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A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for?

Posted By: PianoStartsAt33

A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 02:19 PM

What's the essence? Is it a form of a full value distance education, with a diplomas and possibilities to get a real job as a musician for graduates? Or is it just the same private lessons for amateurs, but in more organized and structered form (exams, levels etc) in order to achive more results?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 04:22 PM

Their website tells you all you need to know about the ABRSM:

https://gb.abrsm.org/en/about-us-test/

It does what it says on the tin wink . It's simply a comprehensive classical music syllabus for teachers & students to follow (whether or not they do the exams). It's completely non-elitist, unlike a lot of music education elsewhere (including Russia) - it's for anyone of any standard. There is also Trinity which uses a similar system.

So, you get well-known concert pianists who came up through its system, as well as the amateur who only bangs on the piano at Christmas to play an easy version of Adeste fideles. Or the lapsed pianist who sings Messiah with her local choir (there are many, many of them in the UK - people who went through the grades as kids and subsequently gave up their instrument, but continued/resumed using the skills they acquired to make music in other ways, like singing).

In the UK and several other countries around the world (including the tiny obscure one I came from), it's so ubiquitous that everyone who knows anything about music (and almost everyone who don't) knows about the grades. Whenever a young person mentions that he/she plays an instrument, almost the first question they'd be asked is: "What grade are you?"

It's also an easy way for music organizations to get the right people. For instance, to join the National Youth Orchestra, you have to have Grade 8 Distinction or equivalent to get an audition. The same if you want to enter the BBC Young Musician Competition (in which well-known pianists like Stephen Hough and Benjamin Grosvenor - and Thomas Adès - first came to prominence).

All these young musicians went through the grade exam system:

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

Very few who do the grade exams go on to do music as a career (I certainly didn't); in fact most don't even get all the way to Grade 8, let alone beyond the grades to diplomas. It's only the starting point for those talented enough to go on to conservatoires. As I said - and as the website says -, it's a syllabus for a musical education, not a qualification for any specific job (though it definitely helps - my youngest sister, who only got to Grade 6 before she dropped piano completely, got a job in a music publishing firm because her employers knew that she could read music competantly when she included the certificate as part of her CV).

I grew up with it, and as a student, all the other music students I knew went through the syllabus and did the exams. I took it for granted that what I could do at my grade, everyone else at the same grade or higher could also do, whether it was in technical skills, aural skills or sight-reading skills (in high school, I teamed up with a violinist of the same grade to sight-read through Mozart and Beethoven violin sonatas; and a pianist of the same grade to play duets - equally badly wink ). When I joined the school choir (where everyone was at least Grade 4 at their instrument), what I could sight-sing, I assumed everyone else could. Our choirmaster didn't have to make specific allowances for anyone.

When you've known nothing else, you assume it's the same everywhere......until I joined PW and discovered a whole different world of instrumental teaching, one which is entirely dependent on the teacher and his/her preferences as to what he/she wants to teach and what he/she thinks is relevant to the student.
Posted By: PianoStartsAt33

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 05:03 PM

bennevis, thank you for such a detailed answer!
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 05:13 PM

Learned something new. Thanks for asking the question, and the detailed reply!

+1
Posted By: cmb13

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 05:19 PM

It's funny, where I live, nobody seems to use or care about any grading system. I sometimes wish it were in use here. It's possible that the children are going through it, but not one single teacher I encountered seemed to encourage it for me as an adult beginner.

The benefit to me in not using it is I have more flexibility to learn what I like, and avoid what I don't like. The drawback, which possibly outweighs that benefit, is that I have 'gaps' in my knowledge / skill set. I am patching up some of these as I go, but others (such aural skills, sight singing, etc) are falling way behind / basically nonexistent.

However, when I began my journey, I had no specific direction. I think if someone had pressured me into this system as a mid 40's beginner with limited time and no clear goal, I wouldn't have followed it, yet as I have improved, if a teacher insisted picking up the system now and progressing systematically, I would be happy to follow that path.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 05:23 PM

One of the purposes of the RCM (Toronto) examination system was to establish a uniform norm or standard of performance in music throughout the country. In the late 19th century, when the examination system was first introduced, Canada's sparse population was (and still is) spread over a vast country (second largest in the world by area). With limited means of communication, this led to the risk of varying standards from one metropolitan centre to another. To assure consistency nationwide, RCM established the examination system and had appointed examiners maintain the standards by holding regular examinations throughout the country at given times of the year. Criteria in the examination process were established and students were required to meet those criteria in order to pass the examination at their respective level.

The examination was also used to ascertain that the level of teaching - through the results students obtained - was consistent throughout the country.

Today, the examination still is used to ascertain a performer's ability to meet the established standards. It should be noted that at the more advanced levels it is not just the practical performance on the instrument that determines the success at a given level (the completion of a grade level, if you will) but also the requirement to pass various theoretical examinations as well.

For those not taking the practical examinations, the extensive syllabus provides lists of repertoire appropriately collected at various levels of difficulty, from introductory, through ten grade levels to diplomas. It can serve as a guide-line to repertoire to those who ask: "How difficult is ....?"

Regards,
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 06:19 PM

Just a little additions to the detailed replies of bennevis & BruceD:

*) RCM is more open towards the "popular" repertoire, whereas ABRSM is quite firmly "classical".

*) Both organizations are firmly steeped in the performance traditions predating the invention electricity and the electronic recording & reproduction of music.

In the XXI century nearly every music performance involves some electronics: either recording or sound reinforcement. The XIX century attitude sometimes exhibits itself in the variety of behaviors from passive-aggressive to actual interference with the electronic reproduction: repositioning of the microphones, changing the equalization settings on the electronic instruments.

It is somewhat interesting that most of the full-time music school have some sort of "music production" track or at least offer lectures related to the subject. Whereas the part-time music institutions not only ignore it but seem to actively cultivate the opposition to electronics.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 06:33 PM

Originally Posted by 90125
Whereas the part-time music institutions not only ignore it but seem to actively cultivate the opposition to electronics.

What is a part-time music institution? Can you give some examples of what you are taking about?
Posted By: Michael P Walsh

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 06:53 PM

Originally Posted by 90125
Just a little additions to the detailed replies of bennevis & BruceD:

*) RCM is more open towards the "popular" repertoire, whereas ABRSM is quite firmly "classical".

*) Both organizations are firmly steeped in the performance traditions predating the invention electricity and the electronic recording & reproduction of music.

In the XXI century nearly every music performance involves some electronics: either recording or sound reinforcement. The XIX century attitude sometimes exhibits itself in the variety of behaviors from passive-aggressive to actual interference with the electronic reproduction: repositioning of the microphones, changing the equalization settings on the electronic instruments.

It is somewhat interesting that most of the full-time music school have some sort of "music production" track or at least offer lectures related to the subject. Whereas the part-time music institutions not only ignore it but seem to actively cultivate the opposition to electronics.


ABRSM have a separate syllabus for jazz. I think Trinity do pop/rock - not quite sure on that.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 07:16 PM

Using your question as the basis for my answer, the grade system, as used in the UK and exported worldwide is somewhere in the middle of the two scenarios you posed, but closer to the second. It certainly does not address overall musical education, nor does achievement in grades or performing diplomas imply suitability for a career in music. On the other hand, it’s not simply a vehicle for ‘private lessons for amateurs’ - although, irrefutably, that is the area the grade system primarily occupies.

It could be argued that the grade system gives structure, in terms of syllabus, and that it also helps people aspire to goals, achievements and a certificate - all very valuable and laudable. In some ways, the system ‘makes’ people learn the dreaded scales and arpeggios, and, to a very limited degree, it allows a student to explore some limited repertoire. And, in a limited way, the syllabus helps to develop the ear, by way of aural tests.

The ‘essence’, as you ask, of the system, does not produce well-rounded musicians on its own. It is way too limiting and limited to do so . Most students work for a long time on each grade, with one goal in mind: passing the exam and moving up a grade or two. In that time, whilst learning and working on the three, solitary ‘exam’ pieces, the ‘system’ does not allow (in itself) for exploration of differing repertoire. Therefore, at the end of, say, a year, the overall achievement is likely to be three pieces and a certificate. Objectively viewed, that end result is not acceptable or satisfactory in overall music education terms. And, that is the most widely occurring scenario.

Many people have commented to me, over the years, that the grade system perpetuates amateurism - and I tend to agree. And that’s absolutely fine - but it’s important to see if for what it is and to understand the limitations. The graded exam boards are huge, and the number of candidates taking the exams, worldwide, is massive. There simply has not been a massive increase in the amount of professional musicians coming out of the system alone.

As I said, in terms of just getting a certificate, that’s all fine, if it’s what someone happens to want - for whatever reason. But remember, the exam is not an indication of musical level or achievement. It is a snapshot of how well you play a piece on a particular day, to an examiner who is unlikely to play the instruments they are examining (except for diploma exams), and it is often the result of working solely on those three exam pieces for a long time - thus, the student will have often had their performance groomed by a teacher who wants students to pass exams. It is, therefore, a fake scenario and fairly worthless when viewed like that.

UK professional musicians have certainly been through the grade system not because it is good, but because it is required. It has played no part in them becoming professional musicians in most cases (I can think of no exceptions, actually).

Bearing in mind, then, that a grade exam does not test musical ability, overall competence or overall level, one has to wonder why the system has become so successful as an industry (because that is what it is). That can be answered by looking at how people love points of reference - I’m grade 1 - he’s grade 4 - she’s grade 7 - I’ve done grade 3 so does the now make me grade 4?’ etc etc. People love labels, even (especially) meaningless ones.

I’m not saying people should not take grade exams. I’m simply suggesting that they are seen as what they are. Take away the actual examination and then the certificate and you are left with very little. There are much more thorough ways of providing an overall musical education - and there are much more efficient and accurate ways of assessing standards than this particular system could ever allow.

NVB
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 07:53 PM

Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
ABRSM have a separate syllabus for jazz. I think Trinity do pop/rock - not quite sure on that.

Yes, Trinity has pop/rock, and like ABRSM and RCM, they do offer exams all over the US at least, including here in Washington DC.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 08:40 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
What is a part-time music institution? Can you give some examples of what you are taking about?

Again I have to apologize for the lack of precision.

What I meant to convey as "full-time" would be the institutions that demand the minimum speed of progressing through their grades to stay enrolled.

The opposite of that are institutions that place no such demands for majority of the graduates. So the people would list their education as primarily e.g. film school and secondarily e.g. ABRSM.

Referring to the bennevis' post above: it would be inverse of "elitism", by not demanding competitive minimums to enroll and continue the education.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 08:43 PM

Originally Posted by precise

The ‘essence’, as you ask, of the system, does not produce well-rounded musicians on its own. It is way too limiting and limited to do so . Most students work for a long time on each grade, with one goal in mind: passing the exam and moving up a grade or two. In that time, whilst learning and working on the three, solitary ‘exam’ pieces, the ‘system’ does not allow (in itself) for exploration of differing repertoire. Therefore, at the end of, say, a year, the overall achievement is likely to be three pieces and a certificate. Objectively viewed, that end result is not acceptable or satisfactory in overall music education terms. And, that is the most widely occurring scenario.

No, that isn't.

Both in my home country (with my cousins and neighbours' children) and in the UK - all my fellow students, learning various instruments - everyone learnt a wide range of pieces each year, and the three pieces we eventually selected for the exams were just a tiny part of our rep and what we learnt. My cousins had several volumes of music, and we exchanged music scores every time we visited each other. My fellow music students in my high school all played a huge range of stuff, and there were two orchestras and a brass band and a jazz group to cater for all interests - as well as the two choirs.

No system is perfect, but the ABRSM syllabus at least require a lot more skills than the 'student recital' and competition system which is what some teachers do in other countries. After all, to do well in a recital or competition, all you need to do is to perform a piece or two from memory. The student doesn't even need to know how to read music, nor possess any aural skills, nor have any knowledge of theory to do that, if he's taught the piece by rote by his teacher - like so many 'teachers' teach on YT. And there are teachers who do that in the flesh too - just read about them in the Piano Teachers Forum. They get away with it because their students can perform one piece very well from memory in a recital.

Quote
Many people have commented to me, over the years, that the grade system perpetuates amateurism - and I tend to agree. And that’s absolutely fine - but it’s important to see if for what it is and to understand the limitations. The graded exam boards are huge, and the number of candidates taking the exams, worldwide, is massive. There simply has not been a massive increase in the amount of professional musicians coming out of the system alone.

The ABRSM is all about promoting the acquisition of musical skills, and ensuring that students get an all-round (classical) music education on their instrument. It's got nothing to do with "producing" lots of professional musicians, as I'd already mentioned earlier. The vast majority of those learning a musical instrument and doing grade exams have no interest in a musical career, but they will have lasting musical skills for life, that they can use in all sorts of ways - when attending concerts, amateur music making (choral singing is a prime example - the huge number of amateur choirs in the UK is testament to that) or just general musical understanding in all sorts of musical settings.

I love classical music and the piano, but I have absolutely no interest in a music career - in fact it never crossed my mind, even as a student. My job pays more than well enough for me to pursue my many varied interests, including music - and my amateur status means that in my monthly recitals, I can play anything I like. And I do. My audience come to listen to me because they want to hear good music, and they trust me. I'd never perform any piece I didn't like, or wasn't completely convinced by.

I'm really surprised that you deem a music education syllabus a "success" only if it produces lots of professional musicians. You are sounding like an elitist, the sort that the general non-musical public like to use as a whipping horse to denigrate what classical musicians do, and those in government who hold the purse strings use as an excuse to cut funding for school music education.

I suggest you have a look at what the members of the NYO do in their workshops, to see the kind of all-round musical skills they possess, which go far, far beyond merely playing their instruments to a high standard. They most certainly didn't acquire those skills (and I didn't acquire mine) by hothousing their three exam pieces just so that they can get Grade 8 Distinction.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BcdnUZlv1M

Quote
the exam is not an indication of musical level or achievement.

Actually, it is.

All the national organisations (not just the BBC and the NYO) and competitions for young people ask for the student's level.



Quote
it is often the result of working solely on those three exam pieces for a long time - thus, the student will have often had their performance groomed by a teacher who wants students to pass exams.

I sincerely hope you don't teach your students like that.

Assuming, of course, that you have students.

None of my four teachers did that. I learnt a lot of rep as a student, far beyond the three exam pieces.

Quote
UK professional musicians have certainly been through the grade system not because it is good, but because it is required. It has played no part in them becoming professional musicians in most cases (I can think of no exceptions, actually)
.
It gave them a grounding in all-round musical skills. How far they (want to) take them is up to them.

In my high school, a student eventually became a concert pianist (and won the Tchaikovsky Competition), and several others went on to study in conservatoires and are now professional musicians in orchestras.

All went through the ABRSM/Trinity grade system, and did their performance diplomas while still at school......before they went to their chosen conservatoires.

Quote
Bearing in mind, then, that a grade exam does not test musical ability, overall competence or overall level, one has to wonder why the system has become so successful as an industry (because that is what it is). That can be answered by looking at how people love points of reference - I’m grade 1 - he’s grade 4 - she’s grade 7 - I’ve done grade 3 so does the now make me grade 4?’ etc etc. People love labels, even (especially) meaningless ones.

[quote]Take away the actual examination and then the certificate and you are left with very little.

Wrong.
The syllabus itself provides for a thorough grounding in musical basics, whether or not the student do the exams.

I saw it for myself with a friend, who started learning piano at 60. He insisted to his teacher that he wanted to follow every inch of the ABRSM syllabus and do the exams, despite the teacher's misgivings. He eventually changed his mind about the exams but not about following the syllabus to the letter.

Several years later, he's playing Chopin waltzes, nocturnes and mazurkas, and singing Bach and Handel in his local choir, and loving every part of his music education. Presently, he's going through the Grade 6 pieces.
Quote
There are much more thorough ways of providing an overall musical education - and there are much more efficient and accurate ways of assessing standards than this particular system could ever allow.

NVB

So, why don't you give us the benefit of your acumen and tell us what your system is?
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 09:35 PM

Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
ABRSM have a separate syllabus for jazz.

It is not for me to judge it, but I observe two things:

1) ABRSM Jazz degrees end at 5 compared to 8 for the classical tracks.

2) at RCM pop is a combination add-on/substitute for all available tracks.

Just a quick look at the RCM syllabus shows arrangements of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and more importantly Rush's "Closer to the Heart", who are the Officers of the Order of Canada. To me it looks like very big deal in such a conservative establishment.

I'm more familiar with the music education tradition where the boxes/drawers with the genre names were much less important than technical/artistic/pedagogical aptitude.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 10:14 PM

The following is in reply to bennevis and has been copied to the mods and the owner of PW:

bennevis, alas, again, as you've proved several times before, you deserve no specific answers from me.

You have been warned by moderators that your behaviour towards me is unacceptable - I have shown your behaviour towards me to be unacceptable.

Yet again, the rudeness of your reply - the dripping sarcasm, the personal rudeness, the doubting of my own experience, is to try and 'discredit me'.

I bravely reveal my identity here and I stand by my words. I seem to offend no one (except you).

Your attempts to discredit me began the very first day I was on PW. It is an all but bullying attitude from you - one that, I am told, has put many people off PW and has made several members leave.

I am copying this reply to the mods to escalate a complaint there already is against you for your trolling behaviour towards me.

Now, let’s cut to the chase here and get a few facts straight:

1. Read the section on what you can and cannot say here in PW - you will learn from it.

2. I am in receipt of private messages on PW from long-time and well-known members. These messages attest to you having contacted people over the years in order to gain support for ‘ganging up’ on certain members with the sole intention of getting them banned

3. I have been told by several members that if anyone dares to question you, then you launch almost coordinated vitriol towards them - and, that many members have indeed left Piano World because of your behaviour towards them

4. Despite pertaining to be an ‘expert’ on everything - let alone all things piano - you have consistently failed to produce one piece of ‘evidence’ to anyone (other than your word) that you are in any way what or who you actually claim to be.

Again, I state that you have acted towards me (as above) from day one. I am not hiding behind an identity - you are.

In terms of what you say about examinations - this is a discussion. You may not ooze sarcasm and doubt on someone simply because you do not happen to want them to be a member here.

In private message here, I wrote to you commenting on your rudeness towards me from day one. I actually said that you seem like a knowledgable person who has clear empathy for some members. I then stated that you were clearly trying to make PW a very unpleasant place for me - proven by every comment you have written to me from day one of my membership: the sarcasm, doubting me professionally, the rudeness, the accusations.

The following I am pasting from your reply to me. This will show other users exactly what you are like. I have forwarded these communications to the mods as well:


1. Accusing me as being from the USA (I'm British, as you know) you wrote: 'Almost every other post you make you diss UK and European dealers, and you fawn all over the US ones, which in itself is very suspicious. The regulars are tiring of your fawning'.

2. 'Your complete lack of knowledge of ABRSM and its ethos, and what it's all about, makes your claims about being an examiner for them very, very suspicious'

3. 'PW is a family forum for pianists of all ages, not for ignorant idiots like you. There's just bullshit & bluster from you.'

4. 'Somehow, I don't think you will last long in PW.........' (This was your tacit threat to me - having contacted other members to get me banned.)

5. 'Don't you understand English?' (A semi-racist comment from you, indeed)

6 'Do you enjoy being a victim? ' Again, this was part of your 'threat' to have my stay here in PW shortened

7. 'Second-guessing is, I know, part of your silly make-up, but it's not very becoming of someone who purports, nay, pretends to be an expert in..........er, what?'

8. 'Stay in Piano Forum, where you can troll as much as you like. I showed you up for what you are to other posters - an impostor & a troll.'

The above was pasted from communications I received from the user known as bennevis.

NVB
Posted By: PianoStartsAt33

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 11:16 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis


In my high school, a student eventually became a concert pianist (and won the Tchaikovsky Competition)




Hmm... and who was that guy? Barry Douglas?
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 11:22 PM

Originally Posted by PianoStartsAt33
Originally Posted by bennevis


In my high school, a student eventually became a concert pianist (and won the Tchaikovsky Competition)




Hmm... and who was that guy? Barry Douglas?


Precisely. Another figment of bennevis's imagination. smile
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 11:41 PM

Originally Posted by PianoStartsAt33
Originally Posted by bennevis


In my high school, a student eventually became a concert pianist (and won the Tchaikovsky Competition)




Hmm... and who was that guy? Barry Douglas?

Yes. He performed in our school lots of times as a student, and everyone flocked to hear him. I first heard him in Beethoven's Appassionata and Liszt's Dante Sonata, and my first hearing of Brahms's Piano Trio No.2 was when he performed it together with a violinist and cellist (all students at our school, both of whom went on to study in conservatoires).

Later, he performed Mussorgsky's Pictures and Liszt's B minor Sonata for a paying public in the hall opposite our school to raise funds to help pay for the school's new Yamaha grand. This was when he was still a teenager, long before he won the 3rd prize in the Van Cliburn Competition, followed by the Gold Medal in the Tchaikovsky.

BTW, he's just recorded a new CD of Pictures and Tchaikovsky's The Seasons, both of them works that are dear to all Russians, I believe. I heartily recommend it for a Christmas present to your fellow Russians (or yourself!) who remember how he played in the competition and wowed the Moscow audience. thumb (BTW, that Tchaikovsky Competition is on YT).

For those who are looking for something lighter, check out his CDs of his own arrangements of traditional Irish and Celtic tunes (including Danny Boy - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKrp8igRV3c ).
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/11/18 11:45 PM

Coming into the conversation:

Background: My first years of lessons were based on RCM. I then discussed the role of RCM with the teacher of that time ; later with other teachers, and looked deeply into the teaching of playing music on an instrument due to my first experiences. After that there was an enlightening conversation with a teacher whose compositions are used in the Australian AMEB system, which is similar to the two that got mentioned here: RCM and ABRSM. I have had occasion to compare RCM and ABRSM with a British teacher, and have also discussed the exam system with a British teacher.

I'll use RCM, simply because it's complicated to keep writing RCM/ABRSM/AMEB.

You have, in the "RCM" an organized set of skills, knowledge, pieces, that all work together - so a system or structure. That is better than just having "everything" in your head and wondering what to teach first. It provides a framework. The elements are: technique, things like key signatures which also goes into theory, actual theory in written exams, repertoire along genres and time periods so all is represented, and the pieces learned also dovetail with the technique and key signatures etc. Later there is the study of rudiments theory, harmony theory, music history, and sometimes on to counterpoint. There is a map of "things to cover" - framework.

It differs from method books, which are also organized along levels, in that the method book does some of the teaching. With the RCM (etc.) the teacher has the material (a piece, a scale, an etude etc.) but it is the teacher who teaches and presents it. You can end up with shallow teaching that simple leads the student into "how to play this piece and make it sound good", keep doing the scales until you can do them fast enough with the right fingering with the right sound, how to pass the theory exam or do the theory work. To get the skills of a musician -- including an amateur -- you need more than that. By the same token, a very good and dedicated teacher can go beyond, and simply use the RCM (etc.) as a framework for his teaching. He won't be locked into the presentation of a method book.

You can go through the program without ever doing the exams. One argument for a standardized system is that when kids end up in university and everyone has their grade 8 RCM, you know what they have studied and they're all on the same page.

As was pointed out, you can easily end up with an "exam mentality", learning and teaching toward exams. If you work on only three pieces in a year, polishing it to perfection, the student will probably get high grades. This also enhances the teacher's reputation, because when you do an exam, your name and grades are in the records, but so are the teacher's. ..... I also heard from an ABRSM teacher whose student insisted on doing an exams each year. There were skills that student needed which were outside of what was needed for the exams, but would have helped the student with weaknesses that undermined those performances - he was not able to to spend the needed time on what the student needed to learn, because he had to teach toward the exam.

Years ago I presented the idea that these systems lead to teaching the skills that are needed. The teacher who is heavily involved in one of these systems, and who also teaches about teaching in lectures, cut my short on that. She pointed out that the syllabus is about what can be tested or measured. There are important aspects of music that cannot be measured or tested, which end up being side-stepped, while some of the measurable things might not actually be that important.

The bottom line is HOW YOU USE these systems. I bought the syllabus for the instrument that I started to learn along RCM, because at the time I wanted to have some kind of framework. I have also looked at the old etudes that I had originally done in the system. I have seen what they were meant to teach, and what could have been taught through them, now that I know a lot more than back then. A good teacher can do a lot with such material, especially if he knows he has a student who will follow through ..... which is the other factor: the student's commitment - with a young student, also the parent's cooperation.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 12:31 AM

Originally Posted by keystring

As was pointed out, you can easily end up with an "exam mentality", learning and teaching toward exams. If you work on only three pieces in a year, polishing it to perfection, the student will probably get high grades. This also enhances the teacher's reputation, because when you do an exam, your name and grades are in the records, but so are the teacher's. ..... I also heard from an ABRSM teacher whose student insisted on doing an exams each year. There were skills that student needed which were outside of what was needed for the exams, but would have helped the student with weaknesses that undermined those performances - he was not able to to spend the needed time on what the student needed to learn, because he had to teach toward the exam.
.


