23/20 07:34 PM
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As mentioned, the different lists for repertoire help to keep them separate. However, for the Etudes, you'll need to make sure that you select 2 that are contrastingly different, e.g., don't pick two slow pieces that use pedal, or something like that.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982976 05/23/20 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by SLQ
Originally Posted by BruceD
Choosing a piece that you "really detest" can be self defeating. You certainly wouldn't do it the same justice to such a piece that you would do a piece that you like. Why would you do that? Similarly, picking pieces that are illustrative of your greatest weaknesses could be self defeating. I don't understand your rationale.
I don't want to limit myself only to pieces that I immediately like. I desire to branch out, or extend myself, beyond music that I like. Once I've learned to play it well and brought it to performance level I start to enjoy it and find satisfaction in it. Hey, it worked for me!

Also, if I choose a piece that challenges one of my weaknesses then I'll work on it until I get it right. There's no need to run away from our weaknesses. Our weaknesses can become our greatest strengths. I've had three exams and so far I've always received excellent marks. I must be doing something right.

Originally Posted by BruceD
I don't see what purpose is served by picking a piece that is longer than all the other pieces in your examination repertoire.
Although this isn't a hard and fast limiting factor if possible, and when presented with it, I'll choose something that will challenge my memory skills. Typically, but not always, the longer a piece is the more time and attention I need to spend to perfect it. Almost like: why do some people want to climb the highest mountain when they can choose one that is easier and less challenging?

Originally Posted by BruceD
You need to be aware that in some cases (see page 10 of the 2015 piano Syllabus) picking pieces of your own choosing requires advance approval from the RCM.
I've pored over the 2015 RCM Syllabus and made sure that what I chose was 'by the book'. It worked for me during my last exam.

Originally Posted by BruceD
I am afraid I don't understand the rationale behind some of your thoughts on this subject.
I hope you're no longer "afraid" and that my explanations have been enlightening.

Sorry for quote all this, but I do agree with you in principle on many of these points. Of course we need to work on our weaknesses, and certainly we need to explore repertoire that we "think" we don't like; that's the only way to progress and to find new-to-us repertoire.

I just would not choose pieces I hate, nor pieces that challenge my weaknesses for an examination. Examinations are stressful enough for most people without adding potential stumbling blocks. Examination choices was the essence of your post and that's what I was focusing on.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2982991 05/23/20 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by SLQ
When preparing for exams I really take plenty of time in selecting my pieces.

Selecting pieces is the easiest part for me, and selecting the six pieces I need for AMEB exams is over very quickly. The only criteria is it must be something I like. Why? because I am going to spend a very long time with each piece. I will go through the usual ups and downs and I may end of hating one for a while, but that initial thing I liked will always be there.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
WeakLeftHand #2983005 05/23/20 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
...and I don’t think you’re actually seeking an opinion.
Why not? I did, after all, end my initial post with: "Just wondering how others approach the task of selecting exam pieces.". I'm definitely not looking for others to disparage my ideas. However, I am seeking to find how others choose their exam pieces. Other people's ideas are like additional colours on my palette. I'm glad to add them to my own set of ideas and adopt them as I see fit.

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
At the outset of a grade, I will listen to recordings of all the pieces in the repertoire book and the etude book several times using the code on the inside cover of the books.
One of my favourite parts at the beginning of a new level.

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I do tend to choose the more challenging pieces because they tend to sound better. I’m picky about my choices, but who isn’t, right?
I agree

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Honestly, piano is my hobby and I refuse to overthink it. If I have to force myself to play pieces I dislike I would just quit.
You're definitely within your right to think that way. Your approach will not prevent you from becoming an awesome piano player. Also, the fact that my approach is slightly different than yours doesn't mean I'll become an awesome pianist. It's just the way I think. Trust me, I'll never be performing at the Roy Thomson Hall. This is not about right or wrong. However, piano lessons are, for me, an education and I want to hone my technical skills so that I can tackle any piece... including ones that I don't immediately gravitate to. When I'm relaxing or driving my car it's a different story I will listen to music that appeals to me.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2983009 05/23/20 11:35 PM
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I can see that my original post has caused quite a reaction - one that I did not expect. Wow! LOL I almost want to delve a little deeper and find the source of this 'speck-in-the-eye' reaction.

Anyway, just to simplify my original thought on this subject: I will choose exam pieces that I personally find challenging. A piece, for me, can be challenging for various reasons: length, dynamics, jumps with one or both hands, rhythm etc. A piece can also be challenging because I may not immediately like it. Since I consider learning piano as part of my continuing education, and not simply as a hobby, I want to go beyond my comfort zone and explore different styles and genres of piano music. Is this wrong? As well, if you read my original post carefully nowhere did I say I ONLY choose selections that I don't like. I'm left wondering why no one yet has remarked on my "...and another that I really love." comment.

Anyway, my intent was to look for additional ideas on how to choose exam pieces so that I can add them to my own. I'm working in a vacuum as it were, with no teacher. I'm not God's gift to the music world and although I like my ideas I don't know everything. Therefore, I'm looking to all of you to offer ideas, your personal story, your successes, what worked for you etc.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2983011 05/23/20 11:52 PM
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FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! You are doing RCM level 1.

Why are you asking so many questions?

Do more. Think less.

You may start thinking once you hit level 5.

Seriously, you sound like a kindergarten kid trying to write a 20-page research paper. Instead of asking all these pointless questions, shouldn't you be practicing your scales right now?


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
AZNpiano #2983015 05/24/20 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
...you sound like a kindergarten kid trying to write a 20-page research paper. Instead of asking all these pointless questions, shouldn't you be practicing your scales right now?
And you, good sir, are not responding as I expect a professional teacher would. Also, I'm not sure where you're getting "...all these pointless questions". How many questions have I asked?


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2983095 05/24/20 05:50 AM
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I'm a bit surprised and appalled by the negative reactions in this thread. This is the ABF and we're all trying to figure out this stuff and happy to share.

I think your approach is quite sensible for learning in general. I'm not doing exams so I don't pick pieces that are easier just to get better marks. On the contrary, like you, I prefer to pick the pieces that challenge me and will work my weaknesses rather than my strengths.

Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
SLQ #2983271 05/24/20 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by SLQ
And you, good sir, are not responding as I expect a professional teacher would. Also, I'm not sure where you're getting "...all these pointless questions". How many questions have I asked?

My sarcasm was aimed at the pointless nature of your questions. It doesn't matter how many questions you've raised--they are all completely irrelevant. There are probably 50 more pressing issues to think about. If you are spending so much time contemplating what pieces to play for your next test, your worries are completely misplaced.

Maybe you should get yourself a teacher? Then you might start asking questions that are actually pertinent?

And after all that, if you still believe your train of thought is valid, you might want to familiarize yourself with The Parable of the Poisoned Arrow.


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Re: Choosing Exam Pieces
AZNpiano #2983284 05/24/20 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by SLQ
And you, good sir, are not responding as I expect a professional teacher would. Also, I'm not sure where you're getting "...all these pointless questions". How many questions have I asked?

My sarcasm was aimed at the pointless nature of your questions. It doesn't matter how many questions you've raised--they are all completely irrelevant. There are probably 50 more pressing issues to think about. If you are spending so much time contemplating what pieces to play for your next test, your worries are completely misplaced.

Maybe you should get yourself a teacher? Then you might start asking questions that are actually pertinent?

And after all that, if you still believe your train of thought is valid, you might want to familiarize yourself with The Parable of the Poisoned Arrow.
No problem, sir. - I wish you a good day.

Thank you all for your time.


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