Supporting   special needs music

Beginner Why am I doing this?

Kerry

Formerly HipCity
Messages
119
Locality
Leeds
Well... its my exam three weeks tomorrow and I'm beginning to wonder what possessed me to enter for it, I was clearly temporarily insane but now need to make the best of it, any exam or practising tips would be a big help.

Last Saturday I went to a meeting of a group of adults learning instruments and played my exam pieces for them, never played in front of anyone other than my immediate family and my tutor before, I was much more nervous than I had anticipated. I managed to play all three of my exam pieces to the massive audience of 12 people but made a few silly nervous mistakes which I have never made before when working on my pieces. They were all very nice, supportive and complimentary and the whole experience should have helped me with my confidence but I'm still quite worried about the exam.

The meeting was at the exam centre and I even got to practise my pieces in the actual exam room which should be a big advantage, must say the acoustics in the room were great and I sounded really quite good but that was just me in the room, will be different with an examiner there.

I know my pieces really well, know what I can play over each bar of the improvised sections but seem to play the same or very similar phrases every time, I'm wondering if that will sound too pre-prepared. I know all the scales for the grade, still finding B mixolydian 2 octaves tricky to play so I'm practising that more than the others. Trying to find a balance between speed and accuracy for the scales, can play them in one breath if I go faster but then more chance of a mistake (can play them fine at that speed on my own but in exam might fluff them), if I play them round the minimum speed I need to take a breath which affects the rhythm.

I've upped my practise to two hours a day and I intend doing lots of sight reading practise and improvisation practise using the scales set for the grade. I have some example answer and response tests I work through regularly but feel I know those too well now, does anyone know where I can find more of them?

I'm really worried about the aural tests, I don't generally do well on those, I've spent ages trying to recognise intervals, definitely not my strongpoint, I have memorised songs which start with each interval but still finding it very difficult. So any tips on this would be great.

I'm not generally a nervous person but don't do well at face to face assessments, once went completely blank in a job interview, couldn't even have told them my name if they had asked! I also had a very bad experience at my last music exam 35 years ago so I need to prepare for this as best I can, I think once I get this over with I will be able to lay that ghost to rest and if I'm mad enough to take any more exams they wont be quite so daunting.

If there's anything I should be doing that I'm not (besides cancelling the exam!) please let me know and any tips to help with exam nerves would be great, thanks.
 

Ivan

Undecided
Café Supporter
Messages
8,019
Locality
Peeblesshire
I took a grade exam last year and was sh*tting myself. In actual fact the pressure was only what I heaped on myself. The examiner couldn't have been nicer. Gone are the days of the examiner deliberately making your life a misery

The exam is designed to be passed: they want you to progress and take more grades. More grades = more spondoolics. There is room for mistakes and still you can pass

It's good to be prepared but don't practice so much you work yourself into a frenzy

Good luck

If at all possible try to enjoy it
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Café Supporter
Messages
6,093
Locality
Minster On Sea
Unfortunately anything you could do to reduce nerves (gin, etc.) is likely to somewhat hinder your performance.
Try and remind yourself that, in the great scheme of things, it doesn't matter a hoot.
Good luck.
 

Kerry

Formerly HipCity
Messages
119
Locality
Leeds
I took a grade exam last year and was sh*tting myself. In actual fact the pressure was only what I heaped on myself. The examiner couldn't have been nicer. Gone are the days of the examiner deliberately making your life a misery

That's good to hear, at the meeting I went to on Saturday someone told me examiners are much nicer nowadays as well, so I guess it must be true. The examiner I had 35 years ago was a pompous arrogant *$%*?!* and that was the main cause of my bad experience.

The exam is designed to be passed: they want you to progress and take more grades. More grades = more spondoolics. There is room for mistakes and still you can pass

Never thought of it that way - it makes sense - no change from £100 once you've paid the exam fee and bought the books/CD etc.

