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ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster

Posted By: DisastrousBoy

ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 03:38 PM

Hey guys I’m new to this forum and although this might not be the appropriate place to post this I need to rant out my frustration for this exam. Any advice for what to do next will be greatly appreciated.

Amount of practice: 2 hours a day

Pieces

A3: got way too nervous and missed many notes, nonexistent dynamics, overall a complete tragedy
B5: Same, but even worse as I messed up the end and rushed through it
C2: Same as B2, horrifying

Scales

Majors: Alright
Chromatic: good
Contrary motion: Ok
Minor scales: terrible, forgot F minor
Arpeggios: A utter disaster, played every single one wrong

Sight Reading

Overall poor, with many mistakes and terrible speed ( way to slowww )

Aural

Disastrous, literally completely guesswork

What should I do next?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 03:49 PM

What did your teacher say when you told him/her?
Posted By: BruceD

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 04:24 PM

Originally Posted by DisastrousBoy
[...]
What should I do next?


Wait for the results and work towards doing better next time.

Regards,
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 04:38 PM

Originally Posted by DisastrousBoy
What should I do next?

Next, come and commiserate with us over in the piano exam thread here.
Posted By: spanishbuddha

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 05:18 PM

If you had prepared enough and can do all these things at home or with your teacher then it sounds like exam anxiety or nerves. Just prepare again, you know what to expect so that is out of the way, deep breath, reschedule and you should be fine. But take your teachers advice on when.
Posted By: Iaroslav Vasiliev

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 08:31 PM

If it's the result of the performance anxiety you need to learn to overcome it, that is you need to learn to play in front of other people. Use every single opportunity to play when other people hear you.

But it is also probable that you have taken this exam too soon. (Or your teacher has made you take it too soon). Your skills may be insufficient yet for that grade.
Posted By: OscarRamsey

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 09:19 PM

Hiya, I had a similar experience for my grade 2 exam (or that was my perception) however I passed with 130 marks. Whilst you’re aware of your mistakes, they may not be as bad as you think!

I told my piano teacher about it (before I got my results, rather upset about how the day went) - he asked me if I would be comfortable counting from 1-10 in front of an audience. I replied that I would be.

He then went on the allude that I would need to know everything for my next piano exam in the same way (ie as well as being able to count from 1-10) so that nerves didn’t affect me on the day.

I’ve taken that on board, and whilst I’m not quite as comfortable as that, I’m better prepared for a week’s time.
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 09:42 PM

Originally Posted by DisastrousBoy


Hey guys I’m new to this forum and although this might not be the appropriate place to post this I need to rant out my frustration for this exam. Any advice for what to do next will be greatly appreciated.

What should I do next?


Hey, was it your first exam or did you pass already some of the others like grade 3 ? In general if you are playing/practicing pieces at grade 4 level, you should expect that playing them in front of an audience + the exam tension will make them even more difficult.

Difficult to give you a practical advice, without much background. But from a behavior perspective, have a good drink (or whatever works for you), cheer up and get back to work. You are not the first nor the last one that messed up an exam. So analyze what and why it went wrong, find corrective actions and get back to practice accordingly. It can be your resistance to tension, ability to play in front of people, maybe some lack of technical skills, ..... I would also suggest some kind of blank exam to prepare yourself (ie you get a group of people and you play as if you were in the exam).
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/09/19 11:08 PM

Originally Posted by DisastrousBoy

Aural

Disastrous, literally completely guesswork



Based on that, I have a feeling that this is the OP's first ABRSM exam, and that he hasn't got a teacher.......
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 05:43 AM

Ugh. I am really *not* a fan of this exam approach.
Quote
Maybe it’s no wonder that many successful British professional musicians of my acquaintance never went through the graded exam system at all; if someone is more than averagely talented, exams quickly become an irrelevance. Do they hold the students back? I believe so. Just think about scales. You could learn them all. But if your grade prescribes only a certain number of them, you’re probably going to bother learning just those few, aren’t you? Levon Chilingirian is right: music exams instil the sense of an invisible ceiling that we dare not shatter. Rarely are we encouraged to chuck out the exam books, find a piece of music we love and damn well learn how to play it, even if it’s by Rachmaninov. That would be real motivation: a passion from within.

Amen to that.
https://jessicamusic.blogspot.com/2012/06/heat-and-light.html?m=1
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 06:12 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Ugh. I am really *not* a fan of this exam approach.
Quote
Maybe it’s no wonder that many successful British professional musicians of my acquaintance never went through the graded exam system at all; if someone is more than averagely talented, exams quickly become an irrelevance. Do they hold the students back? I believe so. Just think about scales. You could learn them all. But if your grade prescribes only a certain number of them, you’re probably going to bother learning just those few, aren’t you? Levon Chilingirian is right: music exams instil the sense of an invisible ceiling that we dare not shatter. Rarely are we encouraged to chuck out the exam books, find a piece of music we love and damn well learn how to play it, even if it’s by Rachmaninov. That would be real motivation: a passion from within.

Amen to that.
https://jessicamusic.blogspot.com/2012/06/heat-and-light.html?m=1

True story - I skipped 3 grades and went to college. I also didn't take a lot of exams - never took a math class between 7th grade and when I left for college. Does this mean everyone can and should do this? Should I propose this as a legitimate path? Maybe suggest that because a few people don't need high school we can do away with it altogether or reduce high school to one year? Thank goodness for my daughter's sake that high school was 4 years.

I don't have an axe to grind on exams, but justifications such as JDCMB's above, based on anecdotal evidence, especially that of select people who may be different in some manner just don't sit right with me. I find such arguments to be B.S. whether about anti-exam or anti-vaxx.

It's great that there are elite musicians who certainly needed few of the things other piano learners needed - maybe not even "time" - as Martha Argerich were able to self-teach herself both Ravel’s Gaspard and Schumann’s Abegg Variations in five days - but let's not try to derive best practices from such examples. Instead, convince me based on statistical analysis and real evidence founded on the scientific method that exams are harmful, and I'll climb onboard, no problem. But don't tell me about yourself or your buddies that didn't need them and expect that to close the issue.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 07:01 AM

Originally Posted by DisastrousBoy
Amount of practice: 2 hours a day

Seriously?

Maybe you shouldn't do exams. Not everybody can benefit from taking exams. If you truly put in two hours of conscientious effort at the piano every single day, then you should not worry about taking tests.
Posted By: WeakLeftHand

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 07:08 AM

Exams are not for everyone for sure, but I definitely need them. Without exams, I am uncomfortable and and lost; I have no focus. With them I see a clear road ahead of me, one step at a time. Clear goals to achieve. I know myself very well and exams just feel right.

