Doing ABRSM Grades

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by tewkeshorn, Sep 19, 2003.

  1. tewkeshorn

    tewkeshorn Account Suspended

    I'm thinking of doing an ABRSM grade exam on Horn, but just wondering if it is really worth doing. Just wondered what peoples opinions were on them. :?:

    I'm not too bothered about the set pieces, they'll be fine (plus it gives me an excuse to play Masquerade by Sparke and Variations on a Welsh Theme! :p ), but I don't quite see the use in all the aural sections they insist on in these exams.

    How can singing back the lowest part of a piano piece help my band playing? And it's fair enough to be able to play scales, most banders would do them with one hand behind their back if they had it written in front of them but it's the memory aspect of knowing a certain scale is 'Ah of course, a classic F sharp Dominant Seventh'.

    My main question is: Does all this theory and 'musicianship' really make you a better player?
    :?: :?

    Apologies if theres any ABRSM examiners here, not knocking your system or anything and I think it's great at the lower grades for setting targets for kids at school to improve. :) (did me a lot of good then, just wondering if it would make much difference to go back to it :) )
  2. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    I've done several exams in various instruments using different examination boards... I've had this kind of conversation with others...
    One thing I'd like to point out, is that ABRSM, Trinity and Guildhall exams have all different formats! Trinity is great if you don't want to do scales, as you can do an extra study instead, for example... (i went for that everytime!)

    Whether you do grades for own satisfaction or for helping with further education is the individuals choice... It does look good on CVs, and employers are interested in any hobbies people have!

    Some people think that grades are a waste of time, and to some extent I can see that if you're not going to use the 'quaification' that it could be a waste of time and money; but as I say, if you want to satisfy yourself and can say to people you have grade 3, 5, 8, whatever, in your instrument, then people can see where you're at with your music and see that you're a dedicated player... etc etc etc...

    Aural and music theory is very beneficial for your musical skills! You'll learn an awful lot, and when your conductor turns round and asks to 'sing a passage' or ask 'what does this term mean' etc, then you'll be able to answer, rather than embarrase yourself ;-)
    It'll also make you more aware with what is happening around you in the band, whilst listening to an orchestra, or even pop/rock music...

    I'm doing the Band Musicianship degree at Salford, and if I hadn't already worked hard towards my grade 8's in saxophone (with Trinity), percussion (with ABRSM) and theory (ABRSM), I'd be struggling a lot... it's helped make me a better and confident player as well... and helping all my friends in and outside of uni is a satisfying thing as well! It's amazing how many people haven't done theory or grades before!

    So yes, why not do the exam?! It'll benefit you a lot! Believe me!

    Good luck! ;-)
  3. leisa

    leisa Active Member

  4. Tuba Girl

    Tuba Girl Member

    I think exams are good to a certain point but just because you have passed grade 8 or whatever does not mean you could play a grade 8 piece if it was put in front of you. I passed my my grade 8 piano but if I was to sight read a grade 8 piece I would probably not be able to play it.
    On the other hand it does give you experience to play on your own!!!!!!!
    Sometimes you end up doing things that you think are pointless but in the end they do benefit you!
  5. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    The answer to your question, "Does all this theory and 'musicianship' really make you a better player?" the short answer is of course! The only people to really argue that music theory is a lot of bull s**t are old-fashioned rockers!

    The argue between is theory nessesary has been going for a while. It's like this, without theory you will NEVER fully understand what your playing, writing, etc. At the beginning of your studies, you quickly become aware that music is made up of scales.

    The problem most people have is this: Music is a romantic artform, it should then follow that an abundance of romance and philisophical thoughts will 'get you through' music. At the end of the day music is mathematics, it is the job of the COMPOSER to turn mathematics into something more meaningful, spiritually.

    Music is a language! that is the key element. If we want to learn French, we learn it by theory and listening, but because French (like music) is the language of love, we don't think about leaning French in a romantic way.

    It can be easy to forget we need classical trainng, with all the Britney Spears and so on making millions out of music without knowing theory, or indeed how to sing, but one must remember that to play a Mozart Symphony is quite different from reciting a well-known, clinically formed pop track.