That's well put, and exactly what I was getting at some posts back. Grooming a student just for exams - the narrow three pieces syndrome - is exactly where it can all go rather wrong.

Of course, there are some teachers who take a broader view - they teach more of the skills necessary to become a musician. However, what with pushy parents wanting 'results', and teachers wanting 'passes', the whole point of it all - making music and improving - is lost.

Some people proselytise about the Grade System - it's like a religion, They become blinkered to (musical) reality - and they often pass this rather toxic view onto others, which can be potentially dangerous. It also creates very limited 'musicians'. It's a vicious cycle.

I would hope that my views - from my experience of having been on both sides of the examining table, as it were - would balance the sole focus of some people on grade exams. Theres is, in my opinion, musical life away from exams. And it is healthier.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 12:46 AM

Originally Posted by precise
[...] Grooming a student just for exams - the narrow three pieces syndrome - is exactly where it can all go rather wrong.


I think the key word here is "can". I think it's important to underline that many teachers do not "groom[...] a student just for exams.' as you mention below, but this needs to be stressed, I think.

Originally Posted by precise
Of course, there are some teachers who take a broader view - they teach more of the skills necessary to become a musician. However, what with pushy parents wanting 'results', and teachers wanting 'passes', the whole point of it all - making music and improving - is lost.

Some people proselytise about the Grade System - it's like a religion, They become blinkered to (musical) reality - and they often pass this rather toxic view onto others, which can be potentially dangerous. It also creates very limited 'musicians'. It's a vicious cycle.


Here again, "some people" but certainly not all.

Originally Posted by precise
I would hope that my views - from my experience of having been on both sides of the examining table, as it were - would balance the sole focus of some people on grade exams. Theres is, in my opinion, musical life away from exams. And it is healthier.



I heartily agree with this last comment and in my experience and in those of the musicians I know, they have been directed by their teacher(s) toward that "healthier" musical life.

Regards,
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 12:55 AM

Agreed, BruceD.
I was pinpointing some worst-case scenarios that, unfortunately, can/do sometimes occur.

Music, being an art form, is perhaps subject to too many exams and competitions - I mean for people who just want to learn to love, play and enjoy music making.

NVB smile
Posted By: bSharp(C)yclist

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 01:17 AM

During my first year of lessons I started with Alfreds and worked through some pieces in the Alfred's Masterwork classic series. I had to get a new teacher starting year 2 since teacher 1 moved out of state. The second teacher introduced me to the RCM syllabus and I'm quite happy she did. I have no regrets following it and taking exams. I take my 5 theory exam on Friday. It will be a lot easier than a performance exam smile

I do a lot more than just 5 pieces a year. There is also the sight reading and ear training parts to it, which I find valuable. Also, the school and teacher have regular recitals and I get to experience that horror too laugh
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 01:25 AM

Originally Posted by BruceD
in my experience and in those of the musicians I know, they have been directed by their teacher(s) toward that "healthier" musical life.

thumb

I know some music teachers (mostly for piano) and none of them "teach towards exams".

All of them teach a big range of pieces, and encourage their students to play duets/chamber music with others, sing, just play 'for fun' etc. They love it if a child student fancies playing a Christmas pop hit to impress his mates and asks for their help to learn it, even though they are all classically minded.

None of the students I know, or used to know as a kid (and there were many of them - over thirty who sang in the school Chapel Choir, of which I was a member) were ever taught by their teachers to just pass exams and not much else. They played in the school orchestras and/or brass band, and played chamber music with fellow students, as well as sang in the choir. We never talked about our music exams, or grades, or certificates - we talked about the beauty of the music we heard or were learning/performing. I still remember how we all wanted to sing the solo part of 'O for the wings of a dove' from Hear My Prayer, but resorted to humming it, to the annoyance of our choirmaster during the rehearsal grin. (A wonderful girl soprano was given the part....)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HM94qVmq-4

I was probably alone as a music student in needing to keep my certificates to show my parents when I went home during the summer holidays, because they were totally musically illiterate (the only music at home was when I played the piano) and their condition for continuing to pay for my piano lessons was that I bring home a new certificate every year to show that I wasn't wasting their money. (As I mentioned in another post, when I played a whole bunch of wrong notes deliberately in a Mozart piece, they didn't even know they were wrong......)
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 01:44 AM

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
... the school and teacher have regular recitals and I get to experience that horror too laugh

I thank my lucky stars I didn't have to experience that horror as a student grin.

Even though my high school had regular lunchtime concerts in the Chapel for anyone (student or teacher) who wished to perform, only a few brave souls (the students who fancied a career in music, mainly - including the three teenaged stars I mentioned earlier) took advantage of them. Anyone who performed was guaranteed a supportive audience, regardless of what (or how well) they played.

Once, one of the RE teachers performed his own arrangements of hymn tunes. Apart from him, the only other teacher who performed was our Head of Music (who was also our choirmaster) but he only performed in a collaborative role. Once, he partnered the girl cellist in my music class, who performed Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata No.2. It was the first time I heard that wonderful piece, but unfortunately the piano part was far too difficult for me (then) to think of playing it with her (who I rather fancied......) cry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzR-Qs0Xj5A
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 02:49 AM

In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. Everyone makes money except the student who pays for the lessons and the exams. In itself, it is meaningless but it makes for good conversation.
Posted By: Mosotti

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 12:36 PM

I totally agree with the money making part. There are so many materials for sale, and the price is pretty high.

I'm not interested about it, because I'm not interested in grades, and it's not even available in my country. But even if I wanted to do it, there's a big problem:I didn't find any piece that I like when I looked through those syllabus A, B, C lists. I don't understand why each list for each grade has only SIX pieces, most of them I've never heard of... I try to learn to play because I want to play pieces that I love, not to learn random pieces that I don't even like...
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 12:54 PM

Originally Posted by Mosotti
I totally agree with the money making part. There are so many materials for sale, and the price is pretty high.

I'm not interested about it, because I'm not interested in grades, and it's not even available in my country. But even if I wanted to do it, there's a big problem:I didn't find any piece that I like when I looked through those syllabus A, B, C lists. I don't understand why each list for each grade has only SIX pieces, most of them I've never heard of... I try to learn to play because I want to play pieces that I love, not to learn random pieces that I don't even like...

I use their 'other' graded publications - titled 'A Keyboard Anthology,' 'Romantic Pieces for Piano' (I think there are a few others) and found them useful for teaching myself and generally them because they are a nice source of sheet music. They tend have interesting selections of different composers (I've discovered lots I like this way)and in general I think they do show progression through the grades (I use mostly grade 6 and 7 books,)
Not sure if the ABRSM is just a 'money-making' concern, don't know much about them, but having been brought up in the UK to me they're a kind of institution I guess, and until seeing posts to the contrary here on PW I've not heard anything against them, so this is rather an interesting thread. Not sure what the alternatives are, though, although looking through the posts on PW I see lots of methods and so on.
As I say, I'm finding this discussion interesting......
Posted By: malkin

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 01:30 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. Everyone makes money except the student who pays for the lessons and the exams. In itself, it is meaningless but it makes for good conversation.



Thanks for mentioning this in a simple and direct way.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 03:20 PM

Just to reassure those students who don't want to spend a penny (or cent, or whatever currency you use) on your music/piano advancement - the ABRSM's syllabus for all grades is totally free to download, and you can choose to follow it if you want to. Not many things in life are free, but this one is (apart from the cost of your internet connection wink ).

Personally, I don't see any point if you're an adult, and just want to do your own thing. If you don't live in a country which uses it, it's unlikely you'll find a teacher who knows about it, in any case (even if there are exam centres near where you live). I don't recommend doing their exams without having lessons from a teacher who knows the ABRSM's syllabus inside out, though I suspect that most of those candidates who fail don't have teachers at all.

The ABRSM exams are easy to pass, even Grade 8 (- but not easy to get good marks, except in Grade 1) - if you've done the work required, but you're on dicey ground if you rely on your pieces to save you from poor technical, sight-reading or aural skills. The examiners make allowances for the effects of nerves. I know all about it: I've had false starts, total misunderstandings etc, etc ......and still got good marks, with no mention of those in the handwritten critique - they know when a candidate is nervous, as opposed to one who is just ill-prepared.

But frankly, if you're not the type who likes structure to your learning, and want to learn only what you want to learn, why would you bother with a highly structured program of practical & theoretical musical learning that stretches to nearly a decade (if you want to 'complete' it)?

On the other hand, for kids who are starting out, there's a lot to be said for a structured musical education that encompasses all the essentials from the basics up, and progresses in a logical manner. There's no knowing how they might choose to use their musical skills in future, nor how long they might continue with the education. Would they go into the pop world, like Elton John? Or become a conductor? Or play in an orchestra? Or play their instrument occasionally at parties to entertain the guests? Or become a music teacher? Or sing in a choir? Or just enjoy going to concerts and knowing how (classical) music works?

As I mentioned earlier, my sister used her skills in her job, which she enjoys - but she's never returned to the piano. (The little upright is still there, rusting slowly in my parents' home where she lives with her husband). And many others who I met when singing in ad-hoc choirs enjoy participating in occasional music events, making use of the musical skills they learnt as part of their instrumental lessons, even though many of them no longer play their instruments. But not a single one of them bemoan the exams they went through when they were kids, because they all felt that they gained a lot from having done them and following the ABRSM syllabus grade by grade, even though they're now only using a small part of the musical skills they learnt. And more significantly, they all started their own kids on lessons, and grade exams....
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 03:31 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Just to reassure those students who don't want to spend a penny (or cent, or whatever currency you use) on your music/piano advancement - the ABRSM's syllabus for all grades is totally free to download, and you can choose to follow it if you want to. Not many things in life are free, but this one is (apart from the cost of your internet connection wink ).

The RCM syllabi are also free. These are the documents:
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 03:56 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Just to reassure those students who don't want to spend a penny (or cent, or whatever currency you use) on your music/piano advancement - the ABRSM's syllabus for all grades is totally free to download, and you can choose to follow it if you want to. Not many things in life are free, but this one is (apart from the cost of your internet connection wink ).

The RCM syllabi are also free. These are the documents:

Why do I get the feeling that I'm about to feel very bad about myself? grin

Must. Not. Give. In. Must. Be. Good!

*clicks anyway*

P.S. Thanks for the info, guys smile
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 04:15 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle
Why do I get the feeling that I'm about to feel very bad about myself? grin

To get all the misery at once and over with, look here too.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 05:33 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Sibylle
Why do I get the feeling that I'm about to feel very bad about myself? grin

To get all the misery at once and over with, look here too.

Haha! Indeed. Interesting, though. One could probably spend a long time debating whether some of the points in the higher grades should perhaps come before other, lower ones, but I'm not going to open that particular can of worms in this thread...!
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 05:42 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. Everyone makes money except the student who pays for the lessons and the exams. In itself, it is meaningless but it makes for good conversation.
Why do you think this is the case?

As you said some people like to have or are motivated by goals, and these curricula seem to be a perfectly reasonable way of achieving specific goals. I think your post is quite pessimistic and negative. If they're just businesses why do so many people take part?
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 06:19 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. .


This is absolutely right - indeed, I said it was an 'industry' in my initial post in this thread - I think you said it better above, though smile

Also absolutely right regarding the appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented - although it is perfectly possible to be goal oriented without feeling the need to take a graded examination.

I maintain that a certificate proving a pass at a grade does not indicate musical level or even overall proficiency. And that, for some reason is the thing many people fail, or choose not, to understand. Three exam pieces, studied ad nauseum and groomed for an exam pass, are pretty much within anyone's reach. And that's great - many people just want to use the grade system as a means of, well, passing the grades.

Some adult students very much like the idea of an objective goal and find that it does, indeed, help motivate them. Other adult students ask 'what good will a grade do me?' and never bother taking exams.

Most children (in the UK, at least) who learn instruments, are pushed through the grade system. Most give up playing, and many will tell you that 'having to do grade exams' put them off playing for life. Some children benefit from the grade system - but they only benefit musically if they are studying with a teacher who is aware of the limitations of such a system - and those teachers encourage a healthy and broad syllabus for their students.

Where it all goes wrong, is with people who blindly proselytise grade exams as if they are what everyone should aspire to. And that is actually dangerous, and these opinions should be viewed very cautiously. Since the grade and diploma exams are not professional qualifications, anyone who, relying on their own passes, simply says 'You should all do it, because I have done it', is not really credible. If someone is unable to see the pros and cons of anything, then they are not in a position to offer objective advice.

By saying that the grade exam systems perpetuates amateurism, I am not criticising the valuable musical lives of the millions of amateur musicians out there. What I do say, though, is that views - when vehement and staunch views - of such people, are simply amateur views. And that's also fine. But, again, it goes very wrong when vehement viewsters proselytise or maintain that their advice, and only their advice, is the word of God. That would be like an unqualified lawyer giving vehement legal advice - or an unqualified doctor diagnosing people.

Most people, especially adults, who take grade exams, do not cling to their exam passes for dear life and make them their raison d'être - they do the exams, pat themselves on the back, and move on and, hopefully, continue to develop and love music. Some, however, get stuck - especially on the topic of grade exams.I suggest that is unhealthy and musically limiting.

These forums are full of differing views, and that's why PW is so valuable. Intelligent discussion is encouraged and it occurs widely. But, for example, if someone in the Piano Forum - a forum frequented by many identifiable, experienced and eminent pros in the piano industry - starts giving wrong, naive or amateur technical advice regarding pianos, especially if that someone has no professional experience in pianos, then that person will have the might of people with great experience come down hard on them and correct them. Playing the piano, learning the piano, music, is subject to equally high standards.


Objectivity, then, is the key when considering the grade exam system. Exams are not the Holy Grail of music and never have been. If a teacher, student or forum member tells you that they are, then their advice is probably pretty worthless.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 06:20 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Richrf
In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. Everyone makes money except the student who pays for the lessons and the exams. In itself, it is meaningless but it makes for good conversation.
Why do you think this is the case?

As you said some people like to have or are motivated by goals, and these curricula seem to be a perfectly reasonable way of achieving specific goals. I think your post is quite pessimistic and negative. If they're just businesses why do so many people take part?


Examinations have been a part of the North American education system since formal teaching began. I don't see how this subject under discussion is any different. School students are taught in classroom situations which result in annual final examinations. To successfully pass to the next grade, certain performance standards have to be reached in the final examinations which are based on the curriculum studied during the year. In that sense, students are primed to believe - and the system (until it is changed) bears this out - that examinations are a goal to be reached and passed through as a record of achievement.

Of course, any education system has its business aspect whether its a kindergarten, primary or secondary school or college or university. Equally, teaching piano privately (or any other instrument) is a business: a service is offered and the client who wishes to avail himself of that service pays for it; the teacher invests his/her time and is paid for the expertise passed on to the student.

I can't agree that this system or any other form of teaching is "meaningless."

Regards,
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 06:43 PM

Originally Posted by precise
I maintain that a certificate proving a pass at a grade does not indicate musical level or even overall proficiency. And that, for some reason is the thing many people fail, or choose not, to understand. Three exam pieces, studied ad nauseum and groomed for an exam pass, are pretty much within anyone's reach. And that's great - many people just want to use the grade system as a means of, well, passing the grades.

Tell me you aren't actually Tim Topham as he just published an open letter to parents discussing piano exams, which is an odd echo of your post here. grin (encountered this on Reddit r/piano)
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 06:43 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Sibylle
Why do I get the feeling that I'm about to feel very bad about myself? grin

To get all the misery at once and over with, look here too.

Haha! Indeed. Interesting, though. One could probably spend a long time debating whether some of the points in the higher grades should perhaps come before other, lower ones, but I'm not going to open that particular can of worms in this thread...!

I don't particularly agree with the 'graded piano repertoire' points, even - especially - in the lower grades. I think some of those requirements are somewhat confusing & overcomplicated....

BTW, I forgot to add the link for ABRSM exams - everything from Grade 1 to diplomas in one link cool:

https://gb.abrsm.org/fileadmin/user_upload/PDFs/Piano_Syllabus_2019___2020_complete.pdf
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 06:45 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by precise
I maintain that a certificate proving a pass at a grade does not indicate musical level or even overall proficiency. And that, for some reason is the thing many people fail, or choose not, to understand. Three exam pieces, studied ad nauseum and groomed for an exam pass, are pretty much within anyone's reach. And that's great - many people just want to use the grade system as a means of, well, passing the grades.

Tell me you aren't actually Tim Topham as he just published an open letter to parents discussing piano exams, which is an odd echo of your post here. grin (encountered this on Reddit r/piano)


LOL - no, I'm definitely not the guy you refer to. Although will now read what he's said, so thanks smile
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:05 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Richrf
In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. Everyone makes money except the student who pays for the lessons and the exams. In itself, it is meaningless but it makes for good conversation.
Why do you think this is the case?

As you said some people like to have or are motivated by goals, and these curricula seem to be a perfectly reasonable way of achieving specific goals. I think your post is quite pessimistic and negative. If they're just businesses why do so many people take part?


Yes, some people like goals, and organizations are created all of the time to monetize these desires. It's not a big deal. It's the way of the world.

Why do people take part? Just observe human motivations. Why do you think these organizations change their syllabus and books on a regular basis? For the same reason textbook publishers always release "new editions" of their textbooks. Human nature is what it is. Someone needs something bad enough, someone will provide it ... for a price.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:19 PM

In addition to the article Tyrone highlights https://timtopham.com/an-open-letter-to-parents-of-piano-students/

see:

https://franspianostudio.me/2018/03/08/exam-obsessed/

https://franspianostudio.me/2017/05/27/its-not-just-about-grades/
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:22 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Richrf
In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. Everyone makes money except the student who pays for the lessons and the exams. In itself, it is meaningless but it makes for good conversation.
Why do you think this is the case?

As you said some people like to have or are motivated by goals, and these curricula seem to be a perfectly reasonable way of achieving specific goals. I think your post is quite pessimistic and negative. If they're just businesses why do so many people take part?


Yes, some people like goals, and organizations are created all of the time to monetize these desires. It's not a big deal. It's the way of the world.

Why do people take part? Just observe human motivations. Why do you think these organizations change their syllabus and books on a regular basis? For the same reason textbook publishers always release "new editions" of their textbooks. Human nature is what it is. Someone needs something bad enough, someone will provide it ... for a price.
I think your reply is just as distrustful/cynical as your other post I commented on. I certainly don't agree that making money is the only or even the main reason why all these exams were created. To me that's like saying that doctors or piano teachers only go into that profession for the money.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:28 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Tell me you aren't actually Tim Topham as he just published an open letter to parents discussing piano exams, which is an odd echo of your post here. grin (encountered this on Reddit r/piano)

I read what Precise wrote previously, and I have now read Tim Topham's article addressed to future students / parents. There are some similar ideas, but other things not. I would not think they were written by the same person. I see this differently. Namely:

The things stated by Tim reflect concerns of many piano teachers and music teachers. As an analogy, if someone wrote "Canadian winters are cold, so you should dress warmly when you go outside." you wouldn't go, "Hey, are you this other guy, because he also said you should dress warmly etc." - because anyone who knows Canadian winters will advise this. A reality is a reality.

Tim also states thing that I stated. I am not Tim or Precise, and neither of them is me or each other. There are some differences in the views of each of us, and some similarities because we have different backgrounds but have encountered the same field.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:31 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Richrf
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Richrf
In essence, ABRMS, RCM, are simply businesses. A good way to make money. Actually, an excellent way to make money. They appeal to teachers and students who are goal oriented. Everyone makes money except the student who pays for the lessons and the exams. In itself, it is meaningless but it makes for good conversation.
Why do you think this is the case?

As you said some people like to have or are motivated by goals, and these curricula seem to be a perfectly reasonable way of achieving specific goals. I think your post is quite pessimistic and negative. If they're just businesses why do so many people take part?


Yes, some people like goals, and organizations are created all of the time to monetize these desires. It's not a big deal. It's the way of the world.

Why do people take part? Just observe human motivations. Why do you think these organizations change their syllabus and books on a regular basis? For the same reason textbook publishers always release "new editions" of their textbooks. Human nature is what it is. Someone needs something bad enough, someone will provide it ... for a price.
I think your reply is just as distrustful/cynical as your other post I commented on. I certainly don't agree that making money is the only or even the main reason why all these exams were created. To me that's like saying that doctors or piano teachers only go into that profession for the money.


A bit naive of you, pianoloverus, perhaps. Maybe the 'creation' of the exam boards was for laudable reasons. But they are industries now - big, money-making machines. It's all about the money (honey).
smile
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:34 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Tell me you aren't actually Tim Topham as he just published an open letter to parents discussing piano exams, which is an odd echo of your post here. grin (encountered this on Reddit r/piano)

I read what Precise wrote previously, and I have now read Tim Topham's article addressed to future students / parents. There are some similar ideas, but other things not. I would not think they were written by the same person. I see this differently. Namely:

The things stated by Tim reflect concerns of many piano teachers and music teachers. As an analogy, if someone wrote "Canadian winters are cold, so you should dress warmly when you go outside." you wouldn't go, "Hey, are you this other guy, because he also said you should dress warmly etc." - because anyone who knows Canadian winters will advise this. A reality is a reality.

Tim also states thing that I stated. I am not Tim or Precise, and neither of them is me or each other. There are some differences in the views of each of us, and some similarities because we have different backgrounds but have encountered the same field.

Tyrone was joking, Keystring smile He knows I'm not Tim Topham.
smile
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:40 PM

Wow, from such a simple request for information this thread is getting a little warm!
As somebody whose children went through ABRSM and now a grandfather I would really like to understand what the other options are and their benefits over the ABRSM approach. At the moment I would suggest going with ABRSM (although, admittedly, it wouldn't be my decision), and so far haven't come across any cogent argument for other options. Come to think of it, I don't think other options have really been discussed......or are those posters not happy with ABRSM hoping to improve it by expressing their concerns?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:43 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
I read what Precise wrote previously, and I have now read Tim Topham's article addressed to future students / parents. There are some similar ideas, but other things not. I would not think they were written by the same person.

I don't think keystring was confused by what I said, but in case anyone else is confused, let me say for the record that I was only joking about precise being Tim (note my emoticon!) wink
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:44 PM

Originally Posted by precise
Tyrone was joking, Keystring smile He knows I'm not Tim Topham.
smile

You were faster than me smile
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:45 PM

I am not going to go into the views expressed by Tim Topham or others on the state of music education, because that is a different can of worms, a topic that could fill pages in its own right. Going back to RCM, ABRSM, AMEB etc.

Anything is only as good as the teacher doing the teaching, the student doing the (active) learning, and for children, the type of parental support. A syllabus gives a framework. Let's start there. As a trained teacher, I learned to start with "curriculum guidelines" - "In math, multiplication, grade 2, the student will be able to ..... " (broad goals; subdivided into small goals). You look in depth at what this entails: what is multiplication, what is the mindset of this age group, what future skills should this support years down the line, what practical applications are there in real life, what teaching tools and teaching activities will you apply, and how will you assess that learning has occurred. ALL THAT is what goes into a proper series of lessons in the classroom. 90% of what I wrote is NOT in the syllabus.

A good, experienced, knowledgeable teacher will look at the broad framework of the syllabus as a kind of framework. He will tweak it and he will draw things out of it. His goal will be to give his student the tools of musicianship, so that the student will be able to explore music for the rest of his life - just like the ability to read lets you read whatever you want your whole life. He will need the cooperation of the student to do that; music learning only happens with the (mostly) daily practice of the student, as directed, but not blindly or unintelligently.

A poorish or inexperienced teacher might not do that. Well, that teacher might botch any method book or system. A student who doesn't cooperate will also mess up the process.

One thing to note: Some members here had really good teachers, received really good teaching, and can't seem to imagine what poorish teaching might be like. Nor be aware that if you had a bad start with poor teaching, you are likely to stay that route, for number of reasons. If you had an excellent teacher, AND you went through RCM, ABRSM etc., you will have had a good experience. It will be hard to sort out the ABRSM part from the teacher part.

There are a few reasons why a person who received poor teaching might stay on that path even when changing teachers. For one thing, what you manage to show the next teacher won't be that great. Maybe you were choreographed and memorized everything, and never learned how to read music. So for your three years, you don't seem to be such a great teaching prospect, maybe. You didn't learn how to work; you were not taught intelligently so you don't know what to pay attention to, and never learned how to work with a teacher so you may seem scattered, flaky, or distrustful. The good teacher might recognize what is going on, and want to help turn things around for you. At the same time, because you have not received good teaching, you also don't know what it looks like.

Ok, I've digressed when I said I wouldn't. But this still goes with the question. It's not just about ABRSM/ RCM etc., but what is done with it.

