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Recorded exam options


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#1 Iulia

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 13:37

I held off doing recorded exam submissions for the first few months of pandemic but I've got a couple of kids who really want to get an exam this year.

(funny I find the exam thing is often 'student led' rather than either me or parents - peer pressure I guess. Anyway I digress)

Finding myself HUGELY confused about the various options on the go. I imagine in person exams may well happen this summer but wanted to be clear what the options were when talking to parents.

 

So

AB performance - same syllabus as normal exam, fourth piece own choice, no scales. But controlled booking and exam period and need to record in one take.

LCM Recital Grade. Set syllabus, scales, but entry can be any time the student is ready.

LCM Leisure Play. No scales, four pieces and can be from LCM or equivalent syllabus. Entry as above.

 

So the AB performance and LCM leisure are very similar in format except for the booking timing and need to do video in one take.

I know there is Trinity and MTB but I'm confused enough already :-)

 

I have one family who I feel the LCM would be a better fit but they already bought the AB book and I don't really want them to waste more money.

Which recorded exams do you all use/like and why?

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 Norway

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 13:41

I've done a grade 4 and a grade 6 piano AB. You can record it at any time the student is ready and then send it in later when the window opens. There are a lot of rules and hoops to jump through, but it worked out fine.


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#3 Latin pianist

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 14:02

My favourite is the Trinity as it involves exercises and scales as well as pieces. LCM is much the same though as you say, it can be recorded in sections so not as stressful as Trinity and Abrsm. I think my least favourite is the Abrsm. Just pieces seems a bit of a cop out. There’s also AMEB. I haven’t used that as I didn’t like the way aural and sightreading were rehearsed before the exam. II’m really looking forward to getting back to face to face exams.


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#4 Iulia

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 14:10

There are so few scales in the LCM that it hardly seems worth putting them in ... :)


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#5 Latin pianist

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 14:31

I think that’s Trinity. LCM has more than Trinity. My candidate actually did the study instead of the scales which was by no means a soft option.


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#6 JanW

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Posted 07 March 2021 - 08:02

I'm studying for grade 3 piano at the moment and am going to use the MTB.  3 x grade 3 pieces of own choice (you can use the AB syllabus if you already have the books, or any other mix of grade 3 pieces from any Board including their own).  Scales and technical exercises that are a requirement are published on their website, so no extra cost.  Teacher has to register with them.  Then record when feel the time is right and send it off to them.  Assessed by a piano teacher for a piano exam (trumpet teacher for a trumpet exam etc).  Results are back in a couple of weeks,  No timescale. Very hassle free.  Oh - and no requirement for grade 5 theory if doing higher grade practicals.  

 

I did take grade one with AB (Distinction) but skipped grade 2 last year because of pandemic etc.  As a mature student I  feel like a weight has been lifted from me with the freedom MTB gives the student.  They do seem to be building a very good reputation.

 

Will probably record the exam late spring so will let you know how it goes.  

 

Jan


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#7 KTViola

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Posted 07 March 2021 - 21:36

I'm another convert to MTB. Options to play to the pupil's strengths in terms of huge range of pieces, both on their own syllabus and in their 'free choice' system, but also very rigorous in terms of scales & technical exercises. The supporting tests are a bit more 'real world' too with the option for duet rather than traditional aural tests.

 

So far I've put in a grade 2 and a grade 7, both conducted over Zoom. Haven't had the results yet, but they really do seem to be on the ball with the whole 'remote' thing.


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#8 Iulia

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Posted 10 March 2021 - 20:54

Have the performance bookings changed? I thought when I looked a couple of weeks ago they had four designated booking slots like the in person exams, but I look again today and it looks like you can book throughout the year just picking a submission date?

 

I'm so confused I cannot keep up with all these changes ......  :wacko:


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#9 Doodle

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Posted 11 March 2021 - 18:23

Just had an email from them today...  (hope the links copy ok)

Performance Grade dates for 2021   We have now published booking period dates for remotely-assessed Performance Grade and ARSM exams up to September 2021. You will have an opportunity to book and submit exams every month from now on (subject to availability) and we will publish booking dates for October to December as soon as we can. Remember, candidates can record their exam at any time, then upload the video once an exam has been booked.