Unfortunately anything you could do to reduce nerves (gin, etc.) is likely to somewhat hinder your performance.
Try and remind yourself that, in the great scheme of things, it doesn't matter a hoot.
Good luck.

Funny you should mention that - it has occurred to me that if push comes to shove I will have a small jar of vodka with me, which I keep my reeds in!

Thank you both for your reassurances, it really helps.
 

Stuart51

Member
Messages
112
Locality
Wales
Well... its my exam three weeks tomorrow and I'm beginning to wonder what possessed me to enter for it, I was clearly temporarily insane but now need to make the best of it, any exam or practising tips would be a big help.

Last Saturday I went to a meeting of a group of adults learning instruments and played my exam pieces for them, never played in front of anyone other than my immediate family and my tutor before, I was much more nervous than I had anticipated. I managed to play all three of my exam pieces to the massive audience of 12 people but made a few silly nervous mistakes which I have never made before when working on my pieces. They were all very nice, supportive and complimentary and the whole experience should have helped me with my confidence but I'm still quite worried about the exam.

The meeting was at the exam centre and I even got to practise my pieces in the actual exam room which should be a big advantage, must say the acoustics in the room were great and I sounded really quite good but that was just me in the room, will be different with an examiner there.

I know my pieces really well, know what I can play over each bar of the improvised sections but seem to play the same or very similar phrases every time, I'm wondering if that will sound too pre-prepared. I know all the scales for the grade, still finding B mixolydian 2 octaves tricky to play so I'm practising that more than the others. Trying to find a balance between speed and accuracy for the scales, can play them in one breath if I go faster but then more chance of a mistake (can play them fine at that speed on my own but in exam might fluff them), if I play them round the minimum speed I need to take a breath which affects the rhythm.

I've upped my practise to two hours a day and I intend doing lots of sight reading practise and improvisation practise using the scales set for the grade. I have some example answer and response tests I work through regularly but feel I know those too well now, does anyone know where I can find more of them?

I'm really worried about the aural tests, I don't generally do well on those, I've spent ages trying to recognise intervals, definitely not my strongpoint, I have memorised songs which start with each interval but still finding it very difficult. So any tips on this would be great.

I'm not generally a nervous person but don't do well at face to face assessments, once went completely blank in a job interview, couldn't even have told them my name if they had asked! I also had a very bad experience at my last music exam 35 years ago so I need to prepare for this as best I can, I think once I get this over with I will be able to lay that ghost to rest and if I'm mad enough to take any more exams they wont be quite so daunting.

If there's anything I should be doing that I'm not (besides cancelling the exam!) please let me know and any tips to help with exam nerves would be great, thanks.
I don't know enough to give advice on playing, reading etc but just try to stay relaxed and focused! Best of luck and remember win lose or draw no one is going to criticise or condem you in fact many and I am most definitely one will admire and be quite envious of the courage and determination you are showing! Go for it!
 
Messages
38
Locality
Tooting, SW London
Hi Kerry,

I share your pain - I'm taking my first sax exam in December - WHY?!!!

I just keep saying to myself, I can only do my best and I have nothing to lose (apart from ££ and a bit of pride).

I'm particularly concerned with the aural too - my sax teacher suggested I try Interval Ear Training to help with this part of the exam. It plays the interval notes and you have to select what you think the interval is. You can customise it so it only gives the intervals in your exam syllabus.

Best of luck!
 

fibracell

Senior Member
Messages
614
I've done a few exams - it's not life or death!

just try to relax and enjoy it. Remember that the examiner is most likely not a sax player, and so you should focus on basic musicality. Good time, and feel, some nice dynamics etc. Don't worry about wrong notes so much, especially in sight reading - just try to keep the time going. better to do the sight reading at a slower tempo, then mess it up at a faster pace. We all tend to rush when things get tricky, and nerves kick in.