    This is a subject I feel strongly about, but one which is usually never argued by classical players!!!!
  6. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    If its any help i missed my grade 8 euph examine because of illness in the summer and it was part of my offer to get into Huddersfield. :( I was really worried come A Level results day, that they would not accept me onto the course. However when i phoned up I was told that it was ok as I had passed an audition so they would take that instead... So I don't think that its really necessary to have the bit of paper as long as you show you can do it at audition :D

    P.S. I'm not tempting fate though and I'm going to do the exam later this year :)
  7. Darth_Tuba

    Darth_Tuba Active Member

    If your talking in terms of bands, grades don't mean much. They are useful for people as they are learning to give them something to aim for etc. but I don't know many people who will take them as an accurate measure of ability. Just in case you were wondering I did grade 1 horn, grade 2 tuba and then couldn't be bothered with them anymore. :)
  8. leisa

    leisa Active Member

    If its any help i missed my grade 8 euph examine because of illness in the summer and it was part of my offer to get into Huddersfield. :( I was really worried come A Level results day, that they would not accept me onto the course. However when i phoned up I was told that it was ok as I had passed an audition so they would take that instead... So I don't think that its really necessary to have the bit of paper as long as you show you can do it at audition :D

    P.S. I'm not tempting fate though and I'm going to do the exam later this year :)[/quote]

    thanx ! i am applyin to hudds so thats helpful to know!! :) i think i'll do it anyway though just incase!!
  9. tewkeshorn

    tewkeshorn Account Suspended

    Thanks for your opinions guys, I've decided to go in for my Grade 8 and will learn all the scales etc in the hope that they'll be useful someday!

    I've already done uni so don't actually need it as a qualification for anything, but thought it'd be nice to be able to say 'I'm Grade 8!' :p

    I expect I'll do it on Horn as the pieces look quite cool, although the last grade I did was 5 on Flugel at school! :lol:

    Thanks again, and see some of you at Wychavon! :guiness
  10. faerie

    faerie Member

    I did my eight this summer, right in the middle of my A levels. I did very little work for it to be honest, because I didnt really see the point in doing it. My mother made me because she wanted me to "complete the set" before I flew the coup and because she'd payed for all the lessons and band stuff i felt i had to to keep her happy.

    But now i have a distinction, so im pretty pleased I did take it :D It looks good on CVs and the various begging letters Ive sent out to charities that give grants to impoverished students such as myself, and will remind me of the days when i could get a semi decent note out of an instrument.
  11. aimee_euph

    aimee_euph Member

    It gives you pride in what you do for a hobbie. I was over the moon when i got honours in my grade 7, all that work actually paid off.

    Theory is good because it helps me understand whats what in the music i play in stead of playing it like it was anything.
  12. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    Many years ago (!), when I was coming to the end of my schooldays, my teacher suggested that I should take "a grade" to have something to show for all the lessons (possibly as a "statistic" for him too)....

    So, I did the obligatory Grade V theory and then Grade VIII on the Euph in my lower 6th. ("if you don't learn your scales, you won't get a distinction!")

    However, just to be different (and because I could!) I did the concert clef (bass and tenor) version - but mainly because I didn't like the treble clef pieces (I remember "Kenilworth" was one of them!)

    The theory was useful (I think) as I at least have some understanding of what's going on. The practical gave me a lot of confidence. (I also got to play my pieces as solos with the band - special arrangements - which was great - I did "Homage à Bach" and "Morceau Symphonique", BTW)

    Now I'm having to help my son get towards HIS Grade V theory so that he can move on to Grade VI on the baritone! This area seem to have gone for more frequent exams... I must admit I'm getting worried that the day is fast approaching when I won't be able to make a fair hash of sightreading his grade pieces so that he can choose which ones he's going to do :shock:

    And no, I didn't go to music college - I didn't even do O-level music :)

  13. faerie

    faerie Member

    Ah. That phrase was exactly the reason I didnt particularly want to take my 8 this time (and i never did quite get them off). I can play them fine but if you ask me to remember them i struggle. My teacher suggested saying them out loud (ie CDEFGABCBAGFEDC) but that just made it harder. I struggled to type that! I can only do them by ear, so the whole tone ones were hell because im not used to them.

    I skived through grV theory when I was about 13. I had a really old man teaching me, and i just gave him the same exercise to mark every week. He never noticed. But then I did GCSE and AS level and for that you had to know the theory side of it aswell. I actually enjoyed the way that was taught, and made sense of alot of stuff from before.
  14. horn1

    horn1 Member

    I did a couple of grades when I was at school (grades 3 & 5 Flugel and grade 5 theory). I found them useful to a point but was more interested in bands at the time so did very little practice. I began preparing for grade 8 on flugel but never got round to it. I didn't need it to get into music college so I didn't really see the point. I went to Salford and did the band musicianship course and quite a few people had never done grades at all. I'm on horn now and am thinking about doing my Grade 8 for something to work for, I don't know a great deal of music for the horn so I tend to go off the grade lists. If I ever get time now I'm teaching I might just do it!!
    I do think that grades are important for your overall musicianship mainly because of the stuff that's required. As I tell my pupils every run in difficult music is going to be based on a scale! Now if I listened to my own advice I'd be great wouldn't I??!!
  15. tewkeshorn

    tewkeshorn Account Suspended

    Well good luck if you do it Nicola, I've ordered some of the Grade 8 pieces now and can't wait to try them (heard some good things about Variations on a Welsh Theme and Sparkys Masquerade!).
  16. Jo Elson