To check booking period dates visit our website:https://www.abrsm.org/en/exam-booking/exam-dates-and-fees/

You can find all our Performance Grades information here: 
https://www.abrsm.org/en/performancegrades/
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#10 ViolinsAreForLife

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Posted 04 May 2021 - 09:40

Hello all,

 

new to the forums but have been reading them in the past, just not had a reason to join in - I am on enough forums as it is without adding another!

 

I am a keen advocate of online tuition and technology (albeit fully aware of its inadequacy in a lot of contexts and situations) and have

 

been engaged with the online exams options with enthusiasm, with both LCM (Leisure Play) and ABRSM (Performance Grades).

 

My background is that I am an FE lecturer in music/sound, an ICMA (Independent Contemporary Music Awards) examiner, and 

 

many things more, including a private tutor since the early 2000s: I have a broad take on music education and examining, and I try

 

to use the best of technology and of my experience to get people to engage not only with their instrument but with evaluating their

 

own learning (particularly through apps).

 

One of my contentions is the lack of understanding or engagement with the online exam technology that seems clear in the examiners'

 

comments I see from some boards, particularly ABRSM: while they are clearly to be applauded for catching up with other boards, particularly

 

the long-running LCM Leisure Play format, they seem to have missed a key issue in remote examining, which is the technological aspect

 

of sound and of recording techniques in the process from the student making his/her recording to the examiner listening to it at the other end.

 

 

My experience in recording techniques and in sound measurement tells me a lot about the impact of using the wrong tools in capturing the

 

full dynamic range of a live performance: the reduction of perceived dynamic range in a recording can be dramatic depending on the

 

technology used, and on the knowledge the candidate or teacher has of using DAWs to enhance that recording at mixing stage.

 

 

I have done a lot of sound pressure level (SPL) measurements of beginners and intermediate students on violin and also on piano,

 

and the beginner typically has a range of about 10dB, i.e. they play at what one may hear to be a flat level: an advanced student will

 

be able to have a workable range of about 30dB or more, and if doing a dynamic drill/study then they can extend that range further still.

 

 

Now, the tiny microphones in mobile telephones and tablets are great at capturing lots of things, but are built particularly for voice and

 

are not very good at capturing complex musical sound, having a tendency to:

 

1) flatten the curve in dynamic terms;

2) compensate/compress in a way that uniforms sound to some degree.

 

This is an issue if you consider that the majority of people entering the online exams do not have:

 

1) access to a dedicated music microphone (small- or large-diaphragm condenser, for example);

2) access to a dedicated machine and a Digital Audio Workstation;

3) access to skills to operate microphones and a DAW, or knowledge of mixing a recording.

 

This means that they will primarily use a mobile device (tablet, 'phone) to make that recording, which will inevitably

further reduce their often quite narrow dynamic range. 

 

Imagine, then, how examiners who have not been trained in sound/recording technology issues of this kind

will approach a recording made with dynamic-poor technology of an often already narrow dynamic range of 

a beginner's performance: their take on it will inevitably be overly critical of the candidate, identifying a problem

that is not actually as severe as they perceive it, and making some ham-fisted judgments of the student's perceived

total lack of ability in the dynamic shaping of the performance.

 

There needs to be an engagement of examiners in this area if they want to review online recordings in a fair

and technology-literate way.

 

This is not an insignificant topic as it can demoralise and downgrade students through a lack of understanding

of real-life issues in online examining.

 

I hope this post is helpful to some and I would be happy to provide further clarification.

 

Regards


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#11 elemimele

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Posted 04 May 2021 - 13:19

I'm afraid your post reads rather like a consultant trying to advertise his/her own skill-set?

I think you're also being a little harsh on ABRSM's examiners. I've just tried, with some gentle tones on a recorder (instrument, not machine). A perceived change in sound-pressure as assessed by the internal microphone of a mid-range lap-top and free software (Audacity) of only 3dB is very, very obvious with my eyes shut, listening with a cheap pair of headphones (cheapest available in Sainsbury's). You'd really need cloth ears to perceive a 10dB range as playing at "what one may hear to be a flat level". I certainly wouldn't accuse the examiners (let alone on the board's own website) of making "ham-fisted judgements", without hard evidence.

