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"Hats off...!" - New Translation of Schumann's First Review

Celebrate the Schumann anniversary by reading our new translation of his very original and entertaining review of Chopin's Opus 2. This review includes the famous quote "Hats off, gentlemen, a genius". Read more >>

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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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