I better break this into two parts.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:46 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by precise
Tyrone was joking, Keystring smile He knows I'm not Tim Topham.
smile

You were faster than me smile

Caught out again by my tendency to take things literally. wink It's surprising that I didn't take a ladder when young to get a slice of cheese from the moon.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 07:49 PM

Maybe what I highlighted now is enough: "Anything is only as good as the teacher doing the teaching, the student doing the (active) learning, and for children, the type of parental support."

It is what is done with it.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 08:20 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
At the moment I would suggest going with ABRSM (although, admittedly, it wouldn't be my decision), and so far haven't come across any cogent argument for other options. Come to think of it, I don't think other options have really been discussed......or are those posters not happy with ABRSM hoping to improve it by expressing their concerns?


Isn't it like saying 'Well, I've got red paint, I don't know what other colours are available, so I'll stick to the red, rather than explore and consider the arguments against it'?

Isn't that like saying 'My parents voted Conservative, I've always voted Conservative, - I haven't read any other manifesto and haven't explored any other possibilities, so I'll carry on doing what I've always done, despite many arguments against it'?

Other options wasn't the topic of the post. Improving the exam system wasn't the topic of the post.

If it's exams you happen want, then look no further than any one of the exam boards. If it's music you're after, and a broad outlook on music, then there are infinite possibilities awaiting smile
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 08:33 PM

Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by petebfrance
At the moment I would suggest going with ABRSM (although, admittedly, it wouldn't be my decision), and so far haven't come across any cogent argument for other options. Come to think of it, I don't think other options have really been discussed......or are those posters not happy with ABRSM hoping to improve it by expressing their concerns?


Isn't it like saying 'Well, I've got red paint, I don't know what other colours are available, so I'll stick to the red, rather than explore and consider the arguments against it'?

Isn't that like saying 'My parents voted Conservative, I've always voted Conservative, - I haven't read any other manifesto and haven't explored any other possibilities, so I'll carry on doing what I've always done, despite many arguments against it'?

Other options wasn't the topic of the post. Improving the exam system wasn't the topic of the post.

If it's exams you happen want, then look no further than any one of the exam boards. If it's music you're after, and a broad outlook on music, then there are infinite possibilities awaiting smile



OK, good. As I'm not particularly interested in passing exams or putting other people through hoops, asking them to jump over fences and so on, I'm interested in these possibilities. Mine was a genuine question, not an 'if you don't like ABRSM put your money where your mouth is' question. When I was brought up ABRSM was 'how it was done' and because as a 5 year old I merely got a pass at grade 1 on the violin and my elder brother did better (taking it at the same time as I did) I was pretty-much given up on. I kind of regret that, took up piano later and so on. However, without knowing what these options are and understanding how they are better, ABRSM would still be my 'default' recommendation.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 08:59 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
When I was brought up ABRSM was 'how it was done' and because as a 5 year old I merely got a pass at grade 1 on the violin and my elder brother did better (taking it at the same time as I did) I was pretty-much given up on.

That's sad frown and sort of gets to the heart of a problem with exams. How people (student, parent) view them.

I am highly interested in taking exams because for me, that is "part of the fun" in my new hobby of piano learning, but I certainly am not going to quit if I do poorly or fail. I'll just take the exam again and double the fun! wink
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 09:01 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by petebfrance
When I was brought up ABRSM was 'how it was done' and because as a 5 year old I merely got a pass at grade 1 on the violin and my elder brother did better (taking it at the same time as I did) I was pretty-much given up on.

That's sad frown and sort of gets to the heart of a problem with exams. How people (student, parent) view them.

Just life, I'm afraid. As they say, worse things happen at sea!


*Edited....Ah, you added a bit after I responded!

Yep, I agree with that. Exams should be a useful measure of progress to the student, not a life and death issue. However, failure can seem like a catastrophe at the time....
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 09:21 PM

I would also like to add that constantly changing the syllabus and the corresponding books so they can't be recycled and to increase profits is bad for the environment.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 09:26 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
I would also like to add that constantly changing the syllabus and the corresponding books so they can't be recycled and to increase profits is bad for the environment.

Now you just said something I can get behind! Why does the piano syllabus need to change so frequently, at least for the core classical syllabus? Alfred's piano course for example, is still used today even though the books are already 24 yrs old. It's not like composers are writing more romantic and 20th century pieces! And yes, changing the syllabus so often (for both ABRSM and RCM) is bad for the environment.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 09:40 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
because as a 5 year old I merely got a pass at grade 1 on the violin and my elder brother did better (taking it at the same time as I did) I was pretty-much given up on. I kind of regret that, took up piano later and so on. However, without knowing what these options are and understanding how they are better, ABRSM would still be my 'default' recommendation.


I'm not sure why you are looking for an option that replaces an exam system with another exam system. Music is NOT an exam system - music is infinite.

Your story - 5 yr old etc - is exactly why so many people are 'given up on', why so many people dread music exams, why so many children can't wait to stop playing their instrument. Musical enjoyment is not about passing grades - musical achievement is not based on grades.

Your story demonstrates part of precisely what I've been getting at. And it's always upsetting to hear such stories. You deserved better - and so does anyone else in a similar situation.

What I find worrying, is that you would actually still recommend that same system. I don't get it, sorry.

It's like saying 'I can stick my hand in the flames and get hurt, I can choose not to stick my hand in the flames, or I can go and see what alternative there is'. But your choice is to stick your hand back in the flame again and recommend that others do the same.

Unless I've missed the part about the ABRSM having mind control over people, I really don't get it now.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 09:47 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Richrf
I would also like to add that constantly changing the syllabus and the corresponding books so they can't be recycled and to increase profits is bad for the environment.

Now you just said something I can get behind! Why does the piano syllabus need to change so frequently, at least for the core classical syllabus? Alfred's piano course for example, is still used today even though the books are already 24 yrs old. It's not like composers are writing more romantic and 20th century pieces! And yes, changing the syllabus so often (for both ABRSM and RCM) is bad for the environment.


You should also wonder why the syllabus has lowered standards over the years. What were, for example, grade 3 pieces in the 70s and 80s are now found as grade 5 pieces, etc etc - I could list endless of these examples where pieces have, for some mysterious reason, morphed from being a lower grade piece to suddenly being found in higher grades. Ditto, big time, for the Gr 8 requirements, which have reduced considerably over the years.

It's not a consistent standard.
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:06 PM

Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by petebfrance
because as a 5 year old I merely got a pass at grade 1 on the violin and my elder brother did better (taking it at the same time as I did) I was pretty-much given up on. I kind of regret that, took up piano later and so on. However, without knowing what these options are and understanding how they are better, ABRSM would still be my 'default' recommendation.


I'm not sure why you are looking for an option that replaces an exam system with another exam system. Music is NOT an exam system - music is infinite.

Your story - 5 yr old etc - is exactly why so many people are 'given up on', why so many people dread music exams, why so many children can't wait to stop playing their instrument. Musical enjoyment is not about passing grades - musical achievement is not based on grades.

Your story demonstrates part of precisely what I've been getting at. And it's always upsetting to hear such stories. You deserved better - and so does anyone else in a similar situation.

What I find worrying, is that you would actually still recommend that same system. I don't get it, sorry.

It's like saying 'I can stick my hand in the flames and get hurt, I can choose not to stick my hand in the flames, or I can go and see what alternative there is'. But your choice is to stick your hand back in the flame again and recommend that others do the same.

Unless I've missed the part about the ABRSM having mind control over people, I really don't get it now.


Why would I recommend it when it 'failed me?'
Two points:
1. The system didn't 'fail me.' I passed the exam, the decision to not continue was not made by 'the system' but by my parents.
2. As I mentioned earlier, my children went through that system and I can assure that it did not fail them either. It has helped give them what I consider to be one of the greatest gifts, that of making and loving music.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:11 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
2. As I mentioned earlier, my children went through that system and I can assure that it did not fail them either. It has helped give them what I consider to be one of the greatest gifts, that of making and loving music

Well, that's not exactly right, is it? I mean, here in the US, where there are exam systems, but the majority of piano teachers are not behind the established international exams (ABRSM, RCM, Trinity), it's common that even for incoming piano performance majors, the first exam they have to take in piano is their audition for college/conservatory, if one doesn't count studio recitals. Yet, music is still made in the US, even so. (Although some might argue that point wink )
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:11 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance


Why would I recommend it when it 'failed me?'
Two points:
1. The system didn't 'fail me.' I passed the exam, the decision to not continue was not made by 'the system' but by my parents.
2. As I mentioned earlier, my children went through that system and I can assure that it did not fail them either. It has helped give them what I consider to be one of the greatest gifts, that of making and loving music.



Then that's great - win win on all counts.
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:26 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by petebfrance
2. As I mentioned earlier, my children went through that system and I can assure that it did not fail them either. It has helped give them what I consider to be one of the greatest gifts, that of making and loving music

Well, that's not exactly right, is it? I mean, here in the US, where there are exam systems, but the majority of piano teachers are not behind the established international exams (ABRSM, RCM, Trinity), it's common that even for incoming piano performance majors, the first exam they have to take in piano is their audition for college/conservatory, if one doesn't count studio recitals. Yet, music is still made in the US, even so. (Although some might argue that point wink )

You've lost me there, I'm afraid. Are you saying you don't think it helped them? If so, I'm afraid we'll just have to agree to disagree on that. If you, however, you are saying that there are other methods, then that is exactly what I had asked about earlier on this thread - what these methods are and so on. But as far as I am concerned, my statement was correct, so I guess we just don't agree!
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:33 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
I would really like to understand what the other options are and their benefits over the ABRSM approach. At the moment I would suggest going with ABRSM (although, admittedly, it wouldn't be my decision), and so far haven't come across any cogent argument for other options. Come to think of it, I don't think other options have really been discussed......or are those posters not happy with ABRSM hoping to improve it by expressing their concerns?

I'm right with you.

I've already asked one particular poster who repeatedly rubbished the ABRSM to give us an alternative 'assessment method' for budding pianists who are having lessons and making progress, but all we've been getting in response after response is just lots of hot air - what Willie (or is that Bill?) might deem as "full of sound and fury - signifying nothing." wink

But we are patient here (surely he might think of something?)..........though I've just returned from my last recital of the year, where I played a nice gentle Christmas piece to finish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLC4HtCrAIk (after a bit of sound & fury, of course grin).

..........followed by an excellent Christmas dinner, so I might just go off to bed now, rather than hold my breath in vain.

Gute Nacht....... tired
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:33 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by petebfrance
2. As I mentioned earlier, my children went through that system and I can assure that it did not fail them either. It has helped give them what I consider to be one of the greatest gifts, that of making and loving music

Well, that's not exactly right, is it? I mean, here in the US, where there are exam systems, but the majority of piano teachers are not behind the established international exams (ABRSM, RCM, Trinity), it's common that even for incoming piano performance majors, the first exam they have to take in piano is their audition for college/conservatory, if one doesn't count studio recitals. Yet, music is still made in the US, even so. (Although some might argue that point wink )

You've lost me there, I'm afraid. Are you saying you don't think it helped them? If so, I'm afraid we'll just have to agree to disagree on that. If you, however, you are saying that there are other methods, then that is exactly what I had asked about earlier on this thread - what these methods are and so on. But as far as I am concerned, my statement was correct, so I guess we just don't agree!

I'm saying the US has found ways to make musicians without exams. So you're right. I was presuming the ABRSM exams themselves were not the thing making people become musicians, but perhaps I am speaking out of ignorance. Certainly, musicians are made in the US (up to the college/conservatory level, at least) often without any exams whatsoever, showing that in the US at least, no exams are needed to create musicians.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:42 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
an alternative 'assessment method' for budding pianists who are having lessons and making progress

Your post suggest two questions in my mind:
  • What are good alternative assessment systems for budding pianists having lessons, to assess their progress?
  • petebfrance's question of: What alternative system is there for helping people make and love music?

In my mind, these are definitely different questions. Because many countries (among which are US and Russia) have not needed exams to address petebfrance's question. And by the same token, the need for an assessment system was obviously not so great in such countries that piano teachers would steer their charges toward one of the 3 big international assessment systems: ABRSM, RCM, and Trinity.

Therefore, although I personally want to take RCM exams, I am highly doubtful that the evidence shows that assessment systems are even needed for any purpose in music, at least until one gets to the conservatory/music school level. At least not to help people make and love music. Maybe they are helpful for the purpose that bennevis' parents used the ABRSM assessment system, but that is not a general usage, I think - at least the assessment system wasn't designed as a parental enthusiasm mechanism.
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:51 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by petebfrance
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by petebfrance
2. As I mentioned earlier, my children went through that system and I can assure that it did not fail them either. It has helped give them what I consider to be one of the greatest gifts, that of making and loving music

Well, that's not exactly right, is it? I mean, here in the US, where there are exam systems, but the majority of piano teachers are not behind the established international exams (ABRSM, RCM, Trinity), it's common that even for incoming piano performance majors, the first exam they have to take in piano is their audition for college/conservatory, if one doesn't count studio recitals. Yet, music is still made in the US, even so. (Although some might argue that point wink )

You've lost me there, I'm afraid. Are you saying you don't think it helped them? If so, I'm afraid we'll just have to agree to disagree on that. If you, however, you are saying that there are other methods, then that is exactly what I had asked about earlier on this thread - what these methods are and so on. But as far as I am concerned, my statement was correct, so I guess we just don't agree!

I'm saying the US has found ways to make musicians without exams. So you're right. I was presuming the ABRSM exams themselves were not the thing making people become musicians, but perhaps I am speaking out of ignorance. Certainly, musicians are made in the US (up to the college/conservatory level, at least) often without any exams whatsoever, showing that in the US at least, no exams are needed to create musicians.


We're probably thinking on similar lines but coming from different directions, I guess. I'm not sure that the exams that are really needed, and they could have gone through the syllabus without taking them. The teaching is done by private teachers, ABRSM provides (well, OK, sells) the materials and runs the tests (from my understanding). From my own point of view I would like to have been through the exams, but 'have been through' is the operative phrase here - unlike you I don't like exams!
Certainly when we looked round for teachers for our children (a long time back, things may have changed) ABRSM was pretty-much all that was on offer, and having family members who have 'gone through the mill' and emerged happily we had no qualms in taking that path.
As I said earlier, I am interested in what other options are there. ABRSM for better or worse provided a structure that many (most? all? - I've no idea, tbh) UK teachers worked to when we were looking around, but I'm sure there are other ways available in the UK.
Exams, well, to some people they are a measure of progress, to others they aren't. I don't know, though, how ABRSM 'qualifications' when 'going further' in the UK - I suspect that they are 'taken into account' but don't know if they are essential.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:52 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

In my mind, these are definitely different questions. Because many countries (among which are US and Russia) have not needed exams to address petebfrance's question.

I don't know about Russia - but in the US, there is an assessment system (of a sort) used widely - student recitals.

In fact, reading through the Piano Teachers Forum, there are very few teachers who don't hold student recitals and/or enter students for competitions.

I think petebfrance was asking about an alternative to the ABRSM, not just about helping kids to fall in love with making music, but also helping them measure their progress along the way, but I could be wrong. Maybe he can elaborate?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:58 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
I'm not sure that the exams that are really needed, and they could have gone through the syllabus without taking them. The teaching is done by private teachers, ABRSM provides (well, OK, sells) the materials and runs the tests (from my understanding).

Excellent point. I may have given short shrift in my last message to a key component - the syllabi. I think the syllabi for both ABRSM and RCM is good, just like have approved syllabi for school systems are good. That way, all students are required to attain a minimum. Otherwise, you'd have piano teachers who probably wouldn't teach any ear training or who don't really think much theory is needed. So I at least partly take back what I said earlier to you and bennevis - or at least I want to modify it.

While I am not sure the evidence is there to support the idea that exams are really needed for music making, at least until the conservatory/music school level, I do very much like the idea that these organizations have come up with syllabi with minimum standards. And to the extent that we need one for the other, then I might grudgingly concede that exams might be helpful (although really not necessary).
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 10:58 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis


I've already asked one particular poster who repeatedly rubbished the ABRSM to give us an alternative 'assessment method' for budding pianists who are having lessons and making progress, but all we've been getting in response after response is just lots of hot air - what Willie (or is that Bill?) might deem as "full of sound and fury - signifying nothing." wink

But we are patient here (surely he might think of something?)..........


I will answer all of your questions with pleasure - but, you have to identify yourself first. Period.

You did a recital tonight? Where? For whom? Prove it.
Can you actually play an instrument? Since you give so much (questionable) tech advice, prove it.
You have passed every grade - and even a diploma. Since you you are an expert on exams, Prove it.
Prove you are in some way what you claim to be and I will happily answer you.
If not, then you are confirming that you are actually not genuine and, as such, worthy of no future comment from me.
Your choice. It's a yes, or a no. Very simple.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:00 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
If you, however, you are saying that there are other methods, then that is exactly what I had asked about earlier on this thread - what these methods are and so on.


What 'methods' are you looking for, peteb?
Do you want to replace exams with exams?
I'm genuinely not clear on what you're seeking.
NVB
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:10 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

In my mind, these are definitely different questions. Because many countries (among which are US and Russia) have not needed exams to address petebfrance's question.

I don't know about Russia - but in the US, there is an assessment system (of a sort) used widely - student recitals.

In fact, reading through the Piano Teachers Forum, there are very few teachers who don't hold student recitals and/or enter students for competitions.

I think petebfrance was asking about an alternative to the ABRSM, not just about helping kids to fall in love with making music, but also helping them measure their progress along the way, but I could be wrong. Maybe he can elaborate?


Yep, well, kind of, but at this point I feel like giving up. When something one has posted is taken out of context, then it becomes rather difficult to continue a discussion sensibly. I wrote that 'it helped them to fall in love with music,' which is true, but so did other influences (heck, for all I know the Beatles played a part in it too!). It isn't however, all that they got from their courses, otherwise they'd just be listening to music rather than playing and in one case composing the stuff. So yes, I'm interested in what other options there are, but options available in the UK that is.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:15 PM

Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by bennevis


I've already asked one particular poster who repeatedly rubbished the ABRSM to give us an alternative 'assessment method' for budding pianists who are having lessons and making progress, but all we've been getting in response after response is just lots of hot air - what Willie (or is that Bill?) might deem as "full of sound and fury - signifying nothing." wink

But we are patient here (surely he might think of something?)..........


I will answer all of your questions with pleasure - but, you have to identify yourself first. Period.

You did a recital tonight? Where? For whom? Prove it.
Can you actually play an instrument? Since you give so much (questionable) tech advice, prove it.
You have passed every grade - and even a diploma. Since you you are an expert on exams, Prove it.
Prove you are in some way what you claim to be and I will happily answer you.
If not, then you are confirming that you are actually not genuine and, as such, worthy of no future comment from me.
Your choice. It's a yes, or a no. Very simple.


I'm just a lowly amateur pianist, the sort you keep denigrating in post after post (until you blow up, that is grin) here and elsewhere. I don't even get paid a penny for my efforts as a proselytiser of classical music in my recitals (only 25 minutes long, far short of the elite 45 minutes that you deem worthy of the term, don't forget.....)

Not really worth someone of your elevated position as an elitist to care about as to who I really am, though you know (or should know) by now where I went to school and who I looked up to as a student. And of course, you know (or should know) which mountain I've climbed from every conceivable route. You really don't need to know more than that, my dear precise, trust me.

So, how about giving us the benefit of your musical acumen? wink
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:19 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by bennevis


I've already asked one particular poster who repeatedly rubbished the ABRSM to give us an alternative 'assessment method' for budding pianists who are having lessons and making progress, but all we've been getting in response after response is just lots of hot air - what Willie (or is that Bill?) might deem as "full of sound and fury - signifying nothing." wink

But we are patient here (surely he might think of something?)..........


I will answer all of your questions with pleasure - but, you have to identify yourself first. Period.

You did a recital tonight? Where? For whom? Prove it.
Can you actually play an instrument? Since you give so much (questionable) tech advice, prove it.
You have passed every grade - and even a diploma. Since you you are an expert on exams, Prove it.
Prove you are in some way what you claim to be and I will happily answer you.
If not, then you are confirming that you are actually not genuine and, as such, worthy of no future comment from me.
Your choice. It's a yes, or a no. Very simple.


I'm just a lowly amateur pianist, the sort you keep denigrating in post after post (until you blow up, that is grin) here and elsewhere. I don't even get paid a penny for my efforts as a proselytiser of classical music in my recitals (only 25 minutes long, far short of the elite 45 minutes that you deem worthy of the term, don't forget.....)

Not really worth someone of your elevated position as an elitist to care about as to who I really am, though you know (or should know) by now where I went to school and who I looked up to as a student. And of course, you know (or should know) which mountain I've climbed from every conceivable route. You really don't need to know more than that, my dear precise, trust me.

So, how about giving us the benefit of your musical acumen? wink


Thank you again for your display of dripping sarcasm towards me. The same sarcasm you've displayed since the day I joined PW. The same sarcasm that has driven many members away from PW (I've got messages proving this). Thank you.

I asked you to for proof.
Kindly provide some.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:21 PM

This is just a reminder, I am not a moderator, but as a member, to be kind to one another. Everyone here comes from a different walk of life, and our combined experiences promote each others love of music. i consider it a community. People have different perspectives and opinions, that is ok, please be polite and respectful when disagreeing. This is supposed to be fun and provide a connection for piano lovers.

When thinking of all the turmoil in world I hope this forum will remain a peaceful place to spend time. I often think of life situations, for example my co-worker little girl is dying of cancer at the age of 3. I watched headline news last week a woman had a sign to help feed her baby, another woman stopped and her passenger was handing her money when a man ran out tried to steal her purse and stabbed her, she died. I have been in health care a long time, I see people fighting for their lives every day. Compared to circumstances that tear people's lives apart, what we are discussing here does not compare. I come here for stress relief, it is a diversion from the realities of life. I lost both of my parents (one unexpectedly) in a year. Now my mother-in-law of 30 years is watching her husband die.

I appreciate your consideration.
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:22 PM

Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by petebfrance
If you, however, you are saying that there are other methods, then that is exactly what I had asked about earlier on this thread - what these methods are and so on.


What 'methods' are you looking for, peteb?
Do you want to replace exams with exams?
I'm genuinely not clear on what you're seeking.
NVB

Q What methods?
A I don't know what methods are there, that's why I asked originally. They have to be available in the UK and with reasonable local availability.
Q Do you want to replace exams with exams?
A I'm not a lover of exams, but it depends on the pupil and I don't know yet. My preference is without, but some measure of progress I think is good.
Q I'm genuinely not clear on what you're seeking.
A To find out what other options there are. There has been a discussion and some people are unhappy with ABRSM. If there is something better out there I'd like to know what it is. This isn't a trick question, and the need wont come up for a few years, but as the subject is being discussed now then I'm keen to know more. There are many tutorials now on the internet, lots of helpful advice on how to play and so on, I've taken advantage of a few myself. The world has changed a lot since we went the conventional route (pre-internet days) and perhaps there are other changes that I'm not aware of. I suspect, though, this would be a subject for a separate thread.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:28 PM

Dear Piano Starts,
I had taken this theory test, called What Grade Are You? It was fun to take.

https://www.mymusictheory.com/for-students/quizzes/388-what-music-theory-grade-are-you

The RCM has Theory online, I had taken private lessons for my first two and a half years, thought this would be interesting. I have been taking for four and a half years.
Initially I thought the $379 was for all the courses, it is for each level. This seems kind of high. My goal is only self-learning, and this appears to be a structured method.


https://www.rcmusic.com/learning/digital-learning/music-theory-levels-5-8
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:34 PM

Bennevis

"got a job in a music publishing firm because her employers knew that she could read music competantly when she included the certificate as part of her CV)."

Interesting you noted that, I recently read in a job ad Bose (makes speakers, audio) wanted a masters in engineering person who was also competent in music. I have seen some academic programs that are now combining music and engineering degrees.

Thanks for your post.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:37 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
[ ... but some measure of progress I think is good.




There is the rub. Who do you want to judge your progress? Pay them some money and they'll be happy to oblige. Pretty much anyone can give you an opinion.

As for myself, I just observe my own enjoyment in playing and creating music. It's more than sufficient for me.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:38 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
at this point I feel like giving up. When something one has posted is taken out of context, then it becomes rather difficult to continue a discussion sensibly. I wrote that 'it helped them to fall in love with music,' which is true, but so did other influences (heck, for all I know the Beatles played a part in it too!). It isn't however, all that they got from their courses, otherwise they'd just be listening to music rather than playing and in one case composing the stuff. So yes, I'm interested in what other options there are, but options available in the UK that is.

Well, the ABRSM has been around since 1890, and been copied around the world as well as in the UK, so, as no viable alternative seems to be around (or forthcoming), you might as well stick with it. I would thumb.