Humans are very good at compensating for bad recording. We didn't need special training to listen to (very, very compressed) Vinyl recordings. We know when someone is shouting down the telephone, even though the telephone can't give us a fraction of the real increased volume. And we've all endured 15 months of Zoom/Teams and Skype calls. Bad technical quality undoubtedly makes a recording less musically satisfying from an audience point of view, but you can still tell that the musicians were skilled (or not). There are a lot of problems in music education, not least of which is that exams are priced beyond the means of some parents, and cash spent on exams isn't spent on teachers (which would you rather have: a bigger pig, or a measured pig?). As a parent, I'm wholeheartedly opposed to ABRSM spending money on a problem that it quite probably doesn't have, because ultimately it's the examinees' money.

And a final thought: reading what the teachers post here, their complaints and concerns are almost all about the syllabus, about the choices, about the technical issues involved in submitting recordings, about the procedural worries of whether parents can conform to requirements, and about communication issues, where they're not sure if they've done the right thing, and can't find rules/someone to tell them. Complaints about actual poor assessment seem rather thin on the ground.


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#12 ViolinsAreForLife

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Posted 04 May 2021 - 13:32

I'm afraid your post reads rather like a consultant trying to advertise his/her own skill-set?

I think you're also being a little harsh on ABRSM's examiners. I've just tried, with some gentle tones on a recorder (instrument, not machine). A perceived change in sound-pressure as assessed by the internal microphone of a mid-range lap-top and free software (Audacity) of only 3dB is very, very obvious with my eyes shut, listening with a cheap pair of headphones (cheapest available in Sainsbury's). You'd really need cloth ears to perceive a 10dB range as playing at "what one may hear to be a flat level". I certainly wouldn't accuse the examiners (let alone on the board's own website) of making "ham-fisted judgements", without hard evidence.

Humans are very good at compensating for bad recording. We didn't need special training to listen to (very, very compressed) Vinyl recordings. We know when someone is shouting down the telephone, even though the telephone can't give us a fraction of the real increased volume. And we've all endured 15 months of Zoom/Teams and Skype calls. Bad technical quality undoubtedly makes a recording less musically satisfying from an audience point of view, but you can still tell that the musicians were skilled (or not). There are a lot of problems in music education, not least of which is that exams are priced beyond the means of some parents, and cash spent on exams isn't spent on teachers (which would you rather have: a bigger pig, or a measured pig?). As a parent, I'm wholeheartedly opposed to ABRSM spending money on a problem that it quite probably doesn't have, because ultimately it's the examinees' money.

And a final thought: reading what the teachers post here, their complaints and concerns are almost all about the syllabus, about the choices, about the technical issues involved in submitting recordings, about the procedural worries of whether parents can conform to requirements, and about communication issues, where they're not sure if they've done the right thing, and can't find rules/someone to tell them. Complaints about actual poor assessment seem rather thin on the ground.

 

Hello there, loved your post because there is so much to agree on, but regardless of agreeing it raises many points that are absolutely valid.

 

I raised my own point because it so happens that where comments on dynamics were never picked up on before, there seems to have been something going on

when online exams happened where these comments started appearing. Rather than just saying 'oh it's the bad examiners' I thought that maybe there was an issue with the technology. I think we can probably take many anecdotal examples to sort of prove of disprove that we can hear as much as we need to from recordings but I am not advertising anything except that I too do not examine as harshly as I have seen recently on online performances. So it made me think that my post could raise an overdue discussion of what doing music exams online should 'sound' like. 

 

As you say there are always more pressing priorities but essentially there is a ###### of a difference between hearing a violin through studio monitors and a 'phone speakers... while we may measure relative change in our minds as significant, we do not get a 'full tone' and we may need to look at exam criteria if they are prescriptive in areas of tone to warrant pass/merit/distinction etc.

 

I am not a fan of exams per se and I indeed think schools should be the place for music rather than private lessons... So I agree 100% that the solution is not to focus on more money spent on high-tech recordings for private exams but on music in the community, schools, etc. 

 

So my post may be a bit pointless but I think that if we think of 'digital' teaching/exams we should have a less 'make do' approach but more of a specialist, re-skilled one.... I think we can agree on that, perhaps...

