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#1 dexter97

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 09:28

I’m hoping to draw on your collected wisdom and experience for some advice on my son’s musical development. He’s 11 years old, has just completed his ABRSM grade 3 piano, and we need to make sure we go in the right direction from here.

 

He’s already decided that he’d like to be a professional musician, and while he’s enjoyed playing his exam pieces over the last couple of years, he has no aspiration to become a classical pianist; he wants to be a rock star (Matt Bellamy, to be specific). While not wanting to pour too much cold water on his dream (I was once him), I’ve managed to persuade him that the more realistic aim of becoming a session-player would be a great platform from which to launch his bid for stardom.

 

So with this in mind, we need to plan his tuition for the next few years. Until very recently, I hadn’t really considered formal tuition in other styles (Jazz, Rockschool, etc.) and had assumed that he would continue down the classical route for his formal training. However, I’m now wondering whether one of these other syllabuses is worth pursuing, and whether it would be an ‘instead of’ or ‘in addition to’ his classical training?

 

Thanks in advance.

 


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#2 BadStrad

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 11:22

Session musicians have to be *really* good. It's not an easy option. Admittedly, my experience is of orchestral session musicians and they have to be top notch to get the work.
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#3 ejw21

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 11:28

I know of another amateur pianist who does Rockschool as well as ABRSM exams and they cover a very different style - not easy! If there is time (balance with school work etc) IMO it would be worth a look for him. I think one of these syllabi includes improvisation which I can imagine would be v v useful for a session musician. As would being able to play by ear.

 

Does your son play any other instruments? 

 

I appreciate he's 11 but a browse on something like the Prospects website for music related careers might also be useful.


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#4 HelenVJ

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 12:30

I'd be very surprised if any rock stars ever took any Rockschool-type exams. That's not to say that dexter's son wouldn't benefit from following that type of syllabus. And as ejw said, playing by ear and improvisation are crucial skills, which need a strong foundation of knowledge of blues scales, keys, chords and progressions. The majority of ABRSM teachers won't be likely to cover these with emphasis on jazz styles or improv. Elena Cobb has produced a book of (quite basic) improv exercises including blues scales and 12-bar blues in various keys. This book could be a useful starting point. Also the Forrest Kinney Improvisation books.


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#5 Dorcas

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 14:32

Stick with accredited exams.  Ask for formal training in improvisation.  Trinity offer this as an option for their technical work.  By all means learn other styles, which personally, I think the current teacher is most likely ready willing and able to teach, if you discuss this with him or her.  Session musicians are in fact the pinnacle of musicians, in my opinion, whether orchestral or jazz or rock or genres included, not excluded.  Let's face it, many of them can imitate a style, turning moonlight sonata into something more bluesy, if only someone would ask them!


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#6 dexter97

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 14:35

Thanks for your replies.

 

He's very talented (three distinctions so far) and has an incredibly good ear (which is to the detriment of his sight-reading). Once he knows how something should sound, he's away. For his grades 2 & 3 I bought him the books with the CDs, and he'd pretty much learned his pieces within a few listens. Everything that he plays purely for pleasure, he learns by listening.

 

He's started playing guitar and had a few goes at drums. He also sings as part of a musical theatre group he goes to. There's no formal tuition for any of this though (yet). He's a natural and I've no doubt he has the potential to be good enough, but I want to make sure he's equipped with the broadest range of technical skills to allow him to be able to do whatever he wants.

 

My inclination is to get him working on something like Rockschool in conjunction with his ABRSM grades, but I don't want to do more harm than good. I suppose what I'm looking for is any experience you might have had of how students who've done this have coped.


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#7 Dorcas

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 14:42

Dexter, that sounds like a good plan.  If the current teacher has such a gifted student to work with, it would be unwise to break up their partnership.  Lucky Rockschool!  


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#8 Banjogirl

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 15:34

He'll likely end up being a teacher or a university lecturer or an office worker or a doctor like most other people who want to be a rock star!

 

If he wants to play the guitar he needs some proper lessons, ditto the drums. For every 'self-taught' (often a lot less self-taught than they admit to) musician there are many more who had lessons in the normal way.


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#9 tulip21

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 15:59

If he really prefers jazz and rock over classical, it might be worth switching his focus to those areas while still studying some classical music for technique purposes. Do you think it's necessary to take exams for every single grade? I most certainly don't, and only take them every few grades.
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#10 susiejean

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 17:53

Many 'rock stars' actually have jazz backrounds. 

I would personally recommend Rockschool. It's tough and actually very technical. The scales are very different and played to a click. Sight reading is against a backing track. You pick between sight reading and improv, which is also against a backing track, as are all 3 pieces. They are very much geared to learning you to play along with others. They are accredited so that's not a problem. I've both sat these exams and entered candidates.

For the record Matt Bellamy is actually a pretty awesome pianist. He could also have a look at Trinity Rock & Pop. They have less technical, in fact only improv which is a shame, but I Belong To You and United States Of Eurasia come in at grades 7 & 8! Sadly no Muse in Rockschool at the moment but I think they have a new syllabus coming out shortly


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#11 sbhoa

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 18:22

For a very talented youngster I'd perhaps question ploughing through all exam grades.

With the right teachers he can learn a variety of styles without being tied down to an exam syllabus and often much more can be covered this way.

Other performance opportunities like festivals may be more relevant.

Also you say he's learning everything from listening. Is his teacher aware and including enough practice at reading and learning from the score without having listened to the music?


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#12 Cyrilla

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 20:28

Session musicians have to be able to sight-read anything as well as be able to pick things up quickly by ear.

 

A friend of mine, who has made a good career as a musician in several genres, was a classically-trained pianist up to college level.   He doesn't have perfect pitch but has an amazing understanding of keys and chord progressions - if you sing something, he can play it pretty quickly - and can play any chord (including jazz chords, added 2nds/7ths etc.) in any key.

 

As a teenager he played piano for his sister's dance classes and as a result learned how to improvise music on any given theme.

 

He can also play guitar well and has had a lot of vocal training, resulting in a 3.5 octave range.   He uses all of these skills in his work.

 

He writes amazing a cappella arrangements and will release a classical piano album over the summer.

 

So I think what I'm trying to say is that a classical training WILL be of benefit, alongside other training in specific areas that interest him.

 

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#13 Banjogirl

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 10:54

My sister is a bog standard classically trained pianist with a music degree. She's a fantastic sight reader and can play anything by ear. She obviously has talent but she also just played and played and played as a teenager, accompanying, improvising, song writing and playing normal music. One way or another that is the way to develop those skills.

At university one of their exams was to play unseen from a full orchestral score on the piano. Anyone who can do that can do anything!
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#14 susiejean

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 16:34

When does he go in to high school/academy whatever you call it with you? One of the best things he could do is hook up with others around his age and form a wee band. One of the best teachers is experience. No exam or studying will prepare you for the singer forgetting words, skipping an entire verse, singing over your solo, other band members playing the chorus when your still on the verse, not being able to hear yourself because the monitor isn't high enough, the room being too dark to see your hastily scribbled lead sheet done with a 3H pencil. All these things you learn 'on the job' so to speak.


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#15 susiejean

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 16:36

She's a fantastic sight reader and can play anything by ear. She obviously has talent but she also just played and played and played as a teenager, 

 

This the only way to improve sight reading, but try convincing a teenager whose less passionate!


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