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Practical exams

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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Not much seems to mentioned about taking exams on the forums, so I am prepared to be flamed :D

As I may have said before, when I started learning alto sax, I had absolutely no intention, no way, no how, of taking exams. Then as time went on, I felt that I was missing a purpose to my practice - I could play pieces pretty well and move on, but there was no reason to perfect any piece.

I didn't want to take music theory exams - I just want to play.

So I chose to take an exam and with my teacher's advice, I opted for Trinity Guildhall (so I don't have to do the theory) and grade 4 (because I'd never taken a music exam before and I wanted to be able to cope with the nerves rather than worry about the playing skills required).

Well, having passed the grade 4, I am giving some thought to doing another exam, but the question is which one?
Logically I'd go for grade 5, but my teacher says that there is not a great step in playing skill from grade 4 to grade 5, and she has suggested that I give some thought to grade 6.

One of the pieces is Maple Leaf Rag, which I know I can play... almost...

Sometimes, I think grade 6 will be fine, other times I think I just can't be that good.

Maybe it's a self-belief thing? My younger sister was the musician when we were kids - she got her grade 8 trumpet and piano while we were still in secondary school, so by comparison I was a musical nothing :( She is now head of music at a secondary school.
She has been very supportive of my sax learning, though; and maybe I am better than I believe.
Shall I bite the bullet?
:)))
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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quite a few threads here on the grade exams, but the e word isn't usually mentioned.

COngrats on the grade 4!

Trust your teacher and stick your neck out!
 

Nick Cook

Member
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862
Location
Wokingham, Berks, UK
Go for it Mandy!! I'm going through the ABRSM Jazz syllabus at the moment. I've got 1, 2 and 3 under my belt and have the music for grade 4. After I took grade 1 my teacher suggested I go straight onto grade 3, but I want to do them all so I don't have too big a step between them.

Being in an orchestra and having to learn pieces for their concerts does make grades a bit harder to fit in though!!!
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
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396
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Wiltshire, UK.
Good luck! I'd give it a shot, I don't think your teacher would suggest it if it wasn't possible. I think you have to try to leave the childhood stuff behind, though I know exactly what you mean, being the less-musical sister myself.

I've asked my teacher this week if he'd think about me doing a jazz exam, I did grade 6 abrsm some years back but the jazz is so different (and I am so out of practice) that I think I'll probably start on a lower grade. I'm fine with that, 12 blank bars for improvising over can be quite terrifying for someone used to a more prescriptive syllabus.
 

TomMapfumo

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Skabertawe, South Wales
If it's any help, my wife did Grade 6 classical piano "some years ago", and recently did a Grade 4 Jazz piano exam, which she found quite a challenge (she passed, just). In terms of ABRSM Jazz Grades there is a "Real Book" which covers Grades 4 & 5, so you could see which would be a safer bet. With regards to Improvisation the expected range is between 16 and 32 bars according to which tune, so you can decide up to a point. Its also good learning to master/demythologise improvising at some point.

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

TomMapfumo

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Skabertawe, South Wales
I don't understand the grade thing. Perhaps we don't have that in the states. At least if we do I am unaware.
In UK learners can do Grades 1 to 8 (Grade 8 is the precurser to studying music at University). Exams include a mixture of 3 pieces of music, scales and arpeggios, a variety of musical exercises, playing music on sight - exams last about 15 minutes upwards and are graded Pass, Merit & Distinction. As appropriate examinees will either have an accompanist (pianist, bassist, guitarist) or CD backing track. Commonly younger players go from one grade to another (the usual assumption is that people to One grade per year) but older players often develop more rapidly, may miss out certain grades, which you are entitled to do, or start further up the scale (Grades 4, 5 etc.) It is quite interesting to see what pieces of music are rated at certain grades (e.g A Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie) - Grade 4 Sax or Grade 5 Trumpet; Mr P.C.(Coltrane) - Grade 4 Sax ; Nutty (Monk) Grade 5 Sax and Trumpet etc.

Apart from needing Grade 8 in order to be eligible for study at university there is no specific requirement of doing grades, except as desired by the individual, and as motivation/recognition of achievement/recognition of level at which you are playing.

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 
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daveysaxboy

Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
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3,352
Met a fair few who have mentioned there grade thing and most have not been that strong.I still respect the fact they do it but i am from the old school way,get a good tutor and YOU also do loads of digging about and study like mad.You also learn the most gigging,mixing with alike minded people,standing along side a person who is much more advanced gives you a big smack which is good.
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
396
Location
Wiltshire, UK.
If it's any help, my wife did Grade 6 classical piano "some years ago", and recently did a Grade 4 Jazz piano exam, which she found quite a challenge (she passed, just). In terms of ABRSM Jazz Grades there is a "Real Book" which covers Grades 4 & 5, so you could see which would be a safer bet. With regards to Improvisation the expected range is between 16 and 32 bars according to which tune, so you can decide up to a point. Its also good learning to master/demythologise improvising at some point.

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
That's really encouraging, thank you, and congratulations to your wife. Improvising is what I'm starting to work on now, it feels great when it works!

I am just remembering back to when I was waiting to go into the exam room for my grade 5 theory, a young free and single 30something, and one of the mothers offered me a biscuit and asked me what grade my child was taking... Exams are hard enough without literally being old enough to be every other candidate's mother.
 

rudjarl

Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
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657
Location
Løten, Norway
Hi Mandy,
congratulations on your grade 4 :welldone

I'd say go for grade 6. That would give you not only a purpose for practising, but also a reason to stretch even further :)

Good luck and happy playing
 
OP
MandyH

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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Location
The Malverns, Worcs
Improvising is what I'm starting to work on now, it feels great when it works!

Exams are hard enough without literally being old enough to be every other candidate's mother.
I did improvisation with my grade 4 - 12 bars repeated 5 times, so 60 bars in total. With some great advice from the forums here and my teacher, I eventually got it together enough. TBH although I found the head quite difficult, I really got carried away with the impro.
As for being old enough to be the other candidates' mother, there was a lad younger than any of my children waiting to go in after me. On leaving my exam, I was told that I could have a sticker (it was a musical note with its thumb up, saying "I've just taken my exam" or something), since the little boy looked even more nervous than I had felt, I thought I'd check with him what colour I should take before picking the red one :)))
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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Minster On Sea
If you decide to do the Trinity/Guildhall exam, do NOT take the 'easy' option and opt out of the scales. You WILL need them.

I completely fail to understand why on earth they dropped the requirement. Dumbing down, I guess.
 
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