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I've loved the RCM syllabus. It guides my selections and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I fine-tune a piece. After passing level 6 without the distinction I'd hoped for, I thought I should stay longer in a level and learn it more thoroughly. Instead of one or two pieces in each category I'm learning up to 6 or 7 in each category. I still don't believe I've achieved level 7. I mean they should be learnable in less time with more ease. But I'm enjoying the pieces and I have 3 ZOOM groups that I meet with regularly so I'm playing more for others than ever. My technical skills are much faster and smoother but not at the level of mastery that I feel I need to attempt the exam. SO...perhaps the exams are in my past but I still recommend the journey for all who seek steady improvement of their abilities.

I love reading about your achievements on these exams and I cheer you on!


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Originally Posted by WiseBuff
I've loved the RCM syllabus. It guides my selections and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I fine-tune a piece. After passing level 6 without the distinction I'd hoped for, I thought I should stay longer in a level and learn it more thoroughly. Instead of one or two pieces in each category I'm learning up to 6 or 7 in each category. I still don't believe I've achieved level 7. I mean they should be learnable in less time with more ease. But I'm enjoying the pieces and I have 3 ZOOM groups that I meet with regularly so I'm playing more for others than ever. My technical skills are much faster and smoother but not at the level of mastery that I feel I need to attempt the exam. SO...perhaps the exams are in my past but I still recommend the journey for all who seek steady improvement of their abilities.

I love reading about your achievements on these exams and I cheer you on!

WiseBuff, I'm so glad you're still here participating in this thread after starting it in 2015. Thanks for starting this thread!

My strategy also has been to learn a substantial number of pieces in each list at each level. So far, I've been learning half of the pieces at each level. Doing so makes me feel very secure at that level. It makes the transition to the next level not so daunting. However, I know that as I progress up the levels, I will likely learn fewer pieces because the pieces will get progressively more difficult and time-consuming.


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Congrats to all the recent passes. I had originally didn’t want to go down the exam route as I have sat so many professional finance exams to last 3 life times. But when ABRSM opened the online performance grades...i gave it some real heart to heart to self...and passed grade 1 with distinction this month . A late bloomer re piano playing, and I was mildly shocked. What I learnt from the exam experience, studied the pieces for about 2 months with many video takes [yeah, ambulance sirens, hub’s zoom meeting filtrating through the walls...an unrelated thought interrupting my flow..]...I learnt a lot and it did help me improve certain areas that I was overlooking. My teacher is easing me with one unrelated exam piece and one grade 2 piece. Not a spring chicken, so plan to get through these earlier grades sooner than later.

I tend to shy away from fast tempo pieces, and doing the exams are helping to tackle these fears. I still plan to sit the online theory grades, which was 2020 goal...until the lock down. I am not looking to be a professional, so these online offerings are to support and to improve my playing. I have accepted there are many ways to skin a chicken and I don’t need to follow the old ways.


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I agree with you WeakLeftHand...grade 2 I will play through some of the challenging pieces, but not likely to use them for the exam. That said, I am not going to prejudge myself, as I totally underestimated my abilities in G1. 😂


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Thank you WeakLeftHand! I always lurk in the background but I'm not one to write an essay on social media. Pianoperformance, good for you...trying it out. It is a learning experience for sure. My experience? Learn to REALLY relax early in the process and the speed will feel normal and not scary. Snow day here today so it's all ZOOM classes and advising students.


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Thank you Wisebuff. I hear you, it’s learning not to ‘freeze up’ when I see a fast tempo piece, and to go with the flow as I warm into it. Yeah, grade 2 fast tempo pieces will teach me a lot for sure.

I kinda like zoom classes, so it will be interesting if I go back to regular face to face lessons. No decision will be until 2022 when certain articles are outlining near normalcy given what we know right now plus vaccine rollouts.


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Dear WiseBuff and Pianoperformance, I understand about taking enough exams to last a life time. However, music is different, I am 60 and it is a hobby. We are all overachievers and want to do well, but the the truth is if I failed one of the theory levels it hurts my feelings but does not impact my life, I would just do it again. I am a life long learner, and we put stress on ourselves. However, this should be something you enjoy as a personal goal. I have been taking piano lessons for 7 years, and thought I would be better than I am. We each learn at a different pace, now I am learning to enjoy the journey of the learning. I try not to put expectations on myself. Take exams if you want, if you do not do well, practice, review, and go back again. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, be proud for what you did do and how far you came.


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I sat down with my teacher today and discussed taking my grade 7 exam, as a decision must be made before the current entry window closes. I didn't expect her outright approval, as my performances have been less than spectacular of late. However, after a lot of discussion and some better playing than last week, I got the green light. I just enrolled for the June/July session at my local conservatorium, so the wheels are now in motion.


Surprisingly easy, barely an inconvenience.

Kawai K8 & Kawai Novus NV10


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Good luck! What pieces will you play, Earlofmar?


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earlofmar, is AMEB offering in-person exams?

Also, best of luck!

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 03/04/21 10:09 AM.

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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Good luck! What pieces will you play, Earlofmar?

I will play the following, the last two on my list are additional pieces which I have to know, but are not marked for performance.

Bach - Fugue BWV 953
CPE Bach - Sonata No 3 Wq 56
Mendelssohn - Allegro non troppo No 2 Op 38
Martinu - Tanec loutek (Puppets Dance) No 5
Debussy - Girl With the Flaxen Hair
Schumann, C. - Larghetto No 1 Op 15

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
earlofmar, is AMEB offering in-person exams?

