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#1470809 - 07/08/10 08:58 PM AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow?
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Ok - this may be a bit of an unjustified rant here - but I cant help thinking that the AMEB are doing themselves out of a lot of potential business. They've certainly reduced the amount of cash they are going to take from me!

From Grade 2 upwards, candidates are required not only to prepare 3 performance pieces for an exam, but also to 'show evidence of study' of 2 others of similar standard (or higher). Now - whilst I can see that for higher grades (7-8) theres some merit in encouraging a greater depth of repertoire, I have huge issues with this at low grades where realistically pieces are unlikely to be 'retained' in a player repertoire for years to come.

My daughter started working towards her Grade 2 at the beginning of this year and has done very well. Shes had a good stab so far of learning 4 of the required 5 pieces. However, its now some months since she became comfortable with the 1st and 2nd of her pieces and boredom with them is clearly setting in. I figured she'd get the 5th piece learnt within the next few weeks so thought about booking her in. - Unfortunately the AMEB administrative schedule means the first available exam period to book is now October. There is no doubt that by October my daughter will have completely fallen out of love with any of the pieces she studied at the beginning of the year - so instead we WONT sit the exam.

If we could book an exam for 3 weeks time then AMEB would get the cash rom us...
If AMEB exmas requried 3 pieces of preperation then they'd get the cash from us...

Is there really any merit in forcing students to learn so many pieces simultanesously?
How do you manage to get students of such tender ages (my daughter is 6) to stay focused over many months?

Is this just encouraging overlap? i.e. learn 3 Grade 2 pieces for presentation and make a start on a couple of grade 3 pieces for the 'evidence of study' section?

and why is the admin lag so long? Book in July for an exam in October? Seriously?...

Anyway - daughter is now working towards Grade3... I guess it doesnt hurt to skip (I'm confident she would have passed Grade2 comfortably if she could have sat it last week)

Any thoughts? Do you all think that preparing 5 pieces for an elementary level exam is reasonable?
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1470822 - 07/08/10 09:29 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
ToriAnais Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/08
Posts: 244
Loc: Australia
For starters, students should be learning far MORE than 5 pieces at any one grade level before going on to the next. You could always ditch the first pieces learnt + learn a new one or two for the exam.

I've been caught out by the 3 month wait but once you've been caught once or twice you don't forget again.

At any rate, AMEB has the Piano For Leisure syllabus which, amongst other bonuses, suits people who feel that the requirements are too strenuous in the regular piano syllabus. In some respects (rhythms for example) the pieces in this syllabus are actually harder, but there is less to prepare.
_________________________
Piano teacher since August 2008.

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#1470840 - 07/08/10 09:55 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: ToriAnais]
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Quote:
students should be learning far MORE than 5 pieces at any one grade level before going on to the next..


So how many pieces do you think a 6 year old should learn in a 6 month period? I would have thought doing 3 WELL was a much better approach than doing more than 5 simply spending a couple of weeks on each piece learning the notes and then moving on to the next one.

Perhaps each grade should take longer than 6 months - but I cant see any reason to artifically 'dumb down' the standard of pieces being studied if the student is keen (and able) to progress.

For the record I'm sure daughters progress will slow down soon as the material gets more demanding!


Edited by DadAgain (07/08/10 09:57 PM)
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1470841 - 07/08/10 10:04 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: ToriAnais]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
I agree with everything mitts_off has said, and I will add my two cents worth as well.

Students should be learning gazillions of pieces each year (in the case of my students, 'gazillions' equates to at least 30 often 40).

You ask if there is any merit in requiring students to learn so many pieces? Oh. My. Goodness. YES!!! I could write a book about why this is so (in fact, that's going on the to-do list right now...), but this is a fundamentally important thing to know: moving from grade to grade learning even only FIVE pieces leaves students musically impoverished and teachers around Australia will tell you about students hitting Grade 4 (sometimes Grade 3) and suddenly finding it's really hard yakka. This is due to the student's substantial lack of experience because they've hardly played any music. I cannot emphasise enough how vital it is to any student's progress to learn many, many pieces at each level.

But more directly to your situation: use the 1st two pieces your daughter learned at the start of the year as the 'extra' pieces - these pieces are not marked, your daugher merely has to demonstrate that she has learned them (even if she no longer loves them).

I suspect that she's not sat an exam before? And that she doesn't have a teacher? Or if she does have a teacher this teacher has no familiarity with AMEB exams?

