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Having to sing in exams

exams singing aural

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#1 Spirulla

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 11:05

Am I the only one put off ABSRM exams because of the need to sight sing in the aurals?

I thought I might try and learn to sight sing but lessons cost a fortune.  

 

Has anyone tried teaching themselves to sing and, if so, what was the outcome?


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#2 HelenVJ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 11:44

No, you are not the only person to be put off. This is one of many reasons thart I now use Trinity almost exclusively with my students of all ages. Sensible aural tests, requiring careful listening skills, and no singing, or super-human feats of memory, required at any stage.

Singing  and sight-singing are useful musicianship skills, but I don't have time or energy to teach them in the context of an instrumental lesson.


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#3 maggiemay

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 12:52

Am I the only one put off ABSRM exams because of the need to sight sing in the aurals?
I thought I might try and learn to sight sing but lessons cost a fortune.  
 
Has anyone tried teaching themselves to sing and, if so, what was the outcome?

Have you thought of joining a choir?
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#4 helen_flute

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 19:21

Definitely not. This is one of the reasons why I'm planning to do Trinity.

 

I'm happy to sing along to the radio in the privacy of my own home, but not to do it in front of an examiner (or anyone else for that matter). My teacher occasionally gets me to sing something, and I'm not at all comfortable with it, although I can sing and generally am in tune.


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#5 Dotty old crotchet

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 20:39

Sight Singing Made Simple by David Bauguess book+CD

Aimed at members of choirs who can't read music. It's very basic, and obviously if you can already read music some if it is redundant, as the book starts with how to read simple rhythms. The second half of the book teaches the basics of how to sing pitches using the technique of moveable do solfege. It doesn't go very far just covering stepwise movement and tonic chord.

It's very easy to follow and I'm finding it good fun and it's already been useful, when I was writing some Renaissance diminutions it was much easier to just sing my ideas using do re mi rather than keep picking up my instrument to try them out.

I'm not taking exams, and I've only seen the syllabus for the aural up to grade 5 but it is just a case of singing a few pitches from the staff isn't it? I assume you wouldn't actually need good breathing, technique, enunciation or a 'nice' voice. Just get the pitches right. I've certainly improved just with a little practice.

If I was taking exams I think the fact that Trinity require a much faster speed for the scales for my instrument than ABRSM does would put me off more than having to sing a bit.
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#6 sbhoa

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 20:53

No, you are not the only person to be put off. This is one of many reasons thart I now use Trinity almost exclusively with my students of all ages. Sensible aural tests, requiring careful listening skills, and no singing, or super-human feats of memory, required at any stage.

Singing  and sight-singing are useful musicianship skills, but I don't have time or energy to teach them in the context of an instrumental lesson.

I find the spot the difference and describe interesting features questions quite a memory feat.

I also found it a challenge to list interesting features in a short piece with no interesting features.What they actually mean is list everything you can; time signature, phrasing, dynamic tonality etc. That can be quite a shopping list at later grade to get full marks.


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#7 Tezes123

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 21:02

My teacher goes through the aural requirements in my lessons for prob a couple of months before the exam. Imo it's not really singing as such just repeating a 'tune' the examiner plays twice in succession to you and then repeated short intervals of a sheet. You can practice yourself what you need to do for the exam, also there are plenty of aural teaching videos on YouTube and you can buy the ABRSM aural training books and/or use the their apps. I wouldn't let it put you off their exams, up to now (my last exam was G5) I think the aural part of the exam has been the easiest way to gain points. All the best whatever you decide :)
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#8 gav_1988

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 03:05

I was dreading the sight singing a bit when I did my grade 4 at Christmas and was fully intent on whistling instead of singing (something I do all day, every day, much to the annoyance of all my coworkers, hah)

On the day though, I ended up singing. And was surprised that it sounded fine (in my head at least). The examiners don't care what your voice sounds like as long as you're making a noise that sounds like the right note (or as near as ####### - if you go wrong, they'll play the right note to bring you back to where you should be. 

As for the memory singing test, take the advice of Yoda from Star Wars. 'Do or do not, there is no try'. Mine was definitely wrong (which was also confirmed on the mark sheet), but singing something (anything) with a bit of conviction will make you feel better about it, and probably the rest of the aural test too. (Besides, the longer you think about it for, the more likely you are to forget what they just played!) It's a weirdly nervewracking experience for something that is worth the least amount of marks in the exam. 

Singing is not the only thing you have to do in the aural tests, so the proportion of marks you might lose out on is really quite small. 


