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Encouraging a child to take Grade Exams

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#1 formerpriest

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:48

My 7 year old daughter has been learning the piano for 12 months and getting on very well.  Her teacher has suggested that she might like to think about the ABRSM exams.  She has that she doesn't want to but wont give a reason.   I initially thought that a fear of playing in public might be the reason but she realises that she will only have to play in front of one person - and still doesn't want to think about it. 

 

Does anyone have any advice on how to encourage her?   I am a trained musician (RAM) and she is very used to hearing me play all the time (I don't teach her - no patience).  I thought about playing some of the pieces to her in the hope that that might excite her.

 

Am struggling a bit - any help or advice would be gratefully received.

 

Thanks

 


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#2 Chomp

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:55

I wouldn't worry about it just yet. I think 12 months of lessons is quite soon to be thinking about piano exams. Especially that young.

When she's older and at a higher standard, and can see she is comfortable playing pieces of the required standard, she may change her mind.
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#3 sbhoa

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:57

Is there a reason why she should take exams?

You could try calling it working for a certificate.

Does she like to perform at all? 


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#4 maggiemay

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 12:01

I'd probably recommend a softly softly approach. It may simply be the word 'exam' that your daughter finds off-putting.

If she is enjoying her lessons / playing so far, it would be a pity to rock the boat. And it really is relatively early days yet.

If I were your child's teacher, I would avoid the issue for now, but gradually introduce bits of the syllabus along the way, probably using pieces from the 'alternative' list, so as to avoid the book with the dreaded 'E' word on the cover, along with the early scales, and using the aural topics as games in lessons.

Once your daughter has gained a bit more confidence, and completed most of the work needed, it might be possible to suggest she 'goes along and plays to someone else', and at that point consider an entry.
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#5 agricola

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 14:15

I wouldn't push it -- let her learn on her own terms.  She could follow the syllabus without actually taking the exam.  I just wonder whether it's possible that she feels she can't measure up to your own standard, especially if you are impatient with her ?  In which case I suggest you play the exam pieces to her very badly indeed ! :)


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#6 BadStrad

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 15:11

OH's piano teacher doesn't enter anyone until Grade eight, unless parent's/pupil really push for it.  I suspect he partly sees it as a waste of their money and also it means that he's free to choose the music which best suits the needs of each learner, rather than having choices foisted upon them.  The pupils get plenty of performance practice, however as there are a million Eisteddfod competitions to enter each year, should they so choose.  So I wouldn't worry about exams, but, you might need to be firm with the teacher about that.  There do seem to be teachers who feel they are somehow failing in their duty if pupils aren't taking exams (or have been made to feel that way by competitive parents urging their children up the grade ladder).  As you probably know the RAM doesn't require any grade certificate to gain entry.


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#7 jpiano

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 22:50

I agree that 7 is pretty young to be thinking about grade exams. Off the top of my head I think I've only had 1 pupil enter an exam that young- and then it was the Prep Test- which I'd highly recommend as a very gentle start. As others have said, I wouldn't push it- and for piano especially a year of lessons is very soon to be considering exams. Generally I wait until they're around 8 at least- and then I'd be more likely to start with the Prep Test, unless they'd got past that level- in which case they'd be likely to be slightly older anyway. I think that the exam experience needs more maturity than a lot of 7 year olds possess. Of course there are always exceptions.

 

I've had students start off not wanting to do exams, then changing their minds, likewise some people do a couple of grades and then decide the exam thing isn't for them. Either way, it's great that your daughter is getting on well and enjoying playing.


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#8 Flossie

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 00:05

 I am a trained musician (RAM) and she is very used to hearing me play all the time (I don't teach her - no patience).  

I can't help wondering whether this is the reason she doesn't want to take the exam and why she won't give a reason.  If you have trained to conservatoire level on the same instrument and don't have the patience for teaching then it is likely that she will have picked this up (even if you haven't tried to teach her yourself).  Children are often more attuned to this sort of thing than adults realise, even if they cannot explain it in a rational adult way.  Not doing the exam protects her from judgement.  I would leave exams until she shows some sign of wanting to do one.

 

It might be worth having her start on another instrument in a year or two - an orchestral or brass instrument would be ideal for building up confidence about playing with, and in front of, other people.  An instrument which you haven't played might help her to find her own musicality without the same potential for comparisons with yourself (and even better if you can be so 'unknowledgeable' about the instrument that you need her to explain things to you).  


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#9 GMc

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 03:34

Is music about waving a grade 1,2,3,4 etc certificate about or something else?  I would say something else despite having done an awful lot of ABRSM exams myself in the past  and have the interesting persepective now of looking at a child of mine who has one exam keen teacher in one instrument and two no exam teachers in the other.  On the other hand I quite like the theory and musicianship exams or at least their syllabi as they lead you to more rigorous study than a bit of on the side reading does....