Is your daughter prepared with the scales component of the exam? Have you looked at the sight reading requirements? The ear tests? The general knowledge component? Being only 6 years old she may well require considerable practice in answering questions relating to her pieces.

Some things to think about as you reassess whether or not three months really is *all* that long a period of time.
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1470855 - 07/08/10 10:45 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Elissa Milne]
Canonie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
hi Dad Again
I vigorously agree with mittsoff and elissa. YES as many pieces as possible is the best way to develop musicianship. I think a new piece every week is a good baseline in the first couple of years for a young student.

Be wary of thinking of an exam as a goal. It is a tool, and the exam syllabus is another tool. Her musical development is the goal really; a love of music, an understanding of music, a satisfying personal involvment in making music herself, a lifelong involvement in the making of music, lots of skills with which to achieve this, and reaching the highest level of skill that she can with the given time and motivation.

Exams and syllabi are great tools and I am glad the AMEB offers them. The passing of an exam in the early grades is not a complete measure of how many skills the child will have in three years time, or 8 years. I like to think of music training as a sort of pyramid shape. A very wide base represents the easiest pieces done in the beginning of training, gradually narrowing to a point where the hard pieces are many years later.

I also like to think of it as a platform:- the early years are a platform for later development consisting of a Mountain of new pieces at of varying difficulty (most of which are Not perfected) and including lots of development of the musician with movement, rhythm work, singing, ensemble, making up pieces, reading notation, memorising, performing, teaching their siblings and more I'm sure. It may help to think of developing her musical intelligence, not just focusing on her ears and fingers.

It may help to focus on a longer term goal of your daughter being a competant Grade 4 pianist. What are the skills missing when a student hits a wall at grade 4 (as elissa has referred to). And could some of these missing skills have been addressed by a wide exposure to as much music as possible, tackled in a number of different ways?

Dadagin I think i remember your daughter - did you post some videos of her around her first exam? (this child was very cute i remember smile ) Hope this is some help and Good luck to you and your daughter.


Edited by Canonie (07/08/10 10:51 PM)
Edit Reason: clarity...
_________________________

Composers manufacture a product that is universally deemed superfluous—at least until their music enters public consciousness, at which point people begin to say that they could not live without it.
Alex Ross.

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#1470866 - 07/08/10 11:02 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Canonie]
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Interesting.... thanks for your replies.

Firstly - Elissa - she has taken exams before - she blitzed her Grade 1 back in December. She also recently competed in the "Allans Music - Junior Piano Competition" which was an eye opener to see some of the awesome talent around. Duaghter may have been one of the youngest in her age group (5-8) but still managed to come 3rd which she was justifiably VERY proud of.

With regard to 'non-piece' parts of exam requirements she's pretty good - she's quite competant at her scales, has a good understanding of knowledge and theory requirements and has aural skill that blow most people away (perfect pitch at 6yrs old?). I will concede that a major area lacking in her armoury of an all-round musician is her sight reading and no doubt playing 'more pieces less well' rather than 'fewer pieces very well' would probably help address that. (Having said that her piano sight-reading has dramatically improved since she started playing Violin too)

She does have a teacher - but although he is very good at encouraging and enthusing her and good at exploring various excercises that I wouldnt think of, he does lack familiarity with AMEB syllabus (e.g. it was ME that told him about the 5 piece requirement - he knew nothing about it). His background is more jazz contemporary and although a very technically able pianist he does lack 'formal' classical knowledge (His simple Italian language for instance is lacking - I had to tell him what 'senza' meant when he instructed daughter to slow down on a passage marked 'senza rit'!).

All in all daughter really enjoys her lessons with him and I like to think that the structured classical lacking that he displays is made up for by my own knowledge (I was a principal Piano music student at uni). I have thought about changing teachers and getting someone more able to cope, but since everyone seems to be enjoying themselves at the moment it seems a shame to break up what really is a team effort.

..oh and yes Canonie - I did post some videos of her before your memory is quite correct! (heres the latest - a bit scrappy but I thought I'd record it before she forgot it completely! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IWK2suZ1x0).

I'll take your comments on-board its great to have a network of people to bounce ideas off. I dont remember being a grade 2 piano player, and I certainly dont remember being a 6yr old piano player so its all a fantasticly interesting journey!