I discovered my love of classical music through it (with no little help from my first teacher, in particular), and almost every day, I'm grateful for the skills I learnt (or in some cases, had to learn) through the ABRSM syllabus, which is nothing if not prescriptive. That, I believe, is why it's so successful and has continued to flourish: it makes the acquisition of a wide range of musical & technical skills mandatory. You can't cherry pick with it.

I've composed since I was in my mid-teens, been able to play by ear (and from lead sheets) and improvised since around the same age, conducted choirs and sung in them - yet I never had a single lesson in composition or playing by ear or improvising or conducting or singing. They were just skills one acquired from doing the ABRSM 'course'. For that - and a lot else (like acquiring a comprehensive piano technique, which has made me the pianist I am today) - I don't think the ABRSM can be bettered.

Not to mention the fact that I had so much fun along the way, making use of my newly acquired skills in music-making whenever I got the opportunity........
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:38 PM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
This is just a reminder, I am not a moderator, but as a member, to be kind to one another. Everyone here comes from a different walk of life, and our combined experiences promote each others love of music. i consider it a community. People have different perspectives and opinions, that is ok, please be polite and respectful when disagreeing.

I agree entirely - and will not allow any more vitriol from a particular member - bennevis.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:41 PM

Keystrings I like a structured way of learning, I started with John Schaum. I completed the G Book but it was a struggle, so my teacher elected not to progress in those books for awhile. I thought it was supposed to be a step by step, but that series seems to have a big level jump between books, at least it was for me. I wish I knew about the RCM type of learning when I started lessons. I like to see where I am going and where I started. Thanks for your post.
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:43 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
Originally Posted by petebfrance
[ ... but some measure of progress I think is good.




There is the rub. Who do you want to judge your progress? Pay them some money and they'll be happy to oblige. Pretty much anyone can give you an opinion.

As for myself, I just observe my own enjoyment in playing and creating music. It's more than sufficient for me.

Nope, it isn't for me. Its potentially for a child, and yes I think some way of measuring progress would help. Personally, although I'm not very good, I just enjoy playing too.
Posted By: Michael P Walsh

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/12/18 11:59 PM

How did they judge progress before 1890?
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 12:01 AM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by petebfrance
If you, however, you are saying that there are other methods, then that is exactly what I had asked about earlier on this thread - what these methods are and so on.


What 'methods' are you looking for, peteb?
Do you want to replace exams with exams?
I'm genuinely not clear on what you're seeking.
NVB

Q What methods?
A I don't know what methods are there, that's why I asked originally. They have to be available in the UK and with reasonable local availability.
Q Do you want to replace exams with exams?
A I'm not a lover of exams, but it depends on the pupil and I don't know yet. My preference is without, but some measure of progress I think is good.
Q I'm genuinely not clear on what you're seeking.
A To find out what other options there are. There has been a discussion and some people are unhappy with ABRSM. If there is something better out there I'd like to know what it is. This isn't a trick question, and the need wont come up for a few years, but as the subject is being discussed now then I'm keen to know more. There are many tutorials now on the internet, lots of helpful advice on how to play and so on, I've taken advantage of a few myself. The world has changed a lot since we went the conventional route (pre-internet days) and perhaps there are other changes that I'm not aware of. I suspect, though, this would be a subject for a separate thread.



Petebfrance, these would be fascinating and useful topics to discuss in another post. I'm sure you will find other members have much to say on these points.
As for me - I am deleting my profile tomorrow, so will not be able to partake
Regards, and best of luck,
NVB
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 12:06 AM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Bennevis

"got a job in a music publishing firm because her employers knew that she could read music competantly when she included the certificate as part of her CV)."

Interesting you noted that, I recently read in a job ad Bose (makes speakers, audio) wanted a masters in engineering person who was also competent in music. I have seen some academic programs that are now combining music and engineering degrees.

Thanks for your post.

It's interesting how often musical skills are used in various ways in so many jobs today. I believe Apple learnt a lesson when they designed the original iPod in which one couldn't listen to a multi-movement continuous work (like the Wanderer Fantasy) without breaks of silence between the movements because of the 'tracks'. (I have their latest iPod Classic - which is of course no longer made - in which that problem has been corrected).

My sister routinely looks through new scores and corrects simple mistakes by composers (and/or asks them: "Did you really mean to write that?" grin), yet they are supposed to be the experts in their job, not she.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 12:39 AM

Originally Posted by precise
As for me - I am deleting my profile tomorrow, so will not be able to partake
Regards, and best of luck,
NVB

That would be a loss. frown
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 12:43 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by precise
As for me - I am deleting my profile tomorrow, so will not be able to partake
Regards, and best of luck,
NVB

That would be a loss. frown


I agree. It would be sad to see you leave.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 12:53 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by precise
As for me - I am deleting my profile tomorrow, so will not be able to partake
Regards, and best of luck,
NVB

That would be a loss. frown

Thank you, keystring.

You know who is to blame.
The moderators, Ken and Greg, know who is to blame, as does the owner of PW, Frank B.

Very best,
Nick
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 12:55 AM

Originally Posted by NobleHouse
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by precise
As for me - I am deleting my profile tomorrow, so will not be able to partake
Regards, and best of luck,
NVB

That would be a loss. frown


I agree. It would be sad to see you leave.

Thank you NobleHouse.

You have bennevis to blame - not only for my departure, but the departures of many, many members who will not tolerate bullies, or who have been cowed or upset by this particular one.
I'm surprised that PW tolerates bullies.

Warm regards,
Nick.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 01:16 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Your post suggest two questions in my mind:
  • What are good alternative assessment systems for budding pianists having lessons, to assess their progress?
  • petebfrance's question of: What alternative system is there for helping people make and love music?


I think that the music education landscape will change in the similar way that the visual arts education landscape changed with the invention of photography and then semiconductor image sensors and digital image processing.

Currently lots of classical music education is focused on the 'craft' side, not the 'art' side. The grade system is very much focused on breeding the biological player roll attachments to the piano (and other instruments). This will change as the technology progresses.

Even in the music business certain sub-fields already got revolutionized: c.f. auto-tune vs. vocal education.

The lag between technology and arts is to the certain degree supported by the promoters of the "music performance as a competitive sport" entertainment. But even that field undergoes a slow change in response to the technology.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 01:30 AM

Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by precise
As for me - I am deleting my profile tomorrow, so will not be able to partake
Regards, and best of luck,
NVB

That would be a loss. frown

Thank you, keystring.

You know who is to blame.
The moderators, Ken and Greg, know who is to blame, as does the owner of PW, Frank B.

Very best,
Nick



If it is any solace to you, I was banned for a month once for standing up to the bullying being perpetrated on another member. It appears that this particular group of bullies has shrunk in size. In any case, you should only stay if you personally find it worthwhile. I pick up some interesting information now and then. If you go, it's been nice talking to you.
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 01:47 AM

Originally Posted by Richrf
Originally Posted by precise
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by precise
As for me - I am deleting my profile tomorrow, so will not be able to partake
Regards, and best of luck,
NVB

That would be a loss. frown

Thank you, keystring.

You know who is to blame.
The moderators, Ken and Greg, know who is to blame, as does the owner of PW, Frank B.

Very best,
Nick



If it is any solace to you, I was banned for a month once for standing up to the bullying being perpetrated on another member. It appears that this particular group of bullies has shrunk in size. In any case, you should only stay if you personally find it worthwhile. I pick up some interesting information now and then. If you go, it's been nice talking to you.

Hi Richrf,

It is solace, so thank you for that smile
Unfortunately, people hiding behind their computers suddenly become empowered. Bennevis is a common and typical little example. He is a known and particularly nasty specimen of a PW bully - the mods have been told of his bullying campaigns towards others.

Very sad.

Regards and best wishes,
Nick
Posted By: precise

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 02:03 AM

Guys, thank you for the many messages of support you've sent to me privately - much appreciated.
I'm trying my best to reply to them all before tomorrow.

Very best,
Nick
Posted By: Dr. Rogers

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 03:02 PM

I've only seen one bully on this thread...


...and it wasn't Bennevis.

Where are our moderators? Why was this allowed to continue?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 03:08 PM

Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers
I've only seen one bully on this thread...


...and it wasn't Bennevis.

Where are our moderators? Why was this allowed to continue?

Thanks for your support!

I think this thread (just concluded) is self-explanatory:

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...g-pw-because-of-a-bully.html#Post2790804
Posted By: jandz

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 03:12 PM

They are watching. Precise posted a thread in the main Piano Forum that BB Player locked not long ago. I assume now that since this one also contains references to his leaving that this will be shuttered as well.

In defense of the moderators, there are only a few of them and they probably have other full time jobs. They also allow an enormous amount of discussion here without getting involved and I regard that as a good thing. I have my own opinions about this nonsense but I'll keep them to myself per the request of BB Player in the other thread.

Apologies for replying with something so OT.
Posted By: BB Player

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 04:14 PM

All,

There has been a lot of very useful discussion in this thread, and some that is less so.

I would prefer to leave the thread open so that the discussion of the relative merits (or not) of ABRSM, RCM, etc., can continue.

So let's please stay on topic.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 04:23 PM

I think exams have a value if they are providing concrete goals in a well-rounded regime. Ideally the exam would be incidental. However, when the aim is the exam itself, as opposed to developing the necessary musical and technical skills to play a set of pieces, students can often go astray. Naturally everyone wants to progress as quickly as possible, and exams can give a wrong impression of progress if not used wisely.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 05:06 PM

Originally Posted by johnstaf
I think exams have a value if they are providing concrete goals in a well-rounded regime. Ideally the exam would be incidental. However, when the aim is the exam itself, as opposed to developing the necessary musical and technical skills to play a set of pieces, students can often go astray.
Hopefully, passing the exam is not different from "developing the necessary musical and technical skills to play a set of pieces". I would assume this is the case unless the passing standard is very low. The main argument against the exams I've seen so far on this thread is that some teachers or students overemphasize passing and therefore spend too much time on the small number of pieces required on the test.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 05:45 PM

I've read through the entire thread now and will probably respond to some of the posts here.

In the meantime, I mentioned twice that the quality of the instruction / instructor is a major factor in this question. I have not seen a single response to this idea. Is it deemed unimportant?
Posted By: jandz

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:06 PM

I feel like I owe this thread a constructive reply given my earlier comment. I'd like to add that here, if it please the court.

I don't know much of anything about ABRSM, RCM or any of that lot. I know peripherally what they're about and, given my age and lack of talent, they're really not my path. But I appreciate what they represent, at least to me: the ongoing democratization of access to knowledge. Think about it. Music (outside of peasant song and dance) was once the exclusive province of princes and kings, a plaything of the wealthy or a strict disciple of the church. This is the only way many of the composers we here study and revere knew music while they lived. Through their efforts and, in no small part through the efforts of the revolutionaries that followed them, that has changed.

ABRSM and programs like it make the curricula once available only to the connected or the rich available to everyone. It flattens the curve, allowing more people to learn to understand music. It isn't perfect; many of its flaws have been noted here. Even its adherents wouldn't say it's for everyone.

So to the initial question: what is it for? Bearing in mind that I haven't studied it or used it and do not know anyone other than the posters here who have, my impression is that it expands the study of music to those for whom it might not otherwise be available. Coupled with good teaching and a strong desire to learn, it can springboard people into a lifelong pursuit of something they love, even if they never do that thing professionally. See bennevis as an example of what I mean. I think there's too much emphasis on the professional aspects here as is it. Finding a profession in performing music for a living isn't just about talent but also about luck and lots of other little things. Studying music and our ability to do so is a gift, and one we overlook too often in my opinion.

So it is a business? Yes. Does it deserve scrutiny, cynicism and even antipathy? Certainly, in some cases. But overall, I feel like programs like this are a net positive for all of us. We're spoiled in our riches of comfort and knowledge sometimes, and too short-sighted (and short-lived) to see beyond our own prejudices. ABRSM (and programs like it) are just tools. How we use them, or indeed if we do at all, is up to us.
Posted By: prout

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:10 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
I've read through the entire thread now and will probably respond to some of the posts here.

In the meantime, I mentioned twice that the quality of the instruction / instructor is a major factor in this question. I have not seen a single response to this idea. Is it deemed unimportant?

I am the product of poor, then indifferent, then excellent and finally fabulous piano teaching over a period of 17 years. Not once prior to my performance degree in university did I take an exam or study harmony or history or any rudiments of music. I auditioned and got in on talent, not knowledge or certificates. To this day I still do not know how many sharps or flats there are in a key, but I can read and always have been able to sight read anything put in front of me, including transposition, and made my career on that knack.

I would say instruction/instructor and talent are the vital determining factors.


edit: I just remembered that I had to take a harmony/materials placement exam after being accepted at university. My girl friend spent a week teaching me basic harmony, so I guess exams have a place. laugh
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:16 PM

For the purposes of auditions, nobody gets in based on anything other than the way they play.
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:19 PM

Unfortunately one of the people who is not too keen on ABRSM et al is no longer with us, and from that viewpoint I'm kind of unsure of the value to me in particular of this discussion.
I've no doubt that all of the various 'boards' that set these kinds of exams are aware of the issue of 'purely training for the exam,' and my wife who spent more time talking to the teachers than I did says that the ABRSM have looked at overhauling their approach (regularly? hmm) but always came back to the same formula.
I came across this video of somebody taking Trinity College Grade 7 exam:

and here a comparison of Trinity College and ABRSM by a piano teacher:
http://musiconlineuk.blogspot.com/2017/06/trinity-vs-abrsm.html
but, although 'the devil is in the detail' as they say, both are, at the end of the day, exam-based in how they measure progress.
I'm still, though, at a loss to understand how other 'systems' work. If, for example, it's a question of recitals, then do they not just take the place of exams, so the 'candidate' can concentrate purely on the recital piece?
signed
Confused of Brittany!
Posted By: prout

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:21 PM

Originally Posted by johnstaf
For the purposes of auditions, nobody gets in based on anything other than the way they play.
Excellent point. So, if one just wants to make music for fun, or if one wants to study at an advanced institution of music, there is only value in how you play, no matter how you achieve that goal.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:25 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
I mentioned twice that the quality of the instruction / instructor is a major factor in this question. I have not seen a single response to this idea. Is it deemed unimportant?

And how you propose to measure the quality of the teachers? With exams?

This gets us in to the "turtles all the way down" territory of infinite regression without defining anything.

Idem per idem gets really boring fast.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:33 PM

At the risk of appearing pushy - does anyone see the quality of the instructor and instruction as a major factor in the quality of a system such as RCM, AMEB, ABRSM? I have tried to stress that it is, but with no response, maybe nobody else thinks so and I'm barking up the wrong tree.
Posted By: Dr. Rogers

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:51 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
I mentioned twice that the quality of the instruction / instructor is a major factor in this question. I have not seen a single response to this idea. Is it deemed unimportant?


Keystring, I don't think anyone has deemed that concept unimportant, but more likely self-evident. Without a good teacher, an exam syllabus doesn't do very much. Give a beginner an exam syllabus and you get... a beginner with an exam syllabus, and probably a terrified beginner at that.

I have heard horror stories about teachers that abuse the exam system - only teaching the syllabus pieces and thus not producing well-rounded musicians. I would call that musical malpractice. This probably does happen, but I've never known such a teacher personally. I've seen teachers/schools who do push exams (especially in Taiwan) and teachers who eschew exams (like my former teacher, though I don't know if any exam boards where available at the time and in the remote area where I grew up).

I can only speak for myself and my students. I personally find value in the ABRSM exams for myself. I did my Grade 5 (both theory and practical) earlier this year, and am working furiously on my Grade 8 for next May. It gives focus to my practice (I work best with a concrete goal), two of the three pieces are ones I want to play anyway (a Bach P&F from WTCII and a Beethoven sonata movement), and the certificates look good on the wall of my studio where students and parents (and perhaps most importantly, the parents of potential students) can see them. I do get asked about my qualifications from some potential students/parents, and such questions are definitely fair game.

As for my students, I tell all of them that I recommend the exams but I don't require them. And I have some students who, for one reason or another, I would not recommend the exams to them.

I currently only have one student doing the exams - an adult beginner who is more like a piano-playing demon. She wiped the floor with her Grade 1 (Distinction), and will be more than ready for Grade 2 in May (when I'll be doing my Grade 8). She has her own reasons for doing the exams, and she seems to enjoy the process. I will also note that she plays many more pieces than those on the exam syllabus. (We are tentatively planning to have her sit for Grade 3 next November and then slow down to one grade a year so that we can focus more on standard repertoire.)

Now, I have serious reservations about putting students all the way through to Grade 8. I think some aspects of Grade 8 are just ridiculous. I am spending 45 minutes a day on scales and arpeggios - 45 <expletive deleted> minutes a <expletive deleted> day. If I weren't extremely motivated, I would have chucked it already. But I am seeing progress, the fruits of my labours. I'm hoping that my students will be able to build up the scales and arpeggios gradually over the years (like I should have, but didn't) rather than attacking them head-on like I'm doing. If it gets to the point where my students have to spend this amount of time on blankety-blank scales and arpeggios, then I don't think it's worth it. (In that case I would consider Trinity.)

Just my two cents. I can only speak from my experience as a student and teacher in Alabama, and now as a teacher and exam candidate in Texas. YMMV with geography, culture, phase of the moon, level of tides, etc.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 06:59 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
At the risk of appearing pushy - does anyone see the quality of the instructor and instruction as a major factor in the quality of a system such as RCM, AMEB, ABRSM? I have tried to stress that it is, but with no response, maybe nobody else thinks so and I'm barking up the wrong tree.


Hi keystring,

I think someone has already mentioned that "quality" is subjective and there is no way for someone prospectively know that they are being taught by a quality teacher. Respectively, based upon experience, one can make personal judgements.

This is different from a pedigreed teacher or institution, that will charge someone lots of money to become part of the pedigree and will help increase the chances if earning money within the music profession. This is totally distinct from the subject that you are raising.

Then there is the subject of exams, where someone pays someone to judge them. Assuming one has worked hard at learning how to please, one can get good marks at pleasing someone else's taste. So one can work hard and pay money for a passing grade. That's fine, if that is what one likes to do.

I avoid all this by simply enjoying creating music. I am in no rush because there is nothing to be in a rush about. There is no stress (which helps to create beautiful rhythms and tones) because there is nothing to be stressed about. Admittedly, there is little drama, but at my stage in life, I don't need drama, just quiet enjoyment of life.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 07:14 PM

Originally Posted by 90125
And how you propose to measure the quality of the teachers? With exams?

Thank you for trying to answer.

Perhaps my question and point were not understood. I don't know whether you read my longer posts where I set this out. I am not thinking about selecting anything or anyone. The discussion and argument is about these systems being good or not. Let's please examine this.

First, looking at method books (the little I know of them). These also introduce material in an organized manner, in stages over grades. The method books also do teaching. They will introduce a concept, explain the concept, give exercises maybe for making the concept clear, and then also have pieces where you are applying the concept. An astute, diligent student can probably learn a fair bit even with an inexperienced or not so good teacher - assuming that what the book presents is decent. A good and experienced teacher might be hampered by the same thing, if he has a better or different way of presenting things. Or he might use the book, but say "Ignore this instruction, because / there are exceptions.." Etc. In any case, if the book does some instructing, then the instruction by the teacher is less critical.

Systems such as RCM do not instruct - the teacher is expected to do so. You get your scales, chords, etudes, pieces, and later theory etc. grade by grade. For pieces the teacher chooses which ones to teach, and how many. You can get the "three pieces per grade for the purpose of exams" phenomenon, or something more extensive. HOW it is taught; WHAT is taught in the course of getting the material "done" can vary widely. Concepts and skills can be barely touched on, and superficially, or not. This is the teacher part.

If someone has had a good experience, and ends up being well-rounded, going along RCM, ABRSM etc., then you must look at both factors --- what the material holds, and how it was taught. For example, Bennevis has told us a few times about what his teacher did, and my impression has always been that he had an extraordinary excellent teacher. When considering the merits of these things, you must not separate the system from the teaching, because they go hand in hand. If I can go back to the method book example; that good, experienced, knowledgeable teacher might prefer RCM, ABRSM over a method book, because he wants to do the teaching in his own manner and only wants a framework at hand. Another teacher might make a mess of it.

Have I brought my thoughts out more clearly? smile
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 07:22 PM

Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers
I think some aspects of Grade 8 are just ridiculous. I am spending 45 minutes a day on scales and arpeggios - 45 <expletive deleted> minutes a <expletive deleted> day. If I weren't extremely motivated, I would have chucked it already. But I am seeing progress, the fruits of my labours. I'm hoping that my students will be able to build up the scales and arpeggios gradually over the years (like I should have, but didn't) rather than attacking them head-on like I'm doing.

Not that I'm trying to rub salt in wink , but I think a jump from Grade 5 to Grade 8 is huge in the extra 'technical' requirements (scales & arpeggios). The set pieces themselves aren't such a problem for you because your playing standard was already well up to it.

But if you had been going about it grade by grade (like me, a tortoise-like one grade a year as befitted my gnat-like musical talent), it would have seemed like a natural progression, because only a small amount is added at each grade.

Incidentally, there is a significant gap between Grade 5 and Grade 6 Practical too (more than between Grade 4 and 5, in my experience): many - ?most - students stop at Grade 5 because any Practical grade beyond 5 requires Grade 5 Theory. I know that some students - and possibly their teachers - start with the firm idea that they will stop at Grade 5, so they never bother with learning theory beyond what they need for the Practical.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 07:55 PM

Originally Posted by jandz
ABRSM and programs like it make the curricula once available only to the connected or the rich available to everyone. It flattens the curve, allowing more people to learn to understand music. It isn't perfect; many of its flaws have been noted here. Even its adherents wouldn't say it's for everyone.

So to the initial question: what is it for? Bearing in mind that I haven't studied it or used it and do not know anyone other than the posters here who have, my impression is that it expands the study of music to those for whom it might not otherwise be available. Coupled with good teaching and a strong desire to learn, it can springboard people into a lifelong pursuit of something they love, even if they never do that thing professionally. See bennevis as an example of what I mean. I think there's too much emphasis on the professional aspects here as is it. Finding a profession in performing music for a living isn't just about talent but also about luck and lots of other little things. Studying music and our ability to do so is a gift, and one we overlook too often in my opinion.

+1

I hesitate to use the word 'democratization' with classical music, but my feeling is that that's precisely what the ABRSM and similar programs do: empower 'ordinary people' (i.e. amateurs with no or limited talent - like yours truly) with a wide range of musical skills that would set them up for life - for whatever they might choose to do with it.

The hugely talented would use it as a springboard to go on to a conservatoire (the current BBC Young Musician of the Year, Lauren Zhang, achieved her fellowship diploma in piano at 12); lesser mortals would go on to do other jobs and keep music as a hobby. What I did with my skills changed over the years - I played duets in various settings and sang in a choir (and conducted it on the odd occasion) as a teenager; then just occasional singing in ad-hoc choirs whenever I had time for rehearsal from work, plus giving a few lecture-recitals during the short period when I had access to a piano; and finally, since 2012, playing a regular monthly piano recital for a non-musical audience (in an allied profession to mine), principally in a proselytizing role, though of course also for their enjoyment. My (non-verbalized) 'message' to my audience is that: classical music is to be enjoyed, pure & simple, but if you want to take it further, you can too. And many have, coming to ask me questions after my recitals - about the music I played, and how to start (or re-start) music lessons, whether they are too 'old' etc. (Of course they are never too old - I tell them the story of my retired friend who started lessons at 60).

Quote
So it is a business? Yes. Does it deserve scrutiny, cynicism and even antipathy? Certainly, in some cases. But overall, I feel like programs like this are a net positive for all of us. We're spoiled in our riches of comfort and knowledge sometimes, and too short-sighted (and short-lived) to see beyond our own prejudices. ABRSM (and programs like it) are just tools. How we use them, or indeed if we do at all, is up to us.

Exactly.

The ABRSM is a business. It also makes money from publishing too (their scholarly Beethoven piano sonata edition - with three extra youthful sonatas - is a good example). Just like a music teacher makes money from lessons, and website teachers make money from viewers.
Posted By: Michael P Walsh

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 07:58 PM

There seems to be a real jump between grade 1 and grade 2 in ABRSM. Probably the largest jump between any of the grades. At least that's what I've heard many piano teachers state.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:00 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
[I hesitate to use the word 'democratization' with classical music, but my feeling is that that's precisely what the ABRSM and similar programs do: empower 'ordinary people' (i.e. amateurs with no or limited talent - like yours truly) with a wide range of musical skills that would set them up for life - for whatever they might choose to do with it..


Assuming that the TEACHING goes with it. From all you've told, you had an excellent and dedicated teacher. You received quality teaching within the program. Both sides are needed.

