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bernadette60614
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« on: October 11, 2017, 01:37:47 PM »

I've been taking piano lessons for a number of years and one of my frustrations is that I feel my progress has no "markers".  And, maybe it is an American thing, but I do like my markers.

I'm planning on taking the ABRSM exams.  Can anyone share with me their experiences?  How they prep?  The exams themselves?

Thanks!
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d_b_christopher
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2017, 05:05:41 AM »

I've been taking piano lessons for a number of years and one of my frustrations is that I feel my progress has no "markers".  And, maybe it is an American thing, but I do like my markers.

I'm planning on taking the ABRSM exams.  Can anyone share with me their experiences?  How they prep?  The exams themselves?

Thanks!

Dear bernadette60614,

Firstly, thank you for having the courage to post your question on a public forum. I will try my best to answer your question as fully as I can. Please bear in mind that being a US citizen, things might work a little differently for you than it is here in the UK.

The examination has eight levels split into three classification, with four professional qualifications.

Classifications

Pre-beginner
Prep-test

Beginner
Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3

Intermediate
Grade 4 and Grade 5

Advance
Grade 6, Grade 7 and Grade 8

Professional
ARSM, DipABRSM, LRSM, and FRSM

Standards

Grade 1 is the equivalent standard to a person in Year 2 (UK), 1st Grade (US).
(Don’t let this fool you in to thinking it is easy, as the requirements are still a little tough even for adults. i consider this the most important grade, as this is the one where examiners are most lenient, allowing you to learn how to 'do it')

Grade 3 is the equivalent standard to a person in Year 6 (UK), 5th Grade (US).

Grade 5 is the equivalent standard to a person in Year 11 (UK),10th Grade (Sophomore year) (US).

Grade 8 is the equivalent standard to a person in Year 13 (UK), 12th Grade (Senior year) (US).

ARSM is the equivalent standard to a person in at the start of first year bachelor’s degree.

DipABRSM is the equivalent standard to a person in at the end of first year bachelor’s degree.

LRSM is the equivalent standard to a person in at the end of third/fourth year bachelor’s degree.

FRSM is the equivalent standard to a person in at the end of a master’s degree.


The Exam: Graded

Pieces
You must choose and perform three pieces from the correct syllabus for the academic years specified.

Scales
You must study and perform from memory a selection of scales listed for that grades syllabus.

Sight-reading
You must, after reviewing the score for 30 seconds, perform a short piece of music not seen before selected by the examiner.

Aural
Short tests to check your ear. Though singing is a component, you are not judged by your ability to sing; rather, you are tested on your ability to respond to music.

The Exam: Professional

A recital is planned and performed consisting of pieces from the syllabus list. With exception to the ARSM, you must provide written notes, and be prepared to answer questions about the recital and the notes.  There is a quick study, which, after a short time studying the music, you must perform it to the examiner(s), also an exception for the ARSM.

The process is not scary, and the examiners are encouraged to be amiable and friendly. Remember you are paying them to listen, not judge.

---

I hope this helps you.

Any more questions and I will try to help as best I can.

All good wishes,

Dylan Christopher
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bernadette60614
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2017, 01:52:41 PM »

Thank you so much for replying.

The ABRSM is not highly regarded on this forum. However, I view my pianistic career is being more of a patchwork quilt assembled by toddlers than a rich tapestry.  The ABRSM is my pathway to building a more coherent knowledge base.

A few questions:

The aural testing.  I actually can barely clap in time to a rousing fight song, so this one concerns me the most.  Any tips on how to study for this?

The recital:  Is this the 3 pieces your referenced? The ABRSM website mentions that these not be performed by memory (and mine isn't reliable), so I wanted to confirm this.

Where is the theory component of the ABRSM?  I see mention of Grade 5 theory, but nothing before.

Finally, how best to prepare?  Specifically, how to "shape" my practice time.  Currently, I practice two hours a day and I'm working on a Mozart late sonata, a Schubert Impromptu, a Chopin nocturne and a Bach fugue.  I was considering devoting one hour a day to ABRSM prep, and adding an additional hour to my practice time to work on the remainder.

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d_b_christopher
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2017, 10:54:25 PM »

Quote
The aural testing.  I actually can barely clap in time to a rousing fight song, so this one concerns me the most.  Any tips on how to study for this?

Aural training in practice is a fundamental part of being a musician.  If you play music ‘properly’ these things come naturally, if not then we need some remedial work.

Obviously, a teacher would be the best option, but not all teachers work through aural thoroughly. If you do not have a teacher, or, have a teacher who is less than forthcoming, please consider the following free app:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.playnote.abrsm1&hl=en_GB

I am not an iPhone user so cannot provide an alternative, perhaps another forumite might be of assistance.

Quote
The recital:  Is this the 3 pieces your reference? The ABRSM website mentions that these not be performed by memory (and mine isn't reliable), so I wanted to confirm this.

For Grade 1 this is not really a recital, but could be treated as one if you want a challenge.  You choose three pieces from the list A, B, and C on the current syllabus and perform them to the examiner. They write comments; this is the most important part of the exam.  That said, in order to pass you need to study the other test also; a safe pass, passes everything.

