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Fastest way to reach grade 8

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#1 p73r

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Posted 30 November 2015 - 18:34

I am struggling to make progress on my technique on a higher grade. I did grade 7 flute some time ago, but even though I practised for a long time on my instrument, I felt that I was not making much progress. My objective is to reach grade 8, but I do not know what is the fastest way to do this. What sort of techniques should I use? I feel that there is a lack of resources on guiding myself through music practice. I play a piece, and my teacher suggested that I should play slowly when I have difficult runs. I am trying to do everything my teacher is asking for, but I do not understand why I am not making much progress.

There must be a way in which people do so well in music even though it is so difficult. I want to know how people manage to get through all the grades.

Also, what is the fastest way to reach grade 8 from scratch?


Edited by p73r, 30 November 2015 - 18:35 .

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#2 sbhoa

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Posted 30 November 2015 - 19:17

Sometimes progress slows down, or at least appears to slow down. It often doesn't go in a nice,steady curve, that's normal.

It sounds as though your teacher is offering some sound practice advice. Why the hurry to complete grades?

Why not make learning to play as well as you can the main focus? Grades are just markers along the way.

People manage with effort and time but if it's the only thing they are learning for then many give up after that. 

The fastest way to reach grade 8 from scratch is possibly to endlessly drill an almost exclusive diet of exam material but doing this would leave so many gaps in your learning.


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#3 jpiano

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Posted 30 November 2015 - 22:08

Yes, the more I think about it (and my pupils' exam results support this), it is one of those ironies that the people who 'get through' the grades in the most timely fashion, with the highest marks, are those whose aim is to play music, and for whom passing the grade is just a positive side result of this rather than the goal itself.  Lots of repertoire,  talk again to your teacher about ways to practice, ask them to talk you through what you should be doing in a practice session, I often get mine to show me a typical practice session they'd do at home with me just watching- if you haven't done that it's worth doing- you need to be really honest though, and show your teacher exactly what you do at home

 

I've taught transfer students who have done pretty much just as Sbhoa describes to get to a particular grade- I've never had one who's got as far as grade 8 though- usually they quit round about the grade 4 level as they simply do not have the skill set needed to progress further, and they aren't prepared to put in the groundwork to acquire it.


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#4 HelenVJ

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 11:02

What's the rush? Take your time, enjoy the scenery etc :).


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#5 Oboedad

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 14:11

To OP - do you play in any orchestras, bands, groups etc?  My daughter has a superb  teacher but we really think that her playing and general musicality (which is so important to making progress) has come on in leaps and bounds since she has been playing in various orchestras, concert bands etc. Obviously it depends on where you are and how easy access is to groups but playing alongside other people forces you to listen and adjust as needed to fit your sound in. It also means you encounter different styles more often and does wonders for sight reading on the fly. 

 

I think since DD started playing in more senior groups this year she has  "gone off" the idea of exams as the be all and end all of marking progress and wants to give a good performance and not let the side down when playing with groups - this I think is a good thing!


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#6 Arundodonuts

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 15:14

Lots to agree with here. As sbhoa says progress can be in fits and starts. I handled going through the grades pretty well up to Grade 6 when I felt it was starting to get tough. From 6 to 7 took quite a lot longer than going between previous grades and after 7 I was feeling a bit washed out and decided to take it easy for a while, still having lessons and still practicing, but covering lots of repertoire rather than exam material as jpiano suggests. When I got back on the exam treadmill I had lots of scales to polish again!! By the time I got to grade 8 I think I'd maybe had enough of exams. I made heavy weather of preparing for it, didn't play terribly well, but at least I passed. Now out of the way and playing repertoire again I'm sure I'm playing better than ever now. I also agree that you can probably get through the grades more quickly by doing only exam material. But at what cost? It won't do you musicianship any good. Oboedad is right. Find ensembles you can play with.

 

One thing I think is fairly certain. Your progress will be proportional to the number of hours of good practice and playing you put in. So, if you want to halve the number of weeks, months, years to get to grade 8, double the number of hours a day you do. If you can stomach it and can do quality work whilst putting in the extra hours.

 

I like HelenVJ's comment too. The journey should be as enjoyable as you can make it.


