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  • Are music exams getting easier?



    I'm based in the UK and have followed the ABRSM (Assoc Board of the Royal Schools of Music) for both the piano and organ.</p>

    My piano teacher has commented many times on how she finds that some of the pieces for Grade 8 for piano this year - she did as grade 5 or 6 some 30 or 40 years ago.</p>

    Even I have noticed that pieces that I did for my Grade 8 seem far harder than the pieces for Grade 8 today and thats a difference of about 5 years! In fact some Grade 8 pieces I feel are one or two grades higher than they should be.</p>

    I wonder is this perhaps a sense of perspective - perhaps I'm more skilled now than when I took Grade 8 so that pieces now "look" much easier. </p>

    Still you can't escape the fact that pieces that were once Grade 5 or 6 are now rated as Grade 7 or 8. Is this indicative of the "dumbing down" culture of exams in the UK?</p>

    I can't comment on any other instruments, so would like to here is the same true for say Violin/Cello etc also for different exam boards.
    </p>

    What about music exams in the US? Are the standards any lower than say 20 or 30 years ago?
    </p>
    1971 Allen Organ TC-3S (#42904) w/sequential capture system.
    Speakers: x1 Model 100 Gyro, x1 Model 105 & x3 Model 108.

  • #2
    Re: Are music exams getting easier?

    If I were being generous I'd say that the focus seems to be more on interpretative matters rather than playing the notes, but I don't really believe that. On the other side of the coin, though, the ABRSM pieces used to be a bit harder than some others (pieces on for Grade 6 the year I did it were apparently on diploma lists elsewhere) so maybe they're just trying to balance things out.

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    • #3
      Re: Are music exams getting easier?



      I think there's always an element of 're-grading' from board to board, and in the same board from year to year. Yes, I concur that some pieces I did at grade 6 or so now come in at higher grades. But on the other hand there's been criticism, for example, about the Grade 1 piano pieces (2006-8) being harder than usual. I agree with this and am then amazed to see at Grade 2 a piece that most of my students have done before their grade 1 (Garage Sale - Pam Wedgwood) and this is an absolute 'gimme' for them!</P>


      I'll be interested to see what the pieces are like for 2009-10, but I see that they've made the sight reading and scales easier at grades 1 and 2! Now is that dumbing down?</P>


      I've had small 'input' into some syllabuses and am good friends with their compilers. I know just how hard it is to get things right.</P>


      Andy</P>
      It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

      New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

      Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
      Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
      Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
      Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Are music exams getting easier?



        [quote user="andyg"]but I see that they've made the sight reading and scales easier at grades 1 and 2! Now is that dumbing down?[/quote]</p>

        Thats interesting to hear, what have they changed?</p>

        How about Guildhall equivalent grades, does anyone know if they have got easier?</p>

        Feel free to chip in, those who dont reside in the UK. What kind of "graded" music exams do you have? Have they become easier over the years (doesnt necessarily have to be a keyboard instrument)?
        </p>
        1971 Allen Organ TC-3S (#42904) w/sequential capture system.
        Speakers: x1 Model 100 Gyro, x1 Model 105 & x3 Model 108.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Are music exams getting easier?



          Ireside in New Zealand and did Grade8 piano last year with Trinity College of London, who regularly send examiners over.</P>


          Last year they joined up with Guildhall and significantly changed the silibus. </P>


          One of the tests involved having to find mistakes in the examiner's playing, and we had a slight argument about how many mistakes he actually did make [:$]</P>


          But other than that I had to do sightreading of some sort of baroque style fugue, and played a piece by Bach, Beethoven and then an arrangement of a Jazz piece. There were also three short studies, one involving staccato octave jumps, one testing scales and 3-against-2 timing, and the other testing legato fingering, rather like an organ piece.</P>


          For my scales and things, because I'm slightly deaf, the examiner kindly came right up to the keyboard so I could hear him. Hestood at one end, and watched me very closelywhile I played them! (in every other exam I've done, the examiner tends to stay further away.)</P>

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          • #6
            Re: Are music exams getting easier?



            There's a sheet in this quarter's Libretto with details and examples - this is just for piano at the moment. No info on any changes to organ syllabus, but maybe it will follow suit</P>


            G1: Sight reading. Is now just 4 bars in 4/4 or 3/4, or 6 bars in 2/4. That's down from 8 bars. The hands play separately with no overlapping notes any more.</P>


            G2: Sight reading. Same shorter length test, and the hands now stay restricted to a simple 5-finger position, instead of being allowed to move.</P>


            G1 scales remain the same, butarpeggios disappear completely, leaving broken chords only.</P>


            G2 scales lose B minor, replacing it with the much easier G minor. Arpeggio requirements are reduced, but the 'Pattern 1' (easy) broken chords currently only at G3 are introduced as a balance.</P>


            G3 swaps the Eb contrary motion with A Minor (again easier, IMHO) and loses all the broken chords. To balance this, two of the arpeggios are played hands together.</P>


            Dumbing down? Dunno! Easier? Yes. Will it make a difference to any of my lot? Nope, they're all well 'grilled' when it comes to scales and are often capable of the next grade up by the time they take an exam. With me, scales, aural and theory most definitely get integrated into my teaching and aren't something that's 'just for exams'.</P>


            I've never used Trinity Guildhall. All my keyboard students use London College of Music, as do some of my Grade 6-8 piano students. Their scale requirements are different again, but I think these changes at AB bring them a bit closer.</P>


            Andy</P>
            It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

            New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

            Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
            Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
            Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
            Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

            Comment

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