Grades. Any thoughts?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Cantonian, Jun 9, 2006.

  1. Cantonian

    Cantonian Active Member

    I have recently read a posting on a thread where the person is looking for a position in a band and says that they are Grade 8 standard.

    What does this mean?
    A person of Grade 8 standard can play three or four pieces at least fairly well, knows a few scales, can clap, sing and listen in varying grades of ability and sight read a relatively easy passage....oh and has passed grade 5 theory.

    I am not knocking students taking grade exams but for the reasons given above I don't believe it gives a true reflection of ability.

    I got Grade 5 on tenor horn when I was 11 and French horn at 14. I have not done any more grades but I think that I am quite a useful player in spite of this.

    My son loves playing the piano and passed grade 5 three years ago (in spite of not wanting to play scales). He is always playing whatever music he can get his hands on and is now a very accomplished pianist playing his music with feeling. One of his peers has progressed to grade 8 but plays like an automaton.

    Any thoughts?
  2. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    I suppose Mike that this should be seen as an indicator of the potential of the persons standard. I agree that simply having Grade 8 means very little outside the context of what they can actually play and how they fit into a team environment.

    It's no mean accomplishment though, and so I'd also give a little credit to those who have achieved this... especially at a young age.

    At any audition though, how one plays on the day is what counts regardless of grade reached.
  3. persins

    persins Member

    I would tend to agree. I did up to grade 5 but then couldn't be bothered with doing any more grades.

    I have met many people who have passed grade 8 but have no real musicality and struggle to play alongside other players. I have also met players who have no grades at all yet are absolutely fantastic in all facets of the genre.

    Gaining grade 8 is a good yardstick but it doesn't automatically mean that you will be a great player.

    As with anything related to exams, having that bit of paper doesn't tell the whole story.
  4. GingerMaestro

    GingerMaestro Active Member

    I couldn't agree more with you

    In my opinion grades mean absolutely nothing when it comes to playing with a band or orchestra

    My daughter is doing grades through school but only to give her something to work towards not so she can say "I'm a grade 4 player now" cause she isn't she as good as she can be for her age and no grade can measure that

    I am like you I only took 1 grade (5) when I was 10 or 11 and I know for a fact that I could wipe the floor with some grade 8 players I know. So what does that say about grades
  5. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I also agree with a lot of the opinions on here. Isn't it nice when people aren't bickering!

    I think a lot of it comes down to competition. I have taught a number of students who are simply put in for exams because their parents want something to boast about at the school gate! This is especially noticeable in more well-off areas where parental one-upmanship is the norm. I have often entered children for exams and, on the very day they take it, the parent says "when can he start working on the next one?". And, of course, the parent then tells everyone they know "Tarquin's on Grade 5".

    Don't teach in Cambridge if you want to keep your sanity!

    On a more positive note, though, I have often found that examinations can act as a motivational tool for the more lazy students! When I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to be the best player for miles around, so was never really streached at my band and inevitably didn't work very hard. However, I always managed to pull my socks up when exams were looming!

    I am glad that, when I was growing up* my parents didn't push me into doing exams unless I was ready and willing to do them, and that includes all the other aspects of playing that other posts have covered.

    Just for the record, I did Grade 4, 5 and 8 on tenor horn and Grade 5 Theory before moving to trombone when I was 14. Never did any exams on the trombone apart from my degree recital.

    * I didn't say that I had grown up completely :biggrin:
  6. welshraz

    welshraz Member

    I agree that they can be a good motivational tool. When I went to interviews for university they all asked why I had not done my grade 8. I said that I didn't believe that grades always reflected a persons musical ability. I got into uni, graduated and now have a BA (Hons) in music. I still don't have my grade 8.....
  7. imthemaddude

    imthemaddude Active Member

    I agree, I have several grades on lots of instruments including grade 8 but I still believe it takes more to be a good player especially to have 'style'. Experience of the right kind goes further.
  8. Tigaraaah

    Tigaraaah New Member

    I failed grade 4, and missed a class trip to the zoo......i remember it like yesterday...the last exam i ever took....and look at me now!...ok i'm rubbish at sight reading, have no technical musical knowledge etc..etc..but i love playing my cornet!...
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I find that the experience of doing grades is a good way of getting some discipline when working on the basics ... scales, arpeggios, exercises and ear tests.
  10. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    ..Which brings us back to the ability v. commitment argument - do you (or your band) want good monthly, or committed weekly?

    Do you want (say) a 2nd cornet who can play it all, once a month (on their terms...), or a 2nd cornet who plays most of it twice a week (every week)....

    The grade is guidance, commitment matters... Balance is up to - erm, you?
  11. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    I haven't done any grades yet because I'm too lazy and rubbish :p But I make take one (dunno which one) on french horn cause my teacher thinks it will improve my confidence. Unless I fail it of course :p
  12. I barely passed Grade 5 with theory, at the age of 13. 102/150 iirc! Never taken another music exam, before or since. I know there are loads of players who can technically outclass me by miles, but I can still play a nice tune. Isn't that what matters?
  13. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - not if somebody needs to know at a glance what performance skills you have covered for audition purposes. Grade qualifications are useful in that they determine competence in different areas used in playing a musical instrument. This doesn't mean that if you fail an exam that you are necessarily worse musically than someone who has passed.
  14. Do you mean, to filter out applicants before the audition? I've never auditioned for anything musical, so I don't know what that entails, or what I could possibly audition for. If I want to join a band, I've always been good enough to play somewhere within it, and the conductor decides when he hears me play. So, no problem?
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - Yes, the system is used for filtering out applicants but mainly for academic institutions or professional orchestras. I have not heard of brass bands using this form of pre-judgement so not anything to worry about.
  16. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I think grades are a useful indication of a players potential, but not a lot more. I'd go along with the general comment here that I've heard "grade 8 players" and been less than impressed with their musicality. Someone once told me that a grade 8 is only useful if you get it before you're 16. I think there is a lot of truth in that statement. I'm sure I could pass a grade 8 now with a bit of practice, but no way could I have passed that at 16. When I was 16 I obviously didn't have the expierence that I do now - and that makes a difference in your playing.

    Even so - grade 8 means that someone has the potential to be a good player, but it does not mean that they are a good player. Its a worthwhile thing to do, but just like any other qualification, its only a indication of their potential. Someone without grade 8 might be a much better player overall.
  17. ScaryFlugel

    ScaryFlugel Member

    Of course, on flugel, you have the added "bonus" of having the same syllabus as the cornet and the trumpet. Obviously a flugel is built to get exactly those same high notes, top C's - doddle. Top D's - hey - I regularly get 9 or 10 of those before breakfast ;)

    I reckon for some people having an exam to raise their game isn't a bad idea. But it's only an indicator.
  18. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    Equally, though, GM, there are players with grade 8 that can wipe the floor with your playing.

    Having grades does not guarantee a player's ability, but it doesn't mean they CAN'T play, nor should they be disaparaged.
  19. chrisgs

    chrisgs Member

    Same for soprano:confused: - I'd need to play Bb cornet music as written, so thats top Cs for grade 7 arrggh
  20. To answer the original question, I think it means - if you think you would pass Grade 8 without any real problems, then you are a suitable candidate :tup (although, it doesn't necessarily mean you would get the position)
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2006

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