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Practical Musicianship Take Up?

Exams Practical Musicianship

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#1 Crock

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 00:20

The statistics show that the number of candidates for Practical Musicianship is small (344 worldwide in 2014 vs. 129.712 Theory), so I'm interested in whether many learners on the forum have taken these exams (and did they do Grade 5 PM as an alternative to Theory Grade 5?), and whether teachers have had many pupils who pursued this route either for interest or instead of taking Theory Grade 5. 

 

There are lots of threads on teaching and learning Grade 5 Theory and related topics, very few (any at all?) on Grade 5 Practical Musicianship. Why is the take-up so low?  Tradition, or because the Theory exam is easier??

 

And also  - do any teachers offer lessons specifically for these Practical Musicianship exams, rather than incorporating aspects of PM in instrumental lessons?  I think these exams would be highly valuable for me, even though I would find them very challenging given my bad aural skills (now improving - a little!) and I reckon I'd have to start right back at Grade 1.  There do not seem to be many dedicated resources, as other threads have pointed out (I suppose the low take-up means it is not economic to produce them), and it would be hard to teach oneself.  


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#2 RoseRodent

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 09:47

Take up is low because many haven't heard of it, resources are few and at upper grades it's hard to get a real handle on the syllabus because there isn't a nicely laid out list of things which are and aren't on the syllabus. It's too wishy-washy "aspects of structure" - exactly which structures should a Grade 7 student know, and what extra ones do they need at Grade 8? It's not there. It's hard to teach yourself because you need someone to play the unseen music for you, and there's no CD with the resource material. I had a friend play them but his renditions were so bad they weren't useful. And the biggie - cost. Grade 5 theory £35, Grade 5 PM £59. Marks scheme isn't clear, just that you will come away with a general result, nothing says "Students who perform like x will get grade A, students who know this and not that get a B..." it's just all not specific enough compared to theory which has a bunch of resources, a very clear list of what you need to know and don't need to know and a mark scheme for how many marks you get for each response so you can work out how well you are doing. I want to take Grade 8 PM but even with all my knowledge and experience I'm not feeling confident I will know all the things I need to know because they could ask about a structure I just don't happen to have heard of. The syllabus just needs to be laid out more clearly, you need to know these things and this is how it will be graded by the examiner. This is not enough information:

 

"To answer basic questions about an extract from a score (provided by the examiner) of a work for voice and instruments. Questions may refer to keys, harmonic framework, style, structure and aspects of the use of the voice or instruments" - what is on the list of "basic questions" and when do they turn into intermediate or advanced questions? There are I think 4 in the "In Practice" books and a further 1 example in the specimen tests, not enough to get a general feel for what should be included for a thorough study of the syllabus. 

 

This is ALL of the information about marking scheme: 

"The examiner will award an overall grading, rather than a mark, on the following basis:

A Pass with Distinction

B Pass with Merit

C Pass

F Failure to reach the standard required to pass"

 

It doesn't even say if it's assessed in general across the exam or in sections - can you fail transposition and do really well in everything else and get a C? Or must you demonstrate that you are strong in all areas therefore someone who totally butchers one section is deemed not to have enough "musicianship" to pass and gets an F. 

 

As a teacher, I can't feel confident I am sending a student in with everything they need to know, and that they won't come out and say they were asked something I have never covered at all, I could lose the student and get into some financial argy bargy about the exam fee. I've ended up feeling that the only real way I will start to get a handle on these exams is to enter some myself at each grade level (Grade 1, 5 and 8 in consecutive appointments is going to look weird!!) and start picking the right students who I won't have fallout from if they don't pass, and perhaps split the exam fee a little because I get professional learning from them going the exams. 

 

I really want these exams to be better, more popular and better resourced, but they have to start fleshing out the bare bones of the syllabus, this isn't enough. Oh, and offer sessions on the syllabus at the teacher conference - HINT HINT HINT!!! 


