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Exams Exam tips....

Shorty

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Not so much a question - just a few ideas after having completed my first ABRSM exam. Hopefully of use to noobs...will seem very obvious to the old-lags!

Rehearse the full exam at home in the order that you want to do it, at least a couple of times; and use the backing CD for the aural and improv tests.
Get to know the scales really well in the build up to the exam - and also practice scale patterns and improv using the scales - really helps with the listen/respond and the sight read/improv sections - as they are all based on that Grade's scales.
Get someone to read out scale choices to you; in random order; or record this yourself; as part of practice. If you just learn from a single list the memory relies on that order.
Practice in different rooms - I had played nearly all in my tutor's room and my office at home - small. Playing in a humungous church for the first time made everything sound very different and quite off-putting for the first few scales.
Always follow through a full tune when you have started it in practice - I was getting experienced in filling in for missing the head by a bar - it happened in the exam and I knew how to recover!
 

Jeanette

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Really useful, thanks. I've not done any exams yet but I was speaking to someone recently who made the same observation as you about the sound in the exam room. Really off putting if you are not ready for it. Lets face it most of us practise in the same room :)

Jx
 

Young Col

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That's all good stuff Shorty. The exam room ambience is a good one to be aware of.
Get scales right first time and don't stop if you make a mistake. Likewise the sight reading - keeping tempo is more important than a couple of wrong notes, even though it is counter-intuitive.
Do a few right-through rehearsals with your tutor too.
 

MandyH

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Not so much a question - just a few ideas after having completed my first ABRSM exam. Hopefully of use to noobs...will seem very obvious to the old-lags!

Rehearse the full exam at home in the order that you want to do it, at least a couple of times; and use the backing CD for the aural and improv tests.
Get to know the scales really well in the build up to the exam - and also practice scale patterns and improv using the scales - really helps with the listen/respond and the sight read/improv sections - as they are all based on that Grade's scales.
Get someone to read out scale choices to you; in random order; or record this yourself; as part of practice. If you just learn from a single list the memory relies on that order.
Practice in different rooms - I had played nearly all in my tutor's room and my office at home - small. Playing in a humungous church for the first time made everything sound very different and quite off-putting for the first few scales.
Always follow through a full tune when you have started it in practice - I was getting experienced in filling in for missing the head by a bar - it happened in the exam and I knew how to recover!
Useful information....thanks

I have a pot full of lolly sticks. I have coloured in one end of the sticks in different colours. On the other end, I have written the variables for the scales. I am taking Trinity grade 8, so I have my note centres - F#, D and Bb on yellow sticks; the scales - major, mixolydian, dorian, jazz melodic minor, major pentatonic, minor pentatonic, blues, chromatic, diminished and whole tone on green sticks; dynamic - piano or forte on orange sticks; style - swung or straight on purple sticks; and tongued, slurred or staccato tongued on red sticks. If I pick out one stick of each colour, I make up any option of scales that the examiner could ask me. When I practice, I play about 10 different scales each day.

And my teacher has always advised that when you enter the exam room, do a little warming up, play just a few notes to get a measure of the acoustics in the room. I will also be playing in a large church for my exam, but I am also lucky that I have been able to practice in my children's school hall, to get an idea of what a large room can do to your soound.
 

MandyH

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Here are my lolly sticks.....
image.jpg
 

old git

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Pity they aren't metal, all the parts for a good thumb piano there.:)

At the end, it is what turns you on and works for you.

Wish you success in the exam.
 

Dave McLaughlin

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For ABRSM Grades 3 and 4, I used a spreadsheet to present the scales and arpeggios in a random order. It's here if anybody's interested (but if you're going to use it, do check the syllabus hasn't changed). For Grade 5, I think I might use AnkiDroid or similar.
 

old git

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Surely the best exam tip, is a large brown envelope for the examiner, stuffed with a wedge?
 

Shorty

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For ABRSM Grades 3 and 4, I used a spreadsheet to present the scales and arpeggios in a random order. It's here if anybody's interested (but if you're going to use it, do check the syllabus hasn't changed). For Grade 5, I think I might use AnkiDroid or similar.
I have flashcards - but this is much better - not as pretty as the lolly sticks though!
 

Martin O

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Really useful, thanks. I've not done any exams yet but I was speaking to someone recently who made the same observation as you about the sound in the exam room. Really off putting if you are not ready for it. Lets face it most of us practise in the same room :)

Jx

When I did my first exam in a church in Bury, I was so taken with the acoustics I forgot that I was actually taking an exam and it threw me. This morning, another in the same place, I made sure I played a couple of scales to get used to the acoustics but actually enjoy them. Sadly when I got to the scales proper, any value in the acoustic was drowned by the sound of cars crashes all round! :)
 

MandyH

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.......Sadly when I got to the scales proper, any value in the acoustic was drowned by the sound of cars crashes all round! :)
I thought I had messed up my scales. On almost everyone, I stopped and started again from the beginning. But I still did OK in the end.
 

Ivan

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I've just sat and likely failed my first music exam (piano)

My impression afterwards was out of the scores of exams I have sat over the years this was the one where the result depends least on chance. The syllabus is small and there are no surprise, devious or obtuse questions. All the elements of the exam are exactly as described in the published exam material; timings, availability of parking, you name it. The only detail I wasn't prepared for was the inexplicably large white Elastoplast that blanketed the invigilators nose. But I managed not to stare. Not for too long.

The three the questions scoring the majority of the marks are already known to the player: "Can you please play piece number 1,2,3?". No surprises to trip the unwary.

Of the other tests, scales and arpeggios are not so great in number that you won't be able to do them in reasonable fashion if you practice. The element of uncertainty is greater in the aural part because there's no knowing exactly what will come up but it's a small part of the whole

The most variable element is the site reading but if like me you're note-blind you can spend a happy sixty seconds engaged in limiting your losses one note at a time and feeling sorry for the poor examiner who has to listen to you murder a piece. In slow motion.

It's the one exam I where I thought to myself, "You only fail yourself. No-one does it for you."

If it's so easy why am I expecting the reverse nod? Good old fashioned nerves. It's not easy to peddle with your leg jumping in a St Vitus' dance and the notes simply don't dance under fingers dripping with sweat

At least my dry mouth didn't matter. Though if I'd tried to blow into the piano it might have been more musical.

Ho hum

I'll do better next time
 

Ivan

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You have put me off sitting a music exam :)

Jx
Oh that's a shame

It really is the most transparent format I've come across. The examiner couldn't have been nicer. I know there's nothing to fear (except fear itself) and I'll be more confident next time.

For me it was like that first pancake that you chuck away (OK feed to the dog)
 

Jeanette

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I don't think my nerves could stand it I 've done plenty of written exams no problem but my driving test was the most harrowing experience and all because I knew someone was watching my every move and I imagine a music exam to be the same :(

Jx
 

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