I know you ignore my posts, but I'd be interested in feedback on this. I'd be surprised if we weren't on the same page about it.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:03 PM

Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
There seems to be a real jump between grade 1 and grade 2 in ABRSM. Probably the largest jump between any of the grades. At least that's what I've heard many piano teachers state.

I mentioned earlier that it's very easy to get good marks in Grade 1. I believe that Grade 1 has the highest number of Distinctions awarded of any grade.

Examiners are asked to be lenient, because the candidates (whether children or adults) have never probably experienced anything like this before: a one-to-one exam where you are the sole focus of the examiner's beady eyes & ears...... wink
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:07 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
I think someone has already mentioned that "quality" is subjective and there is no way for someone prospectively know that they are being taught by a quality teacher. Respectively, based upon experience, one can make personal judgements.
I would certainly disagree that there's no way for someone to know ahead of time if they are being taught by a good teacher. Can they be positive ahead of time? No, but if you look at the teacher's Forum, Piano Forum, and Adult Beginner's Forum you will find many threads where this topic is discussed with some good answers.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:09 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by bennevis
[I hesitate to use the word 'democratization' with classical music, but my feeling is that that's precisely what the ABRSM and similar programs do: empower 'ordinary people' (i.e. amateurs with no or limited talent - like yours truly) with a wide range of musical skills that would set them up for life - for whatever they might choose to do with it..


Assuming that the TEACHING goes with it. From all you've told, you had an excellent and dedicated teacher. You received quality teaching within the program. Both sides are needed.

I know you ignore my posts, but I am insisting on this. wink

OK, OK, I give in grin.

Yes, I had an excellent first teacher who imbued a somewhat ignorant kid with a love of classical music. She was my only source of it, in fact, as there was no music in my home.

And my subsequent teachers weren't bad either.....
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:19 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Richrf
I think someone has already mentioned that "quality" is subjective and there is no way for someone prospectively know that they are being taught by a quality teacher. Respectively, based upon experience, one can make personal judgements.
I would certainly disagree that there's no way for someone to know ahead of time if they are being taught by a good teacher. Can they be positive ahead of time? No, but if you look at the teacher's Forum, Piano Forum, and Adult Beginner's Forum you will find many threads where this topic is discussed with some good answers.


Teacher/student is a symbiotic relationship between two unique humans with totally unpredictable results. Just give it a shot and see what happens.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:36 PM

Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
There seems to be a real jump between grade 1 and grade 2 in ABRSM. Probably the largest jump between any of the grades. At least that's what I've heard many piano teachers state.


It wouldn't surprise me. The way these "exam" businesses work, is the first step is usually a no-brainer, so as to hook the candidate into the program and then it becomes gradually more difficult at each step, in order to promote a longer duration in the program and more repeats of examinations. The idea is not to discourage but also not to make it too easy, thereby producing optimal revenue flow. Constantly changing books is another good source of revenue. Once someone recognizes the business model, the rest falls in place. It's clearly a successful business model which is replicated in a number of different industries.

Does this have any more meaning than just picking up any piece and learning it? I fail to see how. But it does appeal to a certain segment of the population.

Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:47 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
[Constantly changing books is another good source of revenue.

I know you have a cynical view of exams and the ABRSM etc, but in fact, the set pieces need to be changed regularly to prevent teacher (and examiner) 'stagnation'/boredom, and to introduce new music by contemporary composers. Teachers need to be 'kept on their toes' and not just have their students play the same pieces year after year for the exam, because they can......

The same way that a concert pianist has to change his recital program regularly (probably at least once a year) to prevent stagnation - for him, as well as his audiences. No matter how well he plays the last three Beethoven sonatas, how many times would one want to hear him play the same pieces year after year?
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:51 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Richrf
[Constantly changing books is another good source of revenue.

I know you have a cynical view of exams and the ABRSM etc, but in fact, the set pieces need to be changed regularly to prevent teacher (and examiner) 'stagnation'/boredom, and to introduce new music by contemporary composers. Teachers need to be 'kept on their toes' and not just have their students play the same pieces year after year for the exam, because they can......

The same way that a concert pianist has to change his recital program regularly (probably at least once a year) to prevent stagnation - for him, as well as his audiences. No matter how well he plays the last three Beethoven sonatas, how many times would one want to hear him play the same pieces year after year?


It's not cynical, it's business. I use to sit in lots of marketing meetings as these type of plans are laid out. People get paid lots of money to draw in revenue and maintain good revenue stream. Once one recognizes the pattern, then everything makes sense. Primarily, these type of business are are targeting "achievers", both parents as well as students.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:53 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
Teacher/student is a symbiotic relationship between two unique humans with totally unpredictable results. Just give it a shot and see what happens.
That's one reason it's usually recommended that they meet before lessons start to interview each other and why a sample lesson or two is a good idea before signing up. There are numerous ways to get a list of good potential candidates. There are no guarantees but it's far from "totally unpredictable".
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 08:58 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Richrf
Teacher/student is a symbiotic relationship between two unique humans with totally unpredictable results. Just give it a shot and see what happens.
That's one reason it's usually recommended that they meet before lessons start to interview each other and why a sample lesson or two is a good idea before signing up. There are numerous ways to get a list of good potential candidates. There are no guarantees but it's far from "totally unpredictable".


Actually, it's much further away from predictable. What happens, happens, like everything else in life. It's really tough to find a good match. My own feeling is that whenever there is an exchange of money, something immediately happens to change a relationship. There is something about money.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 09:45 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
a comparison of Trinity College and ABRSM by a piano teacher:
but, although 'the devil is in the detail' as they say, both are, at the end of the day, exam-based in how they measure progress.

I've just looked at this. I've never done Trinity, and don't personally know of anyone who has, but somehow I assumed that it's very similar to ABRSM.

But this:

Regarding the exam itself, the biggest difference I noticed is in the supporting tests. In ABRSM as you probably know, you have to play three pieces, do scales, aural tests and sight reading. In Trinity there is a choice. You pick only TWO of the following four supporting tests:

Sight Reading; Aural; Improvisation; Musical Knowledge about a piece you are playing. This means that a student can focus on his strengths - for example if you really find the aural difficult, you won’t be penalised. Then again, does the ABRSM approach make for a more all round musician? Should everyone, for example, be able to sight read or is it a cop out to let the student decide if he wants to avoid sight reading through his entire studies on an instrument?


.......is decidedly a cop-out, IMO. Apart from improvisation (which is really not important for a classical musician, let's be honest), the other skills are definitely the bread-and-butter of musicianship. How can a student be allowed not to show that he can actually sightread?


Quote
I'm still, though, at a loss to understand how other 'systems' work. If, for example, it's a question of recitals, then do they not just take the place of exams, so the 'candidate' can concentrate purely on the recital piece?

From what I can gather from the teachers in the Piano Teachers Forum, a student recital may or may not be compulsory and may or may not be played from memory, and may or may not be like an end-of-year 'assessment' of a sort - or it might have more of a social function than anything else. It's also an opportunity for a teacher to show off his/her students, for prospective parents thinking of sending their kids to that teacher, so it's also useful as a promotional event/advert.

The student only has to play his/her piece (I believe it's usually just one, as all the students have to have their turn in the same recital), nothing else. So, it's nothing like an exam from any of the established boards.

However, others who have experience of a student recital might like to correct me on any of those points.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/13/18 11:16 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Have I brought my thoughts out more clearly? smile

Yes. But you continue to use the words teacher & education to describe a coach & training.

The very distinction between them is that the former are supposed to foster creativity whereas the later are focused on fostering obedience and suppressing creativity.

Here's the example why Berklee College of Music is an educational institution: the tracks that they offer include among others: Music Production; Music Business; Music for Film, TV & Games; Songwriting; Arranging; Orchestration; Improvisation.

I just come up with with how would some hypothetical ABRSM offer a Grade 1 exam in songwriting:

*) the examination panel would consist of one adult and one preschooler
*) the exam will be offered just before the time for a midday nap
*) the graded student will enter the room and be given the name of the preschooler and his/her activities before noon and planned activities for the afternoon
*) the graded student is given 15-30 minutes to compose and sing a lullaby to put the preschooler to sleep
*) the student passes the exam if at least half of the jury panel falls asleep during it

Obviously the above sketch would need to be modified to be actually implementable.

But ABRSM will not offer anything like that. It isn't because of lack of demand or money. It is because of the fundamental differences in understanding the function of music in the society. It has very little to do with how they teach and how they proctor their exams.
Posted By: Michael P Walsh

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 12:00 AM

Can't remember which but one of the boards (maybe Trinity or London) you can skip all the aural, scales etc. but instead of playing 3 pieces you have to play and are tested on 5.
Posted By: Whizbang

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 12:42 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
At the risk of appearing pushy - does anyone see the quality of the instructor and instruction as a major factor in the quality of a system such as RCM, AMEB, ABRSM?


I suspect the joint quality of the student and the teacher is the overriding factor.
Posted By: MrCatMissMew

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 01:08 AM

I actually agree with Precise regarding the value of the ABRSM. Training towards a professional career would not be assisted by the grades system. It's a useful framework for some, though.
Posted By: earlofmar

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 01:49 AM

Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
There seems to be a real jump between grade 1 and grade 2 in ABRSM. Probably the largest jump between any of the grades. At least that's what I've heard many piano teachers state.


Originally Posted by bennevis


Incidentally, there is a significant gap between Grade 5 and Grade 6 Practical too (more than between Grade 4 and 5, in my experience): many - ?most - students stop at Grade 5 because any Practical grade beyond 5 requires Grade 5 Theory. I know that some students - and possibly their teachers - start with the firm idea that they will stop at Grade 5, so they never bother with learning theory beyond what they need for the Practical.



I have only done my grade 5 AMEB exam, and now learning pieces for grade 6 I could not agree more with bennevis here. The jump in difficulty was very disconcerting at first, but to prepare properly, (with no natural talent), there is no getting away from the fact that you really have to put a lot more effort in than you might be prepared for. Although I did none of the earlier exams I did sort of shadow them at the time, and also agree there are times when it felt like a change in level did appear as though they were big jumps. However, only at grade 6 did I actually wonder if I had reached my limit.
Posted By: earlofmar

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 02:08 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
At the risk of appearing pushy - does anyone see the quality of the instructor and instruction as a major factor in the quality of a system such as RCM, AMEB, ABRSM? I have tried to stress that it is, but with no response, maybe nobody else thinks so and I'm barking up the wrong tree.


all I can say is that I am now on my third teacher, and teachers one and two could have got me through the early exams with credible passes. But I really needed the expertise and attention to detail that my current teacher has for where I am now. Her remark to me when I first said I wanted to take an exam was that I had to be willing to work towards distinction. She sets a high bar which put me in then, and has kept me in the right frame of mind for the task at hand.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 05:46 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
OK, OK, I give in grin.

Yes, I had an excellent first teacher who imbued a somewhat ignorant kid with a love of classical music. She was my only source of it, in fact, as there was no music in my home.

And my subsequent teachers weren't bad either.....

Thanks. smile

Can you see my point that your good experience with ABRSM had to include the two factors: the program, and the person(s) teaching along the program? When you recommend ABRSM and extoll its virtues, then it is actually this program, taught well (both things).

I've had to think this through myself when I considered going back to the first instrument that I studied with a teacher. It was done along RCM, but there were a lot of things I didn't learn that could have been learned, and the grades were gone through so quickly. A framework is a hollow thing that can be filled in various ways. I've never seen whether you have grasped that these frameworks can be used well or badly. What makes it good or bad is how it is taught. Especially since these frameworks don't teach; they depend on teachers to do that, unlike what I understand about method books.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 05:50 AM

Originally Posted by 90125
Originally Posted by keystring
Have I brought my thoughts out more clearly? smile

Yes. But you continue to use the words teacher & education to describe a coach & training.

The very distinction between them is that the former are supposed to foster creativity whereas the later are focused on fostering obedience and suppressing creativity.

Here's the example why Berklee College of Music .............

You seem to be promoting different ideas beyond the discussion. I have focused on only the thing being presented, namely whether ABRSM / RCM are good or bad. My point has been that since they are merely a framework, the quality of them depends on how they are taught, toward what goals. That is what is on the table that people are asking about, which is why I wrote about them. You seem to be talking about other goals and other programs. These are also interesting - maybe more interesting - but it is not what I was trying to answer. Maybe a new thread?
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 07:40 AM

A little late to the party, so I'll be brief.

Any testing or examination system has its pros and cons. Music exams have an important role for certain types of piano students, such as those that need some hard deadlines to meet, or those who need the motivation to practice for a few months out of the year.

Unfortunately, there are teachers who truly abuse testing or examination systems, either to promote themselves falsely, or to hide their own incompetence. I've seen enough "teaching to the test" to know that it exists. There are also parents who just want a piece of paper to "prove" that they have paid for piano lessons, even though their kids have no talent, practice very little, and resent testing.

As for those students (young or adult) who look at passing such exams to "mean" something, well, they might need to look harder. The paper proves that they've passed a test. It doesn't mean anything else beyond that. It does not mean they are proficient, or even remotely proficient, at anything related to music. Passing level 5 does NOT mean you are playing at level 5.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 01:15 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
As for those students (young or adult) who look at passing such exams to "mean" something, well, they might need to look harder. The paper proves that they've passed a test. It doesn't mean anything else beyond that. It does not mean they are proficient, or even remotely proficient, at anything related to music. Passing level 5 does NOT mean you are playing at level 5.
To pass the test at a given level, one has to meet some requirements. One cannot score zero points and pass. So that means one has demonstrated some degree of proficiency although one may not be highly proficient. I don't see a problem with this approach. What would be the purpose of having much higher requirements to pass the test?

Not everyone passes right? Passing level 5 does not mean you are playing exceptionally well at level 5 but I think that's not some secret.
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 01:57 PM

One can lob the same criticisms at any testing mechanism. Passing "boards" doesn't mean a doctor is "proficient." How many of you would consciously avoid a physician who is "board certified" and seek out instead someone who proudly announced that they haven't bothered with that corrupt money-making system? Likewise, an excellent score on the LSAT doesn't guarantee a great lawyer. And having a "reading level of grade 10" in a 12 year old doesn't guarantee a student will understand literature or be able to communicate an idea. No standard solves all issues. The question is whether or not it offers some productive guidance.

I sense that most of the carping has little context. It's almost as if people would prefer a world of no structured credentialing (see above). People just do what they do and it'll be alright. I have heard no serious alternatives offered beyond vague "trust a good teacher" or "follow your heart (or instincts, whatever), as thought that's systematically better. And it's all spiced with a cynical view of existing systems as money/money/money and "people are crass, idiotic, blah, blah ... well, except for me who knows best." Color me unconvinced.

PL's point is well taken. These tests have requirements. If those requirements are completely orthogonal to learning music (i.e. worthless) then I'm mightily surprised at how it persists over such a long stretch of time. People must be really stupid or motivated by all the wrong reasons (again, see above). But not the critics, of course, who are so confident that they can clearly see through all the BS. The critics have all the right reasons for doing things differently, except that I haven't seen anyone offer much of an alternative beyond verbal blather with no empirical support. "don't do this" isn't an alternative.

Yes, I'm a bit crabby this morning. Too much grading of tests and papers ... setting standards is hard smile

I don't think a single person who has offered words of support for RCM or ABSRM has suggested that they are the only path to wisdom.
Posted By: JoBert

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 03:29 PM

I must admit that the first time I heard that such a graded exam system for music education, like ABRSM and the others, even exists was about three years ago when I joined Pianoworld - decades after my own piano schooling.

Since then I have wondered if that was just a peculiarity of my own schooling (maybe my teacher didn't know / didn't want these exams and just didn't tell me about them?) or if this is simply different in Germany.

I've made short attempts to find out more about this question in the past, but to be honest, there's precious little to be found with Google. Spurred by this thread, I've again done some digging, and at least I've found some small pieces of information:

It seems that ABRSM used to publish statistics about how many exams were taken, but these statistics seem to have vanished from abrsm.org. But I found this article from 2011, which quotes some numbers (and links to the now defunct ABRSM pages):
https://se22pianoschool.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/abrsm-exam-facts-and-figures/

According to that article, in 2009 there were 124,090 ABRSM piano exams in the UK, with a total of 271,842 for all instruments.

And then I found this article in German (which honestly reads a bit like a paid advertisement for ABRSM) that coincidentally also quotes numbers from 2009, for Germany:
https://www.nmz.de/artikel/karrieresprungbrett-tuev-geprueft

According to that article, in 2009 there were "more than 700" ABRSM exams in Germany (assumably for all instruments, but I guess mainly piano).

So 700+ in Germany vs. 124,090/271,842 in the UK. (That's with ~83 million people living in Germany vs. ~66 million in the UK.)

I guess my initial feeling, that piano/music exams are just not a thing here in Germany was probably correct, and the vast majority of German children (and adults) are learning piano just fine without such a system.

Caveat: Germany has a well established system of local "Musikschulen" (literally "music schools", but not to be confused with a college, university or conservatoriums - those are yet another thing) for public music/instrument education. Many children learn their instrument in such a Musikschule, but also many learn it with private teachers. It is possible that these Musikschulen have their own assessment system that I'm just not aware of, as I had a private teacher.

Maybe we have some German members here who know more? I'm quite curious.


Posted By: QuasiUnaFantasia

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 05:06 PM

I believe the situation here in Denmark is exactly the same as described by JoBert for Germany. To my knowledge the only way here to get a piece of paper stating your musical ability, will be through studying at the formal music conservatories (higher education meant to pave the way for a career in music).
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 05:17 PM

Originally Posted by JoBert

And then I found this article in German (which honestly reads a bit like a paid advertisement for ABRSM) that coincidentally also quotes numbers from 2009, for Germany:
https://www.nmz.de/artikel/karrieresprungbrett-tuev-geprueft

According to that article, in 2009 there were "more than 700" ABRSM exams in Germany (assumably for all instruments, but I guess mainly piano).

So 700+ in Germany vs. 124,090/271,842 in the UK. (That's with ~83 million people living in Germany vs. ~66 million in the UK.)

I guess my initial feeling, that piano/music exams are just not a thing here in Germany was probably correct, and the vast majority of German children (and adults) are learning piano just fine without such a system.



I'm surprised that there are so many ABRSM exams in Germany, as the exams are always conducted in English (as far as I know), and the examiners come from the UK.

Does that article say what language is used in the exams?
Posted By: outo

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 06:32 PM

Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
I believe the situation here in Denmark is exactly the same as described by JoBert for Germany. To my knowledge the only way here to get a piece of paper stating your musical ability, will be through studying at the formal music conservatories (higher education meant to pave the way for a career in music).


Such a system of publicly funded music schools is common in many European countries. Not sure about others, but at least here there's a system with a few exams ingrained, so you will indeed get some sort of a certificate when you advance. And these are schools for basic music education, not concervatories.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 06:37 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
....I have heard no serious alternatives offered beyond vague "trust a good teacher" ..........

Yes, I'm a bit crabby this morning. Too much grading of tests and papers ... setting standards is hard.

I think that I'm the only one who wrote about a "good teacher" and what I wrote has been discussed the least. Even then, I'm not sure that my point was understood. And tbh, I'm feeling a bit crabby myself. wink

First, it is NOT about exams. The exams can be a component, but one can go through these programs without the exams. It is also about what is taught, and how it is taught, and this is where the "good teacher" component comes in. The ABRSM / RCM etc. offer frameworks, but there is no actual teaching of concepts and skills - these are merely implied or assumed. Please try to understand this point. smile

AZNpiano actually works in this area, and sees first hand results, and yet has been quickly dismissed. What if AZN or I or someone popped into your (plural) field(s), in an area where you saw weaknesses, and offered our opinions, rather than asking, "Tell me more?" since you have worked many years in whatever area (in the case of P*D, where and what you teach)?

I wrestled with these things over a decade ago as a student and to a lesser degree as a parent. I say lesser degree because my child was in a special arts high school. On that side much more experienced people weighed things, and I was less involved. I became a student some years later. I passed my exams with flying colours, and very high grades. I discovered the weak sides that can exist the hard way. If I ever go back to this instrument I have to go back to square one and relearn. I may write about this separately. Actually I have gone back to scratch, looked back at the whole thing. There were many things that I did not learn, which would have turned the syllabus into a different animal.

Start with etudes. An etude has as its purpose the isolating of some skill, so that you can practise it, rather than that skill popping up here and there in a piece. The thing you want to learn in music are the skills and concepts, because this is what you apply to every music that you encounter the rest of your life. It is not a matter of (only) learning to play these pieces, etudes, and scales so they sound nice and will please the examiner. The skills and concepts are an integral part of the pieces, and you might argue that without the skills one won't be able to play well. But a) you can manage to get by somehow without getting the skills, or enough of them, if you have a strong sense of music and good ear, b) you may end up not spending enough time on any grade level, with enough pieces, for things to gel. There are inherent weaknesses in this system --- and the TEACHING (incl. choices) is part of this ....... this includes aiming toward skills and concepts, and not just toward "passing" pieces ---- there are various ways of teaching, toward various things.

When my thing fell apart on that instrument, and I contemplated going back, one of the things I considered was whether it would be in the RCM framework. I felt I might well do so, because over here, it is a common point of reference for teachers. My last etude was in the "grade 7" book. But I'd tell the teacher that I want to start from scratch, and focus on developing skills as the main focus as we go through the levels. I have looked through my books, with the understanding I now have, I now understand what things would have been the thing being taught in a given etude, to aim toward. It would have been a whole different exercise. For that situation I might also go a Suzuki route, or if it exists a Rolland / Zweig route which also loosely goes in that direction. All these follow similar points as the syllabi - they are more technique oriented which is esp. apt for that instrument.

Things that can go wrong ..... and again this is the teaching component .... include the known behaviour among some teachers and communities of working on only 3 or 4 pieces per grade, polishing them to perfect, for the sake of high grades in exams; along with, possibly, the wish to go through grades as fast as possible in order to be faster then your neighbours. This has nothing to do with ABRSM / RCM / AMEB. That is also not what they were designed for. But the framework is quite open-ended. This works to the advantage of the experienced and knowledgeable teacher who can shuffle things for giving the best teaching possible. But it can also become a liability, depending.

I have never proposed good teacher instead of a system. I proposed that a system where all the teaching is made by the teacher (no method book that teaches things), with many possible choices, will also want a good and enlightened teacher - WITH - not instead of.

---------
I've been told long posts won't be read. AZN wrote a short post, and it got dismissed. So (shrug) I'm giving it a shot with no real expectations.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 07:45 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
To pass the test at a given level, one has to meet some requirements. One cannot score zero points and pass. So that means one has demonstrated some degree of proficiency although one may not be highly proficient. I don't see a problem with this approach. What would be the purpose of having much higher requirements to pass the test?

Not everyone passes right? Passing level 5 does not mean you are playing exceptionally well at level 5 but I think that's not some secret.

I guess you don't teach piano and you haven't encountered transfer students who come in with their certificate stating that they have "passed" some level, and then you see their playing and you think, "MY GOD, how the heck did they pass X level?" Once upon a time, there was a boy who "passed" level 7 and came to me without the ability to sight read anything in bass clef.

My level-8 transfer from two years ago passed his annual exam, year after year, and by the time he came to me I could see gaping holes in his piano education. He can't even voice a chord properly, or play ANY scale from memory. His technique is awful, and none of his pieces was in tolerable shape. Need I go on?

Just like any other academic subject, passing a test means you might be "good enough" on test day. But if you don't keep up your skills or knowledge, things will fade. This testing mentality has created generations of students who will do just enough to pass the test on that day, and then forget everything the next day. There's very little continuity of knowledge or skills.

The worst thing about the testing system is that parents use these little pieces of paper to PROVE that they've done something. So many students quit right after they passed the highest level. Instead of learning, it's all about passing a test so they can pad their college resume, or to announce to the world that they've passed a test. And that's supposed to MEAN something??????

Ugh!
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 07:56 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
. The question is whether or not it offers some productive guidance.

It can, when used judiciously.

The problem is that SO MANY people don't use these exams judiciously. In my part of the world, testing is something that virtually everybody does because everybody else is doing it. Some teachers put their entire teaching studios on the testing track. I feel sorry for all those students who are forced to take tests every single year. What an awful way to learn.

And when people start to extrapolate meaning out of exam results, you get even more problems.

I can look at a test closely and nitpick all day long to find problems, but those are minor quibbles when you compare it to what people are DOING with test results. The tests themselves are not the main problem. It's people.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 08:13 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Once upon a time, there was a boy who "passed" level 7 and came to me without the ability to sight read anything in bass clef.

I think you need to be more specific about what you mean by 'level'.

Are you talking RCM or CM? Because I know that with CM, you can pick and choose, therefore you can get away with murder.....OK, not quite, but you can pass on your pieces simply by copying your teacher by rote. You can't pass RCM simply by playing exam pieces that you learnt by copying your teacher by rote, without any other skills.