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#3 Hildegard

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 18:34

I would also worry that with only 344 candidates worldwide, the average examiner is likely to have only one candidate every two years - very difficult to establish standards at that rate, I should have thought.


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#4 RoseRodent

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 19:51

I would also worry that with only 344 candidates worldwide, the average examiner is likely to have only one candidate every two years - very difficult to establish standards at that rate, I should have thought.

Yes! It's likely most of those 344 come in blocks also, one teacher putting in 5 candidates so it's probably even less than one every 2 years, it's more like 1 every 5th session for some and then 1 session in 5 years for another, but with that session being multiple candidates. So someone with no experience at all suddenly finds themselves staring down 5 candidates on an unfamiliar exam format and nothing in the way of guidance on how to mark them. Or at least one assumes the examiner has no guidance, if they do then I wish ABRSM would print that guidance for us all.

This is a subject crying out for one of those "you be the examiner" videos online, it would be immensely helpful.
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#5 jpiano

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 20:56

Totally agree about the lack of effort/money ABRSM have put into these exams-and they presumably won't put more of these in unless there's a better take up so a bit of a vicious circle. I'm a fan of this alternative-I have to say I haven't looked at the grade 8 materials with a view to anyone taking the exam so I haven't scrutinised it for clarity but I've used it as teaching material  in the past though it was a bit ago. I have put 2 adult pupils in for grade 6 in the past, both as part of the diploma pre-requisites. Both got a merit and I don't recall a problem with clarity with the syllabus-for pianists I think it's fairly straightforward at least up to grade 6.  I have used the grade 5 syllabus (although student in question has now swapped to Trinity because this suits him better overall) with the intention of using this rather than grade 5 theory, and I'm likely to be doing the same in the future with a pupil. With the exception of the 2 adutls, who were working for specific purposes, usually I'd offer the PM as an alternative to pupils with whom I'd generally have covered some keyboard harmony in the lessons anyway. So the syllabus is just an extension of what they know already- keyboard harmony, improvisation, and aural (apologies for a very piano-centric answer).

 

I think it's a really interesting alternative to the theory and I've found it less time-consuming too-also, I do find that harmony covered on the keyboard tends to go in and stick better and pupils seem to apply it to playing better than written exercises.


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#6 agricola

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 08:07

I've entered two candidates for Grade 5 PM in the last few years and I think a handful before that.  Most pupils prefer to do the Theory but occasionally one comes along who really struggles with written work and these exams are a way forward for them.  They also develop very valuable hands-on skills for those who are interested.  I would be sorry to see them go, but I have a feeling that AB would like to get rid of them, judging from the apparent lack of interest in promoting them.

 

I was a fan of the keyboard harmony option which was an alternative to aural for Grades 6-8 and lasted for about 10 years before AB withdrew it again.  The main problem with PM is that the teacher has to devise exercises for practice, which is quite time-consuming.  When teaching this option I would give 'homework' examples to be worked by the pupil and then test progress and give help during the lesson.


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#7 maggiemay

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Posted 01 March 2017 - 11:25

I very much enjoy teaching PM, and like it as an alternative to the theory qualification - it is excellent in its own right, and I find most pupils enjoy doing PM topics, even if they have no plans to take an exam in it.

I am only sorry that there are pitifully few resources, and yes, it does rather seem like the poor relation - a great shame. I do have a pupil doing grade 3 PM this time, in fact. I don't have any experience (yet) of preparing PM beyond grade 5.

I do agree that the examiners probably don't see many. My very first PM candidate a few years ago came back buzzing, as the examiner had been so fascinated by what he was doing, why, and how he'd prepared for it. A hugely positive experience for the boy, and great connection with the examiner - but you can imagine how it could easily work out the other way.