Exams feel so right I’m pondering whether or not I should do sax exams too. That’s a much less common road so not so sure yet.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 07:40 AM

Originally Posted by TyroneSlothrop


I don't have an axe to grind on exams, but justifications such as JDCMB's above, based on anecdotal evidence, especially that of select people who may be different in some manner just don't sit right with me. I find such arguments to be B.S. whether about anti-exam or anti-vaxx.
Not even remotely analogous situations. Non sequitur designed to appeal to emotions by bringing up a marginalized group (the "anti-vaxxers"). We're also not discussing exams to become airline pilots or neurosurgeons, in case that one comes up as well.

Originally Posted by TyroneSlothrop
It's great that there are elite musicians who certainly needed few of the things other piano learners needed - maybe not even "time" - as Martha Argerich were able to self-teach herself both Ravel’s Gaspard and Schumann’s Abegg Variations in five days - but let's not try to derive best practices from such examples. Instead, convince me based on statistical analysis and real evidence founded on the scientific method that exams are harmful, and I'll climb onboard, no problem. But don't tell me about yourself or your buddies that didn't need them and expect that to close the issue.
The burden of statistical analysis and empirical evidence would be on the exam and grading system advocates. Demonstrate that that system historically has produced "elite" musicians. The "best practices" from those "examples" is pretty much how "elite musicians" trained before regimented academia took over.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 08:11 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by DisastrousBoy
Amount of practice: 2 hours a day

Seriously?

Maybe you shouldn't do exams. Not everybody can benefit from taking exams. If you truly put in two hours of conscientious effort at the piano every single day, then you should not worry about taking tests.

Egggggggzackly. And now this person, who may be quite talented for all we know, is feeling beaten down for coming up short according to some arbitrary standard set by the music education industry. B.s. (and not a degree).
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 09:59 AM

Seems like the thread is deviating toward a different subject or even 2: is the grading (or whatever control exam based cursus) system usefull in general and 2.is it usefull for amateur piano learners which i think are in a different situation.

For amateur piano learners, especially adults who do this for as a hobby and for their pleasure, i think it really depends on the personality. It can be beneficial for some and rather non productive for others. Some might find it usefull to have a goal which structure their learning process and make them feel like they are making progress because they have passed a grade. Others will find it too rigid. Now one thing that one must keep in mind is that these intermediary grades are not designed as end goals. For example grade 4 or 5 has components like contrary motion or chromatic contrary motion that no piece of that level (to the best of my knowledge) is using. They are present only to prepare futur pieces of a much higher grade. In other word the aim of the system is to bring one to a diploma or certificate level, a level where one has a set of clearly established skills that are recognized and can be used also in a pro carreer.

For an amateur pianist, there is no doubt that the content of each grade is usefull as it gives a good sense of what the educational system considers as necessary to master. That does not mean that one has to actually prepare and pass the exam. If one knows how to play the scales and his teacher agrees, the exam wont bring anything more. The essential value of the exam for an amateur is to put one in position of stress and tension and see how he or she can play in front of a public. A certainly usefull test if anybody is planning to play in front of others.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 10:08 AM

Originally Posted by Sidokar
The essential value of the exam for an amateur is to put one in position of stress and tension and see how he or she can play in front of a public. A certainly usefull test if anybody is planning to play in front of others. ...
I'm not quite that masochistic. grin The problem I have with the concept is that it seems to be designed to 1. encourage the production of by-rote automatons obsessed with being technicians rather than musicians and 2.keep music teachers employed. Because everyone wants to pass the exams, after all. And 3. the possibly unfounded feelings of failure inflicted on those who don't measure up or struggle in a one-size-should-fit-all scheme. I take more of an individualist sort of view, rather than any set syllabus. To each his/her own.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 11:59 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Ugh. I am really *not* a fan of this exam approach.
Quote
Maybe it’s no wonder that many successful British professional musicians of my acquaintance never went through the graded exam system at all; if someone is more than averagely talented, exams quickly become an irrelevance. Do they hold the students back? I believe so. Just think about scales. You could learn them all. But if your grade prescribes only a certain number of them, you’re probably going to bother learning just those few, aren’t you? Levon Chilingirian is right: music exams instil the sense of an invisible ceiling that we dare not shatter. Rarely are we encouraged to chuck out the exam books, find a piece of music we love and damn well learn how to play it, even if it’s by Rachmaninov. That would be real motivation: a passion from within.

Amen to that.
https://jessicamusic.blogspot.com/2012/06/heat-and-light.html?m=1

That writer - sorry to say - hasn't got a clue, and obviously regards herself as a 'elite' above and beyond the hot polloi (the typical 'hobby' amateurs.........like me, who plays recitals mainly for non-classical audiences in a proselytising role, not for money) and as journalist, been associating herself with elites and forgetting how so many young people of less than elevated musical talents are exactly the ones who, having gone through the grade exam systems, make up the amateur music-making scene (especially choirs) in the UK, as well as the audiences for classical concerts. (Incidentally, the El Sistema system was praised to the skies at the time of the article (2012) but underlying problems with it have surfaced since......)

She seems to have forgotten - or maybe never had a clue - that the kids in these august institutions that she praises (rightly) to the skies:

Quote
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain is a prime training ground for the best young orchestral musicians in the country; to hear them is to be bowled over and out by the standard of their playing, and the passion and dedication they show for their music.
Nor are they alone. The National Youth Orchestra of Wales claims to have been the first national youth orchestra in the world. The National Youth Orchestras of Scotland, the NationalYouth Choirs and the award-winning National Youth Choir of Scotland are all flourishing. The Aldeburgh Young Musicians, based at Snape in Suffolk, takes around 40 talented kids aged ten to 18 from the East Anglia area and provides them with high-level courses in school holidays, treating them not as children, but as young artists who compose, conduct and perform their own music.


.......all came through the grade exam system, of which ABRSM is the biggest and most well-known. To get into the NYO of GB, for example, you have to have Grade 8 Distinction or 'equivalent'. In their workshops, the kids learn a lot, lot more than just rehearsing for the next project and concert series with a great conductor. They have lots of musical skills as well as instrumental skills, which those exam boards place such great emphasis on. (The ABRSM website emphasises that their exams are music exams, not instrumental exams. Go look.)

That's why they enjoy performing stuff like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo97ztKppIw

....as well as more mainstream virtuosic instrumental stuff like these:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkwDPO4RRcg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=be7uEyyNIT4

Few people who've not been brought up on a music syllabus and exam system (which regards music learning as an education in its own right, rather than a means to a showbiz/performing career, or to help with college applications) understand the benefits of acquiring an all-round music education, as well as instrumental skills.