Quote
The worst thing about the testing system is that parents use these little pieces of paper to PROVE that they've done something. So many students quit right after they passed the highest level. Instead of learning, it's all about passing a test so they can pad their college resume, or to announce to the world that they've passed a test. And that's supposed to MEAN something??????

Ugh!

You haven't given a convincing argument as to why no system is better than a comprehensive system. A bad teacher with no system can teach a kid to play Für Elise by rote. But that one Für Elise won't pass ABRSM Grade 1.

A bad teacher will not be able to get the kid to pass ABRSM Grade 5 (which is the difficulty level of Für Elise) without said kid also being able to sight-read, play a range of scales & arpeggios (that you've already said you dislike because there are too many of them) fluently and possess decent aural skills - and play in a range of different styles (because he has to play a piece from three different lists which have pieces from different eras and of different styles)

I agree that a 'Level 7' CM certificate means next to nothing, but I'd say that a Grade 7 ABRSM (or RCM or AMEB) does mean something. It means a certain level of technical and musical proficiency.

BTW, many people quit after they pass a certain grade, or reach a certain age - as I mentioned, my youngest sister gave up piano completely after Grade 6. Not because Grade 6 was her end goal, but because friends, fashion and social life took over. It happens, whether or not there is testing involved. But - as I also mentioned - her musical skills didn't go to waste. She now spends some of her time in her job correcting composers' mistakes.......
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 08:20 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I guess you don't teach piano and you haven't encountered transfer students who come in with their certificate stating that they have "passed" some level, and then you see their playing and you think, "MY GOD, how the heck did they pass X level?" Once upon a time, there was a boy who "passed" level 7 and came to me without the ability to sight read anything in bass clef.
That may mean that either the standards for passing are too low or the specific person who did the evaluation has very low standards or is an easy grader. I'd be interested in knowing what percent of students passing a given level really perform at such a low level. If it's quite small(basically outliers) then it seems like the passing standards are reasonable as nothing is perfect. If not, they should be higher.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 08:40 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
That may mean that either the standards for passing are too low or the specific person who did the evaluation has very low standards or is an easy grader. I'd be interested in knowing what percent of students passing a given level really perform at such a low level. If it's quite small(basically outliers) then it seems like the passing standards are reasonable as nothing is perfect. If not, they should be higher.

In any system, there will be judges who are "nice" and judges who are "strict." That's the nature of these subjective evaluations.

Rather than debating the level of evaluation or percentage of passing or "outliers vs. those one standard deviation from the mean," I am far more interested in what people do (or not do) with these exams.

I've observed pockets of great teaching in my area, where many teachers sort of got together and made sense of the exam system. You get consistent results in those areas. When used properly, a music exam system can be a good thing. Kids will be well prepared in all areas, and nobody is pushed so far ahead that they can't handle the repertoire. You can also sidestep any pitfalls of the exam system. Unfortunately, for that to happen, you need not just one person who knows what he/she is doing--you need some collective intelligence.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 11:05 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
I agree that a 'Level 7' CM certificate means next to nothing, but I'd say that a Grade 7 ABRSM (or RCM or AMEB) does mean something. It means a certain level of technical and musical proficiency.,,,

I was involved in RCM. There are holes. The potential holes have to do with the teaching ..... etc. .... what I wrote ... which I think is never read for being understood. Because people are so entrenched in their own experiences that they don't see other possibilities.

Yes, you can end up with missing things. I've tried to explain this several times. Reiterating it won't bring anything new. YOU HAD EXCELLENT AND JUDICIOUS TEACHING. That is the other side of the equation.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 11:07 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Rather than debating the level of evaluation or percentage of passing or "outliers vs. those one standard deviation from the mean," I am far more interested in what people do (or not do) with these exams.

Yes! And with the syllabus, since there are a great many choices embedded therein.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 11:34 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by bennevis
I agree that a 'Level 7' CM certificate means next to nothing, but I'd say that a Grade 7 ABRSM (or RCM or AMEB) does mean something. It means a certain level of technical and musical proficiency.,,,

I was involved in RCM. There are holes. The potential holes have to do with the teaching ..... etc. .... what I wrote ... which I think is never read for being understood. Because people are so entrenched in their own experiences that they don't see other possibilities.

Yes, you can end up with missing things. I've tried to explain this several times. Reiterating it won't bring anything new. YOU HAD EXCELLENT AND JUDICIOUS TEACHING. That is the other side of the equation.

What I meant is that to pass ABRSM Grade 7, you have to play three pieces from three different eras and of three different styles well, plus acceptable sight-reading, plus acceptable aural skills, plus acceptable scales & arpeggios (quite a number of them): i.e. no matter how rubbish the teaching, you still have to have decent skills (technical & musical) to pass the exam. Even if the only three pieces you can play well are those exam ones. And not only that. You have to have passed Grade 5 Theory too.

In other words, it still means something to have passed it.

Unlike the Californian CM, where you can just choose to play pieces and get marked on them alone.....(which could mean that you were just taught by rote by your teacher, note by note, without needing to read any music or understand anything).
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/14/18 11:39 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
What I meant is that to pass ABRSM Grade 7, you have to play three pieces from three different eras and of three different styles well, plus acceptable sight-reading, plus acceptable aural skills, plus acceptable scales & arpeggios (quite a number of them): i.e. no matter how rubbish the teaching, you still have to have decent skills (technical & musical) to pass the exam. Even if the only three pieces you can play well are those exam ones.

In other words, it still means something to have passed it.

Unlike the Californian CM, where you can just choose to play pieces and get marked on them alone.....(which could mean that you were just taught by rote by your teacher, note by note, without needing to read any music or understand anything).

I see what you are saying. What you describe is the same for RCM. Despite all that, we found unexpected holes, and that is why I / we reexamined the whole thing. My conclusion was that choices made by the teacher, maybe with the student, and the abilities or insights of that teacher, plus willingness of student to work with him, can have an impact on what ends up being learned. My goal, like yours, is well-rounded. Your greater environment - the schools or society - seems to have offered more opportunities where you are or were, so these might become an even greater factor.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 04:13 AM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Passing "boards" doesn't mean a doctor is "proficient."
Likewise, an excellent score on the LSAT doesn't guarantee a great lawyer.

It is a gross exaggeration to compare those exams to the professional certifications. At best the ABRSM/RCM graduates could be compared to somebody like a phlebotomist or a paralegal.

I don't think those music grades have anything comparable in the modern Occidental society. They could be compared to graduates of some religious schools still existing in some Oriental societies. But the better comparison would be to the monks in the religious orders existing in the medieval times in the Western Europe. On the face of it they were literate, they could both read and write. But their literacy was narrowly focused on copying the sacred texts only.

ABRSM would be a "strict silent order", where the monks were allowed to open their mouths they could only do so to pray or sing from the allowed canon.

RCM would be a "evangelical order", where the monks were allowed to speak quite freely with the surrounding pagans so long as their speech obtained imprimatur from the supervising authority.

Both institutions have quite little in common with modern accredited educational institutions. Yet they aren't an equivalent of a "degree mill". They certainly serve some social purpose and clearly have value when hiring musicians or other performers/artists.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:56 AM

Keystrings, I would like to respond to your questions regarding the quality of the teacher related to an exam. I used to teach RNs taking online education to get their bachelors degree, did this adjunct for 5 years. I taught the upper level classes and was surprised some students made it to that level and did not have the skills for the class. There were several classes that students needed to take prior to taking the class I taught. The university was accredited so the teachers had to have specific qualifications. However, because someone is qualified does not alone make them a good teacher. Also, in my own academic endeavors I had teachers who I considered were not very good.

It would be hard to know the quality of the teacher related to the exams unless maybe one teacher taught the student to the exam and the student did well. If the student had different teachers and did well, one may think all the teachers were good, or some of them were and made up for the not so good ones. If the student did not do well and the teacher had other students that did well, it could be test anxiety for the student, the student did not prepare as well, or just had a bad day.

I find this an interesting topic.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 06:49 AM

Dear 90125, I read from this article, it takes 10 years to reach RCM level 10 (basically one a year). Phlebotomist can be on the job training, there are tech schools that offer this as well for a period of months. Paralegal is an associate 2 year degree. I am in health care. I think it would be easier to teach someone to draw blood than play the piano. I am in my 5th year of lessons. My first 2 and a half years I had also taken music theory 2 hours a week in addition to piano. I had played for 5 years as a child and violin for 10, so reading music came back pretty fast. Playing piano is not just reading the notes, the person has to learn at least basic theory. Though I have never taken a test and am not planning on it, I have read about them out of interest.

https://www.pianotv.net/2014/03/royal-conservatory-exams/

Looking at the requirement for level 10, it appears difficult to me, I do not think a person could get through this in 2 years as he/she could paralegal school.

https://www.rcmusic.com/sites/default/files/files/RCM-Piano-Syllabus-2015.pdf
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 06:57 AM

Dear Richf, I feel like I am paying for a service from an expert. For me, I personally do not feel exchanging money has made a difference in the student teacher relationship. I am not sure why it could, a person is purchasing a service and the person is providing it. Just my thoughts.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 07:12 AM

AZN Piano, as Bennevis discussed his sister was offered a position due to her resume reflected passing a piano exam and the company was looking for someone who understood music. The exam may have validated the applicant understood musical concepts. In addition, I think some people take them for self-challenge and a structured way of learning. I think it shows life time learning tendencies for the older adult who does this for a hobby.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 07:33 AM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
AZN Piano, as Bennevis discussed his sister was offered a position due to her resume reflected passing a piano exam and the company was looking for someone who understood music. The exam may have validated the applicant understood musical concepts.

I'm sure people with a B.Mus. degree are much more qualified. But since some companies are cheap, they'll just hire the next best thing.

Originally Posted by DFSRN
In addition, I think some people take them for self-challenge and a structured way of learning. I think it shows life time learning tendencies for the older adult who does this for a hobby.

I don't disagree with that. Exams have their place and, when used judiciously, can be an effective teaching tool.

I do send students to be tested. These are students who need that extra deadline to meet, or else they won't practice. My super flaky adult students probably should be tested, but they are also EXTREMELY lazy; they checked themselves out of the equation when I inquired.

I really don't have a problem with exams themselves, even though some exams are clearly outdated and non-functional and irrelevant. My problem is with people and their attitude--like they are married to these piano tests.

Some people forget the fact that exams and exam boards do not make good students. Good teachers do.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 08:04 AM

Originally Posted by 90125
I don't think those music grades have anything comparable in the modern Occidental society. They could be compared to graduates of some religious schools still existing in some Oriental societies. But the better comparison would be to the monks in the religious orders existing in the medieval times in the Western Europe. On the face of it they were literate, they could both read and write. But their literacy was narrowly focused on copying the sacred texts only.

ABRSM would be a "strict silent order", where the monks were allowed to open their mouths they could only do so to pray or sing from the allowed canon.

RCM would be a "evangelical order", where the monks were allowed to speak quite freely with the surrounding pagans so long as their speech obtained imprimatur from the supervising authority.

LMAO
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 09:56 AM

Originally Posted by 90125
It is a gross exaggeration to compare those exams to the professional certifications. At best the ABRSM/RCM graduates could be compared to somebody like a phlebotomist or a paralegal.

I don't think those music grades have anything comparable in the modern Occidental society. They could be compared to graduates of some religious schools still existing in some Oriental societies. But the better comparison would be to the monks in the religious orders existing in the medieval times in the Western Europe. On the face of it they were literate, they could both read and write. But their literacy was narrowly focused on copying the sacred texts only.

ABRSM would be a "strict silent order", where the monks were allowed to open their mouths they could only do so to pray or sing from the allowed canon.

RCM would be a "evangelical order", where the monks were allowed to speak quite freely with the surrounding pagans so long as their speech obtained imprimatur from the supervising authority.

Both institutions have quite little in common with modern accredited educational institutions. Yet they aren't an equivalent of a "degree mill". They certainly serve some social purpose and clearly have value when hiring musicians or other performers/artists.

I apologise for the off-topic, but I just have to say it: I LOVE your username laugh 3hearts thumb Not my favourite album, but my all-time favourite band!

Back into my box I go...
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 10:59 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by 90125
I don't think those music grades have anything comparable in the modern Occidental society. They could be compared to graduates of some religious schools still existing in some Oriental societies. But the better comparison would be to the monks in the religious orders existing in the medieval times in the Western Europe. On the face of it they were literate, they could both read and write. But their literacy was narrowly focused on copying the sacred texts only.

ABRSM would be a "strict silent order", where the monks were allowed to open their mouths they could only do so to pray or sing from the allowed canon.

RCM would be a "evangelical order", where the monks were allowed to speak quite freely with the surrounding pagans so long as their speech obtained imprimatur from the supervising authority.

LMAO

What about the Californian CM, the testing system you use (which is administered by local teachers)?

It would be "one order" where the monks can only preach the one short text that they memorized, again & again. The one they were taught by rote, because they weren't taught to read.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 02:03 PM

Currently, I'm listening to Christmas around Europe, starting in Helsinki (but now in Leipzig), courtesy of BBC Radio 3 www.bbc.co.uk/radio3 and I'm in an expansive mood, full of Christmas cheer and goodwill toward all men (and women) wink so I have time to put a few thoughts together....

As this thread is about classical-based and comprehensive exams systems like the ABRSM and its copies in other countries, I'd like to summarize what I think about the one system I know better than anyone else in ABF (- I'm pretty sure I'm the only one here who has done all the ABRSM grade exams from 1 to 8 without skipping any of them, plus diploma).
Especially as one or two others have confused the issue by throwing in locally-based 'testing systems' administered by local teachers which bear no comparison to the national/international exam boards, and made assumptions based on them which don't apply to the others.

So, I'll quote directly from the ABRSM website:

We believe in the importance of all-round musicianship and this forms the basis of our exams.

To become an all-round musician students need a range of interlocking skills – in performance, technique, notation, and listening and musical perception – as well as knowledge, understanding and creativity.

....our mission has stayed the same: to nurture a love for music, and to inspire achievement in it. At ABRSM, we believe that everyone, wherever they’re from, should have access to high-quality music-learning.


What is the ABRSM for?

In partnership with the Royal Schools of Music, we support music-making and learning across the globe. We offer pathways and resources for learners and teachers that help build musical skills and encourage progress.

Our core activity is providing graded music exams, assessments and diplomas. An ABRSM grade has a worldwide currency and our exams are designed to motivate learners at all levels and ages, providing realistic goals and tangible rewards for their achievements.


What do their exams do?

Focusing on all-round musicianship:

ABRSM exams are music exams rather than instrumental or singing exams. Examiners assess the quality of the music-making, not how it's achieved. For this reason, we don't restrict examiners to assessing only their own instrument but require them to examine all instruments.

We've designed our graded music exams to motivate instrumental and singing students of all ages and a wide range of abilities. They're available at eight levels – Grades 1 to 8


What is required of candidates?:

To succeed in our exams, candidates need a combination of skills and understanding. Broadly, we assess:

Performance skills through pieces or songs
Technical skills through scales and arpeggios
Notation skills through a sight-reading test
Listening skills and musical perception through aural tests


How are candidates marked?

“Candidates whose performances are found by the examiners to be up to standard receive certificates from the Board; above the level of a satisfactory 'pass', certificates of merit may be granted; and for really exceptional candidates, certificates of distinction. The Board does not, however, court popularity by multiplying awards and easy honours, and has consistently set its face against any award which might obscure the fact that a pupil in passing an examination has merely left behind one more milestone on the journey of musical progress.”

Over 650,000 candidates now sit ABRSM exams each year in more than 90 countries around the globe.
BUT:

Bear in mind...

Music exams don't suit everyone, and exam syllabuses aren't intended to provide a complete curriculum or choice of repertoire to the exclusion of all other music. We believe that all musicians should explore a wide range of music to stimulate their interest and refresh their outlook.


So, what I'd say is:

Don't even think about ABRSM (not just its exams, but also its syllabus) if:
If you want to learn & play only what you like.
If your focus isn't classical.
If you dislike structure.
If you aren't interested in basic stuff, and the fundamentals.
If you prefer to pick and choose and mix, rather than follow a prescribed 'program' of learning.

Everyone else may benefit from a structured music education system which has stood the test of time - whether or not you choose to do the exams.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 02:37 PM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Dear Richf, I feel like I am paying for a service from an expert. For me, I personally do not feel exchanging money has made a difference in the student teacher relationship. I am not sure why it could, a person is purchasing a service and the person is providing it. Just my thoughts.


You are paying someone (I have no idea how to define expert) to pass you or fail you. If one enjoys taking examinations, then it works great. But beyond that, it is totally, utterly meaningless. If one needs to have their music judged then why pay for it? There are numerous people who would gladly do it for free. However, it makes for good conversation, e.g. "I'm so worried about taking the Grade 6", or "I perform so poorly, I feel awful", or "I passed!".
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 02:56 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by 90125
I don't think those music grades have anything comparable in the modern Occidental society. They could be compared to graduates of some religious schools still existing in some Oriental societies. But the better comparison would be to the monks in the religious orders existing in the medieval times in the Western Europe. On the face of it they were literate, they could both read and write. But their literacy was narrowly focused on copying the sacred texts only.

ABRSM would be a "strict silent order", where the monks were allowed to open their mouths they could only do so to pray or sing from the allowed canon.

RCM would be a "evangelical order", where the monks were allowed to speak quite freely with the surrounding pagans so long as their speech obtained imprimatur from the supervising authority.

LMAO


I might be a bit more diplomatic, but yeah. smile

No analogy is perfect. I would HOPE that medical certification is different than ABSRM musical "certification." If you mess up a performance, no one dies!

What I'm critiquing are the over-the-top (in my opinion) rejections of the entire approach based on assertions piled upon assertions leading to sweeping generalizations, and political biases (OMG money is involved so it's just a capitalist plot).

We have a lot of certification processes in "Occidental" society, and I think that that is no accident (double pun intended). ABRSM has been around since the 19th century because it satisfies real needs that people have expressed, and they are willing to subject themselves to its disciplines (and pay money). Those disciplines offer many people real value, no matter how much some people may question motives or rationales. The system has survived because a lot of people do NOT think it's a scam, i.e. they see value in its approaches. Any system can be abused, or not used well. Welcome to life.

Want another "credentialing" system? Recreational diving. A variety of credentialing agencies have been around for a half century or so. Sound familiar? It's not rocket science to learn how to dive. You could easily do it yourself, but you won't be able to dive with any dive shop if you don't have the flashy "credential." I'm finishing my open water certification today and tomorrow, actually. I'm typing this from Bonaire! You read a book, you take some really easy multiple choice tests, and you have some practical training on equipment in the water. It's a good system that prepares people to do something fun at low risk. And you pay money to take the course. To teach the courses, the people who work at the dive shops also have to have certifications. Just a scam? I don't think so.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 03:25 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Any system can be abused, or not used well. Welcome to life.

Want another "credentialing" system? Recreational diving. A variety of credentialing agencies have been around for a half century or so. Sound familiar? It's not rocket science to learn how to dive. You could easily do it yourself, but you won't be able to dive with any dive shop if you don't have the flashy "credential." I'm finishing my open water certification today and tomorrow, actually. I'm typing this from Bonaire! You read a book, you take some really easy multiple choice tests, and you have some practical training on equipment in the water. It's a good system that prepares people to do something fun at low risk. And you pay money to take the course. To teach the courses, the people who work at the dive shops also have to have certifications. Just a scam? I don't think so.

The first time I went diving was in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, many years ago.

I'd never dived before, and our group just went out on a boat with our instructors to the outer reef, completed a medical questionnaire, then put on the gear, got checked while submerged at a shallow depth holding on to a rope (that we had no trouble using the apparatus and didn't panic and were able to equalize the pressure in our ears)......and then set off following our instructors, to explore the reef to a depth of 20 meters. Less than half an hour from being geared up (for the first time) to the dive.

Is it worth me going for the PADI certificate? No - I don't dive often enough to warrant it, let alone to keep it up.

I've climbed Everest and many other high mountains around the world, but have no 'outdoor', let alone mountaineering certification of any sort. But if you want to be an instructor or guide, you need it (UIAGM etc). But I'm just a recreational climber and mountaineer, doing it for fun. Why would I need to acquire any accreditation?

Similarly for piano - if you just want to play what you enjoy playing for fun, don't bother with exams or certificates.
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 04:05 PM

Quote
Is it worth me going for the PADI certificate? No - I don't do it often enough to warrant it, let alone to keep it up.


But you don't make the claim that PADI certification is a worthless scam. If you want to dive, there is value in understanding "no stop time" and decompression issues. In knowing how to clear your mask underwater, and how to remove and reenter your equipment at depth. But I'll bet you dove with certified instructors.

This value isn't just for people who want to become regular or professional divers. I enjoyed the learning process, and I valued the structure. I didn't have to reinvent any proverbial wheels.

Do you need it for a simple (and single) "resort dive." Of course not. I too did those quickie "try diving" experiences. I loved it. That's why I decided to learn the basics more formally.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 04:23 PM

The exams are not a scam. They deliver exactly what they promise, a grade. Some people want grades and have no problem paying for them and others may not find it worthwhile. As for a course methodology, there are many to choose from without exams, or one can choose any methodology that works for them, which are enumerable in nature.

So to answer the OP's question: The ABRSM and RCM are for pass or fail grades.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 04:44 PM

AZN Piano, I agree a degree would be more beneficial if competing against candidates for jobs. However, I am taking the stance, some people may not major in music, even it is is their passion, because (I am referring to the U.S.) people may be looking for a return on investment in their education. My piano teacher now (age 27) with a MS in music is looking to go back to school for an engineering degree. That is not to say a music major would never get a well paying jobs with benefits, however, it is highly competitive. Compared to majoring in music, a person gets a degree in software engineering and has passed a high level of one of the exams discussed, may be very advantageous to a person who only has a degree in music. For instance, my nephew has a BS and MS in Computer Engineering from MIT, and minored in Japanese. This minor may give him an edge over someone with only a MS degree. If he majored in Japanese, he would not be as marketable. He plays computer games in Japanese and has interned there, so there was a motive to study this language.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 04:52 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Quote
Is it worth me going for the PADI certificate? No - I don't do it often enough to warrant it, let alone to keep it up.


But you don't make the claim that PADI certification is a worthless scam. If you want to dive, there is value in understanding "no stop time" and decompression issues. In knowing how to clear your mask underwater, and how to remove and reenter your equipment at depth. But I'll bet you dove with certified instructors.

This value isn't just for people who want to become regular or professional divers. I enjoyed the learning process, and I valued the structure. I didn't have to reinvent any proverbial wheels.

Do you need it for a simple (and single) "resort dive." Of course not. I too did those quickie "try diving" experiences. I loved it. That's why I decided to learn the basics more formally.

Exactly.

I enjoyed my first dive (20 minutes) - so much so that I actually went again, for a 45 minute dive to a slightly greater depth, right after the "introductory dive" with the same instructor. I've dived a few times since then in various places around the world - always with an instructor. Each time, I learnt a bit more about diving, but it's remained something I do only very occasionally, every few years when I'm on holiday.

I was sent the complete blurb about how to get a PADI certificate following those first two dives, but I never thought seriously about taking it up. But it's certainly not worthless, for those who want to dive regularly.

WIth piano lessons, a lot more 'training' is involved, over a much, much longer period of time, just to reach a decent level - one that gets the student within striking distance of the easier rep by certain composers. If the student is up for it, and wants to develop his skills (both musical and technical) in a logical step by step manner, following the syllabus by an international exam board has a lot to recommend it. Success breeds success in terms of the exams, because they are a real measure of progress. Musical skills, once acquired, are never lost though they may go rusty - just like skiing and cycling. Technical skills might be harder to regain but again, are never completely lost, and the more thorough a grounding the student had previously and the higher a level he reached, the easier they are to regain.

Of course, he would need a good teacher to actually reach that level.......
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 04:54 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I do send students to be tested. These are students who need that extra deadline to meet, or else they won't practice. My super flaky adult students probably should be tested, but they are also EXTREMELY lazy; they checked themselves out of the equation when I inquired.

Some people forget the fact that exams and exam boards do not make good students. Good teachers do.


As an adult student who pays for lessons, if I did not practice or take it seriously I would stop lessons because I would be just wasting money and lessons are not cheap. The director where I take my lessons said, adults generally last one year. She has been in business 20 years and 2 years was the max time an adult took lessons. If playing the piano well was easy, everyone would do it. Becoming good at something is not by accident, generally people work hard at it.

I agree, because someone is highly qualified does not make them a teacher. I know people who are excellent at their job, but can't relate what they know in understandable terms to teach others.
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:01 PM

Bennevis,

I share that view of ABSRM or its similar competitors. Step by step guidelines, with measurable outcomes, offer a great way (for some people) to acquire skills most easily.

