Can You Use the Same Pieces When You Try For An Exam A Second Time?

In response to google searches asking “can you use the same pieces when you try for an exam a second time?”: So, you (or your offspring) have failed a piano exam and you are wondering if you can just polish up the pieces you’ve already kind of learned and give the exam another go, hopefully with a substantially better result. The answer is usually yes, with the following proviso: Has the syllabus changed? The ABRSM syllabus (for example) changes every two years, and while there is a cross-over period worked into the system you might find that the pieces in question will lapse before the next opportunity for an examination. The AMEB syllabus changes at infrequent (and irregular) intervals, and at the moment there are two different syllabuses running concurrently for the Piano for Leisure exams. So check the syllabus to see if the pieces are still current. So long as your pieces are still on the syllabus you are

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Examination Rules: How Many Hours Practice Does it Take?!

One of my ‘rules’ for a while now has been that students need to do at least 100 hours practice to get from one grade to the next. My assertion is that if you managed a B/merit in your last exam then another 100 hours practice will get you to a B in your next exam. If you want to guarantee a B+ you’ll need to do 120 hours, and if you want to guarantee an A/distinction  you will need 140 hours. Of course, if you only manage 75-80 hours practice you should be only just able to manage a C!! But if you achieved an A/distinction result in your previous exam then 100 hours (or not much more) should deliver you an A result in your next exam too. I was chatting about this with Samantha Coates (Ms BlitzBooks!) and she was sharing anecdotal evidence she’s been gathering on this idea [that a certain number of hours will get

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How Hard Is a Piece of Music: June 2010 Installment

Exam boards release new graded material from time to time, unpredictably in the case of the AMEB, every two years like clockwork in the case of the ABRSM, and it’s an exciting moment when piano teachers get to take a look at the new material they can/will use with their students over the next few years. Particularly exciting when a personal favourite makes the cut, or an appealing piece one hasn’t come across before, but the downside is always possible: discovering inclusions that simply are too hard for students to seriously consider performing them in a graded assessment context. ABRSM doesn’t often stray in this regard – in fact, I’d say that teachers with more than 20 years experience would say that the selections have been getting easier (not harder) over the years. But the AMEB, with its 100+ pieces per grade syllabus, seems to lurch all over the place in terms of the grading of pieces, often with the

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Balanced Programs for Exams

I’ve been running around Australia saying to piano teachers not to bother trying to create balanced programs with their students pre-Grade 8, and of course teachers have been responding with “but students are required to present balanced programs”. Some exam boards, like Trinity College London and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, allow a very narrow choice of repertoire (just 6 pieces per list for ABRSM) in comparison to the AMEB, and students are completely free to choose any of these six pieces to make up a program of three works.  The assumption from the examination board is that your program will be balanced because they have grouped pieces in such a way that you will always end up with a range of styles, speeds and moods. But teachers believe that the AMEB syllabus requires them to select a ‘balanced’ program, in addition to selecting pieces from each of the three or four lists, and so students

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Mozzie

This piece might be my most performed piano piece to date.  It has been on the Australian Music Examination Board piano syllabus since 2000, and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music have included it in their Grade 2 Piano exam publication for 2009-10.  As a result, there are YouTube performances a-plenty.  Meantime quite a few people have discovered this blog while searching for information about Mozzie. So, for the curious, or those seeking some background on the piece, here is the tale of Mozzie. Back at the end of 1995 I had finally (yet suddenly) made the decision to write educational piano music in earnest, and set myself the challenge of writing just one really good piece of educational piano music before the end of the night (midnight, November 27).  I’d been out to dinner with my family as it was my parents’ wedding anniversary, so I set myself this challenge at about quarter to eleven at

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Scale of the Day #2: The Simpsons Scale

Rather than alter the original post (which would make the comments below somewhat hard to follow) I will leave it as is, but point out that “The Simpsons Scale” certainly does have a name within the jazz tradition, the Lydian-Dominant (just as last week’s scale has a name within the tradition of South Indian classical music, “Mayamalavagowla”), so in reality when I call this scale “The Simpsons Scale” I am boldly naming what hundreds of thousands in the world of jazz have named before. (And note that this scale has a name in the South Indian tradition  [Mouli’s comments below]). Now this scale isn’t actually called “The Simpsons Scale”, but since it isn’t actually called anything [in western theory] I have decided to boldly name what no one has named before. In reality the Simpsons scale is the melodic ascending pattern starting on the 4th degree, but it happens to be the pitch pattern used for the tonic harmonies in

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Does anyone teach transposing anymore?

The title of this blog entry is a little misleading, as in fact I wonder if anyone ever did teach transposing to more or less every student who passed through their door. But be that as it may, I genuinely do wonder if anyone does teach transposing anymore. Once upon a time piano exams would include some kind of exercise that needed to be performed in a variety of keys. In the 70s and 80s (when I was taking piano examinations myself) the English examination board Trinity College required students in the lower grades to perform the first few bars of some of the exam pieces in either the dominant or the subdominant, or a tone higher or lower, or some other pair of transposing options according to the grade of the exam.  During this time both the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College also offered Keyboard Musicianship examinations, which consisted of aural, sightreading, transposing and

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