Edited by DadAgain (07/09/10 12:21 AM)
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1470960 - 07/09/10 05:29 AM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
Amosquito Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/10
Posts: 39
Loc: Australia
Hi DadAgain,

You may be interested to note that back when I was doing second grade AMEB, I was required to present six pieces (four list and two extra list) so the AMEB has reduced the workload for their younger students. I recall at the time though that I was working on not just the pieces for the exam, but pieces for eisteddfods as well as pieces just for pleasure or to accompany my brother singing.
_________________________
Amos

Facilitator of learning
Lover of pianos and singing
Wannabe singer/songwriter

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#1471052 - 07/09/10 10:25 AM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11183
Loc: Canada
I think something is missing here which ought to come first. That is, what are your / your daughter's goals in lessons and practising, and where do the exams fit in? It might be an interesting thing to explore, especially since you yourself have a varied background not only in regards to the instruments you play, but how you relate to them and music differently for each of them.

Lessons, practising et alia can be for the purpose of getting skills in the instrument, understanding music so that we can express or interpret it with that instrument = musicianship (I think). The exams are one yardstick for assessing that this has taken place, and what may be missing. OR we can also aim to pass grades and get good marks in exams, in which case the grade levels and exam marks are the purpose, and other things are secondary. I don't think that we are always aware of this on a conscious level.

If your aim is musicianship, then you will want to have a large variety of pieces, and take sufficient time to get out of them what you can given your temperament and other things. You may want to spend time on such skills as learning to read music, and such ear training as pianism doesn't really need (the thing is out of tune anyway with its equal temperament).

Now, if your aim is to get high grades in exams, then you want to prepare a few pieces to the hilt, and then hold on to that preparation until the exam. Staying on a piece for very long is tedious for a small child, which is why you are concerned. You also don't want to spend time on things that are not graded, even though they are needed for musicianship.

If your aim is to pass grades, then you want to do a minimum number of pieces so that you can move on. Both this and the previous are not great for musicianship.

This topic first came up with my son, who began an instrument at age 13, and chose to enter music in university. He had less than four years to prepare - less than that if you consider that he switched to a similar instrument halfways through - and he made it to a top university under a top virtuoso musician. Besides talent and determination, there was serious setting of priorities. He stated that he did not want the needs of exams to get in the way of the needs of his growth, and opted out. He also made a statement (at age 16!) that I will not forget, "There is a difference between preparing for an event, and preparing a student to become a musician." That statement involved what I have just described.

My experience in lessons also has an interesting twist. When I finished grade one, my teacher asked whether I wanted to do the exam. I did not "prepare" for the exam, but I did the exam. I had played a variety of pieces by then, and we chose which pieces and studies were best for the exam. Then we ignored them completely and went on with other things. As an adult, I was told to "keep the shape" of the exam material.

By the time I did the exam some 6 weeks later, I was well into grade two material. I had done technique at the next grade level, and I had worked on a variety of pieces at the next level. Because of this, I had more skills to put into my old exam pieces. It worked backward. I passed the exam "with distinction", and did it after only 3 months of lessons. Therefore this approach had no detriment to grades. However, even if grades were to go down, I would still opt for this variety, because becoming proficient at the instrument is more important than a piece of paper to stick on the wall.

So what place do the exam and grade levels hold for you?

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#1471172 - 07/09/10 01:00 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I may be completely mistaken here but it appears to me that the AMEB is more akin to the Solo & Ensemble Festival Program which is run by MENC in the USA (primarily classroom music teachers) than exam programs offered by Piano Guild, RCM, etc.

BTW, my 6 and 7 yr old beginners will learn 60 pieces in their first six months of piano study, will memorize at least 10 of them for their Guild Exams.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1471404 - 07/09/10 08:18 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Interesting...

so - If all you guys have your students learning at least 1 piece a week and concentrating on volume rather than quality - does that mean that you treat exam prep differently - or do your student learn thier exam pieces in the 3 weeks before the exam?

I've always thought that it was good to use every piece you work on to its maximum so you can focus on musicianship issues (interpretation, dynamics, phrasing, variation of touch etc etc) rather than considering it 'done' as soon as the notes are playable. If you're churning through repertoire at this frenetic pace do you have enough time to focus on these matters?

I guess I'm finding it hard to reconcile this dichotomy - get through lots of pieces (thus improving reading skills enourmously and varing the music experience) - or work on things thoroughly (thus having time to focus on specific techniques and really THINK about the music rather than worry about 'being able to play' pieaces).

