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How I fail my Grade 1 Piano exams....

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#1 Frenchie19

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Posted 01 May 2018 - 18:17

Right - Where do I start?   I thought I would share with you my story, because it could have had such a different outcome and I look forward to your advices if I ever decide to put myself through this again ! 

 

I bought a keyboard for the kids for Xmas last year, which amused them for the whole of a month or two... whilst tidying it away one evening, I found myself drawn to it and before I knew it, I could read notes.  I went on to learn by myself for a little while using the keyboard book's simple melody, till I found a local piano teacher.  Soon after connecting, I bought an upright piano.

 

In May i started the lessons, using 1-4 Thompson piano books, I quickly realised that i could be quite good at this, given time and effort.  It was a great "me" time, what with my full time job in the city and the 3 kids in toe.

 

Then around October, my piano Teacher told me that I was ready to tackle Grade 1 pieces.  I did not quite believe that, as most non-musical adults would take over a year usually to get there, and the pieces look daunting but most importantly i did not want to do the exams .  He duly registered me for March and off i went with my 3 pieces, my scales and the rest.  By the time the exam came round, I could play the pieces by heart, all of them, and I was able to "play" with them, meaning that I could add musicality to them, be very dramatic and soft, hard and mean :-)  seriously, in the comfort of my home, and in front of the immediate family, i was superbe!

 

Yes, you might have picked it up.... in the comfort of my house.... 

 

On the day of the exam, I was apprehensive, but I slept well, ate well and was looking forward to it.  I have never lacked confidence and with mock exams at distinction level, i had nothing to be worried about.  All i wanted was a pass; anything else would have been a bonus.

 

The local exam center is in someone's house.  The examiner wore a bow tie and a suit and was extremely serious.  This was somehow different to my piano teacher who is really relaxed and whom I have a great laugh with.  I don't take myself seriously and nor does he.  I am having fun ! 

I confidently shook the examiner's hand, look at him straight and handed my piece of paper and sat down on the piano stool.

 

He asked me to use the piano for practice, but within 30 sec, expressed that we should start the exam.  That de-stabilised me a little but I was fine.

 

We started on the scales, and then it started ... the violent shaking of both hands.  I stopped, regained composure, apologised and started again.... i just managed to do the scales, with no mistake, but monotonous and too flat, and importantly shaky.

 

We moved on to my pieces... now this is the moment when I am meant to shine, these i could do in my sleep, boringly so.  Then the shaking went worse as i looked at my book with the notes swimming in front of me......and then disaster, I actually could not even start.  I stood up, shook my arms like some octopus and apologised profusely that i did not know what was happening to me,   

 

I started again, but i simply could not play, i never made it past Bar 6 in any of my 3 pieces.  I was beyond perplexed and kept looking at him for some support, which sadly never came.  I nearly stood up to walk out, but he persuaded me to continue with the rest of the exam.

 

I moved to the side chair and relaxed in the knowledge that i failed and therefore nothing else could go wrong.  Surprisingly, i thought i did really well at the aural then and subsequently found i scored 17/18)

 

i say surprisingly because my teacher and I did not really work on the scales or anything else than the pieces, we'd rehearsed the aural bit and i seemed to get it mostly right, the echo, the differences, the clapping... but i was banking everything on the pieces. 

 

I never wanted to take the exams, but i sure wanted to play the pieces well, and I failed.

 

So for those out there - just a word of advice from me,,,,, play in front of other people before the exam.  Go and try another piano if you can.  Eat a banana 40mns  beforehand.  keep smiling,,,, as i certainly could not at the time.

 

PS;- i did get >15 marks for each of my pieces, which was surprising considering I never finished them.   Overall i scored 95, which is simply just sad !

 

I am not giving up piano though, I am already on Allegretto, and loving it...


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 01 May 2018 - 18:33

I think it might have been a mistake not to work at the scales. If you do those first, you want to have them so secure they're automatic. If you went to pieces at the beginning of the exam, it can be hard to get back on track. As I always say to my pupils, working for the exam and being able to play the pieces musically is more important than what happens on the day. Why not keep working at the grade syllabus without actually taking exams. Many adults seem to go to pieces in exams.
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#3 vron

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Posted 01 May 2018 - 18:53

um. perhaps  I shouldnt have read this story now. 

 

I am about to enter for my grade 3 piano ( I think unless I change my mind before Thursday  ohmy.png ). I have never  played an instrument as a child and started learning nearly 3 years ago at a rather late stage in life and never taken a musical exam.   I too always go to pieces when I play in front of people but have decided that I should give an exam one try to see if I can hold it together.  Unlike you I definitely lack confidence .


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#4 dorfmouse

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Posted 01 May 2018 - 18:55

???????????? (Edit - these were supposed to be a row of emoticons - fail!)

Didn't know whether to laugh or cry for you!!
You're in good inglorious company with lots of us here!!
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#5 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 01 May 2018 - 18:59

Hi, Frenchie19.  I'm both delighted and sorry to read about your experience: delighted as from nothing you've bought a piano and found an affinity for learning the instrument; and of course sorry that the exam didn't go quite as well as you would have hoped.  The shaking you experienced sounds like you had a lot of adrenaline coursing through your body, which is perfectly understandable. 