I think the PADI diving system is more comparable than you think. Becoming "open water certified" isn't the end of the diving instruction process. It's actually only the first step on the ladder. There are many more steps. Some are parallel, and some are sequential, i.e. the learning is hierarchical as with an instrument.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:09 PM

Richrf, I may have misunderstood, I was thinking you discussed it changes the relationship when money is involved regarding a student-teacher relationship. Expert may be subjective, but for the sake of conversation someone who holds degree in music I would consider an expert compared to the general population. A dictionary definition is
"a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area."

As piano is a hobby for me, taking a test so far I have no plan to and if I did it would be theory. I find I am better at the academic then the skill part of the piano. I always think I want to do my best, however at this time in my life I would not stress over it because it would not make a difference in my life (other than personal accomplishment) if I passed or not, I would just have to take it over. On the other hand, defending my dissertation was a huge stress, because it impacted my future. In addition, that type of degree was expensive.

thanks for your comments.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:19 PM

Piano*Dad, I'm glad you wrote in again.
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
I might be a bit more diplomatic, but yeah. smile ....

....What I'm critiquing are the over-the-top (in my opinion) rejections of the entire approach based on assertions piled upon assertions leading to sweeping generalizations, and political biases (OMG money is involved so it's just a capitalist plot).


Agreed. That part is sort of useless. It gets annoying, is best ignored, but can get under one's skin, and so you erupted. laugh

However - some important points:
Quote
No analogy is perfect. I would HOPE that medical certification is different than ABSRM musical "certification." .......


We have a lot of certification processes in "Occidental" society,a.......

Want another "credentialing" system? .......

You are writing only about certification or exams. This is NOT what it is about. In fact, a student can go through the entire RCM system with a teacher without ever doing a single exam, and many do. The consideration is what is taught, and how.

Please try to understand what I am trying to explain, because I am familiar with this.

RCM etc. has a syllabus going along grades with a list of repertoire, etudes, scales & chords, and then music theory, history, etc. There is a list of pieces for each grade, and a book that has some of these pieces - many students use only that book. Theoretically the essential things that need be learned to get a well-rounded background in music is covered. In practice, it depends on what is taught, how, within this framework. I'd like very much to know whether this point makes sense. I have tried to stress this several times.

I was caught out by this. For the grades where I passed exams with flying colours, I have gone back to square one because I now know the essential skills that I would have needed, that didn't come into it. Yes, I've mentioned exams, but only because those exams would reflect what I learned, and I did not learn fundamental things I needed. A teacher who aims to give his student needed skills thoroughly can take the same framework (list of pieces etc.) and teach them differently. The teaching choices of the teacher is an essential component, an integral component.

I've discussed theory with a teacher who was in an ABRSM environment. He or she passed all the exams as a student, and later taught them. S/he discovered that what had been learned personally was rather superficial. For teaching, meanwhile, what can happen is that grade 4 sneaks by and it's "omg, this is the grade for theory exams" and then the stuff is crammed.

The framework .... and that is what these are ..... does not guarantee comprehensive teaching of what is needed to learn to play music on an instrument, and become independent through the acquisition of skills. Only the teaching can do so. For a good teacher who actually aims to teach, these frameworks can give a lot of freedom of choice, whereas a method book may impose how things are learned. For a poorish teacher, there may not be enough guidelines, or the temptation of reputation through high grades may lead to abuse of the system.

the TEACHING by the TEACHER is an essential component for the LEARNING part. Exams are barely in the picture.

Was I able to be more clear? smile
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:22 PM

"Similarly for piano - if you just want to play what you enjoy playing for fun, don't bother with exams or certificates."

I agree, unless the person may want to use it as you mentioned on a resume. It may help with some job selections are you stated before. I used to publish for a hobby, now piano has taken that over. I do not have an English degree, just from years of writing for publication I became proficient. However, listing those pubs on a resume shows I have the ability to write and publish. In addition, I have a 2 year degree in Information Systems, I did this for fun with my dad. This would not get me a job in computers, but on my resume it shows I have working knowledge about the topic. Just like someone who plays golf and maybe won some tournaments and applies for position at some large sporting good company, listing your hobby on the resume may be beneficial.

I just play for fun and I am happy I found this forum to discuss what I love doing.
Posted By: patH

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:22 PM

Originally Posted by JoBert
I must admit that the first time I heard that such a graded exam system for music education, like ABRSM and the others, even exists was about three years ago when I joined Pianoworld - decades after my own piano schooling.

Since then I have wondered if that was just a peculiarity of my own schooling (maybe my teacher didn't know / didn't want these exams and just didn't tell me about them?) or if this is simply different in Germany.
[...]
Maybe we have some German members here who know more? I'm quite curious.

German member here.

I too had never heard of ABRSM before joining Piano World; and I did study music at a university (not a music conservatory).

But it's not because Germany doesn't care about grades. It's that in Germany there are different standards. One popular, also with music studying institutions, is the Jugend Musiziert standard ("Youth makes music").
There is apparently a committee who decides how pieces are to be rated. The ratings to from 1 (very easy) to 6 (very difficult).
People who want to enter a music academy have to play at least three pieces from different times. It is expected that by the end of their studies, they can perform pieces one Jugend Musiziert grade above the pieces they performed for their entry exam.
The question is: How difficult should the entry exam pieces be? Answer: I don't know. Some people say it's better to play pieces of a lower grade (3 or 4) well, than blunder through a grade 5 piece. Supposedly, examiners for entry exams try to evaluate if the potential student can improve.

But my music studies were more than 20 years ago. Maybe things have changed since then.
And maybe there are other factors in play; like maybe if a potential student is already a private student of a particular teacher at a music academy, this student has better chances to get taken than an "outsider". But this is conspiracy theory territory.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:30 PM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Richrf, I may have misunderstood, I was thinking you discussed it changes the relationship when money is involved regarding a student-teacher relationship. Expert may be subjective, but for the sake of conversation someone who holds degree in music I would consider an expert compared to the general population. A dictionary definition is
"a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area."


thanks for your comments.


Hi,

In my experiences, money always changes the nature of a relationship in many ways. When it has to do with a career (subsistence), even more so. That is one of the reasons I try to avoid mixing hobbies with money.

In regards to what an expert might be when it comes to the arts, that is an entirely different subject, and probably more of a philosophical question. Experience moves in all directions, endlessly.

Thanks for your comments
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:34 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
I share that view of ABSRM or its similar competitors. Step by step guidelines, with measurable outcomes, offer a great way (for some people) to acquire skills most easily.


There ARE NO "step by step" guidelines, unless the teacher gives them. There is a broad framework, a list. It is precisely the SKILLS that can go missing!

The frameworks assume that the teacher will give the underlying skills, but for varying reasons that doesn't necessarily happen.

I have stressed, and Bennevis confirmed, that B had an excellent, dedicated teacher, who aimed to give him what he needed - and he has stated that is subsequent teachers were also good. It happens that that teacher used ABRSM. Undoubtedly, used the right way, this framework was very handy in organizing things. But the very important thing is what and how these things are taught.

I don't know what you teach. Imagine an outline of titles, and some hack just skimming over the lot of it, but enough for passing some exams if exams are being aimed for. As opposed to what you do expertly.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 05:41 PM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
"Similarly for piano - if you just want to play what you enjoy playing for fun, don't bother with exams or certificates."

I agree, unless the person may want to use it as you mentioned on a resume. It may help with some job selections are you stated before. I used to publish for a hobby, now piano has taken that over. I do not have an English degree, just from years of writing for publication I became proficient. However, listing those pubs on a resume shows I have the ability to write and publish. In addition, I have a 2 year degree in Information Systems, I did this for fun with my dad. This would not get me a job in computers, but on my resume it shows I have working knowledge about the topic. Just like someone who plays golf and maybe won some tournaments and applies for position at some large sporting good company, listing your hobby on the resume may be beneficial.

I just play for fun and I am happy I found this forum to discuss what I love doing.


Deb, well stated and true. On a resume, you never really know what "line" will be the one to get you an interview.
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 09:15 PM

Quote
Was I able to be more clear? smile


You were quite clear the first time, actually. I don't know that anyone has disagreed. I think your contentions about the importance of teaching are correct, and this is true inside ANY system. Not a surprise. I agree that the ABRSM framework is just a framework. The teacher fills it in. That's why teaching yourself is often problematic in so many ways. This wasn't the issue that I raised, so I felt no need to weigh in on your particular POV.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 11:47 PM

Thank you, Piano*Dad. I think everyone's on the same page now.

I lost almost 5 years of study due to these issues, which is why it was important to point these things out.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/16/18 11:58 PM

Richrf, I am a somewhat confused about your statement. Even for a hobby, say golf, fishing, tennis or any sort of lessons, those industries or people are in the position to provide instruction either group or private and charge for it. I understand people make a living providing instruction, I understand when I hire them or attend the piano school that hires them, this a student - instructor relationship. I am not clear how money (or fee for services) changes that relationship because that is the way the system works for piano lessons. I really don't think anything about it, I pay by the semester and take my lessons.

Respectfully,
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 12:01 AM

Keystrings, thanks for stating there are not step-by-step guidelines, I always thought it was a guided progression since there are levels. I understand now where the teacher really has to have the expertise to guide the student.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 12:28 AM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Phlebotomist can be on the job training, there are tech schools that offer this as well for a period of months. Paralegal is an associate 2 year degree.

Dear DFSRN, this is all true only because of those professions took advantage of the technological progress that had happened over the XX century.

Imagine how much longer would the education of a phlebotomist take if they couldn't take advantage of the gamma-sterilized single-use-plastic syringes and would be only allowed to reuse glass syringes sterilized in the autoclaves. I would guess that a polymerase chain reaction test could be somehow retrofitted to the steampunk technology from the turn of 19&20 centuries. Only instead of a drop of blood and couple of days it would take quarter of a liter of blood and several months of hard work with glassware and blotter paper.

Imagine if the paralegals wouldn't be allowed to use the computerized word-processing & databases, even typewriters and would still have to write everything in longhand using quills dipped in the ink and memorize all the law information.

And this is what the organizations like ABRSM/RCM so unlike any other institution in the XXI century. ABRSM student can achieve 8th grade without writing a single bar of music of their own. If ABRSM would be teaching English that would be completely unconscionable if the student only knew how to quote scriptures. It still happens in the XXI century, but not for any of the Western languages. This is why I used such archaic words like occidental & oriental, because this forum doesn't allow the discussion of religions.

This is also what negatively distinguishes ABRSM/RCM programs from the normal, modern accredited musical schools like Berklee in the USA and various equivalents abroad. Somebody who takes "Piano and Keyboard" track there would have at the minimum at least passing familiarity with what the technology progress delivered in the keyboard instruments marketplace.

If an ABRSM/RCM graduate is aware of the modern keyboard technology that is despite their education not because of it. In the XXI century even very cheap synthesizers have features like arpegiattor and style-directed automatic accompaniment.

Do you think that a commercial producer or music director is going to hire an octet (8-piece band) if that is the standard feature of the majority of the modern synthesizers that can be easily directed by the left hand of a pianist familiar with the current technology? This would quite non-competitive in the marketplace. And the range of products supporting auto-accompaniment is from $200 entry-level portable keyboards to the $200,000 top of the range Disklaviers that feature entire acoustic grand piano. This is why the musician unions in the UK tried to have the government ban the synthesizers.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 01:51 AM

Originally Posted by 90125


This is also what negatively distinguishes ABRSM/RCM programs from the normal, modern accredited musical schools like Berklee in the USA and various equivalents abroad. Somebody who takes "Piano and Keyboard" track there would have at the minimum at least passing familiarity with what the technology progress delivered in the keyboard instruments marketplace.


You seem quite confused. Maybe it's the influence of the low gravity on Mars on your grey cells.

I thought I'd explained in depth - more than once - what ABRSM is all about (a classical graded syllabus & examination system for pianists and classical musicians), but evidently you haven't understood a word, and keep confusing it with a pop/rock/jazz program of instruction for keyboard players.

Never mind......
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 02:07 AM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Richrf, I am a somewhat confused about your statement. Even for a hobby, say golf, fishing, tennis or any sort of lessons, those industries or people are in the position to provide instruction either group or private and charge for it. I understand people make a living providing instruction, I understand when I hire them or attend the piano school that hires them, this a student - instructor relationship. I am not clear how money (or fee for services) changes that relationship because that is the way the system works for piano lessons. I really don't think anything about it, I pay by the semester and take my lessons.

Respectfully,


It becomes a business relationship, and people in a business relationship act in a business manner, i.e., with a eye toward increasing revenue and developing predictable cash flow. For example, I noticed how one particular music teacher would always pay special attention to child students, especially those who entered and win competitions, because this would increase hey visibility and desirability among other parents. Thus, the monetary value of students created a bias for her energy and attention. It's true same in all professions. Money gets the energy and attention.

As the Godfather said "It isn't personal, it's business". The exams are designed to appeal to those who want exams and grades That's all.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 06:45 PM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Keystrings, thanks for stating there are not step-by-step guidelines, I always thought it was a guided progression since there are levels. I understand now where the teacher really has to have the expertise to guide the student.


Deb, I should probably qualify this, so as not to give the wrong impression in the other extreme. It's a bit dicey since my experiences were along violin, and here we're discussion piano, but maybe I can pull something off.

1) You do have progression along grade levels. In one grade you might play 1-octave scales at a lower tempo in an easier key, and in the next grade progress to 2 or 3 octave, at a faster tempo, and harder keys. Your music might be in the keys that you practised in technique. The pieces will get harder and involve more things. The first theory exam in RCM is around grade 4, so one might imagine a student is studying theory by then. In an ideal world, you don't discover that G major has one sharp with I IV V chords being G, C, D(7) only when you start theory: your teacher will make you aware of it as soon as you play your first piece in G major. So you see a certain amount of things building on each other in stages. A certain cohesiveness can be applied by an astute teacher, such as the example of G major.

I'd say also as a student, if you have the syllabus, you can start seeing patterns of what is being taught, how things interrelate, what some of the teaching aims are, and aim for them yourself. I bought the syllabus late in the game.

2) There are other aspects to music learning. For example, when you get that RCM gr. 1 or 2 piece, will you learn that it is in ABA form, with the A's repeating, and the B being the same thing but in a new key? Or some other pattern that will help you play it. Will you learn to chunk and divide up your music, for practising it? Will you learn that the chords you are playing in the G major piece are G, C, D7 so that it's not just one set of notes followed by more notes to "learn"? .... An etude mostly has the purpose of practising a given technique. Will your teacher systematically teach you the technique, so that you will be applying it to the etude - since that is its point? Or will you simply end up playing it like a piece of music, however you can get at it, or after a quick "copy me"? Certainly skills might be systematically built by the teacher - i.e. step-wise. These are not written out in the RCM material - it is expected they will be taught.

It is 2) that I was thinking of.

I haven't used method books, but I've seen examples. These do seem to teach some of the "stuff inside" as per 2). We also see where novices take a method book, go only after the pieces and scales, and ignore that side of it. So it being there doesn't mean it gets used. We also see where an explanation and instruction in a book might not be the best one, or might be a poorish shortcut. A good teacher might not want to use such a book, because he has something better in mind. He may choose something like RCM, ABRSM etc. because of how open-ended it is.

I have also had a chance to browse through a Suzuki book, maybe gr. 5. The piece I looked at also contained comments, explanations, suggested ways of tackling this or that section. I don't know how good or bad these are. The RCM contained only the repertoire, and the teacher was expected to teach as he saw fit. Since you have something that is organized into some kind of order, that goes a long way.
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 08:05 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
..............
Hi,

In my experiences, money always changes the nature of a relationship in many ways. When it has to do with a career (subsistence), even more so. That is one of the reasons I try to avoid mixing hobbies with money.

.....................
Do you have a piano? Paint brushes? Paint? Did you make them yourself or did you pay money for them? If you paid money for them, were they ruined for you?
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 08:20 PM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by Richrf
..............
Hi,

In my experiences, money always changes the nature of a relationship in many ways. When it has to do with a career (subsistence), even more so. That is one of the reasons I try to avoid mixing hobbies with money.

.....................
Do you have a piano? Paint brushes? Paint? Did you make them yourself or did you pay money for them? If you paid money for them, were they ruined for you?




I think you missed the point. Business aren't looking out for your welfare, they are looking out for their own. A business relationship is different from a friendship. If you choose to believe otherwise, go ahead.

The OP wanted to know what the RCM and likewise were all about and I gave my take. Putting Royal in their names is good marketing, but doesn't change their spots. There are no benefits to the student when they change their books every two years. They are only interested in maintaining cash flow.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 11:15 PM

Quote
Do you think that a commercial producer or music director is going to hire an octet (8-piece band) if that is the standard feature of the majority of the modern synthesizers that can be easily directed by the left hand of a pianist familiar with the current technology?


90125, it think of it as two different things, those that want the band effect without a band, and the other is traditional. It is almost like, those play the piano just learning chords or learn to read music. My teacher is also a drum teacher, he accompanies me at times when I play to learn how to play with other instruments. I do have a DP that plays different instruments, it is easier to play with that then a real live drummer. I also have a Yamaha YUS 5, there is nothing like playing on a nice instrument. the sound of a real orchestra or band, there is nothing like it. I think there is use for both, but nothing takes the place of hearing the actual instrument. Keyboards just do not compare to an acoustic piano and synthesized drums are just not the same as a live drummer. Technology has its place, but sometimes it nice to get back to basics.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 11:21 PM

Richrf, I am lost again. If I buy say level 2 book and play it, but the book is changed later, I would not go back and purchase it since I already completed that level. I would think from surveys from users and teachers books are changed to improve the curriculum. I know in colleges books are updated, some are for money, others are to keep pace with the times, new data, andfeedback from users. Just my thoughts.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/17/18 11:31 PM

Quote
It becomes a business relationship, and people in a business relationship act in a business manner, i.e., with a eye toward increasing revenue and developing predictable cash flow. For example, I noticed how one particular music teacher would always pay special attention to child students, especially those who entered and win competitions, because this would increase hey visibility and desirability among other parents.


I sure this happens, but this is just wrong. I would hope the teacher would take more pride in their work than just for a check or exposure. I have been in several areas of nursing from patient care to administration. I have always looked out for the best interest of the patient and not their ability to pay. We are dealing with people, professionals need to have high ethical standards, unfortunately this does not happen all the time. I wonder if the others were charged less because the student did not receive "special attention."

Thanks for your comments.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 12:17 AM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Richrf, I am lost again. If I buy say level 2 book and play it, but the book is changed later, I would not go back and purchase it since I already completed that level. I would think from surveys from users and teachers books are changed to improve the curriculum. I know in colleges books are updated, some are for money, others are to keep pace with the times, new data, andfeedback from users. Just my thoughts.


Textbooks are updated to outdate old books. It's a simple matter of planned obsolescence. Technology has adopted a similar strategy though a bit more ferociously. All with the goal of ensuring regular cash flow.

However, if you wish to hold onto the concept of the benevolent business (or government), who am I to argue.
Posted By: TheophilusCarter

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 12:48 AM

How often does RCM update its piano syllabus? I'm seeing 2015, 2008, 2001. Am I missing some in-betweeners?
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 12:50 AM

This has been stated a few ways before, and I'd like to put it onto perspective too. smile
Originally Posted by Richrf
It becomes a business relationship, and people in a business relationship act in a business manner, i.e., with a eye toward increasing revenue and developing predictable cash flow. For example, I noticed how one particular music teacher would always pay special attention to child students, especially those who entered and win competitions, because this would increase hey visibility and desirability among other parents. Thus, the monetary value of students created a bias for her energy and attention. It's true same in all professions. Money gets the energy and attention.

In this particular topic we have the organization(s), and the teachers. The focus here is on the teachers.

People will practise any profession for a number of reasons, including just to make money. There are musicians who teach because they can't make enough money performing, and there are teachers who teach because that is what they want to do. Let's talk about the latter.

If you actually talk to teacher, you find a lot of them get motivated and demoralized by similar things. The teachers I talk to want to build their students' skill over time, help them to eventually enjoy music even after they leave them, because they have learned enough. When they can do that, it is motivating. They will run into students who have been forced to be there by their parents and don't want to learn; parents who don't cooperate by even buying their child an instrument; who interfere by "reteaching" or pressuring their child or making it impossible to practise. This is demoralizing. They may get adult students with unrealistic ideas who won't work with them, or who quit after a few weeks because they didn't realize how much regular work and cooperation it takes - that is also demoralizing to the wish to work with someone long enough, so the preference for child students can happen that way. This is one part of the story.

You have the surrounding market forces. Locally everybody might be competing for whose child can get through grade levels fastest with the highest grades in exams or biggest wins in competitions. If you teach solidly and well, you might be left behind with almost no students. Tongues may wag about you teaching "less well" because the customers don't understand how music actually works. Other variants of the same. You'll see teachers moan about "transfer students" who are the fallout from those trends.

A teacher who makes a living from teacher will have to accept students who don't want to learn, whose parents don't support their learning, who make teaching difficult - because if you reject too many customers you won't survive. This has nothing to do with ambition, though there are always the ambitious ones, playing that particular game. The dream is to have enough students so that you don't have to teach someone who doesn't want to learn. That is not the same thing as wanting to teach only "talented" students. In fact, in some quarters I've heard that talented students might be more complicated and difficult to teach in some ways.

This is a broad perspective of what I've seen.

For other professions, you will see craftsmen who cannot practise their craft according to the standards they would like to hold, which would give them pleasure, because of larger commercial forces that run the show.
Posted By: bSharp(C)yclist

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 12:59 AM

Originally Posted by TheophilusCarter
How often does RCM update its piano syllabus? I'm seeing 2015, 2008, 2001. Am I missing some in-betweeners?


Every 7 years.
Posted By: keystring

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 01:00 AM

Originally Posted by TheophilusCarter
How often does RCM update its piano syllabus? I'm seeing 2015, 2008, 2001. Am I missing some in-betweeners?

I'm not up to date either.

When I was studying the instrument that was done under RCM, that would have been roughly 2001 - 2007 (almost 2008). I did the theory exams I think in 2006 - intermediate & advanced rudiments in the same year. For the 2nd exam I had to scramble because they changed things - what was covered in the exams was expanded, and my theory book was outdated. I studied like mad for 2 weeks to catch up to everything I was missing. So there was some kind of change within that time frame.

I was doing harmony theory after I left, working with another teacher less formally on these things. When I transitioned to level 2 and went for the next book, I discovered it had changed again. I think it was a matter of catching up, rather than "to make money". The theory I studied initially was behind the times in a few ways. They introduced the "jazz chords" in maybe half a page, and awkwardly, seven chords were a few lines - everything was Roman Numerals. Music has moved beyond that some time ago.

The newest version in the 2nd harmony book I got added "jazz chords" and also movable Do solfege syllables in order to be able to follow melodic line. The RCM doesn't publish the books. The music store was a bit cheesed off, though, because they didn't know about the change until last minute, so they had lots of books from the old syllabus on their shelf which were now no longer applicable for preparing for the new exams (were one to go that route). The excellent Sclater series did not update, so I don't know what that did to them. I got a nice low price for book 2, however.
Posted By: TheophilusCarter

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 01:16 AM

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by TheophilusCarter
How often does RCM update its piano syllabus? I'm seeing 2015, 2008, 2001. Am I missing some in-betweeners?


Every 7 years.

Thanks. FWIW, that seems pretty reasonable to me.
Posted By: bSharp(C)yclist

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 01:23 AM

Originally Posted by TheophilusCarter
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by TheophilusCarter
How often does RCM update its piano syllabus? I'm seeing 2015, 2008, 2001. Am I missing some in-betweeners?


Every 7 years.

Thanks. FWIW, that seems pretty reasonable to me.


I would agree, better than college textbooks, they come out with new versions each year I think smile

I wonder what RCM's process is then to decide what to add/delete/move. I suppose they take a look at what students played and how well they did. If they score too high, maybe they move it down a level ... no idea though. I know pieces have changed levels, according to my teacher.
Posted By: TheophilusCarter

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 01:30 AM

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist

I would agree, better than college textbooks, they come out with new versions each year I think smile

laugh It depends on the discipline. Those pesky scientists are always updating things, but I teach philosophy, so I'm still using 2500 year old texts! wink
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist

I wonder what RCM's process is then to decide what to add/delete/move. I suppose they take a look at what students played and how well they did. If they score too high, maybe they move it down a level ... no idea though. I know pieces have changed levels, according to my teacher.

I came across something when I was searching yesterday about this, and I think they also put out surveys to get teacher feedback. That seems like good pedagogy to me.
Posted By: Richrf

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 03:12 AM

ABRMS just released their 2019-2020 book, obsoleting the 2017-2018 book. I thought I might mention this because it was mysteriously ignored.

