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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
[quote=Tyrone Slothrop]
I've been following the RCM repertoire for the last 20 years. With each new publication, it's like the kids are getting dumber and dumber, and the RCM people recognize that kids are stupider and stupider. A level 6 certificate today is akin to a level 4 certificate from 20 years ago.


This is fascinating. I've done levels 5 and 6 of the RCM and study the level 7 technique and repertoire for the sake of learning it. Is there an archive of previous syllabi from RCM that show that evolution towards easier requirements?


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Originally Posted by WiseBuff
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
[quote=Tyrone Slothrop]
I've been following the RCM repertoire for the last 20 years. With each new publication, it's like the kids are getting dumber and dumber, and the RCM people recognize that kids are stupider and stupider. A level 6 certificate today is akin to a level 4 certificate from 20 years ago.


This is fascinating. I've done levels 5 and 6 of the RCM and study the level 7 technique and repertoire for the sake of learning it. Is there an archive of previous syllabi from RCM that show that evolution towards easier requirements?


I have a couple of piano teacher friends AND friends who have taken RCM who now have kids in the program. I could certainly ask them if they think the RCM has changed in terms of difficulty over the years. If anything I actually think kids are getting smarter over the years, not dumber. There’s so many examples of that in real like. I see that in so many of my friends’ kids as well.

However, I was just talking with my friend yesterday who did the RCM curriculum as a child, and we discussed my exam experience as an adult. I told her I had expected my examiner to be a mean old lady with greying hair tied up in a bun with spectacles positioned at the tip of her nose but instead got a very pleasant young man that didn’t frighten me at all. She said that in her day, some 20 odd years ago, she did get the mean old ladies. So things might have changed. According to her, the RCM feels less stuffy and more welcoming nowadays.

My own teacher also mentions “mean examiners” sometimes so I hope I don’t come across one!


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Originally Posted by Athdara
In my situation i think it was neither cheating the system nor was i cheating myself; in fact to a small extent i've always had the nagging feeling that i was the one being led along by teachers who were so caught up in a race to accumulate as many certificates for their students as possible.

Three years of lessons got me to grade 8 (abrsm). So i had my first "proper" lesson when i was 22. Then, i only knew how to blunder through "Fur Elise", nothing else, and i had no idea what to look out for when choosing a piano teacher. The first led me through grades 3 and 5 in two years; i had no idea what i'd learnt apart from the pieces i had to play for the exams. Realising i knew nothing and had learnt little, i looked for a second teacher and told him i wanted to start from scratch. Somehow i got so intimidated by him that i unquestioningly obeyed whatever he said, so within the year of lessons with him he made me sit for my grade 8 exam. Then he wanted me to continue, and i said i wanted to retake the exam and learn things properly, but he kept pushing me to pursue a diploma. Knowing things would get nowhere, i stopped lessons with him.

That was more than 7 years ago. Although i'm now learning many new pieces from various genres and of various levels of difficulty under a new teacher, i feel like i've lost out on so much and whatever i do now can't buy back that lost time.


That sucks. I can see it happening though. Around here, some schools post their students’ marks on their website to show how good the teachers and students are. They also post which teacher had gold medal students. I find that (posting marks) distasteful but hey, I guess results matter.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 04/05/20 12:23 PM.

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My previous teacher mentioned something similar, that some lower level pieces moved to a higher levels. That some pieces were too easy and should be moved to a lower level. I don't recall her saying the opposite for any piece. She's pretty familiar with the system. She used to live in Toronto and worked with RCM.


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Ok here’s what I found out. Of course, these are just the opinions of 2 of my friends. I spoke with my friend who has taught piano here in Toronto since the early 90s. Of course she did RCM because that was just what kids did back then. And so do her kids now, and so do her students. Another RCM grad and her kids too. Same opinion from both of them. Some things are easier, some things are harder. The songs are pretty much the same, but they do move songs from one level to another, sometimes up, sometimes down. They also thought ear tests seemed easier now but sight reading seems harder. They also sometimes add new things and take away old things. So it is hard to say it’s getting easier over the years as a blanket statement.