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#9 mel2

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 07:49

Gav is right; it isn't really singing at all - and I think misunderstanding this is where people get hung up.
I was pleasantly surprised when I introduced some aural exercises with a newish 15 yr old male student. He quite happily parroted back some phrases to me (correctly-yay!) just with a quiet dum, dum, dum-dum etc. Had it been a problem I was going to suggest he hum it or try whistling, but by doing this he wasn't baring his soul, exposing a weakness or othetwise looking vulnerable. It's not an audition or anything, just an attempt to pitch, which with access to an instrument you can practise yourself -certainly no singing lessons required.
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#10 Spirulla

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 09:37

Many thanks to you all for your helpful range of responses;  I have read and reflected on all of them.  My memory is almost as bad as my croaky singing but fortunately I have been a bit gung-ho in exams so far and have happily sung an approximation of the examiner's tune (the last one did look as though I'd hit him with a shovel).  I have joined with choirs for sing-the-Messiah-in-a-day type of things.  My greatest achievement was not getting lost in the score and not singing in the rests, which was a modest personal triumph.  I'm not sure that I'd be much of an asset to a proper choir.

 

The Kodaly courses look very interesting but they seem to have a broader educational focus.  I'll look into these a bit further and find out the prices.  The Bauguess book looks interesting too, I'll try and track it down at the library.   The singing element of the exam may be relatively small but my instrumental playing needs all the help it can get.  Perhaps there is an opportunity here for someone to run an exam-preparation course for adult non-singers?  I had a couple of lessons with a wonderfully eccentric teacher who boosted my confidence (but not my competence) but it's v v expensive to learning 1 to 1.

 

I too have looked into Trinity exams and their assessments do seem more humane.  Any further thoughts or suggestions most welcome.


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#11 Crock

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:07

No, you are not the only person to be put off. This is one of many reasons thart I now use Trinity almost exclusively with my students of all ages. Sensible aural tests, requiring careful listening skills, and no singing, or super-human feats of memory, required at any stage.

Singing  and sight-singing are useful musicianship skills, but I don't have time or energy to teach them in the context of an instrumental lesson.

But as others have said you're not assessed on your quality of your voice - simply whether you are in tune and in the relevant cases whether you have the rhythm right.

 

And as Sbhoa says "spot the difference" and "describe interesting features" questions are quite a memory feat; the former in particular I find very challenging. And these are in Trinity too.

 

I may be an exception but the sight-singing has been my saviour with aural and I hope it stays in place!  And I don't actually "like" singing either.  I disliked being in the choir at school (which was compulsory!).


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#12 Maizie

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:33

The bit that always gets me in these discussions - what is 'quality of voice' if not the ability to be in tune?  It's about the only quality I'd like my voice to have :D

I have only done aural stuff rarely since school days, but the problem now is the same as it was then.  Hearing the note is not a problem; making it come out of my mouth is


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#13 MaggieH

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:43

I don't possess a good singing voice, but I don't mind singing in  La La La mode or tum te tum,  if that is acceptable. biggrin.png   If its just a few bars , I will be ok.

 

The reason I chose to play an instrument is because I can't sing.  


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#14 sbhoa

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 12:11

Gav is right; it isn't really singing at all - and I think misunderstanding this is where people get hung up.
I was pleasantly surprised when I introduced some aural exercises with a newish 15 yr old male student. He quite happily parroted back some phrases to me (correctly-yay!) just with a quiet dum, dum, dum-dum etc. Had it been a problem I was going to suggest he hum it or try whistling, but by doing this he wasn't baring his soul, exposing a weakness or othetwise looking vulnerable. It's not an audition or anything, just an attempt to pitch, which with access to an instrument you can practise yourself -certainly no singing lessons required.

I could, you could but from reading lots of posts around this topic on the forum it's clear that there are many who couldn't because they really can't tell if they are reproducing the right note.  If reproducing a note or a phrase with your voice isn't singing then what is it? Yes, you can hum or whistle but if you can't reproduce the pitch you can hear it doesn't help and if you can't hear the difference you can't sort it out on your own.

It seems that some people really do have a problem with this. I used to wonder what all the fuss was about singing back a four bar phrase....after all it's how we learned hymns and songs at school and that was never a problem and my children and grandchildren could sing pretty much in tune before they were three. It's been interesting and thought provoking to discover that this is not a natural process for everybody.


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#15 EllieD

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 13:39

I don't know why, but I think a lot of people, somewhere along the line, develop mental blocks about whether or not they can sing in tune, and probably believe that they can't when in fact they sound perfectly fine. Encouragement when you are a young child, as in sbhoa's children and grandchildren, would ensure that the natural gift is nurtured, but if young people somehow feel criticised for singing or otherwise feel insecure, that gift would get buried. 


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