Dont get me wrong - you guys may well all have a point. Its just not a viewpoint that I've encountered before (odd considering the years of various lessons on various instruments I had myself)!

Keystring - of course musicianship is the goal and I dont see 'achievement bagging' as a worthy goal at all (which is one reason why I'm dubious about rushing through hundreds of pieces playing none of them properly). I've generally taken the exam syllabus to be a a handy list of varied style works, gradually and appropriately increasing in complexity, whilst also having a suggestion of appropriate levels of associated skills (aural, scales, knowledge) etc etc - so make a pretty handy framework for structuring progress whilst gaining skills and improving musicianship. I'm happy that daughter is progressing well - and with the exception of sight reading (which this debate has got me questioning seriously) I think she's shaping up to be a nicely rounded musician.

(...and for the record I did ABRSM exams in UK and from Gr1-8 in both Piano and Viola never needed to prepare more than 3 pieces - although I did play many more obviously.)





Edited by DadAgain (07/09/10 08:23 PM)
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

Top
#1471413 - 07/09/10 08:50 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
John, I have no idea what the Solo and Ensemble Festival Program is, but an AMEB Piano exam consists of a student preparing 3 (or 4 in the higher grades) pieces for performance, along with another 2 to show they haven't worked on no more than 3 pieces for the whole year, preparing a set of scales, being given aural tests (in the case of AMEB singing back a melody, clapping a rhythm, identifying the time signature, identifying an interval, singing an interval - that kind of thing), and being given a sight reading test. At the end of all this the examiner asks them general knowledge questions about their pieces (names of notes, durations of notes, explanation of titles, meanings of words, key of piece, and so on).

The student is then given a grade of either A, B, C or Fail, with the examiner able to exercise a discretionary '+' if they feel the student was at the high end of the grade.....
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1471429 - 07/09/10 09:48 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Quote:
If all you guys have your students learning at least 1 piece a week and concentrating on volume rather than quality - does that mean that you treat exam prep differently - or do your student learn thier exam pieces in the 3 weeks before the exam?
Two issues in this first paragraph. Firstly you are assuming that quantity and quality are opposite ends of the same spectrum. Instead imagine an x axis with quality and a y axis with quantity. Your daughter is learning in the high-quality/low-quantity quadrant. We are suggesting that she would do better to learn in the high-quality/high-quantity quadrant, and there are any number of well-researched reasons for urging this.

Your second issue is about the time frame for exam preparation. At Grade 2 standard I recommend 12 weeks maximum for preparation (and I prefer about 10), but my students will have already learned many pieces at the Grade 2 standard before I enter them for the exam - so they may in fact already have all their pieces learned (along with 10 or 15 others that would be of the same standard). Preparing for an exam involves all those other elements (sight reading, ear tests, scales/arpeggios, general knowledge) so it cuts down on repertoire time in the lesson - something else to factor in.

Quote:
I've always thought that it was good to use every piece you work on to its maximum so you can focus on musicianship issues (interpretation, dynamics, phrasing, variation of touch etc etc) rather than considering it 'done' as soon as the notes are playable. If you're churning through repertoire at this frenetic pace do you have enough time to focus on these matters?

It doesn't feel frenetic once you're in the swing of it. And if it's too hard to learn a new Grade 2 piece each week (or every second week) then the student is not really at a Grade 2 standard yet, even if they passed Grade 1 with distinction. The idea is that you are working on touch from the moment you start playing a piece, that dynamics are built into 'learning' - not laminated on afterwards, and so forth. In addition, students should be creatively engaged with their music - trying out variations, exploring how the piece is composed, ways to make it communicate different things.

Quote:
I guess I'm finding it hard to reconcile this dichotomy - get through lots of pieces (thus improving reading skills enourmously and varing the music experience) - or work on things thoroughly (thus having time to focus on specific techniques and really THINK about the music rather than worry about 'being able to play' pieaces).
It's not a dichotomy. The more music you learn the better able you are to THINK about any new piece of music. And you have a wealth of skills to bring to each new piece.

Quote:
Dont get me wrong - you guys may well all have a point. Its just not a viewpoint that I've encountered before (odd considering the years of various lessons on various instruments I had myself)!

