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Grade 5 adult struggling with supporting tests


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#1 funkiepiano

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Posted 06 December 2019 - 10:46

I teach a lovely chap who’s keen to do exams, he’s passed grades 2,3 and 4 with me and now working towards 5. He has more or less cracked the 3 pieces, after several months of work, but I’m unsure whether to enter him in March as he’s weak on all other areas of the exam. He’s not really a natural musician and finds it hard to remember 12 major and minor scales plus arpeggios etc. His sight reading is very slow, and aural skills pretty non-existent. Any advice how I can best help him? Thanks
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#2 Clovis

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Posted 06 December 2019 - 10:54

Try Trinity? That reduces the scale load, and at Grade 5 you have the option of musical knowledge (or improvisation) instead of both aural and SR. It would mean learning three new pieces though.


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#3 HelenVJ

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Posted 06 December 2019 - 11:24

I've switched to Trinity for almost everyone now, and we would find it hard to go back. Sensible aural tests which involve listening skills rather than singing and prodigous feats of memory; optional sight-reading until Grade 6; a more realistic set of technical requirements - and an attractive choice of repertoire.

Honestly, if he is keen to take Grade 5, changing boards would be the best and kindest way to help him. Struggling on with the supporting tests etc could remove any joy in making music from the whole process. Is there any reason why he is so keen to take an exam at all? Most of my adult students have a limited amount of practice time, and prefer to spend it exploring a wide range of great music, and playing duets.


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#4 vron

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Posted 06 December 2019 - 13:48

I teach a lovely chap who’s keen to do exams, he’s passed grades 2,3 and 4 with me and now working towards 5. He has more or less cracked the 3 pieces, after several months of work, but I’m unsure whether to enter him in March as he’s weak on all other areas of the exam. He’s not really a natural musician and finds it hard to remember 12 major and minor scales plus arpeggios etc. His sight reading is very slow, and aural skills pretty non-existent. Any advice how I can best help him? Thanks


This could be me you are talking about! except I am quite reasonable on scales … oh and I am approaching grade 4 not 5.

I have actually changed board this time but that was mainly because I liked the pieces choice not because of the scales. However I can see that the scales and arpeggios are much easier than for ABRsM. It was not for a bit that I realised that I have a choice of aural or sight reading which is good. Downside is that I am learning flute as well and have to do dreaded aural for that exam anyway. still need to up the practice level of sight reading if I am to do ok in it.
I am debating whether to enter March or not or leave till summer.

I will be watching replies with interest
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#5 maggiemay

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Posted 06 December 2019 - 14:44

One of my students, excellent at aural and no problem at all with learning scales, has opted to switch to Trinity for grade 8, after a string of distinctions and high merits at AB grades 1 to 7. 

When we talked it over and compared the requirements.  he said he’d prefer to spend more time learning and enjoying the pieces,  not having to plough through the long list of AB scales, arpeggios, etc. 


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#6 thara96

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 00:16

Ask him "Why do you wish to take a exam"?

 

Use that information to make a list of goals. What about Trinity? Is making the switch a option or not? I recommend talking it over with him first before deciding anything. 


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#7 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 11:27

 

I teach a lovely chap who’s keen to do exams, he’s passed grades 2,3 and 4 with me and now working towards 5. He has more or less cracked the 3 pieces, after several months of work, but I’m unsure whether to enter him in March as he’s weak on all other areas of the exam. He’s not really a natural musician and finds it hard to remember 12 major and minor scales plus arpeggios etc. His sight reading is very slow, and aural skills pretty non-existent. Any advice how I can best help him? Thanks


This could be me you are talking about!

 


Sounds rather like myself too! Although I've done ABRSM 1–3 and thinking of missing 4 to consolidate before tackling grade 5 in a couple years, and I don't struggle to remember scales/arpeggios (though that doesn't stop my buttery fingers making mistakes all the time!!!).

 

As with this 'lovely chap' I absolutely struggle with aural and sight-reading, and after hours and hours of very hard graft, frustration, anger... my progress has been zero. Nothing at all seems to work.  Personally, I would feel a failure if I chose an alternative route that simply avoided being examined on these – there's a part of me which thinks thousands of little kids have passed grade 8 with high distinctions over the years so why can't a fully grown adult learn how to sight read and identify intervals, cadences etc at a half-decent level?

 

Currently, I feel trapped between two boulders – on the one hand, the mantra on here is "just keep going, don't ever stop. Practise, practise, practise!" which is what I do when practising sight reading of material at the appropriate level, and on the other hand all the neuropsychology literature suggests the 'power' of the various memories (working, long term etc) is strongly correlated with the ability to sight read, and if you have poor memory then frankly there's little you can do significantly improve one's memory.  So either I'm just lazy (not practising hard enough) or plain thick (rubbish memory), or both.