Also, best of luck!

Yes, AMEB are offering in person exams and also submission is an option for repertoire only exams. Australia has been incredibly lucky during this pandemic, and I was able to return to in person piano lessons from late October.


Surprisingly easy, barely an inconvenience.

Kawai K8 & Kawai Novus NV10


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Originally Posted by earlofmar
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
earlofmar, is AMEB offering in-person exams?

Also, best of luck!

Yes, AMEB are offering in person exams and also submission is an option for repertoire only exams. Australia has been incredibly lucky during this pandemic, and I was able to return to in person piano lessons from late October.

That’s great! You guys have clearly got it under control then. I’m really eager to do my next exam as I’ve already missed 2 grades as a result of the pandemic and I didn’t want to do online exams. My fingers are crossed that when I’m ready to do the exam for my current level that the exam board will be able to offer me in-person exams.


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I find it very interesting (and encouraging) to hear that lots of us in this forum learn more than we need to for each level/grade. I also do it because I want to feel secure before moving up to the next level.
It’s in stark contrast to what I read on Reddit or see on YouTube. I know everyone is on their own path, and I never like to judge (because I’ve had the odd dabble with a much harder piece!) but the amount of people asking which Chopin piece they should start having only played for a few months……..
I see piano, amongst other things, as an antidote to our “instant” culture; it’s something which can’t be done and dusted in 10 seconds, like a google search or a tweet. I don’t blame young people (I’m a millennial myself) because that’s the world we find ourselves in, but I think a return to taking time, effort and patience over something is much needed. Fortunately, instrument learning will never be instant.
Anyway, philosophical rant over! Happy Sunday and all that..

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Welcome to this dedicated group of musicians, Jeremy. The exams are only milestones in a journey that's not about testing but about building solid musical ability. Love the journey and push for excellence.


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I haven't posted much in at least a year, so I thought I'd check in and post an update.

Since my last post in this thread, I have moved, divorced, and remarried. My new wife is also a pianist - she's in there working on a Chopin mazurka as I type this (on her lunch break).

Exam-wise, I have taken two.

I took ABRSM Grade 7 Music Theory last November. I made a Distinction, and even managed to improve my score by one point over Grade 6. (For those who don't know, ABRSM has 8 grades as opposed to RCM's 10. ABRSM Grade 8 is roughly equivalent to RCM 10.)

In January, I submitted a recording of my ARSM (Associate of the Royal School of Music) diploma for a remotely assessed exam. I made a Merit on it - a little bummed, as that's the lowest I've ever scored on an exam. But my Professor was pleased. She thought my programme was very ambitious, and I was not able to work with her on it for several months before the exam.

My wife also submitted her Grade 4 recording in January, and made a high merit.

Currently, I'm working on Grade 8 Theory and two DipABRSM diplomas: piano performance and piano pedagogy. But I'm just slow-rolling it right now, since I have no idea when these exams will be offered in Texas again.

My DipABRSM programme consists of the following:

  • Bach - Toccata in E minor, BWV 914
  • Beethoven - Sonata in G, Op. 14 No. 2
  • Chopin - Nocturne in E, Op. 62 No.2.
  • Debussy - La Puerta del Vino


I've started fiddling with some LRSM material, at moments when I'm bored with the DipABRSM stuff. Haven't 100% settled on the LRSM programme, but I'm pretty close. Just trying to decide between a Debussy piece and an Albeniz piece.


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Dr Rogers
Sounds like a ton of big life changes—- but good ones! Glad to hear you are doing well.
Debussy or Albeniz? Just a plug from me for Albeniz, as his music is not played often enough— I would think your examiner would smile at the breath of fresh air.


"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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Wow, a lot going on there Dr. Rogers. Welcome back!


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Sounds like a ton of big life changes—- but good ones! Glad to hear you are doing well.
Debussy or Albeniz? Just a plug from me for Albeniz, as his music is not played often enough— I would think your examiner would smile at the breath of fresh air.

Thank you for your kind words, and also for the plug for Albeniz. Do you play much Albeniz?

The two pieces I'm considering are Debussy's Pagodes and Albeniz' El Puerto (No. 2 from Iberia). I am thinking about having this piece in the middle of my programme, sandwiched between Prelude and Fugue in G# minor from WTC II (BWV 887), and Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2. I figure one of these impressionistic works could act as a pallet cleanser between the meditative fugue and the weighty first movement of the sonata.

The Albeniz has one distinct advantage over the Debussy: it would add a dance-like piece to my programme. I always like to have some dance piece in a programme when I can. For instance, my ARSM programme had a Chopin mazurka, and my DipABRSM has a Habanera.

Any other Albeniz that you would recommend me to check out? The LRSM syllabus includes all the pieces from Iberia except for No. 1, Evocacion.


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The only Albeniz I have played (so far) is Evocacion but I really enjoy them and plan to learn a few more.
I remember that someone here has played a number of them— johnstaff, maybe? .


"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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Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers
In January, I submitted a recording of my ARSM (Associate of the Royal School of Music) diploma for a remotely assessed exam. I made a Merit on it - a little bummed, as that's the lowest I've ever scored on an exam. But my Professor was pleased. She thought my programme was very ambitious, and I was not able to work with her on it for several months before the exam.

congratulations, even if it wasn't your best mark.


Surprisingly easy, barely an inconvenience.

Kawai K8 & Kawai Novus NV10


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