Having said this, the requirements don't suit everyone - at least not in an exam situation. I'm thinking particularly of the student who needs time to come up with an answer - you really have to think on your feet. And it is very unclear how much preparation time is allowed - obviously, as with other aspects of the exam administration, this will vary from examiner to examiner as there appear to be few guidelines.
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#8 Jo0425

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 21:14

I've looked on the ABRSM website but can't find a definitive answer - would anyone know if Practical Musicianship G6-8 would offer UCAS points?


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#9 Banjogirl

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 18:40

No.

 

http://us.abrsm.org/...nd-ucas-points/

 

It's not a 'regulated' qualification.


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#10 Jo0425

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 19:34

Thanks for the info banjogirl.  I'm trying to compile a list of all possible exams which piano students could take which would gain UCAS points, on behalf of a parent....


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#11 RoseRodent

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 22:39

[...] the requirements don't suit everyone - at least not in an exam situation. I'm thinking particularly of the student who needs time to come up with an answer - you really have to think on your feet. And it is very unclear how much preparation time is allowed - obviously, as with other aspects of the exam administration, this will vary from examiner to examiner as there appear to be few guidelines.

 

There are a few more guidelines in terms of prep time than there used to be, most things appear to be one minute, the information is in the general information section. The most challenging bit I have found with the higher grades is really vague questions. The specimen materials ask things like "Comment on the texture" which I would tend to find myself struck dumb because I have no idea what sort of comments they want from me. An example answer is so helpful there as I know what ballpark is intended. The worst one was "Comment on the use of thematic elements" - I knew the answers once I read them but I had no clue that's what the question was getting at. I know they are trying not to give too many clues as to what is required, but it's just a way of asking that makes me feel confused even on things I know. 


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#12 RoseRodent

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 23:22

I'm trying to compile a list of all possible exams which piano students could take which would gain UCAS points, on behalf of a parent....


Worth bearing in mind that not every institution/course accepts UCAS points from all sources, and some will accept a capped amount from extra curricular sources. If they only accept up to 20 music, dance and drama points regardless, it's not worth accruing 80 of them. Many people seem sadly unaware that universities aren't forced to accept anything towards their entry requirements just because it has a UCAS tariff.
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#13 maggiemay

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 13:40

[...] the requirements don't suit everyone - at least not in an exam situation. I'm thinking particularly of the student who needs time to come up with an answer - you really have to think on your feet. And it is very unclear how much preparation time is allowed - obviously, as with other aspects of the exam administration, this will vary from examiner to examiner as there appear to be few guidelines.

 
There are a few more guidelines in terms of prep time than there used to be, most things appear to be one minute, the information is in the general information section.. ..
Thank you - I looked online yesterday and failed to find this.
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#14 allegretto

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 15:17

I'm trying to compile a list of all possible exams which piano students could take which would gain UCAS points, on behalf of a parent....

Worth bearing in mind that not every institution/course accepts UCAS points from all sources, and some will accept a capped amount from extra curricular sources. If they only accept up to 20 music, dance and drama points regardless, it's not worth accruing 80 of them. Many people seem sadly unaware that universities aren't forced to accept anything towards their entry requirements just because it has a UCAS tariff.

Some (many, I think, these days) don't work in UCAS points at all - they're really only interested in grades in relevant subjects and to some extent in extra-curricular activities that are relevant to the subject. There are far better ways to boost uni applications than gathering points for music exams.
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#15 Crock

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 17:02

I'm trying to compile a list of all possible exams which piano students could take which would gain UCAS points, on behalf of a parent....

Worth bearing in mind that not every institution/course accepts UCAS points from all sources, and some will accept a capped amount from extra curricular sources. If they only accept up to 20 music, dance and drama points regardless, it's not worth accruing 80 of them. Many people seem sadly unaware that universities aren't forced to accept anything towards their entry requirements just because it has a UCAS tariff.

Some (many, I think, these days) don't work in UCAS points at all - they're really only interested in grades in relevant subjects and to some extent in extra-curricular activities that are relevant to the subject. There are far better ways to boost uni applications than gathering points for music exams.

Completely agree with Allegretto. You need to be very careful here.
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