 

I could say (a lot) more, but I'll stop!


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#8 ma non troppo

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 13:17

I have known many instances of people making huge improvements with sight reading and aural work, including a girl who couldn't even pitch a note to sing back when she started, going on to gain two Grade 8 distinctions (scoring 15 and 16 respectively on the aural tests). She also took up singing alto in a local choir - something that would have been unthinkable to begin with.

I also have encountered people who have gone on to become good solid sight readers (one now plays for a ballet class and has to sight read all the time) but he had failed the sight reading section on all his lower grade exams. I agree that some have a greater natural affinity than others for these skills, but people can and do improve over time. Maybe there are some who just can't. Personally, I've never come across someone really determined who didn't improve at least moderately with guidance from an experienced teacher. I think a lot of sight reading skills are down to prediction through experience as well as memory. That's why atonal works are hard for some to sight read.
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#9 vron

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 13:52

why can't a fully grown adult learn how to sight read and identify intervals, cadences etc at a half-decent level?

Now that is the real question.

i think sight reading can be improved slightly with enough practice and time. I think as said it is familiarity with the common rhythms and chords that come up and whilst not easy i do feel that it is possible. Lack of practice I think for me is one point and after xmas it is something that i will be working on hard. i have bought a few book with Cd too as i feel that though i try with some other book i don't know how they should sound so not always sure if i am on the right lines.


With aural on the other hand I do think that some people are more natural at this than other. My tutor says a lot of it is because i never listened to music as a child and still don't listen to a lot now. Also i do not sing after being told many times as a child that i sang flat and shouldn't sing. He tells me I should sing around the house and at the piano and that it would help but still very self conscious about doing this. Even though we do work on aural and will continue to do so it still is atrocious and my answers in the exam will mainly be guesses.
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#10 Latin pianist

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 14:20

It might not satisfy him but if he did LCM leisure Play he could play pieces of grade 5 level and get feedback from an examiner without having to do any supporting tests.
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#11 dorfmouse

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 14:54

Or what about the Trinity Performance Cert at intermediate level. Their assessment criteria are rigorous. While I understand the value of working on the supporting tests, it's a shame if they ultimately cause someone's confidence to crash and then they give up altogether. I nearly abandoned flute over the scales at G7. And though I scored perfectly on the aurals after listening to the CDs for months on the way to work, I have not before or since been required to name cadences or chord progressions in a split second. In real life you have time to work these things out when necessary.
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#12 ma non troppo

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 15:20

That's true - sight reading and aural testing in an exam situation are totally "fake" compared to real life as a working musician. The quick study at diploma level is probably more the sort of scenario we find ourselves in than the sight reading tests for the grades. It's rare we don't even get a few minutes to look through a piece before having to play it.
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#13 Hildegard

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 18:16

It might not satisfy him but if he did LCM leisure Play he could play pieces of grade 5 level and get feedback from an examiner without having to do any supporting tests.

 

Or he could do the ABRSM Performance Assessment, which is basically the same - own choice of pieces for a programme lasting up to 15 minutes, with feedback from the examiner without having to do any supporting tests.


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#14 Saxwarbler

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 18:23

It might not satisfy him but if he did LCM leisure Play he could play pieces of grade 5 level and get feedback from an examiner without having to do any supporting tests.

This is what I'm planning. I switched to LCM for piano after taking my music theatre exam with them as I prefer the repertoire choice and their exams are held on weekends rather than midweek. The aural requirements don't phase me much but I can't say I'm a big fan of them and they're certainly not my strongest part of the exam, so I've made the decision to switch to Leisureplay after I've reached grade 5.

I think, as well as the OP asking the pupil why he wants to take an exam, they need to ask what his long-term goal is. I've made my choice because, yes, I want to achieve what I was denied as a girl, but also because I have few ambitions to teach or reach any great academic heights. My goal is simply to be able play well and maybe accompany singers or instrumentalists in a few years' time.


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#15 ten left thumbs

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 21:42

why can't a fully grown adult learn how to sight read and identify intervals, cadences etc at a half-decent level?

Now that is the real question.
 

... Because they haven't had the opportunity to learn music from Kodaly principles? 

Also, I don't understand what being a fully grown adult has to do with it. Why should it be easier for an adult? Adults are generally better at changing lightbulbs than children, but I don't think being an adult helps with intervals and cadences. 


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