For example, I sing in various ad hoc choirs occasionally, and 2 years ago, sang Gurrelieder and Beethoven's 9th (in association with the BBC Proms). None of my fellow amateur choral singers have ever studied singing, but all have gone through the ABRSM/Trinity exam system in various instruments - piano, string, woodwind, brass, even percussion. All could sight-sing to a high standard, and for some, singing had become their preferred form of music-making, rather than playing the piano or violin.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 12:21 PM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by TyroneSlothrop
I don't have an axe to grind on exams, but justifications such as JDCMB's above, based on anecdotal evidence, especially that of select people who may be different in some manner just don't sit right with me. I find such arguments to be B.S. whether about anti-exam or anti-vaxx.
Not even remotely analogous situations. Non sequitur designed to appeal to emotions by bringing up a marginalized group (the "anti-vaxxers"). We're also not discussing exams to become airline pilots or neurosurgeons, in case that one comes up as well.

If the analogy is lost on you, my point is that in Commonwealth countries, this is a case of a non-mainstream position arguing against a mainstream position. One should expect to be asked for more evidence when one hold the non-mainstream position. And this is frankly reasonable.

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by TyroneSlothrop
It's great that there are elite musicians who certainly needed few of the things other piano learners needed - maybe not even "time" - as Martha Argerich were able to self-teach herself both Ravel’s Gaspard and Schumann’s Abegg Variations in five days - but let's not try to derive best practices from such examples. Instead, convince me based on statistical analysis and real evidence founded on the scientific method that exams are harmful, and I'll climb onboard, no problem. But don't tell me about yourself or your buddies that didn't need them and expect that to close the issue.
The burden of statistical analysis and empirical evidence would be on the exam and grading system advocates. Demonstrate that that system historically has produced "elite" musicians. The "best practices" from those "examples" is pretty much how "elite musicians" trained before regimented academia took over.

Things change all the time, whether is a system for training musicians, or standardized testing in the educational system. Just because a system hasn't existed for most of history doesn't automatically mean that the "weight of history" obviates any need for evidence. Because one can argue for the correctness of almost any historical position by just going back far enough in time. We'd simply construct an argument like, "We don't need to provide evidence why <mainstream position for last 50 years> is wrong since history weighs on the side of <mainstream position for prior 300 years>. So rather show us why <mainstream position for last 50 years> is right?"

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Sidokar
The essential value of the exam for an amateur is to put one in position of stress and tension and see how he or she can play in front of a public. A certainly usefull test if anybody is planning to play in front of others. ...
I'm not quite that masochistic. grin The problem I have with the concept is that it seems to be designed to 1. encourage the production of by-rote automatons obsessed with being technicians rather than musicians and 2.keep music teachers employed. Because everyone wants to pass the exams, after all. And 3. the possibly unfounded feelings of failure inflicted on those who don't measure up or struggle in a one-size-should-fit-all scheme. I take more of an individualist sort of view, rather than any set syllabus. To each his/her own.

You softened your position to be almost just a personal opinion. Well, I'd never have raised an objection to a personal opinion even if they run contrary to the mainstream. Personal opinions are the 'other' thing every person has. For 3 of her 12 years, I pulled my daughter out of the public schools and homeschooled her - obviously I wasn't onboard with the mainstream position that public schools are a good thing. Everyone probably holds a few personal opinions not in the mainstream.

It's when we take a personal opinion and post it in a blog or an article and advocate it as JDCMB has above, when it's reasonable to ask for a higher standard of evidence from the non-mainstream side.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 12:35 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
That writer - sorry to say - hasn't got a clue, and obviously regards herself as a 'elite' above and beyond the hot polloi (the typical 'hobby' amateurs.........like me, who plays recitals mainly for non-classical audiences in a proselytising role, not for money) and as journalist, been associating herself with elites ...
Sorry, but that's an ad hominem argument. I don't get any "elitist" vibe from her post there, more of an "individualist" one. "Elitism" would most likely be reflected in praising those who absorbed all that curriculum and passed those exams. As far as the youth orchestras go, for one thing that's great. But I don't know that you would get any less quality in the absence of the exam/grading system. In fact, part of the author's point in that piece is that the whole exam system might actually restrict and discourage far more than it nourishes. There are plenty of fine youth orchestras and amateur ensembles made up of players that weren't steeped in the exam routine from toddlerhood.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 12:37 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Few people who've not been brought up on a music syllabus and exam system (which regards music learning as an education in its own right, rather than a means to a showbiz/performing career, or to help with college applications) understand the benefits of acquiring an all-round music education, as well as instrumental skills.

I really don't have a dog in this fight as I neither live in nor came from a British/Commonwealth country which had a system for musical education beyond "go to the conservatory/music school" or "learn with your friends." I just hate to see arguments constructed in the manner this RDCMB has and it seems in the last decade, more and more, positions are being argued with less and less evidence presented on the sides of the non-mainstream positions. I don't think I need to give examples here. We each could probably name half a dozen examples.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 12:40 PM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
That writer - sorry to say - hasn't got a clue, and obviously regards herself as a 'elite' above and beyond the hot polloi (the typical 'hobby' amateurs.........like me, who plays recitals mainly for non-classical audiences in a proselytising role, not for money) and as journalist, been associating herself with elites ...
Sorry, but that's an ad hominem argument. I don't get any "elitist" vibe from her post there, more of an "individualist" one. "Elitism" would most likely be reflected in praising those who absorbed all that curriculum and passed those exams.

The elitist vibe partly comes from her referencing her unnamed friends who are "successful" and presumably also "more than averagely talented" in the core of her argument against the mainstream position.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 12:41 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I just hate to see arguments constructed in the manner this RDCMB has and it seems in the last decade, more and more, positions are being argued with less and less evidence presented on the non-mainstream position.
Including actual comparative evidence that the exam system is an absolute positive.
Quote
The elitist vibe partly comes from her referencing her unnamed friends who are "successful" and presumably also "more than averagely talented" in the core of her argument against the mainstream position.
Huh? Pointing out that they're successful without having gone through the exam rigors is "elitist"? grin "I want evidence that you can succeed just as well without the exams etc, but if you provide it it's elitist."
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 01:00 PM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
That writer - sorry to say - hasn't got a clue, and obviously regards herself as a 'elite' above and beyond the hot polloi (the typical 'hobby' amateurs.........like me, who plays recitals mainly for non-classical audiences in a proselytising role, not for money) and as journalist, been associating herself with elites ...
Sorry, but that's an ad hominem argument. I don't get any "elitist" vibe from her post there, more of an "individualist" one. "Elitism" would most likely be reflected in praising those who absorbed all that curriculum and passed those exams. As far as the youth orchestras go, for one thing that's great. But I don't know that you would get any less quality in the absence of the exam/grading system. In fact, part of the author's point in that piece is that the whole exam system might actually restrict and discourage far more than it nourishes. There are plenty of fine youth orchestras and amateur ensembles made up of players that weren't steeped in the exam routine from toddlerhood.

