Monday, July 19, 2010

ABRSM piano exams

Lesley-Anne sat for her Grade 6 piano practical exam last March and she attained a Merit. I thought I'd attach the score sheet here for readers who might be interested to know what it looks like. For the ABRSM piano exams from Grade 1-8, candidates have to prepare three set exam pieces (four for Grades 6 & 7), a list of scales, a sight-reading piece (basically a piece the examiner produces on the spot) and a series of aural items.

In the score sheet below, the first three are the exam pieces. I had posted video clips of Lesley-Anne playing her pieces here, if you're interested.

Lesley-Anne has come to her own decision to work towards her Grade 8 exam when she's in sec 3. When she first started lessons years ago, I never dared dream that she would reach this level. I can scarcely believe that she's actually here!

Exams though are simply goalposts. More importantly, I've always believed that music should be about appreciation and enjoyment. Before she reached Grade 5, I've had the feeling that playing the piano was just an additional CCA for her, she often had to be nagged at to practise, something I know is common among kids.

In the past year or so, I've seen a difference in Lesley-Anne. She's more inclined to try out new pieces on her own and has even looked up scores online for her favourite songs and printed them out to try. For her birthday, we bought her the piano music for Les Miserables and she was delighted.

She still doesn't practise as much as she should but it's great to see her sitting at the piano, tinkling on the keys because she wants to and not because she's obliged to. I think I can finally say that she now enjoys music for its own sake and she realises that being able to play the piano is a valuable tool to this end. Nothing more I can ask for!

28 comments:

Lilian said...

That's fantastic! I've heard of so many people saying they hated practising and gave up after reaching Grade 5.

I think Grade 5 seems to be the turning point; you either abhor it or you start to love it. LA is obviously in the latter camp. Happy for you guys :) I know how much this means to you.

monlim said...

Lilian: Thanks, I know! I'm so grateful. The dangers of emphasising only exams is that playing the piano becomes a chore and something to "get over with". So even though I know there are other kids who get much higher scores and at a younger age, it's really moot point if the kid ends up hating the piano and gives it up.

I'm still persevering with Andre, hopefully he will choose the same path too :)

Karmeleon said...

Wonderful! She was strong in most areas, esp scales except for the trickier aural. My daughter never did like to do those scales so always failed that section(!! grr!).

My boy's violin exams r in a few weeks. Guess who's nervous! haha! Afraid for his scales, afraid for his aural & sightreading. LOL. But would really heave a sigh of relief when it's over.

He gets quite a fair bit of motivation from school though, thru his cca and thru the music progrmame.

monlim said...

Karmeleon: You wouldn't believe how much nagging went into the practising of scales!

No need to stress, I'm sure your ds will do well in the exam since he's in the music programme :)

photocopygirl said...

wah, got score sheet some more?! i don't remember ever having them when i was taking piano lessons as a kid. one thing's for sure - i never knew how i could have passed theory or practical tests cos i'm pretty much tone deaf and couldn't tell time! i'd rather suspected that the teacher just wanted my parents' money. oh well. :)

good to hear that Lesley-Anne's INTERESTED in her music lessons!

rgds - kjj

monlim said...

KJJ: Our time also had score sheets for practical exams lah... but yes, our parents pretty much focused only on the exams, not the music!

Karmeleon said...

-> photocopy: Of course have scoresheets, lah. I still have "photocopies" of my scoresheets back in the early 1980s when I last took my piano exams. But you know - back then, the exam format was a little different. We had to do 4 pieces instead of 3. And we had to choose from either List A or List B, meaning we had to do ALL the pieces in either of the two lists, instead of 1 piece from List A, B, C like now.

Karmeleon said...

-> Monlim: at least nag, she will practise. haha.

Karmeleon said...

-> Monlim: I just re-read and realised you wrote that for grades 6 & 7, it's 4 pieces. Actually it's still just 3 pieces, even for g8. Here's the current grade 7 syllabus for your reference:
http://www.abrsm.org/regions/fileadmin/user_upload/syllabuses/piano0711.pdf

Jo said...

Well done Lesley-Anne. I can imagine it is pretty tough at the higher grades nowadays. I heard from our music teacher that the standards of theory and practical are a lot higher than during our time. Yes, the perennial problem of get them to practice without too much nagging...'cause we want our kids to enjoy the music..otherwise you end up finishing your G8 exams, selling the piano & never playing again !

Have decided after this year my kids (and me !) need a break from exams for a while. I spoke to a friend the other day and her daughter attends a popular music school where exams are not compulsory...the kids just work towards G8 !

I was told that there is a music center called "Believer Music" at Novena MRT. I think I might try it out sometime when my kids are a bit older. It sounds fun, informal & they have holiday keyboard programs as well ! May be it might be something that your kids might be interested in !

Jo

monlim said...

Karmeleon: I'm pretty sure we could choose the pieces from A or B even in our time and 4 pieces was only for Grades 6 & 7. But you're right, it's all 3 pieces now. What am I saying, for L-A's grade 6 exam, she only had 3 pieces, doh!