We were all taught the way you were taught! And so were the hundreds of thousands of Grade 8 distinction-earning piano students who never played the piano again after formal lessons stopped.

Quote:
Keystring - of course musicianship is the goal and I dont see 'achievement bagging' as a worthy goal at all (which is one reason why I'm dubious about rushing through hundreds of pieces playing none of them properly). I've generally taken the exam syllabus to be a a handy list of varied style works, gradually and appropriately increasing in complexity, whilst also having a suggestion of appropriate levels of associated skills (aural, scales, knowledge) etc etc - so make a pretty handy framework for structuring progress whilst gaining skills and improving musicianship. I'm happy that daughter is progressing well - and with the exception of sight reading (which this debate has got me questioning seriously) I think she's shaping up to be a nicely rounded musician.
Beware of using the AMEB syllabus as a curriculum......
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1471444 - 07/09/10 10:21 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Elissa Milne]
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Quote:
Instead imagine an x axis with quality and a y axis with quantity. Your daughter is learning in the high-quality/low-quantity quadrant. We are suggesting that she would do better to learn in the high-quality/high-quantity quadrant, and there are any number of well-researched reasons for urging this.


Does this not fly in the face of standard accepted project management ethos: Quantity/Quality/Cost(time)... pick 2.

Surely to implement a high quality and high quantity plan the time overheads involved become extreme?

Perhaps you're right and my 'assessment' (and that of her teacher) is way wrong and she should be focussing on AMEB "prelim" standard stuff which she could churn out 1 a week comfortably... I suspect however (having seen the enthusiasm she's embraced a Gr3 piece this week) - that she'd become bored very easily and would switch off piano altogether and would focus on something else instead (mathematics, soccer, drawing, novel reading - all of which compete strongly for her attentions!).

By focussing on stuff just beyond her current capability her interest is held and she CRAVES the sense of achievement that comes with mastery.
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1471469 - 07/09/10 11:21 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Elissa Milne]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne
John, I have no idea what the Solo and Ensemble Festival Program is, but an AMEB Piano exam consists of a student preparing 3 (or 4 in the higher grades) pieces for performance, .......

The student is then given a grade of either A, B, C or Fail, with the examiner able to exercise a discretionary '+' if they feel the student was at the high end of the grade.....


Thanks for the amplification. It does sound very similar to the Solo & Ensemble Fest. Is your program primarily used by private teachers or classroom teachers or both?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1471474 - 07/09/10 11:27 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne
John, I have no idea what the Solo and Ensemble Festival Program is, but an AMEB Piano exam consists of a student preparing 3 (or 4 in the higher grades) pieces for performance, .......

The student is then given a grade of either A, B, C or Fail, with the examiner able to exercise a discretionary '+' if they feel the student was at the high end of the grade.....


Thanks for the amplification. It does sound very similar to the Solo & Ensemble Fest. Is your program primarily used by private teachers or classroom teachers or both?
Private ONLY!!!
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1471479 - 07/09/10 11:37 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11183
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Thanks for the amplification. It does sound very similar to the Solo & Ensemble Fest. Is your program primarily used by private teachers or classroom teachers or both?


Is it possible to know what the Solo and Ensemble Festival is? It is probably not a festival. You stated earlier that you did not think the AMEB was like the RCM, but from the description it sounds very much like the RCM exam:

Quote:
iano exam consists of a student preparing 3 (or 4 in the higher grades) pieces for performance, along with another 2 to show they haven't worked on no more than 3 pieces for the whole year, preparing a set of scales, being given aural tests (in the case of AMEB singing back a melody, clapping a rhythm, identifying the time signature, identifying an interval, singing an interval - that kind of thing), and being given a sight reading test. At the end of all this the examiner asks them general knowledge questions about their pieces (names of notes, durations of notes, explanation of titles, meanings of words, key of piece, and so on).

Each of these items, with the exception of extra pieces, is featured in the RCM exams afaik.


Edited by keystring (07/09/10 11:38 PM)

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#1471610 - 07/10/10 09:16 AM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
keystring Online   content
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DadAgain - a thought, whereby a small turning around of things might make all the difference. I'll try to explain:

Currently your daughter is learning a small amount of pieces and then has to maintain those pieces until she has enough repertoire to fit the exam. What if she worked on a variety of pieces within the grade first, and then prepared for the exam, taking some of those pieces to full performance level? If the AMEB program is like RCM, then you have a variety of genres and time periods being represented, and the pieces will also reflect different elements of technique and theory. If it is done in this order, she is not treading water with her exam pieces.