There is a reason why there is such a large number of amateur and semi-professional ensembles (chamber groups, choirs, orchestras etc) in the UK. There are two amateur choirs and an amateur orchestra within a few miles of my home (which is in the countryside) which give public performances at Easter and Christmas. Everyone in them - including the conductor and accompanist - are amateur and have full-time jobs unrelated to music. Like me.

I wonder why that journalist didn't chat to anyone in the NYO (maybe one of the talented kids, or the adults involved in the coaching) or even a student who has been doing the exams (like a certain well-known ex-politician who started piano lessons a few years ago, and been doing ABRSM exams since then), instead of interviewing an elite performer who has not been brought up on the grade exam system and originates from a country where it is utterly foreign (and where, it has to be said, talented kids are picked out to be extensively trained, and others are left in the dust): he has no idea of what the ABRSM/Trinity is about. They are not about training talented kids to be the performers of tomorrow. They are for everyone interested in music learning.

And why does giving students a basic grounding in all-round music education stifle 'individuality'? None of my four teachers taught me only ABRSM material, and with the musical skills I acquired, I played pop, improvised, sight-read all sorts of stuff (not just keyboard music either), composed in various styles, sang in the school choir etc.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 01:04 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Few people who've not been brought up on a music syllabus and exam system (which regards music learning as an education in its own right, rather than a means to a showbiz/performing career, or to help with college applications) understand the benefits of acquiring an all-round music education, as well as instrumental skills.

I really don't have a dog in this fight as I neither live in nor came from a British/Commonwealth country which had a system for musical education beyond "go to the conservatory/music school" or "learn with your friends." I just hate to see arguments constructed in the manner this RDCMB has and it seems in the last decade, more and more, positions are being argued with less and less evidence presented on the sides of the non-mainstream positions. I don't think I need to give examples here. We each could probably name half a dozen examples.


The lack of evidence is not limited to just the non-mainstream. It has also become a sad trend that those that defend the mainstream/status quo also are less likely to provide ‘evidence’. That should be done, as well. ‘We do it this way’ is really not adequate, either.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 01:12 PM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Few people who've not been brought up on a music syllabus and exam system (which regards music learning as an education in its own right, rather than a means to a showbiz/performing career, or to help with college applications) understand the benefits of acquiring an all-round music education, as well as instrumental skills.
I really don't have a dog in this fight as I neither live in nor came from a British/Commonwealth country which had a system for musical education beyond "go to the conservatory/music school" or "learn with your friends." I just hate to see arguments constructed in the manner this RDCMB has and it seems in the last decade, more and more, positions are being argued with less and less evidence presented on the sides of the non-mainstream positions. I don't think I need to give examples here. We each could probably name half a dozen examples.
The lack of evidence is not limited to just the non-mainstream. It has also become a sad trend that those that defend the mainstream/status quo also are less likely to provide ‘evidence’. That should be done, as well. ‘We do it this way’ is really not adequate, either.

I think that is fair to have everyone provide evidence for their views, but certainly it is more important for those holding non-mainstream positions to provide evidence than those holding mainstream positions.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 01:20 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Few people who've not been brought up on a music syllabus and exam system (which regards music learning as an education in its own right, rather than a means to a showbiz/performing career, or to help with college applications) understand the benefits of acquiring an all-round music education, as well as instrumental skills.
I really don't have a dog in this fight as I neither live in nor came from a British/Commonwealth country which had a system for musical education beyond "go to the conservatory/music school" or "learn with your friends." I just hate to see arguments constructed in the manner this RDCMB has and it seems in the last decade, more and more, positions are being argued with less and less evidence presented on the sides of the non-mainstream positions. I don't think I need to give examples here. We each could probably name half a dozen examples.
The lack of evidence is not limited to just the non-mainstream. It has also become a sad trend that those that defend the mainstream/status quo also are less likely to provide ‘evidence’. That should be done, as well. ‘We do it this way’ is really not adequate, either.

I think that is fair to have everyone provide evidence for their views, but certainly it is more important for those holding non-mainstream positions to provide evidence than those holding mainstream positions.


We will just need to disagree on this. I was an intercollegiate debater, and both sides of an argument were required to provide substantial evidence. Without getting in the political weeds, should those that want to retain the current health care system in the US not be required to provide evidence of how it works well? Both sides of any argument should have and provide evidence.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 01:24 PM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by dogperson
The lack of evidence is not limited to just the non-mainstream. It has also become a sad trend that those that defend the mainstream/status quo also are less likely to provide ‘evidence’. That should be done, as well. ‘We do it this way’ is really not adequate, either.
I think that is fair to have everyone provide evidence for their views, but certainly it is more important for those holding non-mainstream positions to provide evidence than those holding mainstream positions.
We will just need to disagree on this. I was an intercollegiate debater, and both sides of an argument were required to provide substantial evidence. Without getting in the political weeds, should those that want to retain the current health care system in the US not be required to provide evidence of how it works well? Both sides of any argument should have and provide evidence.

Point taken and I like the example. 👍
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 02:04 PM

How does one collect 'evidence' to support the grade exam system like the ABRSM?

By the numbers? Well, the ABRSM is now taken up in many other countries outside the Commonwealth, like China (which, you might think, would prefer to devise their own music learning system not based on English). And the numbers of professional as well as amateur musicians of a high standard, in proportion to the population? The UK can barely sustain the large number of professional orchestras it has, and they are often the first port of call for movie producers and composers to play the specially-composed music, which the orchestras often have to sight-read, then record in the same session. British orchestras are renowed for their ability to sight-read complex scores to perfection - ask any conductor.....

Or the number of "satisfied customers"? Well, how about the numbers of those who do the syllabus and even take ABRSM exams as adults (meaning they cannot have been be forced by their parents or teachers to do it)?

Or the numbers who still use their musical skills in various ways, often even long after they stopped playing? Even if they never got to Grade 8.

As for individuality, think of three current high-profile British musicians - Benjamin Grosvenor, Stephen Hough and Thomas Adès: all went through the exam system; in fact, all also first became known via the BBC Young Musician Competition (where the entrance requirement is - yes, you've guessed it - Grade 8 Distinction or equivalent grin). How different they are from each other? Grosvenor enjoys playing virtuosic stuff (like Cziffra arrangements) that no other concert pianist touches, Hough plays Rodgers & Hammerstein in his own arrangements, Adès is a virtuoso pianist as well as a very individual composer (think "Powder Her Face" and its musical depiction of a certain sexual act that rendered it X-rated in some quarters smirk ).