Jo: Yes, both the practical and theory are much tougher these days compared to our time. Glad to hear that you're letting your kids focus on enjoying the music! Although mine will never go for holiday keyboard classes lah... they will never go for holiday classes, full stop LOL.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to L_A on attianing the Merit for Grade 6! I'm so impressed with your scales scores, 19 out of 21!!!

Beside list A,B and C, there is also another alternative list, so its either 1 piece from the 4 categories.

Chris

monlim said...

Chris: Well, I tell L-A that scales are the most boring but they're also the easiest to score, just practise until you can play them in your sleep :P That's right, there're also the alternative pieces - I think there are lots more choices these days vs our time.

Karmeleon said...

Definitely more choices these days!

Trip down memory lane - I actually went to check my exam books for year 1981 & 1982. Interestingly, they printed the summary syllabus for ALL the grades on the inside cover. They don't do that now, prob bc now can chk website.

Yeah, MonLim: you are right, for grades 5 & below, only need to play 3 pieces, but no choices like today. Choice limited to the full 3 pieces from set of List A or 3 pieces from set of List B. For grades 6/7, full 4 pieces from either List A or List B. ABRSM increased flexibility in year 1982 by allowing alternatives to the no.4 song to be chosen.

And we had to buy the pieces separately for gr 8 - it's still that way for violin exams these days, but for piano grade 8, all the pieces are now in a exam book.

How things have changed!

monlim said...

Karmeleon: Yes, I remember having to buy separate pieces for gr 8, so much more convenient now! Although I'm baulking at the exam book price cos they include a CD. No need lah, I'm sure can find the recordings on Youtube :P

Karmeleon said...

wait to baulk at the exam FEES!!!!

monlim said...

Oh yeah, that too! Another reason not to take exams every year...

Anonymous said...

I have got to buy 2 exam books, cause my gal is playing one piece from the alternative list.

Hey Mon, did you happened to know the different between the ABRSM Diploma and the Higher Level Music for 'O' & 'A' levels? TIA.

Chris

monlim said...

Chris: Sorry, I've no idea. Wouldn't the syllabus be completely different? Maybe Karmeleon might know, she's the music expert :)

Karmeleon said...

I'm not a music expert ... but one of my boys is in the school music programme, altho' i'm not sure if he'll eventually offer Music for A-levels.

O & A-levels is essentially a music subject in school. It comprises of the practical exam (where there's performance with a main instrument PLUS either performance with a 2nd instrument or an Ensemble performance). There's also written paper which has history, composition, etc, and aural which is more difficult than our usual abrsm exam bc it includes writing out the piece they hear (just by ear - so must train perfect pitch).

ABRSM diploma - there's different diplomas you can take, right? performance, teaching, etc. And different levels, like Dip,ABRSM, LRSM, FRSM, etc. Others will take Trinity instead and that'd be ATCL/LTCL/FTCL, etc.

Depends on what your child wants. I don't think you can consider the O or A-levels music as any form of "diploma" and no one would engage a music teacher based on that qualification.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karmeleon,

Thank you for your reply. I didn't know there are so many different level of ABRSM Dip, I better go find out more, the piano teacher wants my gal to start the ABRSM Dip next year, but my gal is thinking of trying the Music Elective Programme. Dun think she can afford the time to take both, right?

Mon, thank you and I'm sorry to have taken up your space to post my question. ^_^

Chris

monlim said...

Chris: No problem at all! Your dd is really fast, diploma next year already? She must be very good. I'm not sure abt time constraints but I did MEP at A levels and then went on to take my LTCL so I guess you can do both but maybe give a little more time for her to prepare for her dip?

PS I mentioned before I didn't know the diff between Higher Music in schools and the diploma cos I think the syllabus has changed drastically for both since my time But Karmeleon is right, they're 2 very separate things.

Karmeleon said...

monlim: you take music at A-levels and you say you don't know about it??? ;-)

Chris: I don't see why can't take both dip & MEP? The MEP kids usually have to do 2 practical exams in one academic year. Your daughter can easily use one of the pieces she is working on and then another on a second instrument or if she can find friends to perform with her - then an ensemble performance instead of 2nd instrument.

She shouldn't need to spend all that much extra time as such. Meaning MEP and her own private lessons run well concurrently.

Hope that helps!

monlim said...

Karmeleon: Haha, wasn't trying to be modest, I heard that the MEP nowadays is completely different from when I took it donkey years ago mah! Don't think I'm in a position to advise anymore. Even the ABRSM syllabus has changed so much.

Anonymous said...

Mon: My gal is hard working lah, not that she is good. ;-P

karmeleon: Thanks for the details. You made it sound so easy..heehee.

Chris

Karmeleon said...

Chris: your girl does piano, right? Should be "easier" in a sense. Practise on her own. My son does violin, and for practical exams (MEP), he has to go find some senior and beg for an accompanist, leh. haha. No accompanist will have marks deducted(!!!).

It's "easy" too, bc if practising music is part of her life anyway, the MEP should not be so difficult and she shd be able to get a fairly good grade for it, and it contributes v favourably to the GPA.

Anonymous said...

Umm i noticed how in the exam sheet, there are numbers in brackets next to the highest mark, are those the lowest points you can get or does it go lower than that, or is it that that is the amount of points needed to pass?

monlim said...

The numbers in brackets are the passing marks.

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