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Do you accompany your students on piano for their exam?

piano accompanying exams

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#1 hammer action

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Posted 25 March 2019 - 20:34

Just interested to see how many singing/woodwind/brass teachers accompany their students on piano for exams?


I'm predominantly a woodwind teacher and my piano playing isn't of the standard to provide confident accompaniment for my Grade 8 students, hence I call upon the services of a professional local accompanist.  A couple of my students recently asked if it would be me accompanying them, and it just made me wonder what other teachers do.  


For those who do, do you devote a lot of time to learning the accompaniments for the higher grades especially?

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#2 ma non troppo

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Posted 25 March 2019 - 23:41

I teach piano and violin and so I do accompany. I get my violin students used to playing along not only with the piano but also in duo with the violin very early on. I feel this is a very important part of being a violinist.

I don't spend a lot of time practising the parts because mostly I can sight read them or have played them before in the case of the big sonata movements... being so old now. I had to brush up on the Franck Violin sonata fourth movement for a grade 8 violinist a couple of years back but that is the last time I had to practise something. I had played it in a recital a few years ago though so it was just a bit of a refresh.

I don't see anything wrong in a teacher getting an accompanist in, even if they play the piano themselves but it isn't their first instrument. You c*n help your more advanced student in other ways - just sketching bits in or even singing what the piano does in the gaps or intertwining bits.
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#3 zwhe


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Posted 26 March 2019 - 07:36

I do grades 1-4 myself. Beyond that I would have to practise as I am a dreadful sight-reader on the piano (only about grade 5 level) and I really can't be bothered to put in the effort required for some pieces! I will do it in lessons with wrong/missing notes so they have a go at playing the parts together, but I wouldn't do an exam unless I can play it really well, especially as they might get nervous and skip bits, and it is the accompanist who has to sort it out!

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#4 Dorcas



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Posted 26 March 2019 - 07:43

I only teach piano and decline any infrequent requests to accompany students in exams.  People making the requests are usually vauge about the board, the grade and the music required, let alone the centre.  I am not prepared to take on work which could lead me to cancelling my own students' lessons.

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#5 Latin pianist

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Posted 26 March 2019 - 08:35

I love accompanying and it is a pain when the exam dates come at a time when I have to cancel lessons but often it's at a suitable time. Accompanying is a completely different skill from performing and I don't think teachers should do it unless they are experienced, particularly at higher grades. I know teachers who accompany lower grade students but ask me to accompany higher grade ones.
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#6 Yet another muso

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Posted 26 March 2019 - 09:10

I teach both flute and piano, but am also a freelance performer on both instruments. Virtually all my work as a pianist is as an accompanist, official accompanist for various schools, competitions, festivals etc. So it goes without saying that I always play for my own students at all levels, and make sure they are entered at a centre putting on exam visits where I am official accompanist so I know I will be free, as it's a pain having to be free to go to a centre for just one or two exams. 


One major change in the approaches of music colleges is that they used to insist that students did second study piano. Now they largely discourage this, as the focus for most has to be just the principal study. This kind of focus has led to far more instrumental teachers out there who have little piano skill, or who have more than they let on, but feel ashamed to use it even in front of their students, so they never accompany their students, so students don't get used to playing with a pianist in the early years. 


Even when accompanying early grades, I quite frequently find they come to their rehearsal with me having never heard the piano part, and often surprised that there even is a piano part! On occasions where using an accompanist is advised but not compulsory and an accompanist is provided, like masterclasses or competitions, I am more frequently finding students turning up to play music that should be accompanied but opting to play it unaccompanied. Clearly they simply view piano accompaniment as an inconvenient and perhaps intimidating distraction. Obviously I find this very sad as someone who has devoted much of my career to collaborative piano playing, and view music as an experience to share. 


So while it is totally reasonable and sensible that teachers should only accompany their students in exams if they fee assured and comfortable doing so, and for many that will mean early grades only, and others not at all, I would always say that as long as teachers have access to a piano in their teaching room and at least sufficient basic piano skills, it is of huge benefit to their students if they do what accompanying they can from time to time in lessons, particularly in the early years. Students are far too worried about themselves to judge their teacher's piano skill, or even notice if it's not very accurate!

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#7 BadStrad



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Posted 26 March 2019 - 12:20

We have a very good singing teacher locally. She is comfortable enough at the piano to accompany, even if she's not playing every note, so the pupils are used to playing with another person, not a CD. For exams she arranges a special visit and employs my partner to accompany, so all the students get to have a professional accompanist.
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#8 sbhoa



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Posted 29 March 2019 - 16:34

If I'm able to play them well enough I do but that would only be for early grades.

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