Or....even by the fact that other countries have made their own version (AMEB, RCM) closely based on the ABRSM syllabus (i.e. set pieces, scales & arpeggios, sight-reading, aurals)?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/10/19 02:11 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Adès is a virtuoso pianist as well as a very individual composer (think "Powder Her Face" and its musical depiction of a certain sexual act that rendered it X-rated in some quarters smirk ).

Big fan of Adès and Powder Her Face and also The Tempest which I saw Simon Keenlyside sing live at the Met a few years back.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:07 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
How does one collect 'evidence' to support the grade exam system like the ABRSM?

By the numbers?
Sure, we can go the "argumentum ad numerum" route. But i don't know any of those player products of the exam system that you mentioned. I know it's just my own ignorance, seriously. Do you have any others? Now give me a list of those outstanding musicians not produced by the acronym exam systems. And is every player in those British orchestras indeed British? And yeah, they're the greatest orchestras of all. Rule, Britannia theme here. But be forewarned that if you go the "numerum" route, you're going to be crushed by historical numbers.

Here are a couple of counter-examples:
https://www.thestrad.com/debate/why...king-it-big-internationally/8933.article

I've seen far too many stories like this one that I saw was posted on another forum:
Quote

I just found out that I did not pass my ABRSM Grade 4 exam. I played ok before the exam and did all my scales well but went to pieces in the exam (I was not very well). I feel like a failure as Grade 4 is a fairly intermediate exam. I am not sure whether to re-take the exam because I have to pay for it and it is expensive. I feel embarrassed more than anything else because children sit these exams and pass and so do other adults. I am loathed to go in for it again in case I fail again and then I would have paid the expensive fee again and for what? I cannot afford to keep paying and failing.

How important are exams to the adult learner who is only doing this as a hobby? I liked the challenge but now I fear the challenge is too great and I am not as good as I thought. I was ready to sell my piano and stop but I do love playing so I can still play and enjoy it to a certain extent. I am too embarrassed to tell people I have failed in case they laugh at me and think oh but its not hard and she could not pass.

I was thinking that to save face I could lie and say I passed. None of my friends have ever asked to see my previous certificates so they wont ask to see the Grade 4 one and if they then say ok how about Grade 5, I could say I have decided not to go any further. (The truth being, if I cannot pass Grade 4 then I have no hope of trying Grade 5)

My teacher wanted me to buy the Grade 5 books which includes theory before I had got my results for Grade 4 and I said that was a mistake in case I do not pass Grade 4. Why do teachers jump the gun and get students to do this. It is far better to wait until you get your results and then buy the books and start looking at the next Grade.

Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:37 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
You softened your position to be almost just a personal opinion. Well, I'd never have raised an objection to a personal opinion even if they run contrary to the mainstream.
Of *course* it's my personal opinion; I would think that on a discussion board that goes without saying. The"mainstream" position also began as someone's (or some group's) personal opinion as well, so I don't see what the distinction is. My personal opinion is that the exam/grading system such as ABRSM overall does more harm than good. But then if anecdotal and historical evidence for holding that opinion is inadmissible, then there are really no grounds for advocating *for* that exam system either, beyond "well, it's the 'mainstream' so shut up".
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:39 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
How does one collect 'evidence' to support the grade exam system like the ABRSM?

By the numbers?
Sure, we can go the "argumentum as numerum" route. But i don't know any of those player products of the exam system that you mentioned. Do you have any other? And is every player in those British orchestras indeed British? And yeah, they're the greatest orchestras of all. Rule, Britannia theme here.

So, you've turned the music exam 'debate' into British bashing now? wow ha

If you really don't recognize any of the three big names I mentioned earlier - who're also known in the US, by the way - it's obvious you know very little about the world of classical music.


What's that got to do with music syllabi and exams??

BTW, all the great music conservatories have lots of international students. That means they are well-known and sought after, and students want to go there.

Quote
And I've seen far too many stories like this one that I saw on and there forum:
Quote

I just found out that I did not pass my ABRSM Grade 4 exam. I played ok before the exam and did all my scales well but went to pieces in the exam (I was not very well). I feel like a failure as Grade 4 is a fairly intermediate exam. I am not sure whether to re-take the exam because I have to pay for it and it is expensive. I feel embarrassed more than anything else because children sit these exams and pass and so do other adults. I am loathed to go in for it again in case I fail again and then I would have paid the expensive fee again and for what? I cannot afford to keep paying and failing.

How important are exams to the adult learner who is only doing this as a hobby? I liked the challenge but now I fear the challenge is too great and I am not as good as I thought. I was ready to sell my piano and stop but I do love playing so I can still play and enjoy it to a certain extent. I am too embarrassed to tell people I have failed in case they laugh at me and think oh but its not hard and she could not pass.

I was thinking that to save face I could lie and say I passed. None of my friends have ever asked to see my previous certificates so they wont ask to see the Grade 4 one and if they then say ok how about Grade 5, I could say I have decided not to go any further. (The truth being, if I cannot pass Grade 4 then I have no hope of trying Grade 5)

My teacher wanted me to buy the Grade 5 books which includes theory before I had got my results for Grade 4 and I said that was a mistake in case I do not pass Grade 4. Why do teachers jump the gun and get students to do this. It is far better to wait until you get your results and then buy the books and start looking at the next Grade.


Your exam-bashing has now degenerated to searching out stories like this - from disappointed adult students?

Really! grin

And you were the one espousing "statistical analysis and empirical evidence"........ smirk

Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:47 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
So, you've turned the music exam 'debate' into British bashing now? wow ha

If you really don't recognize any of the three big names I mentioned earlier - who're also known in the US, by the way - it's obvious you know very little about the world of classical music.
It's no more Brit-bashing than pointing out inefficiencies in the US health care system is "America bashing".

I know quite a bit about classical music. I don't know those that you pointed out. Lay off the lazy ad hominem tactics.
Originally Posted by bennevis
Your exam-bashing has now degenerated to searching out stories like this - from disappointed adult students? smirk

Really! grin

And you were the one espousing "statistical analysis and empirical evidence"........ smirk
"Your exam-fetishizing has degenerated into pointing out three musicians who took the exams"...works either way. smirk
Posted By: dogperson

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:53 AM

Why does there need to be an absolute ‘yea’ or nay for piano exams? Some students love the discipline and grading, some students are demoralized. Why does there need to be s ‘one size fits all’ verdict? There doesn’t. As adult pianists, each of us should know what is personally motivating or personally demoralizing and make a decision.