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#7 dorfmouse

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 21:41

It does sound like you need a better armoury of practice techniques. Just slowing down doesn't necessarily conquer the difficult bits. Here is a useful article by Jen Cluff on learning etudes, which can be applied to any piece.

http://jennifercluff...arn-etudes.html

Does your teacher really show you quality practice? When my teacher takes me in hand over a passage I've been fudging, it's amazing how long we can spend on just a couple of bars. She homes in on the exact place things are going wrong and works to either side of that note, first in pairs, then threes etc, often working backwards from the end of a phrase. Importantly, she insists I stop for a few seconds after each repetition rather than rushing on. Each little set of notes has to be played with good tone. When they're in place at slow speed we practice them in different rhythms or accented in different ways, I copying her. She makes up and encourages me to make up little exercises to practice variations on the difficulty. (I always find playing seqences in thirds mind-bending for example.) If the difficult bit is followed by another difficult bit, she suggests not practising that for a couple of days, to allow the first bit to settle. I find it great practicing along with her like this. She's like a dog with a bone and just will not allow me to move on if it's still shaky. Back we go to the first pair of notes if it starts to fall apart again! And, allelulia, nine times out of ten when I pick up the flute the next day, that bit is far, far better than if I just kept trying it slowly. It's painstaking but in the end you get there quicker.
Hasten slowly!
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#8 Saxwarbler

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Posted 03 December 2015 - 20:07

I'm having a similar 'dilemma' at the moment - 'dilemma' in inverted commas because I've already made my mind up (although needed some reassurance that I'd made the right decision). I need serious, somewhat prolonged work to get a good grade 6 singing, but a friend is trying to persuade me that I could scrape grade 8 in a year just as she did. I feel that my route is the best as it would enable me to develop more fully and become much more secure in delivery, leading to better grade marks. An examiner and my teacher have confirmed my thoughts on this and so this is what I'm going to do. I'm just going to enjoy learning new repertoire and getting it to as high a standard as possible until my teacher says I'm ready for the next exam.

 

There's a lady I know who has progressed alongside me - we took grades 4 and 5 together - but who has already managed grade 6. For a time I was determined that I had to somehow 'overtake' her and skip straight to grade 7 but then I realised that's not what it's all about. She's a good singer and can go at whatever pace she likes - we'll all get there in the end and people only tend to ask you what grade you've got - not when you got it! Unless you desperately need that grade 8 for, say, university or orchestra entry, just sit back, enjoy the ride and take in every little bit of the journey. I also feel (probably others would agree) that there is more to life than just exam repertoire. You miss out on so much if you just limit yourself to that and it will certainly be a hindrance if you have designs on going pro in the future, where you'll be expected to have ready access to  a very wide ranging repertoire.


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#9 Arundodonuts

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Posted 03 December 2015 - 20:20

I agree with your approach Saxwarbler. It shouldn't be treated as a race.


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#10 sbhoa

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Posted 03 December 2015 - 20:20

There's a lady I know who has progressed alongside me - we took grades 4 and 5 together - but who has already managed grade 6. For a time I was determined that I had to somehow 'overtake' her and skip straight to grade 7 but then I realised that's not what it's all about. She's a good singer and can go at whatever pace she likes - we'll all get there in the end and people only tend to ask you what grade you've got - not when you got it! Unless you desperately need that grade 8 for, say, university or orchestra entry, just sit back, enjoy the ride and take in every little bit of the journey. I also feel (probably others would agree) that there is more to life than just exam repertoire. You miss out on so much if you just limit yourself to that and it will certainly be a hindrance if you have designs on going pro in the future, where you'll be expected to have ready access to  a very wide ranging repertoire.

Absolutely!

I've recently decided not to stop off to work for grade 8 as the only reason would be to keep up with others. Life's too short for grade 8 as there's so much more I want to play. I also want to improve technically as far as I'm able as playing well is more important to me than getting the certificate. I have a long way to go and have decided, with agreement from my teacher, that grade 8 is not a necessary part of the journey. I can always go for it if it feels right at some point further down the road.

Any exams I have taken have been well spaced. 


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#11 Saxwarbler

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Posted 03 December 2015 - 20:47

I made heavy weather of preparing for it, didn't play terribly well, but at least I passed. Now out of the way and playing repertoire again I'm sure I'm playing better than ever now. I also agree that you can probably get through the grades more quickly by doing only exam material. But at what cost?

Do you ever feel you want to go back and take an exam again, only with the benefit of hindsight and experience?


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#12 Arundodonuts

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Posted 03 December 2015 - 20:57

It's only this one I felt a bit disappointed with and only because I didn't play the pieces as well as I knew I could. Still, I got a merit, so I doubt I will retake it. Of course there are loads of things I'd like to do again with the benefit of hindsight and experience. Most of them non-musical.


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