Secondly, as per my experiences with my teacher, what is wrong with her moving on to pieces of the next level while waiting for the exam? If she has truly mastered her pieces then they will still be there for her during the exam.

Third thought is harder to articulate. There are two kinds of "challenges". One involves playing pieces that are increasingly difficult: there are more notes, wider leaps, faster notes, more accidentals etc. These are the most obvious challenge in grade levels. The other challenge involves what you put into those notes. There is the subtlety of touch (melody louder than harmony, or 2nd voice in counterpoint); articulation such as staccato, legato, portato; phrasing which involves loud-soft and how long a quarter note is held in 4/4 when it is the end of the phrase. These are physical challenges and challenges to the ear. They can also be engrossing. The exploration of what you can do with sound (loud, soft, timing, crisp, blended) can be a playful and engrossing thing. If you go through the grades too fast for the overt challenges, you miss this part. Like your daughter I don't do well with stagnation and slowness.

A lot of people reach a technical level to play fire and brimstone music that make you sit up and say "Wow, isn't he great!" But the musician who can sit down and play Twinkle in a way that moves you to tears because he has that mastery, that is the one who really has something which I would like to have.

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#1471615 - 07/10/10 09:33 AM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Thanks for the clarifications, Elissa and Keystring. Somehow, I got it in my mind that RCM required presentation of more than 3 or 4 pieces from memory.
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#1471670 - 07/10/10 12:30 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
TonyY Offline
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Registered: 08/15/09
Posts: 28
Loc: Toronto, ON, Canada
For grades 1 and 2, candidates are required to prepare 3 Repertoire pieces (one from the Baroque, Classical, and Early/Late Romantic to Contemporary/20th Century), and also 1 study. Repertoire pieces must be played from memory. 2 marks will be deducted for each piece played with the score. Studies do not need to be played from memory. Extra points will not be awarded if the candidate chooses to play them from memory. For grades 3-7, candidates will be required to prepare 2 studies instead of 1. For grades 8 and 9, candidates will be required to prepare 4 repertoire pieces instead of 3 (one from Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and early/late 20th century)For Grade 10, 5 Repertoire pieces is required (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, early 20th century, and late 20th century)

In summary, in earlier grades, candidates will only need to prepare 4-5 pieces for their exam. However, as one goes on to the more advanced levels (Grades 8-10), more pieces will need to be prepared. Grade 10 requires 7 pieces (5 Repertoire pieces and 2 studies). I am not sure if that's the case for the AMEB, as I am not very familiar with it.
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#1471926 - 07/10/10 06:51 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
Elissa Milne Offline
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Registered: 01/11/10
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Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Quote:
Surely to implement a high quality and high quantity plan the time overheads involved become extreme?

I'm not sure what you are meaning to express here - are you asking if more time is required to pursue this approach? In the world of practice I long ago learned that time is highly subjective. Some students think they've been lazy when they practice 4 hours a week, others think that is a heroic effort. And I think nearly everyone's heard of this 10,000 hour rule these days - it turns out that anyone who gets to be 'world-class' at something spends 10,000 hours before they are 21 'practicing' that skill.

So 'time-cost' translates in two things: the first, does it feel like a pleasure or a pain (not just now but over the course of the skill acquisition)? The second, will the student persevere to even 1,000 hours, which is roughly where reasonably impressive proficiency is achieved?

And I'm assuming that we all understand that 1,000 hours of using your second finger to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the black keys is not what we are talking about here.

There is so much fantastic stuff to learn and do with 'easier' pieces - your daughter need not have any sensation of not being challenged!! There are plenty of challenges everywhere in music - if one thinks beyond simply pressing the right key for the right duration.

Quote:
Perhaps you're right and my 'assessment' (and that of her teacher) is way wrong and she should be focussing on AMEB "prelim" standard stuff which she could churn out 1 a week comfortably... I suspect however (having seen the enthusiasm she's embraced a Gr3 piece this week) - that she'd become bored very easily and would switch off piano altogether and would focus on something else instead (mathematics, soccer, drawing, novel reading - all of which compete strongly for her attentions!).

By focussing on stuff just beyond her current capability her interest is held and she CRAVES the sense of achievement that comes with mastery.