Even beginning pianists should be able to judge based on other life experiences.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 01:05 AM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Why does there need to be an absolute ‘yea’ or nay for piano exams? Some students love the discipline and grading, some students are demoralized. Why does there need to be s ‘one size fits all’ verdict? There doesn’t. As adult pianists, each of us should know what is personally motivating or personally demoralizing and make a decision.

Even beginning pianists should be able to judge based on other life experiences.

That's true, but the problem is when that "mainstream" exam-oriented approach hardens into dogma, and then music teachers will probably do as a lot of other teachers in other fields do: "teach to the test". Let bureaucratic standards do most of the work for you.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 01:07 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
So, you've turned the music exam 'debate' into British bashing now? wow ha

If you really don't recognize any of the three big names I mentioned earlier - who're also known in the US, by the way - it's obvious you know very little about the world of classical music.
It's no more Brit-bashing than pointing out inefficiencies in the US health care system is "America bashing".


Re-read what you wrote:

Quote
And is every player in those British orchestras indeed British? And yeah, they're the greatest orchestras of all. Rule, Britannia theme here.


BTW, the vast majority of the orchestral players of the LSO, LPO, RPO, Philharmonia, ECO, ASMF, CBSO, RLPO, RSNO (to name a few of the British orchestras, which are all well-represented on CD recordings) are indeed British.


Quote
I know quite a bit about classical music. I don't know those that you pointed out.


Empirical evidence is lacking here, don't you think? wink

Practice what you preach, please.

BTW, I could point out several more British musicians (in fact, most of the ones who're well-known in the classical world today) who 'graduated' from the grade exam system and are big names, but you won't recognize any of them, so I won't bother.

OK, maybe just one (who also came from the NYO as a percussionist), just to see how far your knowledge goes: Sir Simon Rattle. Heard of him? smirk
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 01:13 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
OK, maybe just one (who also came from the NYO as a percussionist), just to see how far your knowledge goes: Sir Simon Rattle. Heard of him? smirk
Indeed I have. Not a big fan. I could name several among the Unexamined that I like better. smirk
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 01:22 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
OK, maybe just one (who also came from the NYO as a percussionist), just to see how far your knowledge goes: Sir Simon Rattle. Heard of him? smirk
Indeed I have. Not a big fan. I could name several among the Unexamined that I like better. smirk

Please - do list the British Unexamined that you like better. grin

But - don't list those from countries like the US and Russia, where they have different 'priorities'.

BTW, in case you're wondering - I'm not a native Brit. I just studied here, and decided to stay.......
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 01:28 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
OK, maybe just one (who also came from the NYO as a percussionist), just to see how far your knowledge goes: Sir Simon Rattle. Heard of him? smirk
Indeed I have. Not a big fan. I could name several among the Unexamined that I like better. smirk

Please - do list the British Unexamined that you like better. grin

But - don't list those from countries like the US and Russia, where they have different 'priorities'.

In all honesty, I'm not a big fan of any current British conductors, although Gardiner has recorded *some* interesting Bach performances and I absolutely admire his erudition. But even there I prefer Suzuki when it comes to the HIP approach. It has nothing to do with their nationality. I'm not a big fan of most current American conductors either.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 01:50 AM

And it just occurred to me...Gardiner is one of the Unexamined. It appears he was largely self-taught. Impressive, given the impact he's had.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 02:36 AM

I think exams can be useful but making them the goal of learning can lead to problems. I have a friend who puts students in for exams but then skips a grade or two. She finds exams have their uses, but finds her students progress better if they're not always preparing for exams. It depends on the student how many exams they do.

I know a concert pianist whose first piano exam was for his Masters.

Some people thrive on exams, while others wither and end up not playing once they get the chance to stop.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 03:34 AM

Come to think of it, I don't know if the two who are probably the best-known British classical musicians active today - Steven Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy - are ABRSM/RCM products. Are they?
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 09:30 AM

We should not compare people who are piano prodigy and very early envisionned to make a pro carreer and adult beginners playing piano as a hobby. They are not in the same category and do not have the same objectives. It is like comparing lets say someone who needs a certificate to be a cook professionally and an amateur who is cooking for his own pleasure. He does not need to get a degree to have fun and cook well.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 09:38 AM

Originally Posted by Sidokar
We should not compare people who are piano prodigy and very early envisionned to make a pro carreer and adult beginners playing piano as a hobby. They are not in the same category and do not have the same objectives. It is like comparing lets say someone who needs a certificate to be a cook professionally and an amateur who is cooking for his own pleasure. He does not need to get a degree to have fun and cook well.

This was my earlier point. I didn't need 3 yrs of school. I'm sure there are people who didn't need school at all. This doesn't indict the notion of schools being useful however. I fail to see how picking examples of musicians who don't need anything says anything about exams. I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 09:39 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Come to think of it, I don't know if the two who are probably the best-known British classical musicians active today - Steven Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy - are ABRSM/RCM products. Are they?

Yes.

In fact, it's difficult to find any British-born musician who grew up and studied music in the UK as kids who didn't do the exams, unless they were the children of immigrant musicians who had different ideas (and probably taught their children themselves). The ABRSM/Trinity syllabus is ubiquitous here and in many other countries, including the one I came from. That's why I think it's telling that the journalist didn't mention a single British musician in her article, other than an immigrant from ex-USSR. There are many classical musicians who moved to the UK and became British citizens, including András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida.

BTW, RCM is totally unknown in Britain - it's purely a North American (more specifically, Canadian) system, modeled on the ABRSM. But though RCM says it's 'North American', the truth is that very few in the US know about it, nor care for it. And the RCM is not ubiquitous in Canada like the ABRSM/Trinity is in the UK and several other countries. Even non-musicians here in the UK know about the grade exam system, and assume that if a kid has music lessons, he/she does the exams.

That's an utterly foreign concept in the US, where (as I discovered when I joined PW) "student recitals" are almost universal for piano teachers.
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 09:51 AM

In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:02 AM

Originally Posted by Sidokar
In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.

Yes, although instead of anglosaxon, I'd probably say Commonwealth countries. Exams for music haven't taken root in other countries. Students in the US might do only recitals before they attend conservatories in the US. Or they might enter some competitions. There are local exams systems at the State-level, but not all students participate.

But this in itself is not necessarily a plus or a minus. It's a minus if it doesn't work. It's a plus if it works.
Posted By: outo

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:08 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Sidokar
In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.

Yes, although instead of anglosaxon, I'd probably say Commonwealth countries. Exams for music haven't taken root in other countries. .


