V.com weekend vote: Are graded music exams a help or hindrance to progress?

July 19, 2019, 11:56 AM · Many students find motivation in taking graded repertory exams, though these are not as commonplace in the United States as they are elsewhere.

graded exams

If you don't know about them (or even if you do and want to know more), here is a list of some of the most common music exams, and where they take place:

There are other music exams, and some are more localized. I welcome your additions to this list!

As a teacher, I'm happy when students can have a goal that motivates their progress. If the test measures a student's foundation-building progress, that is great. However, if it becomes a situation of "teaching to the test" or long-term "preparing for the test" - not so great! For example, it's important to be a progressing through a full book of etudes at an appropriate level, rather than to pick one etude to polish for three months for a test.

What are your opinions about graded music exams for violin and string students? Have you participated in a music examination program (or more than one)? Do you wish you could, but they aren't offered in your area? Are exams motivating for you or for your students? Do they help you measure your progress as a student? Or are they a waste of time that interferes with other learning? Please share your thoughts on the subject!

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Replies

July 19, 2019 at 08:22 PM · As a person who is not a professional musician and a late-starter on the violin I look at the world of teaching music from a very different background.

Having assisted with a number of competitions held by the NJSO I have observed that grading/assessing music and performing is subjective at best.

Areas like music theory, history, and other academic subjects can be measured with objectivity. Beyond the basics of playing it is purely subjective to assess a performance without turning the performances into attempts to make exact copies of some performance that is considered the "standard." Once you get beyond assessing the ability (or lack thereof) to play the notes you are into areas that are totally dependent on the listener/observer.

July 19, 2019 at 09:33 PM · Agree 100%!

July 20, 2019 at 01:59 AM · I've taken RCM exams and I don't think it hinders my progress. I wouldn't say it helps a ton, but I think one benefit is that it forces me to work on more repertoire at a time than I normally would.

July 20, 2019 at 01:08 PM · The London College of Music (now part of University of West London - Standards there are more rigorous than when I got my ALCM!) also do graded exams. Strangely not the Guildhall (which seems to have cut links with the City University/London Metropolitan University), as far as I can see.

July 20, 2019 at 03:08 PM · The RCM examinations are available in the US as well as Canada.

July 20, 2019 at 10:19 PM · Having voted that I am not familiar with the system(s) I have some questions and remarks:

1. The list given is all Anglo-Saxon. Is this a consequence of the Laurie's vantage point or are those test2 an English-speaking favorite?

2. Spontaneously it seems to me that such testing might be useful for someone aiming for a professional career in giving a measure of progress. For myself however I am happy I had violin lessons with zero pressure from grades, exams, tests or anything along those lines which of course crowded every other subject I studied or had to study.

3. Designing and grading such exams is extremely difficult even for much more easily gradable subjects than violin playing. So everybody who takes part in them ought to take the results with some serious helping of salt.

4. Talking about that: Is there any--not just anecdotal--evidence to show that success on those exams correlates with later career success?

July 21, 2019 at 01:29 AM · Had to be under heavy medical supervision.....

Eventually I was able to overcome this fear of failing. Preparing for "jury" was always a nightmare. Now, is not as much of an issue. Happen throughout all my schooling, not just violin.....math, science... preparation was the key to build confidence.

July 21, 2019 at 02:37 AM · i dont see anything wrong in taking these exams, i have just started on this journey with ABRSM; gives you a sense of achievement, motivates you to become a better violinist and a musician in general. am an adult student, not looking to take this as a career, but trying to understand the instrument -violin.

July 21, 2019 at 08:22 AM · I have students studying for AMEB exams and others who are not, but most choose to work through the AMEB books anyway and complete the technical requirements. Those who don't do exams have a little "graduation" performance during a lesson just for me and parents. It motivates them to polish their selected pieces and sets up a routine of practicing scales and etudes as well as pieces.

I was brought up on Trinity College and AMEB myself so it's natural for me to think in this way, and the curriculum gives me a graduated structure around which to base my teaching.

One thing of interest is that they periodically introduce a complete new series of pieces in the Preliminary to grade 7 books, meaning that teachers need to learn all of the new pieces and of course purchase all of their books in order to do so. We are in series 9 with violin whilst viola is on series 1. Piano is on series 18. Makes you think it's more about making money from the more popular instruments than providing a graded service to students...

July 21, 2019 at 10:09 PM · My current teacher has students taking the exams (ASTACAP). As an adult student, I didn't think it made sense for me and my teacher never asked me about doing it but it sounded like something to objectively measure my progress by. After reading the blog, I'm not so sure now. And after reading what the above poster said about the AMEB and violin vs viola, maybe my teacher doesn't think it's worth it to do it with her viola students (only two, I think).