I didn’t ask my own teacher yet. Maybe I’ll ask her at my next lesson.


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Originally Posted by Athdara
In my situation i think it was neither cheating the system nor was i cheating myself; in fact to a small extent i've always had the nagging feeling that i was the one being led along by teachers who were so caught up in a race to accumulate as many certificates for their students as possible.

Three years of lessons got me to grade 8 (abrsm). So i had my first "proper" lesson when i was 22. Then, i only knew how to blunder through "Fur Elise", nothing else, and i had no idea what to look out for when choosing a piano teacher. The first led me through grades 3 and 5 in two years; i had no idea what i'd learnt apart from the pieces i had to play for the exams. Realising i knew nothing and had learnt little, i looked for a second teacher and told him i wanted to start from scratch. Somehow i got so intimidated by him that i unquestioningly obeyed whatever he said, so within the year of lessons with him he made me sit for my grade 8 exam. Then he wanted me to continue, and i said i wanted to retake the exam and learn things properly, but he kept pushing me to pursue a diploma. Knowing things would get nowhere, i stopped lessons with him.

That was more than 7 years ago. Although i'm now learning many new pieces from various genres and of various levels of difficulty under a new teacher, i feel like i've lost out on so much and whatever i do now can't buy back that lost time.

This happens a lot. I'm sorry that you had to suffer through this experience, but I can tell you from the number of Transfer Wrecks I've taken, your experience is quite common.


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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand


However, I was just talking with my friend yesterday who did the RCM curriculum as a child, and we discussed my exam experience as an adult. I told her I had expected my examiner to be a mean old lady with greying hair tied up in a bun with spectacles positioned at the tip of her nose but instead got a very pleasant young man that didn’t frighten me at all. She said that in her day, some 20 odd years ago, she did get the mean old ladies. So things might have changed. According to her, the RCM feels less stuffy and more welcoming nowadays.

My own teacher also mentions “mean examiners” sometimes so I hope I don’t come across one!

I did all my ABRSM grade exams as a kid many decades ago, and can attest that all my examiners, though of middle age or older (maybe one or two were younger, but to a kid they all looked aged..... smirk ), were pleasant, and all (tried to) put me at my ease. They probably all sensed that I suffered badly from performance anxiety - I recall more than one occasion when I had a false start (starting on a wrong note, despite having the score in front of me.....), mumbled an apology, and started again. I was never marked down for that, and there was no comment in the written reports about that either.


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Originally Posted by bennevis

I did all my ABRSM grade exams as a kid many decades ago, and can attest that all my examiners, though of middle age or older (maybe one or two were younger, but to a kid they all looked aged..... smirk ), were pleasant, and all (tried to) put me at my ease. They probably all sensed that I suffered badly from performance anxiety - I recall more than one occasion when I had a false start (starting on a wrong note, despite having the score in front of me.....), mumbled an apology, and started again. I was never marked down for that, and there was no comment in the written reports about that either.


That’s good to know! I really don’t want to have to deal with meanies! So far, so good.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 04/05/20 07:45 PM.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
I recall more than one occasion when I had a false start (starting on a wrong note, despite having the score in front of me.....), mumbled an apology, and started again. I was never marked down for that, and there was no comment in the written reports about that either.

In my December 2019 RCM Level 4 exam, I also had a false start and started over from the beginning. The examiner did not even note that on his grade report, although i had expected he would note it, especially as I was already about 8 or 9 measures into the piece when I started over from the beginning. I have no idea if he marked me down though since for each piece, I only get one number and there is no description what that number is comprised of. (I did tell the examiner that I was going to start over.)


