RCM levels as a method

July 18, 2019, 5:52 PM · Hello:

I started learning violin as an adult using the Suzuki method (up to book 3) and have moved on to the RCM curriculum. I don't particularly want to do exams (which my teacher is encouraging), and I am wondering if following the RCM curriculum is a suitable way to learn and advance on the violin, even if I don't do the exams? Would another method be more suitable?

Replies (8)

Edited: July 18, 2019, 6:11 PM · I assume it would have to be supplemented with other materials (etudes and repertoire), but I think it's at least useful as a reference to keep you from leaving gaps in your learning.

I self-taught violin and viola using a combination of Suzuki repertoire, various etude books that were recommended to me, and ABRSM grade level syllabi.

Edited: July 18, 2019, 6:38 PM · The RCM progression is kind of strange and a little slow from what I remember. I would recommend introducing advanced techniques before they show up in the RCM program (for example, up-bow staccato and ricochet, which make a surprise appearance out of nowhere in book 6).
July 18, 2019, 7:44 PM · " I am wondering if following the RCM curriculum is a suitable way to learn and advance on the violin, even if I don't do the exams?"

It certainly is, and is better structured than most alternatives you can find. Which is not to say that it's any better than what a good or great teacher would do - they would do what's appropriate, and likely much that's similar, ideally better optimized to the student.

Doing the exams is a great discipline to ensure that you're doing it properly, which comes at a cost in term of time, and would probably be slower due to the effort required to polish, memorize, and supplement with technique, etc., but if you're supposed to be doing the program, you're supposed to be doing that. The exams themselves don't take much time after all - it's all about the preparation, which is transferable, and not simply something done for a piece of paper.

I've had my child do these to good effect (including performance, and even competition as a means for preparing for and getting feedback for examinations), but haven't done it myself. There's no doubt in my mind that the events - performances and examinations - motivated significant improvement.

It's probably too much to do every exam, and probably unwise to leave all the exams until the end ones. The earlier exams are easier to get started with - you could just try one to get a better feel for it, and to develop better knowledge of the process and requirements along the way.

July 18, 2019, 9:06 PM · I like J Ray's answer. The RCM syllabus is a good list of graded repertoire and etudes. In theory you can do the RCM curriculum without doing the exams.
Edited: July 20, 2019, 4:50 AM · I'll call it ABRSM, as that's what I was brought up on on piano and oboe.
It's combined RCM and RAM.
It can easily be used as a curriculum in the sense that the material is graded and progressive. I'm using it for violin after looking at Suzuki (there are free pdfs of all Suzuki books online, although some may be obsolete editions). Suzuki goes much faster and further than the ABRSM, and each Suzuki book seems to contain a huge range of difficulties (that's not the main problem - the problem is they all seem to me to overlap. But I could be wrong). The ABRSM seems to be the tortoise to Suzuki's hare. ABRSM stops where you'd enter music college. Grade 8 is designed to be the music college entry qualification. I guess Suzuki goes further, as it's its own music college? I stuck with what I was used to (in addition, the ABRSM changes the syllabus every few years and you can amass historical material very cheaply from charity shops). My teacher expressed a dislike of Suzuki, so I'm happy. I'm attempting to cover each ABRSM grade in 2 months, then after grade 8, or whenever I'm forced to, I'll be happy to pause and spend more time consolidating than progressing, after being a deliberate hare rather than a tortoise. Otoh, that would be tortoise speed for more talented people. Later I may even look at Suzuki again to fill in gaps.
July 20, 2019, 7:40 AM · I agree with most of the posts here - this is a good graded 'method', and was the background to the way I was taught. As someone suggested, I did skip some exams. One other observation - at each grade there seemed to be a big disparity between the difficulty of some of the pieces you could chose from. For instance, for my grade 8 I found the unaccompanied Bach choices very demanding, so I chose( for me)a much easier sonata by Leclair (which I played quite well, according to the examiner). Maybe this was just a reflection of my strengths and limitations as a player......
July 20, 2019, 10:06 AM · There are lots of graded-study-and-repertoire lists out there. RCM seems to be one that has a good reputation. With all such lists, the main thing is to have a teacher who understands the rationale underpinning the order and who can make adjustments (changes to the order, additions, deletions) as needed for the individual student. If you're going to do the exams then probably no deletions. One good thing about the exams is that you get a "second opinion" on your progress although this can be accomplished with a master class, with a "colleague lesson" or (mostly for kids) with a summer camp experience.
Edited: July 20, 2019, 5:02 PM · Gordon: neither ABRSM nor Suzuki reaches "music college" level, if by "music college" you mean undergraduate performance degree programs. The standard for admission has risen quite a bit over the decades. I had a DipABRSM (above Grade 8) in piano performance at the end of high school (I graduated in 2000) and would at best have gotten into a second-tier university program in piano performance. To be qualified for a conservatory or a major university degree program, you probably need to be at least two or three years (and probably more) beyond completing the entire Suzuki series or ABRSM Grade 8. Also, Suzuki goes farther in some aspects of technique but ABRSM is arguably more complete, so the amount of further progress needed is similar.

And yes, the Suzuki books overlap in difficulty. This is intentional.

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