This is not quite correct. In many countries (such as mine) the exams are built into the publicly funded music school system that is meant to produce pro musicians as well as hobbyists. The idea is to offer the opportunities for cheap music study to a large proportion of children and then select the most suitable for studies to a professional level. Most children do at least take the first level exams. The difference to ABRSM is that there are way less grades and exams during the progression to a higher level.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:25 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Come to think of it, I don't know if the two who are probably the best-known British classical musicians active today - Steven Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy - are ABRSM/RCM products. Are they?

Yes.

In fact, it's difficult to find any British-born musician who grew up and studied music in the UK as kids who didn't do the exams, unless they were the children of immigrant musicians...
...
If so, good for Isserlis and Kennedy on going on to Oberlin and Juilliard respectively. It sounds just a bit too conformist to me.

I might point out that another danger of an exam system like this is instilling a false sense of achievement.
Originally Posted by outo
...The idea is to offer the opportunities for cheap music study to a large proportion of children and then select the most suitable for studies to a professional level. ...
Something about that sounds too "Sovietish" for my tastes. Maybe it's just the word "select", like you would select those talented in engineering. I don't think music is quite the same, which is probably the root of my objection.

Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:35 AM

Originally Posted by Sidokar
In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.

In many other countries, especially those in Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet bloc, there is basically 'nothing' for average or untalented kids and everything is geared towards producing world-class performers. Kids who show musical talent are picked out and given extensive (sometimes even brutal) training, towards that end.

Whereas the ABRSM in the UK was born out of amateur music-making dating from Victorian times, when all middle-class homes had upright pianos, and the children (or at least, the girls) played to entertain the family, friends and themselves. Never in public - it was all domestic. Playing duets and singing were also part of domestic music-making. It was considered to be part of general upbringing and a 'cultured education' that children learnt to play the piano. The ABRSM was set up to promote certain standards of musicianship as well as instrumental ability, which is why the exams were never just purely instrumental exams. That is a concept which probably sounds odd to people not brought up on it.

Those brought up on it (like myself) just think it's totally normal - and expected - that if you learn a musical instrument and have reached a certain standard (grade) you can also sight-sing (as well as sight-read), conduct, tell the difference between a minuet and a march etc, and beat time to it. Not just play the instrument to that standard. That's the legacy of the ABRSM, and personally, I've benefited immensely from it, as one of those untalented kids who couldn't ever have dreamt of ever playing anything on anything, and from an unmusical family.

From their website:
Sir Hubert Parry himself outlined the founding principles and aims of ABRSM: "For the most part the objects which approve themselves to us are not so much the award of well-deserved certificates… but to give people something definite to work for... and also to give people… opportunities to be intimately acquainted with the finest kinds of musical art, and to maintain standards of interpretation and an attitude of thoroughness in connection with music which will enable it to be most fruitful of good."

No mention at all of public performance, which must seem very odd to those in countries for which learning to play a music instrument is all about performing....

And it sounds terribly old-fashioned.......just like Parry's music wink . This is his most famous composition, sung annually (by the audience as well as the choirs) at the Last Night of the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XfbEOFLqPE

See what I mean? grin (But the British love it thumb)
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:38 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?
I could be easily convinced that a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart might be obliterated in such a system.
Originally Posted by bennevis
Those brought up on it (like myself) just think it's totally normal - and expected - that if you learn a musical instrument and have reached a certain standard (grade) you can also sight-sing, conduct, tell the difference between a minuet and a march etc, and beat time to it. Not just play the instrument to that standard. That's the legacy of the ABRSM, and personally, I've benefited immensely from it, as one of those untalented kids who couldn't ever have dreamt of ever playing anything on anything, and from an unmusical family.
And you can't think of any possible negative outcome from this? That sounds more like a sales pitch.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:40 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Kids who show musical talent are picked out and given extensive (sometimes even brutal) training, towards that end.

My wife attended children's music school in Moscow Russia in the 80's, before the fall of the USSR. She was required to practice piano 4 hours per day at age 7. The teachers employed corporeal punishment. For example, my wife got very good at yanking her hands away from the keys when she made a mistake to avoid a fallboard being closed on her fingers. And she still tells how tears would come to her eyes from the pain when the teacher would grab her hands and mash her fingertips into the keys when her fingers would go flat on the keys and wouldn't curl (as if grasping an apple).
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:45 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?
I could be easily convinced that a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart might be obliterated in such a system.

Imagine all those geniuses that have been obliterated by the public school system? The world might be a different place today with their lost contributions to mankind - contributions snuffed out before they were even made because they were forced to attend public schools with their regimented, pre-set curriculums and policies.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:49 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?
I could be easily convinced that a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart might be obliterated in such a system.

Imagine all those geniuses that have been obliterated by the public school system? The world might be a different place today with their lost contributions to mankind - contributions snuffed out before they were even made because they were forced to attend school with its regimented curriculums and policies.

That's sort of the point. That sort of regimentation is necessary for the sciences. Music isn't one of the sciences, and you could pretty much date the decline of the vitality of "serious music" from the time that it started being regarded as such a thing.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 11:12 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen

Originally Posted by bennevis
Those brought up on it (like myself) just think it's totally normal - and expected - that if you learn a musical instrument and have reached a certain standard (grade) you can also sight-sing, conduct, tell the difference between a minuet and a march etc, and beat time to it. Not just play the instrument to that standard. That's the legacy of the ABRSM, and personally, I've benefited immensely from it, as one of those untalented kids who couldn't ever have dreamt of ever playing anything on anything, and from an unmusical family.
And you can't think of any possible negative outcome from this?

Actually - no.

Seriously - I knew nothing about the world of music education outside of the ABRSM/Trinity grade system until I joined PW, because everyone I met who knew anything about classical music (not just pianists, violinists, singers etc) - in my home country and here in the UK - were all brought up on it.

WIth a 'standardized' system of music education, everyone involved in music knew what everyone else in music could do. When I was in high school, I enquired about joining the Chapel Choir. The choirmaster just asked me what grade I was (not whether I'd ever sung before, or whether I could sight-sing, or what instrument I played), and when I told him, he just nodded and told me to come to the next rehearsal, where he handed out the score of Bach's Jesu, meine Freude to everyone and told us to start singing it, after playing the first chord. And everyone just started singing (in SATB) - all of us sight-singing. Not flawlessly, and some kids were better sight-singers than others, but we were all singing. This:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVa3nR-2bVc

Much later on, I also got to conduct the choir once or twice when the choirmaster had to go up to the organ loft to take the place of the indisposed organ scholar. I never had any conducting (or singing) lessons in my life.

That's what I mean about the ABRSM syllabus being all-encompassing for the classical music student. Of any (or no) talent.....