When it comes to making money (and in some cases survival), people do what they do. I am just an observer learning from it all.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/18/18 03:50 AM

Keystrings, I agree. I had taught online nursing school for the RNs going to their BSN (bachelor's degree). Some were there because he/she wanted to obtain a BS degree, others because they were required to get a BSN to keep their job. 2 year RNs with only the associate degree would not have a job. There is a move toward the BSN and more hospitals are hiring BSN nurses only. I could tell a difference in the student who wanted to be there and the one that was there to keep their job.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/21/18 05:35 AM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
90125, it think of it as two different things, those that want the band effect without a band, and the other is traditional.
Technology has its place, but sometimes it nice to get back to basics.

Dear DFSRN, thank you for stating your point of view so calmly.

I agree that for the musician/performer choice of the instrument is quite important. It is also important for the audience if they are viewing, not just listening. But things have changed so much that without visual cues even professional musicians cannot tell the difference, never mind the non-professional listeners. The synthesizers do need to have the appropriate controllers, e.g. for drums the pads not the keys like the Clavinovas.

But there's this portion of tradition that is socially quite counter-productive. The traditional piano-based musical education historically necessitated the practice indoor (because of heavy, expensive instrument), away from the windows (because the instrument gets out of tune quicker). Many school practice rooms are window-less with padded walls. This really makes it feel like mental hospital or punishment cell within a prison.

The technology progress obviated all that, modern keyboard is nearly as portable and sociable as a guitar. We are probably just a decade or two away from availability of waterproof keyboards suitable for backpacking.

The other hindrance of traditional approach is the attitude towards various ease-of-use and ease-of-learning innovations. Many traditionalists scoff at the "follow-the-lights" gamification of a piano and therefore dismiss Clavinovas CSP & CVP as inappropriate and insist on only buying the CLP. But it is one of the best inventions that prevents the keyboard instrument from becoming a furniture. Traditionally many instruments at home end with aftermarket locks on the fallboard and the power cords disconnected because "kids don't play nice". It happens to Clavinovas CLP and Disklaviers, but I have yet to see it happen to Clavinova CSP and CVP. It really changes the social dynamics in the household. From "hard to find partner for a duet" to "queue of volunteers trying to test their hands at play-playing". And most importantly from "remind the kids to practice piano" to "remind the kids to eat and don't eat at the piano".

Likewise for the various "performance assistants", "concert magic", "smart chords", "simplified chord fingerings" and other ease-of-use technologies. Again traditionalists scoff at them, but they are used both by the amateurs and the professionals. Amateurs use them to help overcome the stage fright. And professionals will use them when they have a bad day as a safety feature.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/21/18 07:19 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
I thought I'd explained in depth - more than once - what ABRSM is all about (a classical graded syllabus & examination system for pianists and classical musicians), but evidently you haven't understood a word, and keep confusing it with a pop/rock/jazz program of instruction for keyboard players.

Then why it isn't saying so on the tin?

I checked the ABRSM web site's home page and piano page and the word "classical" wasn't used even once.

Either you habitually misrepresent them or the UK Office of Fair Trading should be alerted about the lack of proper consumer warnings on the tin.

Originally Posted by Sibylle
I apologise for the off-topic, but I just have to say it: I LOVE your username Not my favourite album, but my all-time favourite band!

Thank you very kindly. The whole thread decoding people's usernames was actually hidden from your radar in the "Digital Pianos" subforum: "What's in a nym?"

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2787924/1.html

Anyway, back to the "classical" music education around the globe. By way of contrast I wanted to show how this is getting done in Russia. I'm only hemi-demi-semi-quaver-literate in Russian, but I've found this digging around for various educational aids:
Code
Andante 12-8_E453.sty
Baroque Adagio_E453.sty
Electronic Free Play2_E453.sty
Middle Tempo Waltz_E453.sty
Minuetto_E453.sty
Pastoral Waltz_E453.sty
Инструкция.txt

E453 stands for Yamaha PSR-E453 synthesizer that they recommend to the beginning students of music at some schools there. The titles are somewhat self-explanatory and they rather don't evoke pop/rock/jazz curriculum.

The "Electronic Free Play" bears more explanation. It is a rhythm-free style that allows as slow (or as fast) as one wishes. It is used in the exercises teaching the classical Western music harmony. They simply go much faster and are much easier when done with instrument sounds with infinite sustain. Trying to teach the same with the piano sound with attack and release goes much slower and requires more repeats both from the teacher and from the student.

Modern Russian "piano school" has changed, but the knowledge about the changes didn't yet spread to the English-speaking schools.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/21/18 12:16 PM

Originally Posted by 90125
Originally Posted by bennevis
I thought I'd explained in depth - more than once - what ABRSM is all about (a classical graded syllabus & examination system for pianists and classical musicians), but evidently you haven't understood a word, and keep confusing it with a pop/rock/jazz program of instruction for keyboard players.

Then why it isn't saying so on the tin?

I checked the ABRSM web site's home page and piano page and the word "classical" wasn't used even once.

Either you habitually misrepresent them or the UK Office of Fair Trading should be alerted about the lack of proper consumer warnings on the tin.



Did you not look at the syllabus?

It's self-evident. As is the fact that "synthesizers" (which are your main interest) are not mentioned once.

Not everything has to be spelled out in black and white.
Posted By: Bluoh

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/24/18 06:34 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by 90125
Originally Posted by bennevis
I thought I'd explained in depth - more than once - what ABRSM is all about (a classical graded syllabus & examination system for pianists and classical musicians), but evidently you haven't understood a word, and keep confusing it with a pop/rock/jazz program of instruction for keyboard players.

Then why it isn't saying so on the tin?

I checked the ABRSM web site's home page and piano page and the word "classical" wasn't used even once.

Either you habitually misrepresent them or the UK Office of Fair Trading should be alerted about the lack of proper consumer warnings on the tin.



Did you not look at the syllabus?

It's self-evident. As is the fact that "synthesizers" (which are your main interest) are not mentioned once.

Not everything has to be spelled out in black and white.


To clarify (if this is out of context, then please disregard, as I've read the last few posts in the thread only), if you look up the composers and pieces on the syllabus, those pieces cannot be played on a synthesizer simply because of the speed and number of keys required.

In the Classical world, Classical music means something specific (there's Romantic, Post modern, Modern, etc) which, to the lay person, falls under Classical music. But perhaps they could make their website a bit more lay-person friendly as well.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/24/18 09:21 PM

Originally Posted by Bluoh

To clarify (if this is out of context, then please disregard, as I've read the last few posts in the thread only), if you look up the composers and pieces on the syllabus, those pieces cannot be played on a synthesizer simply because of the speed and number of keys required.

No, it's because synthesizers have no touch sensitivity and don't respond anything like acoustic pianos. They are like electric organs but with lots more funny sounds. Most have spring-loaded keys. You can play just as fast on synthesizers - probably even faster - as on acoustics. (Have you heard Carlo Curley?)

But you can play the pieces on good digital pianos, which have touch-sensitive keys and emulate most of an acoustic's attributes.

BTW, there are synthesizers that have 88 keys.

Quote
In the Classical world, Classical music means something specific (there's Romantic, Post modern, Modern, etc) which, to the lay person, falls under Classical music. But perhaps they could make their website a bit more lay-person friendly as well.

In common usage, 'classical' has come to mean any 'art music' and encompasses Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic.....all the way up to Contemporary. Usually, musicians would say "music from the Classical era" if they are talking about.......music from the Classical era.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/24/18 09:55 PM

Thanks keystrings, I have taught in an corporate environment and the academic. I currently work for the federal government in employee development. Sometimes teaching is guiding someone and then there is that spark and an interest develops. I did not want to learn piano at an early age, I started again at 54 and now in my 5th year. That piano/violin lesson experience was invaluable as a child, I picked it up later in life. One employee I mentored for 3 years finished her degree and we published her research. I cultivated an interest in publishing for her. It does not mean the teacher is unsuccessful if the student does not take an interest at that time, the mere exposure may help later. There are truly gifted people, but it is the ones that struggle to learn and have the motivation and drive to succeed are the ones that I am interested in mentoring. Nothing comes easy for me, I have to work hard at it. I tell those who complain something is hard, if it was easy everyone would do it. When it comes to adults, the learn to play quick may brain wash them. Society wants instant gratification, but some skills take longer than a couple of years. The woman in my health class I attend on Saturday mornings, about 60 years old, was talking about exercise, I asked what type she did, she was a black belt in one of the marital arts. Took her over 5 years to get the belt. People generally do not get good at something by accident.
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/24/18 10:20 PM

Quote
The traditional piano-based musical education historically necessitated the practice indoor (because of heavy, expensive instrument), away from the windows (because the instrument gets out of tune quicker). Many school practice rooms are window-less with padded walls. This really makes it feel like mental hospital or punishment cell within a prison.

The technology progress obviated all that, modern keyboard is nearly as portable and sociable as a guitar.

The other hindrance of traditional approach is the attitude towards various ease-of-use and ease-of-learning innovations. Many traditionalists scoff at the "follow-the-lights" gamification And most importantly from "remind the kids to practice piano" to "remind the kids to eat and don't eat at the piano".


Thanks for your response. The practice rooms that are dungeon like too bad the students do not complain about it on their exit survey or put in complaints to the department head. Things change more rapidly if students complaint compared to an employee complaints. There is nothing like a nice instrument, I have a YUS 5, I could play it in a dungeon. I get lost when I play. However, having a nice environment is beneficial.

Good thing keyboard are now portable. Compared to the violinist, you never know what you are going to play on if you don't bring your own instrument. This past Sunday I played at the nursing home, a 2 piano duet with my teacher. He bought his keyboard, good thing the C below middle C was not working and it did through me off. DPs are nice, have lots of features, but do not feel like the acoustic. There are those that may not be looking for that, but I have never seen a DP at a symphony.

Understand if you follow the lights you will most likely will not get good at reading music, probably don't need a teacher, and most likely are not that interested in learning to play the piano well. If they could not bring the lights piano, it would be difficult to play. It becomes a crutch, you can't play without it.

To study piano to be good is like anything else, you need to want it and then work at it. People find out what it is and then think, it is too much work for them.

Respectfully,
Posted By: Bluoh

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/25/18 01:02 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Bluoh

To clarify (if this is out of context, then please disregard, as I've read the last few posts in the thread only), if you look up the composers and pieces on the syllabus, those pieces cannot be played on a synthesizer simply because of the speed and number of keys required.

No, it's because synthesizers have no touch sensitivity and don't respond anything like acoustic pianos. They are like electric organs but with lots more funny sounds. Most have spring-loaded keys. You can play just as fast on synthesizers - probably even faster - as on acoustics. (Have you heard Carlo Curley?)

But you can play the pieces on good digital pianos, which have touch-sensitive keys and emulate most of an acoustic's attributes.

BTW, there are synthesizers that have 88 keys.

Quote
In the Classical world, Classical music means something specific (there's Romantic, Post modern, Modern, etc) which, to the lay person, falls under Classical music. But perhaps they could make their website a bit more lay-person friendly as well.

In common usage, 'classical' has come to mean any 'art music' and encompasses Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic.....all the way up to Contemporary. Usually, musicians would say "music from the Classical era" if they are talking about.......music from the Classical era.


Aren't synthesizers like non-weighted keyboards? If so, I find them awkward and clunky, and personally do not believe that I play as fast as on an acoustic.

I'm also talking about the tiny composing synthesizers (around one octave I believe), which was what the colloquial term for synthesizer means where I live.

And I will respectfully disagree with your last point - classical music in a colloquial term may mean something slightly different from people from different parts of the world, but to the lay person it literally just refers to the genre that is not pop/rap/jazz/etc. Would you count gregorian chants as classical?

Anyways, I'm not looking to start one of those internet arguments with you, as we can both just agree to disagree. I merely wanted to clarify for the user who seemed to be shot down and not understanding why.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/27/18 05:44 AM

Originally Posted by DFSRN
The practice rooms that are dungeon like too bad the students do not complain about it on their exit survey or put in complaints to the department head.
The thing is that this doesn't happen only in schools or otherwise in situations where monetary transactions are involved. I personally observed families where the piano education seems to be a somewhat ritualized child abuse.

The tradition that the piano has to kept away from the windows is still prevailing. You can check it for yourself how many people play a digital piano and put it flush right in front of a wall. With your upright you don't care, you'll still be staring straight into blackness. But I'm positive that many kids do care, they just can't express it clearly.

The exceptions are super-rare: two days ago somebody posted here their 11y.o. kid performing on a digital piano at the lakeside with a full open view.

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2794851/1.html

Incidentally, amongst my schoolmates those that completed their piano-based musical education both had rather small upright (like Yamaha b1, but light woodgrain) positioned next to the window, against all sensible advice. The prevailing instrument looked like Yamaha P22, but in black and placed safely.

Originally Posted by DFSRN
but I have never seen a DP at a symphony.
Blame the musical directors at the venues near you. Here's two random links with Rick Wakeman performing with full symphony orchestra & choir on both acoustic and electronic keyboards:

in 1975: (I don't think any of his synths was digital then)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP64j589WPk
in 2009: (one can clearly see the the well known brand names in digital)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4RzTa64PV4

It is a shame that Youtube deletes pretty much everything from his concerts that has good technical quality and continues uninterrupted for the whole performance. In case they get deleted the titles to search are "King Arthur" and "Anne Boleyn".

Originally Posted by DFSRN
Understand if you follow the lights you will most likely will not get good at reading music,
It becomes a crutch,

For some, yes, it is a crutch. For others, no, it is more like training wheels for a bicycle.

Personally, I think it is too early to judge the lasting impact of this technology. It is like those flotation sleeves for kids. Some people never learn to swim and they just progress through the larger and larger flotation devices.

The people who never learn to read music (at speed) typically are just ones that would play by ear no matter what. I'm thinking that this has more to do with the neural pathways in the brain that the teaching style or musical instrument.

On the other hand all the "lighted keys" keyboards that I've seen also have an LCD display of the played notes/chords on a short double staff. It is a great aid for the visual learners, those who play "by eye" can learn to read sheet music faster that way.
Posted By: Ojustaboo

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/27/18 12:23 PM

I've read a lot of this thread, and would like to give my input.

To save repeating myself, I have just posted in the "why do you play the Piano" thread where I explain how for me, a combination of what was expected from me at home, and how boring I found the ABRSM drove me away from the piano.

My post is here My post

The jist of it was, I found the music totally boring, passed grade 1, was working on grade 2, tried to get my teacher to also let me learn Scott Joplin's The Entertainer, she had zero interest in it and said it was too advanced for me.

I managed to teach myself the first half of it in just a few hours, that was 45 years ago and I can still play it from memory today.

Due to how boring and uninteresting I found the music I was expected to learn, I simply gave up (never minded learning the scales)

So I read the first 3 pages of posts in this thread with interest.

I actually think to a point, the views of those who think like "Bennevis" and those who think like "precise" are equally valid.

I will try to explain.

My sister had the same piano teacher as I did. She now teaches the piano. The ABRSM worked 100% perfectly for her, she thrived learning it etc etc etc. Yet for me it was the complete opposite, it killed my passion for learning the piano.

The piano teacher must have been doing a good job, otherwise I doubt my sister would have achieved all she has.

I also severely struggled at school, I just didn't seem to click with the way most subjects were taught. It also didn't help that the infant school I first attended, tried an experimental way of teaching my class to read, called ITA, that bore zero resemblance to how any normal person would learn to read.

In the past couple of years I have spoken to two very very good retired teachers about my experience at school, both said exactly the same thing. Putting it into my own words, they basically said "The way the schools are set up is to stream people through it using a certain criteria. That works very well for about 60 - 70% of pupils. Unfortunately for the other 30 - 40%, there is nothing in place for them and they are effectively forgotten about"

I went to a fairly rough UK school in the 70's, there was a lot of discipline problems, a lot of disruptive pupils etc. But one thing always stuck in my mind. Some teachers knew their subject matter very well, but had zero skill in holding the classes attention, and would spend more time trying to control the class than actually teaching them. Then you had the teachers that were quite good at keeping the class controlled, and quite good at teaching.

Then you had teachers with a knack of keeping control. I remember my English teacher well. To me, at the time, she seemed like the oldest person in the school, but the reality is of course that at that age, she might only have been 40 smile. She had some of the roughest out of control pupils in her class, she never ever had to send anyone out, never ever had to give a detention and never ever let any of us disrupt her class, and she spent very very little time achieving this.

And finally you had what I call the best teachers. Those that could both control the class, and when certain pupils are really struggling, ignore whats been said about pupil xyz in the staff room, and instead encourage these pupils that feel useless etc that they are capable, they are good enough etc.

The point to the above is, many kids leave school, go on to college and Uni, get all the exams, then go on to be teachers themselves. While on paper they are 100% qualified, the reality of being a teacher is totally different, some will have a natural ability to relate to the kids, some will learn it, ans some won't. You will have people from all the categories I've just talked about (and of course there's categories I've missed).

I read a post in this thread saying that people don't teach piano for the money or don't become doctors for the money, that I disagree with to a point.

The sort of teacher I described as being my favourite sort is the teachers that has a passion for the kids to learn, regardless of how many other teachers have written those kids off etc. That sort of teacher, whether teaching the piano, or teaching maths will have gone into the profession with a real passion for educating the kids, and for those teachers then yes I agree they haven't gone into the job for the money, they have gone into it for their passion.

But sadly from my experience (in many different areas) they are few and far between.

Likewise many people go into the health profession due to a passion of helping others, often as a result of the care they themselves received as a child when ill etc. However many many more do make their decision to choose that career path because there's a lot of money to be made.

A good friend of mine. his wife is a GP (Doctor in the UK) . Her entire family are doctors and from an early age they were encouraged to go this route as it will give them financial security, that is the only reason his wife went into this profession.

Likewise a family member was a piano teacher and their sole aim was to make as much money as they can, try to charge as much as they can get away with etc, and many ,any teachers do fall into this category (and of course many also fall into the category of really having a passion for passing on their talent to others) .

One of my biggest hates in life is those people who say " when I did "xyz" I did it this way and it worked fine for me, therefore it must work fine for everyone else", or someone who behaves in a certain way in a certain situation and then says "I managed to act like abc, therefore if you didn't, there's something wrong with you" etc. Not sure those are good explanations of what I mean, I'll try again.

Put 10 random people in the same situation, and there may be 10 different reactions, there may be 5 different reactions, their could just be the same reaction from all 10, but its very doubtful.

Lets say a man is walking down the road, a complete stranger comes up to him, shouts abuse in his face, says horrible things about the person he's married to etc. Some men would feel really threatened and carry on walking. Other men wouldn't feel threatened, but would think he's an idiot and still keep walking. Another man might turn round and thump him. I say all of those actions are justified. However, many would be of the opinion that because they didn't thump him, any one else that did, must be wrong. Again not the best example, but I'm trying to show how we all react differently under the same situation as we are all built differently, we all have different personalities.

For many many people, things like the ABRSM will be the perfect solution for them, as people like Bennevis has shown, for them it worked very very well. Yet for many others (myself included) it was the worst thing ever for me and did real damage to my piano passion in my early life. Neither of us are wrong, we are simply all different.

The problem comes at spotting those for who it isn't working for, and changing their teaching to something that does. However I suspect many (not all) teachers that teach ABRSM, only really know that particular method to teach, hence a real problem arises.

It doesn't matter how many people successfully use ABRSM, if many pupils who don't get on with it experience what I experienced (ABRSM or nothing), then yes, it does become a major problem.


While of course I appreciate that when it comes to playing the piano and passing exams, it's much more than doing a written test (if you can't play the music, you're not going to pass) , I have always struggled to always see the point of a piece of paper claiming a person is at a certain grade (this applies to anything).

But I am very biased in this respect as due to a troubled home life, I didn't really learn anything at school past 13 and I left school at 15 without an exam to my name.

In the 80s, if I wanted to go for a job, I could walk into most places, often have the interview there and then, those places where I had to book one, I could go along and sell myself. I was never out of work, sure I've done some menial jobs in my time, but I also quickly worked my way up in many places I worked.

If you wanted to work in say Mc Donalds in the 80s, you could walk in, ask if they had a job, and that was it. Whereas, now (at least in the UK) , jobs that don't really need qualifications, are demanding applicants have them, putting them through what I call stupid interviews (using modern workplace talk, and silly personality profiles) , and basically excluding a large percentage of the workforce from ever being given a chance all because they didn't do well at school.

To me, if you now need an exam to do an unskilled job, it makes the worth of the knowledge of the exam it's self, totally meaningless.

I've always had a natural ability in maths, but didn't really go to class past 13. I was sitting at home with my leg in plaster at about 18 when an advert for this home computer course came on the TV, Within a month I had my first computer, a Commodore Vic 20. And I taught myself to program in assembly language in it, and the maths I needed I learn't in a matter of hours.

Roll on a few years and I ended up as Senior Systems Analyst and Operations Manager with 23 staff reporting directly to me, totally in charge of a multi million pound super computer installation. Not having the exam did make getting my foot in the door a lot harder, at the same time I have met many many many so called qualified people with various exams in IT that are totally useless and haven't got a clue. These people have simply learned what they need to learn to pass the exam, but have learnt nothing about the subject as a whole.

Likewise I have wanted to go for jobs that I know I can do backwards only for the agency to tell me that they are only allowed to send uni grads to that particular job, it's their loss, not mine.

Sure, in many jobs exams are very important to show you are at a certain level, it doesn't matter how skilled someone says they are, if they cant pass an exam for say medication, then they should never be allowed near patients. But for many other jobs, while exams show someone has taken a particular route to get to where they are today, it doesn't always mean they are better than someone else who doesn't have that piece of paper (and in many cases might be a lot worse)

You want a good pianist for a particular thing. Fine, advertise, say you want someone grade whatever. But if someone turns up without that qualification and tells you to just hear them play, I suspect that in many situations like that the player will turn out to be just as good as the one with the certificate (and sometimes will be a lot better) .

I have a friend who I reckon could pass almost any exam. He has the knack of reading up on whats needed, remembering it and waltzing through any exam he takes (without knowing the subject at all). Then you get people like me, who hate written exams, never do well at them, yet know the subject matter really well.

I'm rambling a bit now.

An exam is a good starting point for those needing a skilled person, but if they insist on the exam and exclude everyone else, they will be missing out on some really really talented individuals.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/27/18 11:06 PM

Originally Posted by 90125
The people who never learn to read music (at speed) typically are just ones that would play by ear no matter what. I'm thinking that this has more to do with the neural pathways in the brain that the teaching style or musical instrument.

It is possible that parts of the brain is responsible for the slowness, but poor teaching has more to do with it.

In the ideal world, students should be able to read notes fluently and play by ear effortlessly. With my current batch of beginners, I am trying to instill both skills almost simultaneously because in the past I have almost exclusively taught reading notes, so I get all these kids who are great at sight reading, but can't pull out a tune unless they have perfect pitch.
Posted By: 90125

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/28/18 05:27 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano

In the ideal world, students should be able to read notes fluently and play by ear effortlessly. With my current batch of beginners, I am trying to instill both skills almost simultaneously because in the past I have almost exclusively taught reading notes, so I get all these kids who are great at sight reading, but can't pull out a tune unless they have perfect pitch.

I believe you, but I understand that you are working mostly (or only) with kids/young people/amateurs.

The situation is different with adults or professional musicians/performers. At that level people may not learn to read sheet music (or pretend not to read) because of the social pressures related to belonging to certain circle.

I first observed this long time ago.

Performer: Let us hear the music!
90125: (showing the performer sheet music on the video feed)
P: I don't read invoices.
9: OK, but the audio feed will take time to get to work.
(pretty much everyone leaves,time passes,90125 works hidden from view)
9: (hearing the performer whistling the correct tune that he for sure haven't ever heard)
9: P, so you actually can read music!
P: Oh! Shhh! Don't tell anyone!
9: Why?
P: Because I would loose the respect I have as a professional.
9: ???
P: It is an important portion of my image.

Since then I observed similar situation many times. Once I got a lick of music theory I even started noticing when people use the Nashville notation to maintain the pretense of not understanding e.g. mixolydian mode or the conventional roman numeral notation. Likewise, I started noticing intentional derogatory names for sheet music and various

Once money, status, referrals, etc. get involved things are no longer so clear. The reading or not reading music is used to show the association with some subculture and give the sense of belonging. It is also used to enforce various requirement in terms of workflow during the production of the performance.
Posted By: Dr. Rogers

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? - 12/28/18 07:25 PM

Originally Posted by 90125

The situation is different with adults or professional musicians/performers. At that level people may not learn to read sheet music (or pretend not to read) because of the social pressures related to belonging to certain circle.


I have observed this phenomenon as well, especially in the bluegrass, old time, and Irish communities (alas for my misspent youth). Some (but by no means all) musicians in those communities look down on standard notation, deriding it as "fly specks" or, less derisively, "dots."

Never have I seen this phenomenon in classical circles, however. Some classical pianists may look down on performers who perform from sheet music rather than from memory, but that's a different can of worms.
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