good luck - I'm sure you'll be fine!!
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,058
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
There are a few things I have learned over the years. First is to "over-learn" your music. This means to get it perfect and then keep playing it over and over. The second is at the performance or audition to just "let go" and let the repeated conditioning of your tongue, breath and fingers take over. At that point, trying hard or trying harder won't help. It just gets in your way. When you relax and "let go" all the notes and patterns you have practiced will just come out effortlessly when you get your self will and ego out of the way.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
Café Supporter
Messages
3,579
Locality
The Malverns, Worcs
ABRSM have an app which helps with the aural part if you are taking their exam.
The examiner has never heard your improvisation before so will be none the wiser that it sounds pre-prepared.
You'll probably never see the examiner again.
You can make mistakes, but don't go back and don't flag them up using your eyebrows or grimaces. You can go back in the scales section and try again and still get a good mark.
I know this all from personal experience!
I am putting myself through the torture of ABRSM classical grade 4 clarinet in 4 weeks time (like you, I'm not sure why now) having done my sax exams as Trinity Jazz.
Above all relax and enjoy it.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Café Supporter
Messages
6,721
Locality
Whitchurch, North Shropshire UK
I had an attack of insanity this time last year and sat my first ever grade theory exam at 6 weeks' notice. Since I like a challenge I opted for grade 6... Yes, I dropped a few easy marks here and there, but I passed.

Relax and enjoy it.
 

Pixie

Member
Messages
301
When you relax and "let go" all the notes and patterns you have practiced will just come out effortlessly when you get your self will and ego out of the way.

I'm an over thinker , when I ride horses I build myself up to a jibbering mass of anxiety. When I don't think about what I am doing and just go with the flow the horse and I move as one and are apparently a joy to behold(rarely). Same as jbstax says above.
You sound really well prepared good luck
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Pixie

Member
Messages
301
I'm an over thinker , when I ride horses I build myself up to a jibbering mass of anxiety. When I don't think about what I am doing and just go with the flow the horse and I move as one and are apparently a joy to behold(rarely). Same as jbstax says above.
You sound really well prepared good luck
Thank you editor
 

Alc.

Senior Member
Messages
736
Locality
High plains of N/W New Mexico.
Keep your sax case nearby with the butt of a pistol clearly visible as you sit down to play. Give the examiner a small smile and, when finished with the exam, play a few bars of Mack the Knife.
 

Kerry

Formerly HipCity
Messages
119
Locality
Leeds
Hi everyone,
Sorry I've not been around this last week or so, didn't have much time to myself over half term but thankfully the kids went back to school today. It was nice to be able to practise today without the constant interruptions, well-intended but off-putting improvised recorder/flute/guitar accompaniments or the kids dancing round the room.

Thanks for all your replies and the great advice, I'm beginning to feel a bit less nervous.
I don't know enough to give advice on playing, reading etc but just try to stay relaxed and focused! Best of luck and remember win lose or draw no one is going to criticise or condem you in fact many and I am most definitely one will admire and be quite envious of the courage and determination you are showing! Go for it!

Try to use your nerves. Your senses are heightened. Enjoy them. Feels great after.

I've done a few exams - it's not life or death!

just try to relax and enjoy it. Remember that the examiner is most likely not a sax player, and so you should focus on basic musicality. Good time, and feel, some nice dynamics etc. Don't worry about wrong notes so much, especially in sight reading - just try to keep the time going. better to do the sight reading at a slower tempo, then mess it up at a faster pace. We all tend to rush when things get tricky, and nerves kick in.

good luck - I'm sure you'll be fine!!
Thank you Stuart, Colin and fibracell for the great advice.

Hi Kerry,

I share your pain - I'm taking my first sax exam in December - WHY?!!!

I just keep saying to myself, I can only do my best and I have nothing to lose (apart from ££ and a bit of pride).

I'm particularly concerned with the aural too - my sax teacher suggested I try Interval Ear Training to help with this part of the exam. It plays the interval notes and you have to select what you think the interval is. You can customise it so it only gives the intervals in your exam syllabus.

Best of luck!