July 22, 2019 at 04:34 PM · Re: TRINITY COLLEGE (MUSIC) LONDON

ATTENTION ~ TCM AS ITS FORMER 'SELF' NO LONGER EXISTS IN LONDON, WHICH HAD DONE 'TIL THE EARLY TWO THOUSANDS. MY GREAT COLLEAGUE/FRIEND, WITH WHOM I'VE COLLABORATED SINCE 1995, WHO WAS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF 'LATE' TCM, LONDON, & WAS ALSO HEAD OF ALL BRITISH EXAMS IN THE UK, AUSTRALIA & I THINK ?, CANADIAN CONSERVATORIES, ALMOST SNGLE- HANDEDLY, LOCATED A NEW HOME FOR THE ILLUSTRIOUS TCM, IN GREENWICH, OF EAST LONDON, UK, & ARRANGED FOR ALL OF TCM TO BE MOVED TO THE OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE WHICH IS LOCATED IN GREENWICH, ON THE GROUNDS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH ~ BY FLOTILLA ON THE RIVER THAMES!! A GIGANTIC FEAT!!! TCM IS NOW KNOWN & "RECHRISTENED" ~

*TRINITY LABAN CONSERVATOIRE OF MUSIC & DANCE*

PLEASE, IF THINKING OF STUDYING @TRINITY COLLEGE OF MUSIC/LONDON, DO NOT, AS IT ISN'T OPERATIVE. IF INTERESTED TO STUDY IN LONDON, & QUITE SERIOUS IN BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL VIOLINIST, VIOLIST, OR VIOLONCELLIST/ DOUBLE BASSIST, GATHER INFO ON ~

TRINITY LABAN CONSERVATOIRE OF MUSIC & DANCE IN GREENWICH, S.E. LONDON; ROYAL COLLEGE OF MUSIC, LONDON, SW7; THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF MUSIC/( INNER LONDON, IN MARLYEBONE ROAD): OR THE GUILDHALL SCHOOL OF MUSIC IN LONDON ~

HAVING GUEST TAUGHT COMPREHENSIVE SERIES' OF VIOLIN, CHAMBER MUSIC, + STRING QUARTET/TRIO'S & ORCHESTRAL REPERTOIRE, AT FORMER TCM, LONDON,

I CAN HEARTILY RECOMMEND STUDY AT ITS 'NEW SELF' LISTED ABOVE. THE FINEST VIOLONCELLO TEACHER IS PROF DEREK AVISS, O.B.E., INQUIRIES RE TLC MUSIC CURRICULUM MIGHT BE ADDRESSED TO TLC HEAD, PROF ANTHONY BOWNE ~ IN WRITING TO PROF DEREK AVISS, IT'S FINE IN MENTIONING MY NAME - KNOWING & TITLING HIM - "'FINEST VIOLONCELLO PROF AT *TLC' & MOST PROBABLY IN ALL THE UK"!! (*Short for Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance) ~

THE BRITISH 'SYSTEM' ISN'T COMPLETELY KNOWN IN DEPTH TO ME, BUT AS A GUEST ARTIST TEACHER OF VIOLIN, ET AL, I CAN HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE BRITISH GRADING PROCESS AS MORE HELPFUL THAN NOT, YET *CAUTION ALL IT ALWAYS DEPENDS ON WHO IS DOING GRADING!!! THIS IS A CRITICAL ELEMENT IN ALL JURIES & GRADING OF STUDENTS IN BRITAIN, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND & CANADIAN MUSIC SCHOOLS PLUS MAJOR CONSERVATORIES THROUGHOUT GREAT BRITAIN'S COMMONWEALTH!! If PROF AVISS IS TEACHING AND ADJUDICATING, PUPIL'S ARE 100% SURE TO BENEFIT + TRULY ADVANCE & PROSPER ~

I'VE DELIBERATELY POSTED THIS IN LARGE PRINT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THOSE HERE IN AMERICA, WHO MIGHT NOT KNOW OF MAJOR CORE LONDON MUSICAL

CONSERVATORIES ~ HAVING RESIDED/PLAYED & BBC TV/RECORDED MUCH IN LONDON & THROUGHOUT THE UK, I KNOW QUITE A BIT & MENTION HAVING STUDIED ON MY FULBRIGHT AT RCM, ROYAL COLLEGE OF MUSIC THEN PRIVATELY W/MILSTEIN, AS AN UNDER-CONCERT- ARTIST- MGMT PERFORMING/RECORDING ARTIST. MR. MILSTEIN WAS NEVER AFFILIATED WITH ANY OF THE CONSERVATORIES IN LONDON OR THE UK, BUT DID GIVE VIOLIN MASTER CLASSES AT JUILLIARD IN NYC, AND IN HIS LATER YEARS ~ (HE ALSO GAVE SUMMER VIOLIN MASTER COURSE'S IN ZURICH, WHERE I DID P.T. ASSIST- HELP SOME RE NM BOWING'S/ TECHNIQUE'S) ~

ANOTHER WORD:THE BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC, NEWLY HEADED UP BY JULIAN LLOYD WEBBER, HAS AN EXCELLENT STRING MUSIC PROGRAMME IN THE CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, ABOUT 1 & 2/3 HOURS DRIVE FROM INNER LONDON. SINCE BCM DIRECTOR LLOYD WEBBER ASSUMED THE HEAD POST, IT'S VERY MUCH EXPANDING!!! J. LW IS A WONDROUS 'CELLIST FROM A FAMILY OF RARE & TRULY DISTINGUISHED MUSICIANS ~

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED IN LARGE PRINT, JULY 22, 2019, BY ~

Elisabeth Matesky *

*www.facebook.com (listed Elisabeth Anne Matesky)

*https://www.violinist.com/directory/bio.cfm?member=Milstein

*Ref ~ https://youtu.be/M54U-P-Vs9g (Jascha Heifetz Violin

Master Class, Khachaturian, EM )

July 23, 2019 at 02:54 PM · I find it helps broaden repertoire. Having to pick things you normally wouldn't. I'm speaking as an amateur who has yet to take grade 8 ABRSM

July 25, 2019 at 09:47 PM ·

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