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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
I recall more than one occasion when I had a false start (starting on a wrong note, despite having the score in front of me.....), mumbled an apology, and started again. I was never marked down for that, and there was no comment in the written reports about that either.

In my December 2019 RCM Level 4 exam, I also had a false start and started over from the beginning. The examiner did not even note that on his grade report, although i had expected he would note it, especially as I was already about 8 or 9 measures into the piece when I started over from the beginning. I have no idea if he marked me down though since for each piece, I only get one number and there is no description what that number is comprised of. (I did tell the examiner that I was going to start over.)


In my recent exam, I did stop in the middle of a piece (my fingers screwed up). I didn’t start again all the way from the beginning but started from the beginning of the section I screwed up. And I didn’t ask the examiner, I just did it.

This is what he wrote in the comments:

There was a small memory issue in the course of today's performance but you recovered admirably.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 04/05/20 10:56 PM.

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Update to my above post. Come to think of it now, my fingers didn’t screw up. My mind went blank. The examiner was correct. I was having memory problems with that piece before the exam and knew that if I screwed up any piece, it would be that one due to memory lapses. It just was not ingrained enough in my brain. And I’m sure he docked me marks for it, because the remaining comments were all positive.


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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
There was a small memory issue in the course of today's performance but you recovered admirably.

Nice. Way to sugarcoat it.


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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
There was a small memory issue in the course of today's performance but you recovered admirably.

Nice. Way to sugarcoat it.


In piano pedagogy class (I think it was semester 3 of 4), we practiced being judges for student performances. We were taught to be kind and supportive in our comments. Not "You suck at piano!", but "An admirable performance, but there is room for improvement."

You don't really get much time for each student. You have to think fast, write fast, and move on to the next. I've actually done it once for real now, judging a local competition when they couldn't find someone better! It was for a high school association, and we were warned that they considered a 70 a failing score, and that would have a big negative impact in other areas. I took that to mean they didn't want anyone to fail. All the students were good though, so I didn't have that problem. We had pre-printed scoring sheets, with space for comments. The judging became a numbers game, subtracting a point here and there. I adjusted my scores so that the 7 competitors finished in what I felt was the correct order. I think the other judge (also a student at the university), did the same thing. We were not allowed to confer.

So have a thought for the judge. If you don't get very detailed comments, maybe the judge just didn't have time...

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Originally Posted by Sam S
So have a thought for the judge. If you don't get very detailed comments, maybe the judge just didn't have time...

I spoke with my RCM examiner after my exam. It turns out he had come to Washington DC from Toronto for a week just to administer the exams. He told me they were supposed to complete all the examination scoring sheets online immediately during and after each exam. There was nothing that was supposed to be left until later to complete. The exams are also scheduled so there is a space between students for the examiner to do what they need for the last student before the next student shows up.


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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Sam S
So have a thought for the judge. If you don't get very detailed comments, maybe the judge just didn't have time...

I spoke with my RCM examiner after my exam. It turns out he had come to Washington DC from Toronto for a week just to administer the exams. He told me they were supposed to complete all the examination scoring sheets online immediately during and after each exam. There was nothing that was supposed to be left until later to complete. The exams are also scheduled so there is a space between students for the examiner to do what they need for the last student before the next student shows up.


My examiner was typing all comments in his laptop while I was playing. However, he was very late with every one of us around my timeframe. It was clear he didn’t have enough time with at least one examinee that made everyone thereafter late.


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Originally Posted by Sam S
In piano pedagogy class (I think it was semester 3 of 4), we practiced being judges for student performances. We were taught to be kind and supportive in our comments. Not "You suck at piano!", but "An admirable performance, but there is room for improvement."



I think that’s how it should be. If examiners routinely write, “You suck at piano!” or even something milder like, “That wasn’t very good!”, I’d suspect many students would just outright quit due to discouragement. You wouldn’t want to discourage young minds and make them quit. That would be bad for business (and not very nice). I believe in constructive criticism, not plain negativity.


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