    Jo Elson Member

    I've done grades on the piano and flugel after grade 6 on the piano i stopped because i just didn't enjoy practicing the same piece for such a long period of time. I'd rather teach myself and play pieces I enjoy and I feel I get better experience this way too. Flugel i did grade3 then skipped to grade5-but unfortunately my teacher left before i had time to complete it and i never did get round to it. Really it taking grades isn't that important at the moment, I just enjoy playing whenever i can and attend band each week. But at some point I feel i might want to use music in a career then i might do some more grades on the flugel to accompany my exam result.
  17. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Although I never took any grades myself, I think they can be a useful tool in developing playing, and for giving you a benchmark as to how you are progressing. I was due to take grade 6 as part of my A Level music course, but having moved house, the syllabus of set works etc in the new area was completely different, and I couldn't pick it up in the time available. In fact the only performance test I even took in music was my Forces' Trade Test, Grade 2!

    Whether or not people do grades, though, I would underline the importance of music theory in all its varieties. The more we understand about the language of music, the better we will be able to interpret the music put in front of us. If the music is tonal, it helps to identify when it changes key, whether or not there is a change in the key signature, and the balance can be helped if you know whether you are playing the root, third or fifth etc in a chord.

    My son attended a Saturday music school where they made a point of including theory lessons as well as practical on a range of instruments, and at the corps we have recently restructured our "learners" sessions, turning it into more of a music "academy", covering a range of topics.
  18. BeatTheSheep

    BeatTheSheep Member

    You can tell you went to Salford, James. I read some of my old essays now and can't understand what I was talking about!

    Grades are good as a benchmark for people to prove their capabilities. The cost of them tends to be prohibitive, so I try and keep pupils to grades 3, 5 and whatever they want after that. There are a few strange pieces, like the Gregson piece in grade 2 cornet but in grade 3 horn (in a different book) and the treble clef Eb Bass studies that are just transposed. (i.e. grade 7 study in Bb- easy for treble clef but Db major in Bass clef- nasty).

    Also grades are useful for people that aren't in a band, it gives them targets to aim for. If they're in a band, it might not be so vital, unless they want to make a career out of it.
  19. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    Yup yup yup :)
    anyone can be a "decent" player, music isnt about playing notes off a page, its the things that you do with them that counts. I know it sounds silly but musicality is the most important aspect of being a musician. I could be better technically which is something I've really tried to work on over the last few years, but I know one thing im really good at, is general musicality; phrasing, knowing where to pause or drag the music around, intonation, knowing what style the music should be in etc.. It all helps to put life into what you are playing so it DOESNT just sound like dots on a page played in the right order.
    Personally I don't believe that the grades are worth the paper that thye are written on... however, the preperation that we all go through to DO the actual exam, thoery, aural and of course practical, is very beneficial. The ABRSM is recognised as the most popluar/better recognised (ie. by uni's etc..) board. I myself, have never done a grade 8 though, I dont believe its essential to have the certificate.. just knowing you are the standard and being able to prove it has always sufficed me. Infact the highest grade I have is grade 7 distinction... on violin :D :!:
    Just remember that achieving grade 8, is just the start of becoming a good player, it doesnt mean that you are at the peak of your playing ;) If the grades carried on past 8, I would estimate that the final grade of achieving perfection as a player would be about grade 50 :)
    I'd put myself on 9... ;)
    good luck and happy practising
  20. asteria

    asteria Member

    Personally i've never taken any grades and don't have a single musical qualification to my name, but I did do some of the work with the intention of taking the earlier grades. I found that although I never took them the practice that i did on simple scales and stuff has stuck with me, i just wish i'd carried on past 3 flats!!

    I know a lady who was trying to teach herself music theory, and because she was struggling she was thinking of giving up on taking any grades. With a little encouragement she put the work in and passed with flying colours and I believe she's just taken up a degree in music!

    I'm thinking of doing some theory grades now, not to get the piece of paper at the end, but so i can understand the music i'm trying to play and perhaps get into arranging eventually. Has anybody here found the theory useful?

    In terms of practical grades i'd say go for it, the practice alone will make you a better player, and it's good to have goals to aim for! Good luck :D

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