Quote
Where is the theory component of the ABRSM?  I see mention of Grade 5 theory, but nothing before.

There exist graded theory tests up to grade 8.  In order to take grade 6 practical on any instrument, you need to take and pass grade 5 theory.  This is not a random element or barrier, but a requirement to play pieces at post grade 5 level efficiently.  Critical thinking is key at these levels, so understanding of the music is needed beyond note pressing.

Grade 1 does not need this, to pass grade 1 you need to play the correct notes in time.  You do not need to perform like Lang Lang, or Barenboim.

Quote
Finally, how best to prepare?  Specifically, how to "shape" my practice time.  Currently, I practice two hours a day and I'm working on a Mozart late sonata, a Schubert Impromptu, a Chopin nocturne and a Bach fugue.  I was considering devoting one hour a day to ABRSM prep, and adding an additional hour to my practice time to work on the remainder.

Honestly, without hearing you, I could not safely say what you could do, or how you can play.  Put it this way, there are some people who make all sorts of outlandish claims regarding repertoire, but, cannot sight-read from an ABRSM grade 1 sight reading book without fault.

Again, fire more questions and I will give you answers as best I can.

All good wishes,

Dylan Christopher
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bernadette60614
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2017, 11:10:19 PM »

Thank you, again!

I am going to take ABRSM Level One in April, but my teacher wants me to choose new pieces since I just performed the Mozart piano sonata no. 9, and the 3rd Schubert Impromptu in a student recital (not all that well, I had sinus surgery two days before, so there was codeine involved, but I felt that if I could actually perform under those conditions, I could perform without a pulsating head and drugs in future.)

I was considering choosing ABRSM pieces from the more advanced levels (I suspect I am about a 5 or 6).  Does the repertoire change frequently?  If I take the level 5 exam 3 years from now, e.g., would I have a reasonable chance of seeing the pieces on the repertoire 3 years from now that I'm choosing now?  (Sorry about the muddle..there is more codeine involved...)
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deandeblock
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« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2017, 10:13:44 PM »

Thank you, again!

I am going to take ABRSM Level One in April, but my teacher wants me to choose new pieces since I just performed the Mozart piano sonata no. 9, and the 3rd Schubert Impromptu in a student recital (not all that well, I had sinus surgery two days before, so there was codeine involved, but I felt that if I could actually perform under those conditions, I could perform without a pulsating head and drugs in future.)

I was considering choosing ABRSM pieces from the more advanced levels (I suspect I am about a 5 or 6).  Does the repertoire change frequently?  If I take the level 5 exam 3 years from now, e.g., would I have a reasonable chance of seeing the pieces on the repertoire 3 years from now that I'm choosing now?  (Sorry about the muddle..there is more codeine involved...)

Hi Bernadette,

well, I am planning to do Grade 5 next year november... There is a new 2017-2018 syllabus available so I'll have to choose from those pieces.

I have recently practised 2 pieces of the grade 5    2015 - 2016 syllabus...







I really think the Schubert Impromptus are in another league (much more difficult), but maybe some more experienced pianists could chime in...


Why are you doing grade 1?
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eldergeek
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« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2017, 11:58:33 PM »

What on earth is going on?

Someone has played Mozart piano sonata no. 9 and the 3rd Schubert Impromptu, and their piano teacher is recommending (or at least is OK with) them entering ABRSM Level 1 - is this serious?

Anyone who can play either of those pieces in a half-decent way is way beyond Level 1.

Bewildering ...
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bernadette60614
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« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2017, 12:35:05 AM »

All clarified if you go back to my original posting.

Yes, I can play advanced pieces.  However, I've had no theory, just a smattering of scales and no aural training.  That's why I want to start with Level One and advance quickly to higher levels.
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deandeblock
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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2017, 12:48:24 AM »

I've started grade 3 after 1 year piano from scratch...

I earned a distinction
The scales, aural, and sight-reading particularly were very easy
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dogperson
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« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2017, 12:53:38 AM »

All clarified if you go back to my original posting.

Yes, I can play advanced pieces.  However, I've had no theory, just a smattering of scales and no aural training.  That's why I want to start with Level One and advance quickly to higher levels.


Since you can play advanced music, have  you considered just working through the syllibus for aural and ear training with your teacher without sitting through the exams?  My childhood teacher taught me both in a 45 min weekly lesson and I never sat through an exam.
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diminishedkey
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« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2018, 08:19:08 AM »

It doesn't sound to me like a great idea to be taking grade one playing what you can play as you may derive no benefit to something being so easy. Certainly something like grade 4 or 5 might be more like it. However the big issue is the aural testing. Training for AMEB grade 5 as my first exam I had not done any aural up until when I decided to start preparing. There are good apps available but you really are at the mercy of your brain and ear development. I probably spent over a year getting my aural up to scratch.

You will know a lot more theory than you think you do already. For my AMEB exam I did only minimal theory preparation and got through basically on what I had picked up. Granted it is a different syllabus but they do share a lot in common.
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