 

Thanks for the reply x


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#13 elemimele

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Posted 04 May 2021 - 13:55

... sorry if I was unfair!

In some ways, I think the skills to deal with the low-end of recording will just happen. We'll get used to listening to poor sound quality (we already have!), and sound-quality will improve (little internal microphones are already much, much better than they were 5 or 10 years ago). 

I'll be positive instead of negative: somewhere where I think there is a need for the technically-savvy to go out and educate is in amateur groups. Covid has exposed the fact that a lot of musicians are quite good at playing together in one room, but are floundering rather when it comes to multi-tracking. Hopefully we won't have to multitrack for ever. But even post-Covid, as a YouTube devotee, there are a lot of dodgy recordings out there. Even if examiners can still examine a bad recording, from the point of view of making online music, amateur groups are at a significant disadvantage to their professional colleagues when it comes to being enjoyable on YouTube. If you're recording for a public audience rather than examiners, there's no point if the result sounds bad. I don't know if kids get any help learning such things? They do get some basic graphic arts training now, and Photoshop - no idea if music education is contemplating doing the same with sound-recording?


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#14 Hildegard

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Posted 04 May 2021 - 15:01

.

- no idea if music education is contemplating doing the same with sound-recording?

 

Recording production techniques have, for at least the last 20 years, formed an important part of A-level Music Technology and BTec Music Technology.


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#15 ViolinsAreForLife

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Posted 04 May 2021 - 16:21

Yes, what Hildegarde says is true.

 

I think the problem or question is not so much for teachers who are, by the nature of their classes (NQF/SQA) engaged/ing with tech-y music practices:

rather, it is the multitude of practitioners who suddenly through Covid lockdown have been thrown into using music tech practices without a choice in the matter.

 

This raises the question of digital poverty not only for pupils/students but also for staff teaching from home AND for staff teaching in a tech-poor establishment

where even if they intended to engage their students (regardless of which unit they were studying) they would not have the means.

 

It is sad that we always chase the latest tech but in practice there are entire sections of education where there is very old tech still milling around and upgrades

are done in haste without the necessary time to motivate, timetable, and support staff competence in channelling knowledge through these new means. 

There are lots of teachers I meet who are limited by time and funding to using very time-tested tech and end up having to be very narrow about what is possible: there is scope for so much more, and the issue seems to be one of time. Too much pressure piled on teachers for exams, reports, inspections, reforms, meetings, after-school classes, tutorials, you name it. For private tutors there are issues of funding AND time whereby they may feel that they can get by with time-tested tools for their busy teaching schedule and may not feel able to plunge into teaching themselves new skillsets.

 

I am fortunate, really fortunate, to have had the kind of upbringing where we had modest means but a huge appetite for culture and learning was instilled by my parents and by few, very dedicated teachers... i somehow have carved a space in the workplace where I have a portfolio career where I can learn a wide number of skills... and that includes a large investment in my own skills... I became a YouTuber too, and that is a whole tech journey in itself. Like Elemimele said, being a YouTube musician could be something of a benchmark in terms of quality and skillset... And I find a lot of teachers asking basic questions about how to set up a mic at home, which are not only legitimate but well overdue... We should all be able to have basic commercial music / production skills... There is a huge gap in the 'classical' music education in terms of being self-reliant in this area... While it takes years of practice to be a mixing and/or mastering engineer or a studio recording engineer, it is not impossible to teach non-tech-y musicians and teachers to be not only basically competent but actually proficient enough to release commercially viable recordings themselves.  So I do sometimes despair at the gap between the image of commercially-savvy teenage music students and the reality of a digitally poor country not just in terms of music tech skills but also of actual basic access to home broadband, or a device that can shoulder processing music software with little latency. 

 

There is a lot of work to do and nobody knows if lessons will have been learnt from our year of lockdowns, but I do remain optimistic and committed to passing on all that I have learnt to students, parents, and colleagues who desperately need to be 21st century musicians or support their children's musical learning.

 

I am really hoping conversations like these are happening everywhere, and that the divide between 'classical' and pop worlds will not need 'fusion' artists to close but actually close out of a need for all musicians, regardless of style, to be technologically self-reliant to a commercially viable standard,


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