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Rock School Exams


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#1 Guest: Mrs KW_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 15:35

I have a student who has been completely turned off by the usual ABRSM syllabus. A 9 - year old boy who loved the Wedgwood/Norton stuff, but turned into a recalcitrant grump when asked to play a scale, or something more classical.

He was in danger of giving up, and I negotiated with his parents that we forget the whole grade thing and build up his technique with things he wants to play. He's started practising again, so I think we're through the sticky patch.

Anyway, I've come across Rock School and wonder if anyone has used these exams. The syllabus looks interesting, and I wonder about introducing the music to this boy. A specific question - do their grades equate with the ABRSM ones, i.e. is their grade 1 the same as ours? I don't mind what he's playing, as long as he's learning and having fun. The package looks quite expensive (£12/£13 a book), so I just thought I'd check with you all to see if it's worth investing in.

I don't know what I'd do without you all out there. Your help and support is invaluable.

Thanks in advance,

Karen smile.gif
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#2 Guest: SteveHopwood_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 16:12

One of mine just took grade 4 RS, for the same reasons you are considering RS for yours.

The pieces are no pushover. Some of the expectations expressed in the syllabus are odd. For example, candidates are expected to follow printed directions such as metronome and dynamic markings slavishly. My candidate is more musical than that and largely interpreted in his own way. We await the result with interest.

The CD that comes with the exam book is diabolical, containing some of the most insensitive 'professional' playing I have heard. Adam says he puts it on from time to time for a giggle laugh.gif

The RS office is friendly and helpful. The exam seemed amateurish to those of us used to the likes of the AB. The nearest 'centre' was some 25 miles away in Rotherham. It was a hired room in a draughty building containing a electric piano; this threw Adam, who is used to practising on a grand.

He was allowed a substantial 'warmup' - he was the only candidate that evening - but then, having just got used to the silly instrument the examiner arrived and took him to a different, colder room to a totally different electric piano that Adam found even harder to control. He needed the warm-up on that, not the other fake laugh.gif

According to Adam, the examiner gave every impression of wanting to be elsewhere. After being presented with the sight-reading, Adam asked if he was allowed to play it during the study time. The examiner glared at him and snapped, "I am not here to teach you, young man."

So, on my highly unrepresentative sample of 1 candidate so far, I am unimpressed. My feelings are best summed up thus. Arrange the following into a well known phrase or saying; 'cowboys of bunch' laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif

Having said all this, Adam was going to take grade 4 classical piano or AB jazz, with all the improvisation involved in the latter, in the same way that I am going to take a Doctorate in Amphibian Species Evolving in the Upper Andes, so they at least provided him with something to take.

He has no intention of doing another one, though. Perhaps the AB is missing a trick here?

Steve biggrin.gif
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#3 Guest: neil.clarinet_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 16:28

There have been threads on this before. Try a search and see what comes up (usually 'rockschool' instead of two words). You still have to do scales as far as I know. If you have realplayer you can also sample their pieces on musicroom.
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#4 Guest: Bagpuss_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 19:05

Sorry to hear " The CD that comes with the exam book is diabolical, containing some of the most insensitive 'professional' playing I have heard."

Unless the pieces have been re-recorded I'm pretty certain one of my best friends is the pianist responsible!!!! And quite frankly he is absolutely brilliant...........!!!!!!

Go on, PM me the name of the pianist!!!

Bag x

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#5 Guest: neil.clarinet_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 19:29

Just one question, do you have to improvise in the Rockschool pieces. It's this part of the AB jazz syllabus I just can't get around. If not then could they be seen as good pieces to practise, though maybe forget their exams if your experience is representitive. (and a research student would never take one example as 'conclusive' though I'm sorry to hear it happened to your student) If there's no improvising to get round then they might be worth people trying, though they look quite expensive but that includes a CD.
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#6 Guest: margaret_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 20:46

I haven't entered anyone into the Rockschool yet but have bought 3 of their books - Grade 3, 4 and 8. I think the pieces are great and contrary to Steve I have no problems with the CD recordings. Just a point, they are not edited in any way so a more spontaneous performance is given.

The grade 4 and 8 pieces are very challenging but good fun. Improvisation is optional at grade 8. There is a choice of playing 5 pieces with no supporting tests at all. One of these pieces can be an own choice but within certain parameters. OR you can play three of the pieces and take additional scale, sightreading and aural tests all of which have a jazz bent to them. The books explain everything clearly and include an application form.

I am going to try the material with some of my pupils. I don't really intend sitting them for the exam - its just good, enjoyable music.

I know rockschool find it hard to locate good centres. I have been to some pretty terrible AB centres and have also had some pretty grumpy examiners. When I phoned the Board to chat about things they were very approachable and informative.



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#7 Guest: SteveHopwood_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 22:23

QUOTE(neil.clarinet @ Mar 14 2006, 07:29 PM) View Post

Just one question, do you have to improvise in the Rockschool pieces.

No.
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#8 Guest: jpiano_*

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 22:45

I have so far entered 3 students for Rockschool exams and so far haven't experienced any of the problems Steve mentioned-local centres -the first one my candidate used wasn't great-but since then Rockschool have found a couple of much better venues in my area. To be completely fair, I've had the occasional AB exam with an examiner who hasn't had a great manner or less than wonderful exam centre/steward-though most of them are very good. I guess part of the issue is that I've entered so many students for AB exams over the years, that any problems are put into context, whereas with a newer board,any problems stand out.
I agree the packs do seem expensive-purely because of the CD-it's a pity they're not available without, leaving the buying of the CD up to the pupil or teacher. There's been the odd inconsistency as well, between the syllabus requirements and the requirements listed in the pack-and I do find the very early closing entry dates aren't ideal-eg 1st December for the Spring exam. Other than that, they obviously meet a need that the other Boards aren't providing.
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#9 Guest: jasper_*

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 08:38

I have used Rockschool for Guitar exams and found them to be professional and helpful.

I think that the syllabus pieces are generally on a par with AB grades, but the technical tests are easier. Scales and Arpeggios do not have to be memorised. The sight reading test is half the length of AB tests for the same grade and they allow 90 seconds to prepare it.

Scales can be a little confusing for some candidates as they use natural minor scales - Aeolian etc. also their scales don't to end on the tonic !

The current Rockschool syllabus has been around for about 5 years and when I spoke to them at the end of last year they told me that a whole new syllabus was due to be launched at the beginning of this year. Haven't seen anything out yet, but I wouldn't buy too many of their current books as they may soon be out of date.
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#10 Guest: margaret_*

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 18:36

It is true Rockschool are redoing some of the syllabuses but the piano syllabus is due to go on for another couple of years - or so I was told!
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#11 Guest: Mrs KW_*

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 19:56

QUOTE(margaret @ Mar 15 2006, 06:36 PM) View Post

It is true Rockschool are redoing some of the syllabuses but the piano syllabus is due to go on for another couple of years - or so I was told!


I phoned today and checked. The piano syllabus remains unchanged and it's the others which are changing. I've ordered the Grade 1 stuff and will give it a whirl with my student. Hopefully Steve's experience was an isolated incident.

Karen smile.gif
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#12 Guest: Bagpuss_*

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 20:14

" I cannot help that he is a friend of yours."

That's OK, Steve - I don't need help!!!! (I'm sure my shrink would disagree).

Bag x

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