 

It does, however, appear you've very sensibly assessed the situation, identified key issues and found some possible solutions, which is fantastic.  I would say "keep going" but you are already doing so!


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#6 JennS

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Posted 01 May 2018 - 20:32

Hi Frenchie19. Sorry to hear about your experience but I absolutely love your attitude to keep going. Im sure now with this behind you, uou know what to expect next time and will be fabulous x
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#7 Clarimoo

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 07:33

Frenchie19, you get full marks from me for surviving the experience and keeping going.

I know what it feels like, I have had an exam like that myself; but I have also had the opposite experience....when I felt fabulous, played well and nothing went wrong. I don't understand why they were so different but I am sure that the important thing is the playing and not the doing of exams.

You have found something that you enjoy and you are doing well at it ....Congratulations!


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#8 zwhe

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 08:24

I'm not sure if this helps, but I failed one of my piano exams, and I am now a piano teacher! Sometimes things go wrong and are no reflection on our abilities. I'm sure we've all managed to burn something simple like baked beans, or trip down our front step. The important thing is that you are enjoying playing - and you don't have to do exams to become a good player!


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#9 sbhoa

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 11:20

Well done for getting through it and for not letting it put you off learning.

As zwhe said, you don't need exams to become a good player.

If you decide to do more exams you will know how it works.

You are now in a position to ask that your teacher covers all elements of the exam adequately so that you are not thrown by being less familiar with something like scales. 

I usually talk through the whole exam process with my students at least once so that they know pretty much what to expect (like you can try the piano but won't get long, that you can choose the order in which you do things and that in between pieces there will be a silent gap while the examiner finishes writing).

You will also be aware enough to let your teacher know if you don't want to. You say your teacher just put in the entry? Did that really happen? I wouldn't have handed over the money if I didn't agree.


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#10 GMc

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 12:13

Onward and upward - you should be very proud to be able to play like that at home after so little time!  If you ever did want to do another exam you will know exactly how to approach it.  No entry until pieces well on the way and all  supporting tests confident and fluent. Play everything in  unknown places to perform them - anywhere; old people's homes, friends' houses, churches, spontaneous performances at your house the moment any visitor arrives... It is skill you can learn.  Practise at home after you have run around the garden and done 20 push ups (mimics physiology of stressful situation), learn a routine before playing so you have something to concentrate on apart from fear, have a plan in case of mistakes - make sure you have repair points to return to or fast forward to, learn to move on and not dwell on little errors.  


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#11 Frenchie19

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 12:16

I think it might have been a mistake not to work at the scales. If you do those first, you want to have them so secure they're automatic. If you went to pieces at the beginning of the exam, it can be hard to get back on track. As I always say to my pupils, working for the exam and being able to play the pieces musically is more important than what happens on the day. Why not keep working at the grade syllabus without actually taking exams. Many adults seem to go to pieces in exams.

 I agree on your point, I literally only learnt them in the 2 weeks running up to the exams.  Having said that because i was less confident, i found myself really concentrating and had i not been completely overwhelmed by the whole experience, I could have scored better than my 17/21... 


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#12 Solari

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 12:18

Well done for surviving!

 

I think the only thing that was nearly as stressful as music exams for me was my driving test. I really dislike them - partly because of the requirement to become a scale-practicing hermit for higher grades but mostly the singing part.

 

I'm quite happy doing, say, technical exams for professional qualifications but anything practically assessed in a formal environment is far more susceptible to nerves for me. My teacher has been suggesting going back to exams but I don't have the inclination, nor the guaranteed time to commit to it anyway.

 

I've always said I play piano for "fun" - I might not reach my potential with that attitude but that's not the point for me. smile.png


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#13 Frenchie19

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 12:37

Vron - Just go for it !   A few weeks down the line, I am glad I did the exam, it was certainly an experience I will remember and a great diner party topic :-).   you might surpass yourself.  Looking at my scoring, I feel it is on the very generous side!

 

I have since realised that whilst I am very comfortable with my Piano Teacher and our relationship is at friendly level, I tend to sweat when I play and get very frustrated if I cant get it right.  I cannot play as well as I do when i play to him.  So for me this is key.  Being able to play consistently alone and to others. 

 

Zwhe - very true, I have plenty of failures under my belt... somehow this felt monumental.  Hero to Zero type of failure :-(

 

Sbhoa - My teacher was admant that my level was good enough to attempt Grade 1, and he kept asking me to consider applying - his points was to keep momentum, push yourself further, get the reward of the hard work i'd put in week in week out, and to be fair, i really push myself on my pieces..  So i handed over the money and thought.. What's the worse that can happen ? hahahah.... 

 

Gmc - I love your post !  best advice so far :-)  My kids are already thinking that past 40 yrs old is far too old to learn the piano, if i run around the garden doing push up, they might think I have lost the plot (again !)

 

to ALL others - thank you! 


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#14 Maizie

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 13:26

You have learnt one of the most valuable lessons of the exam system - if you fail an exam, the 'music police' don't come in the night and confiscate your instrument and enforce a 'no more music for you, ever' injunction.  Keep on enjoying, look at exams sooner, later or never as the mood takes you, and have fun :)


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#15 sbhoa

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 17:08

You could keep an eye on the events board for opportunities to perform to other adult learners who will  understand and share the difficulties and triumphs.


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