Through the choir, I also met a violinist of the same standard as me. We teamed up to play through violin sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven etc. He could sight-read to the same standard as me, so there was never any problem about incompatibility of specific skills. Ditto when I teamed up with a fellow pianist to play duets.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 11:22 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Actually - no.

Seriously - I knew nothing about the world of music education outside of the ABRSM/Trinity grade system until I joined PW, because everyone I met who knew anything about classical music (not just pianists, violinists, singers etc) - in my home country and here in the UK - were all brought up on it. ...
Well, we'll leave it at that. The system was obviously of benefit to you, and many others, and that's wonderful (no sarcasm). We differ maybe in fine philosophical points, and in being comfortable with what we know and with what we're most familiar. It maybe the feeling of "mandatory" that irks me or something. And anyway the more I've been looking into it, the more I've read that the system is probably a little more flexible than I give it credit for. Caricature and distortion is something we're probably all susceptible to. Not that I'm keen on taking any exams any time soon. Anyway, as I said, to each his/her own.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 11:48 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
Actually - no.

Seriously - I knew nothing about the world of music education outside of the ABRSM/Trinity grade system until I joined PW, because everyone I met who knew anything about classical music (not just pianists, violinists, singers etc) - in my home country and here in the UK - were all brought up on it. ...
Well, we'll leave it at that. The system was obviously of benefit to you, and many others, and that's wonderful (no sarcasm). We differ maybe in fine philosophical points, and in being comfortable with what we know and with what we're most familiar. It maybe the feeling of "mandatory" that irks me or something. And anyway the more I've been looking into it, the more I've read that the system is probably a little more flexible than I give it credit for. Caricature and distortion is something we're probably all susceptible to. Not that I'm keen on taking any exams any time soon. Anyway, as I said, to each his/her own.

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.

As in any sort of level or grading system, some will treat it like a competition and so there are people who try to compete for "earn grade 8 in a year from a cold start" recognition (by local newspapers, schools, or whatnot). But any system can be abused for almost any reason.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:21 PM

Talking about how the really talented goes up the grade system, one might look at the career of Lauren Zhang who is from the US but stayed in the UK to continue her music studies, and subsequently won the BBC Young Musician Competition last year, aged 16.

She sailed through the ABRSM exams (I don't know how many of the grade exams she did - in both piano & violin) then straight on to the diplomas: LRSM x2 (piano and violin) at 12, FTCL (piano) at 13........followed by competitions in Germany and elsewhere.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:44 PM

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.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:54 PM

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.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 12:59 PM

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.
Posted By: WeakLeftHand

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 02:50 PM

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.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 05:59 PM

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......
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 06:09 PM

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.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 06:22 PM

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?
Posted By: dogperson

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 06:27 PM

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
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 06:29 PM

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.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 06:44 PM

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.
Posted By: Dr. Rogers

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 07:38 PM

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.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 08:34 PM

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.
Posted By: ebonykawai

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:24 PM

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.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/11/19 10:30 PM

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.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 04:30 AM

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.
Posted By: Nikolas

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 07:03 AM

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.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 11:40 AM

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?
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 11:41 AM

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.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 02:42 PM

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.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 03:07 PM

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.)
Posted By: Nikolas

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 10:41 PM

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...
Posted By: WeakLeftHand

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 10:46 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
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.)


Thanks for the clarification Tyrone.

It's not that it matters to anyone, because I don't think many adults do the Preparatory A or B exams, but in Preparatory A and B, there are only 3 repertoire pieces (usually 1 page, maybe 2). There are no etudes at these early levels. Otherwise, everything else is the same as the higher grades.

I'm seriously considering doing the sax exams too, if I can find a good sax teacher near me. I know. I'm nuts. It's like I derive pleasure from self-inflicting pain and suffering. I think there's something wrong with me. Help.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 10:55 PM

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I'm seriously considering doing the sax exams too, if I can find a good sax teacher near me. I know. I'm nuts. It's like I derive pleasure from self-inflicting pain and suffering. I think there's something wrong with me. Help.

I find the sax to be a very sexy instrument. Maybe it's because when I was in college, there was this movie with lots of sax in it.



After that video, I wanted to play the sax. I've never even liked Jazz. But nonetheless I wanted to play the sax!!! 🤣

Posted By: WeakLeftHand

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 11:05 PM

Hahaha! Believe it or not, I've never actually watched that movie before, although I know the theme song from it. So I didn't know there was a lot of sax in it. whistle
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 11:13 PM

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Hahaha! Believe it or not, I've never actually watched that movie before, although I know the theme song from it. So I didn't know there was a lot of sax in it. whistle

Yep. Theme song from about 1:48:



In the movie, it is the instrument of the main character that Rob Lowe plays.

Posted By: WeakLeftHand

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/12/19 11:25 PM

I really enjoy that theme song. Very 80s. And there's some sax in it too! Cool. Never noticed that before.
Posted By: WhoDwaldi

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/13/19 05:23 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

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.


My teacher was a member of my (US) state's affiliate of MTNA, and I went through auditions with theory and repertoire requirements similar to the RCM system. My teacher had been a star student of her own theory professor in music school, and she excelled at giving her students a theory background. All this prepared me to major in music at university, and the rigors of juries and theory classes.

My university theory prof said that in the old days (1950s), the students usually arrived knowing practically nothing about theory, but that the situation had drastically improved by my time (1980s), particularly among the piano students (I think a lot of voice and band students had a very hard time).

I did know piano students with teachers in other organizations who were absolutely clueless about theory.
Posted By: ebonykawai

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/13/19 05:22 PM

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.


Exactly the reason I haven't gone that route, though I do still contemplate it now and then. Also the reason I only keep a couple pieces polished. There's SO much amazing repertoire, I want to play as much as I can.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/13/19 07:14 PM

Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi
My university theory prof said that in the old days (1950s), the students usually arrived knowing practically nothing about theory, but that the situation had drastically improved by my time (1980s), particularly among the piano students (I think a lot of voice and band students had a very hard time).

At my university, only piano and guitar majors had any prior knowledge about music theory. A lot of singers have next to no theory knowledge; some didn't even read music notation!
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster - 11/13/19 11:51 PM

Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi

My university theory prof said that in the old days (1950s), the students usually arrived knowing practically nothing about theory, but that the situation had drastically improved by my time (1980s), particularly among the piano students (I think a lot of voice and band students had a very hard time).


In my college, it was the opposite. The entrance test is based on theory and dictation, and they used to be able to select a certain number of students to go on to the next stage of the selection process. Now it's not so easy, as so few people are able to do well on the test. It has to do with changes in the school music syllabus being changed a few years ago.
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