Good luck with your exam Amanda, nice to know I'm not the only one!
I have been using the same interval ear training site for the last couple of weeks and am improving a little but still terrible at it. I'm pretty good at perfect fourths though, so am hoping that comes up in the exam.

Thanks again everyone.
 

Kerry

Formerly HipCity
Messages
119
Locality
Leeds
Sorry didn't mean to miss anyone, will get the hang of this eventually.
There are a few things I have learned over the years. First is to "over-learn" your music. This means to get it perfect and then keep playing it over and over. The second is at the performance or audition to just "let go" and let the repeated conditioning of your tongue, breath and fingers take over. At that point, trying hard or trying harder won't help. It just gets in your way. When you relax and "let go" all the notes and patterns you have practiced will just come out effortlessly when you get your self will and ego out of the way.

Thanks JBT, excellent advice as always, I have been practising an awful lot so hopefully might have reached that point by exam time.

ABRSM have an app which helps with the aural part if you are taking their exam.
The examiner has never heard your improvisation before so will be none the wiser that it sounds pre-prepared.
You'll probably never see the examiner again.
You can make mistakes, but don't go back and don't flag them up using your eyebrows or grimaces. You can go back in the scales section and try again and still get a good mark.
I know this all from personal experience!
I am putting myself through the torture of ABRSM classical grade 4 clarinet in 4 weeks time (like you, I'm not sure why now) having done my sax exams as Trinity Jazz.
Above all relax and enjoy it.

Thanks Mandy, I have downloaded the app, great advice, thank you, I'm so glad you mentioned the grimaces because I think I probably do that without realising - something for me to work on! Best of luck with your exam.

I had an attack of insanity this time last year and sat my first ever grade theory exam at 6 weeks' notice. Since I like a challenge I opted for grade 6... Yes, I dropped a few easy marks here and there, but I passed.

Relax and enjoy it.

I'm an over thinker , when I ride horses I build myself up to a jibbering mass of anxiety. When I don't think about what I am doing and just go with the flow the horse and I move as one and are apparently a joy to behold(rarely). Same as jbstax says above.
You sound really well prepared good luck

Thank you Tenorviol and Pixie, more great advice, much appreciated.

Keep your sax case nearby with the butt of a pistol clearly visible as you sit down to play. Give the examiner a small smile and, when finished with the exam, play a few bars of Mack the Knife.

Thanks for cheering me up Al, nearly choked on my tea with laughing. I'll try to picture that scenario just before I go in to the exam, I'm sure a little giggle will help me to relax.
 

Alc.

Senior Member
Messages
736
Locality
High plains of N/W New Mexico.
Explain the scenario to the examiner. A little giggle will not hurt, but do not forget to flash the pistol. Tell the examiner to relax, too; he/she may even leave the room until you are finished. The grade may depend upon the caliber (or calibre) of your performance. (O.K., that's really reaching for the cheap pun) Anyway, it sounds like you will be ready so luck is not necessary.
 

Alc.

Senior Member
Messages
736
Locality
High plains of N/W New Mexico.
As long as I have been on this site I have never asked, but have wondered, is there an American equivalent to these exams, and what do they really mean in Europe?
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,058
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
As long as I have been on this site I have never asked, but have wondered, is there an American equivalent to these exams, and what do they really mean in Europe?
It is called your senior recital in college if you are a music major. If you do well in a few years it turns into your master's recital. :) Seriously, there isn't anything like it in the states to formally grade one's progress in music. The main difference between the two countries I believe is the number of school bands and orchestras that are part of the curriculum. In the UK it appears that a system has been developed to help fill in that gap as far as music education is concerned. Please correct me if I am off the mark with this observation.
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Messages
10,033
Locality
KIC 8462852
Please correct me if I am off the mark with this observation.
Only to pleased to do so.
The grades system is actually just a scam between teachers and examiners to continually take money off gullible, doting parents by giving them the impression that their precocious, annoying offspring are actually achieving something.
 

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