 

There are an awful lot of very good players around - both amateur and professional - who have never gone through the grade system.  The system  gives you set goals which can be attractive esp for teachers who are not used to setting their own but in no way prepares you for doing your best at  real performances.     I personally liked the exams as giving deadlines to work to and as external validation of your standard and feedback without the stress of an audience.   I see now looking at a number of teachers who do no exams (all of whom concentrate on performances as goals) that they seem to get better results, a large number of their pupils become very advanced  and they personally often tend to be excellent performers themselves.  I think the motivation to really grasp a piece, connect with it and communicate it  is far higher if you are about to go out and play it to a large or small hall full of people than to an examiner to be brutally honest.


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#10 Doodle

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 08:59

I have a daughter (almost 12) who has never taken a music exam, currently plays violin in her school orchestra, enjoys concerts and plays better than she did before.  She's not interested in exams right now, so we're not pushing it.  She's playing, and she's enjoying it, and she's improving - result!  (She's about grade 5 standard)


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#11 Clari Nicki1

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 17:16

As a teacher, if a pupil says they don't want to take an exam, I say "That's fine- but we are going to cover everything you would have to do if you took an exam, so that you have some idea of what sort of standard you are". And that's what we do. Then, when the pupil is approaching being ready I say "Do you know, if you wanted to, I reckon you'd be able to take Grade 1 soon if you'd like to- as you are doing really well" or something like that. Some say "Yeah- I'd like to do that" and some say "No"- and if they do, that's fine. Learning Grade 1 pieces doesn't make you take the exam- but it does give you an idea of your standard.

I often find when their friends are taking exams and get the certificates in assembly, then they want to do exams! I have a pupil taking her Grade 5 this term, who said she'd never do an exam.


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#12 jpiano

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 20:54

As a teacher, if a pupil says they don't want to take an exam, I say "That's fine- but we are going to cover everything you would have to do if you took an exam, so that you have some idea of what sort of standard you are". And that's what we do. Then, when the pupil is approaching being ready I say "Do you know, if you wanted to, I reckon you'd be able to take Grade 1 soon if you'd like to- as you are doing really well" or something like that. Some say "Yeah- I'd like to do that" and some say "No"- and if they do, that's fine. Learning Grade 1 pieces doesn't make you take the exam- but it does give you an idea of your standard.

I often find when their friends are taking exams and get the certificates in assembly, then they want to do exams! I have a pupil taking her Grade 5 this term, who said she'd never do an exam.

Yes, I explain to my pupils and parents that I do not teach students in a different way if they are/are not 'doing grades'. We all cover scales, play pieces, do sight reading- I tell them that the only difference is that for an exam they will have to learn set pieces. I've had a recent teenage student who hadn't taken a grade before pass his grade 3 with a merit- he was progressing very well and I think in fact we've moved on faster through not taking the first grades but just working through the learning stages. 


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#13 Alder

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 09:36

Aye, I'm another one who covers the material that would be needed and only mentions the exams when they're actually at a stage that they're achievable. 

 

I had a pupil in yesterday who I think would've laid an egg if I'd mentioned exams when she started with me - she came from another teacher that she'd just not gelled with. (Very very quiet wee lassie of about 8 at the time, and I think she was a bit uncomfortable learning from a man, she said to her mum that she "might like a lady better"! :lol:) She barely spoke for months, and is still pretty quiet, but yesterday I said to her, after a very good lesson, "By the way, if you keep making progress like this, you'll be about the right level for Grade 1 in the Spring, if that's something you're interested in...?" Big grin and vigorous nodding from pupil. :)


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#14 linda.ff

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 10:09

Aye, I'm another one who covers the material that would be needed and only mentions the exams when they're actually at a stage that they're achievable. 

 

I had a pupil in yesterday who I think would've laid an egg if I'd mentioned exams when she started with me - she came from another teacher that she'd just not gelled with. (Very very quiet wee lassie of about 8 at the time, and I think she was a bit uncomfortable learning from a man, she said to her mum that she "might like a lady better"! :lol:) She barely spoke for months, and is still pretty quiet, but yesterday I said to her, after a very good lesson, "By the way, if you keep making progress like this, you'll be about the right level for Grade 1 in the Spring, if that's something you're interested in...?" Big grin and vigorous nodding from pupil. :)

Yes, it's the difference between "would you like to start working towards grade X?" and "I thin you're ready to pass grade X, you could do it easily in a term and a bit". These two statements might in fact be said at the same stage, but somehow the latter seems to get more positive response


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#15 Latin pianist

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 10:18

I think I do teach a bit differently if they're not doing exams. I choose the pieces I know went down well with past pupils, we do more fun pieces like songs from the shows, and more duets. We cover more material and they often end up better sightreaders than those who do exams. I do all these things with exam pupils too, but not as much.
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