All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
SYOS

Exams Stupid question from the American colonies about grades :)

buckg

Member
Messages
53
I read a lot on the forum about Grade 6, 7, etc. Someone will post "I just passed Grade 6!" I don't think we have this kind of standard grading system here in the States. Is this grading system specific to Britain? Or is it one of those things like the metric system where the rest of the world uses it and we're just being stubborn about adopting it?
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,993
It's British. I don't believe we export it much. Goes from 1 to 8. If you get to 8 you can, more or less, play the thing.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
Subscriber
Messages
3,560
Typically, you're expected to be about grade 4-5 for GCSE music (the school exams our 16 year olds take) and grade 6 for A-level (the exams taken by our 18 year olds) and if you wanted to take a degree in music at Uni, then you'd be expected to be grade 8. Also, for ABRSM mentioned above, you can't take grade 6 and above practical unless youhave already passed grade 5 theory. There is another exam board - Trinity Guildhall - who do (amongst others) jazz focussed exams, and they do not require you to take separate thery exams.
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
Just for completeness, we do export the ABRSM standard - on their website (abrsm.org) the board proclaim themselves as 'the world's leading authority on musical assessment'...
Other boards are available.

The grades are supposed to roughly equate to a year's study of the instrument in question.

Nick
 

buckg

Member
Messages
53
Thanks, everyone, for the info. I studied at university for a very brief time so some of the pieces for grades 6,7,8 look familiar. Mr. Wyver is right. That's hard stuff.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,989
It's British. I don't believe we export it much. Goes from 1 to 8. If you get to 8 you can, more or less, play the thing.
I think they're quite popular in some countries, especially in the far east. I do know a couple of people who travel abroad to examine from time-to-time.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
As you're from North Carolina, let's explain it in banjo terms. Beware that Andy Sanders, him of the glass banjo might disagree but as I'm the leader of the CaSLM, ignore him.

If you own a cigar box banjo, Grade One is simple, if you can play Old Joe Clark on it, Grade Two. Grade eight requires Black and White Rag clawhammered at 200BPM. ;}
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
ABRSM have exam centres throughout the World. Many in Commonwealth countries but also in Europe, China, Vietnam ... and many States in the US have centres too. So it's not you being stubborn or us denying access to renegade colonies either!
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,178
Since you are in the States, please get stuck with your yanqui gringo system. British system only measures your ability of passing the exam. Nothing to do with music.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
The grading system is used in Australia. it is administered by the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB). It goes from Grade 1 (piano I think starts with preliminary) and goes to Licentiate.

Preliminary to Grade 4 are grouped in to Level 1 (Beginning). Grades 5 to 8 are Level 2 (Developing), and Level 3 is called Advanced Development (Associate Diploma and Licentiate in Music.

Some examples of what is required may make things clearer (there is a whole lot more than I list here, including the need to learn older and contemporary music and increasing amounts of theory):

Grade 1: Rubank Elementary No. 6, p.6 or No. 2, p.11
Grade 3: Evening Waltz by A. Gretchaninoff (Rubank Concert and Contest Collection)
Grade 5: Aria for Saxophone and Piano by E. Bozza
Grade 7: Study No. 20 from Forty Technical and Melodious Studies (Stanislao Parisi)
Associate: any four movements of Cello Suite No. 4 by J. S. Bach (this examination may last for 60 minutes).

Hope this helps.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,993
Since you are in the States, please get stuck with your yanqui gringo system. British system only measures your ability of passing the exam. Nothing to do with music.

Oh, go on then. I'll bite.

So, how would you improve them so that, in your view, they had something to do with music.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,178
compulsory ensemble.

Somehow I found the average American student more adaptive in ensemble playing than the British one.
Sorry, I don't belong to any of the systems, but whenever I see a syllabus I get nervous.

And scales should be practiced in a way in which important notes are on important beats.... (up to the 9th)
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,178
How would you do that?

That is where Americans win.
If you start playing saxophone in high school down there, in few weeks you are thrown in a band. Here the grade system is heavily individualistic. As long as you play what is written, you pass. You can have the most horrible sound or the worst time sense, you can still pass. Since I consider music as a metaphor of life, living/playing together is essential.

And those two octave scales... they only work fine if you are playing in 7/8
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,989
I have only ever sat two music exams: my GCE O Level as an optional 6th form subject in 1978 (i.e. at 17/18) and, in my mid 40s I did the OU A214 music theory course (i.e. it's a level 2 course equivalent to 2nd year university). I passed both.

I am currently considering whether to take exams or not for the sax and 'cello.

For me the purpose of the grade exams is that it provides a structured approach to learning and development, they're not an end in themselves (which I know they are with some people). They are also not the complete picture - they focus on technique and aspects of performance, but they do not cover playing in groups and ensembles, and I am firmly of the opinion that to become a more "rounded" musician, you need that experience as well. Performing with others will improve timing, sight reading, blend, dynamics and all those things which add to the experience.

Some people find the inevitable prescriptive approach of the grade exam system either restrictive or off-putting.

Conclusion? People work differently and we have to find the mechanism that works for us, but for many people the grade system works well.

What I would like to see is more resources generally in the education system at all levels for music and more opportunities for people of all ages to have access to tuition and ensemble playing.

I had hoped when I retire to do a full-time music degree, but that seems to have been blown out of the window....
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,993
As long as you play what is written, you pass.

Being able to play what's written is quite a useful skill for a musician.

You can have the most horrible sound or the worst time sense, you can still pass.

Just. If you're lucky. However, if you manage to play what's written your time sense can't be that bad. Examiners do take tone into account as well.

But, yes, you're right. The stuff that is examined isn't everything by a long shot. But people/bands/colleges etc. like bits of paper and the exams can act as a motivator for some people.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,178
Dear Tenor Viol,
your approach is correct if you see grades as a 'way' and not as a 'goal'.
But often children (and mostly parents) see grades as an achievement for their child. And that gives a very partial view on music, perpetuated by the fact that mediocre musicians with good grades will become teachers themselves.

Since you play viol too, I am sure you experienced the debate about intonation of a perfect fifth: the good boy will tell that you have to play that C/G in tune with the piano, since those are the only C/G. The bad boy (or the knowledgeable one) will just play a non tempered fifth, since there is no piano and you are playing early music and piano wasn't even invented at the time.

A teaching system that curbs your mental flexibility can affect all your future musical development.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,178
Right Nick.
I am not saying they are useless. The do give you useful skills. But they just don't give the full picture.
 

Justin Chune

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,045
I heard a group of piano teachers discussing their profession on the radio. The were all of the opinion that the British system encouraged passing exams at the expense of musicianship. That was news to me. I had always thought that when I saw, or heard, some youngster playing a great piece of music on the piano they were gifted musicians. According to those teachers their students could play the examination pieces and not much more. They thought we should move to a more rounded approach, so that students could play with others, in different keys and styles, and not just be one tune wonders.

That was years ago and I don't if teachers are any happier these days.

Jim.
 
Top Bottom