I think that this is a matter of perspective. I would think that music that takes more than 2-3 weeks for the notes to be mastered is not 'just beyond' her current capabilities, but 'some reasonable distance' beyond her current capabilities. Most transfer students I've ever had believed themselves to be some 2 or 3 grades more advanced than their actual skill set!!

There is extraordinary mastery to be accomplished learning material at any level, and if your daughter has already internalised the notion that she is only achieving when she is attempting material far beyond her current technical and/or reading skill set then she's missing out on all the other good stuff!!

But I wouldn't draw any assumptions about her teacher from this: many teachers teach the way they were taught, and have a delightful connection with the children they teach, motivate them well, have a good understanding of what it takes to play the piano. But they aren't necessarily up-to-speed with the developments in piano teaching over the past 10, 20, 30 years.
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#1471959 - 07/10/10 07:44 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Elissa Milne]
DadAgain Offline
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Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Quote:
I would think that music that takes more than 2-3 weeks for the notes to be mastered is not 'just beyond' her current capabilities, but 'some reasonable distance' beyond her current capabilities.


Actually the way she is right now she'll spent 1-2 weeks leanring the notes of any piece (including a gr3 piece she's started learning this week and has committed half to memory sucessfully) and then from that point onwards adds nuance and fluidity. Her sight reading is terrible, so it will take her 2 weeks before she can play a piece - but then the printed music is completely redundant as she's commited it to memory.

I guess - thinking about it she does learn pieces at around 1 every 2 weeks as she's on her 7th new piece this year having started the year in mid-February and taking a month off at easter. Every one of those pieces can be played from memory - but after a week of non-playing will start to be forgotten again. This results in it being hard to retain a repertoire of more than 3 pieces without practice being simply a playthrough. No doubt improving reading skills would dramatically improve this.

In terms of time - daughter practices well and constructively for about 30 minutes at a time 5 or 6 days a week, but will sit and the piano and play 'unconstructivey' for a while too.

At her age I think suggesting a practice time of more than 30 minutes is unreasonable (I struggled to practice for more than 30 minutes at a time when I was 10 years older than her) - so I guess she's spending less than 3 hours a week seriously practicing.


Edited by DadAgain (07/10/10 07:46 PM)
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#1471969 - 07/10/10 08:10 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
Elissa Milne Offline
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Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
She's SIX YEARS OLD!!!! 30 minutes is amazing, and doing it 5 or 6 days a week even more impressive.

So if she's learnt 7 pieces already this year why is there any trouble entering her for the Grade 2 exam?
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#1471974 - 07/10/10 08:22 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Elissa Milne]
DadAgain Offline
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Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
She started the year learning a couple more Grade 1 pieces (despite having already done that exam) before moving on because she liked them and wanted to play them, and then abandonned a Grade 2 piece as it was effectively unplayable (required some fast smooth alternating octave spans that her little hands simply cant do). So in the end shes only got up to 5 Gr2+ pieces this week with the adidtion of a Gr3 piece - The problem is retaining 5 at a playable standard for the 3 months before an exam occurs. I guess its not that important - she just wont sit this exam.

I certainly agree 30 minutes of real concentration from her is amazing - it blows me away watching her work!
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1471980 - 07/10/10 08:28 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
Elissa Milne Offline
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Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
I don't think it's important at the age of 6 to do the exam, btw. I think it's much more important to work on a variety of pieces that open the imagination as well as building skills.

What's the G3 piece that she's working on?
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#1471999 - 07/10/10 09:25 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Elissa Milne]
DadAgain Offline
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Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Series 16 - B4: "Adagio", Carl Reinecke Op. 183 #2

heres a painfully robotic performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mVlVCZh644


Edited by DadAgain (07/10/10 09:28 PM)
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1472008 - 07/10/10 09:49 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Elissa Milne]
Canonie Offline
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Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
DadAgain
Sounds like she is good at practising and has a good memory and she must have good ears to learn a grade 3 piece quickly without being able to use the score.

Very young kids do seem to forget pieces quite quickly (compared to adults) if not played at all although they seem to come back quickly. So you can let a piece go altogether and then revive it leading up to the exam. This is always a difficult thing to judge and not easy to get the timing right with out making it tedious for little kids.

What she needs is more familiarity with reading, and the ability to refer to and follow the score. Like your daughter I make sure that my student ears and memory are developing really well before I get them to be able to read well. If the timing is right they can take to it like ducks to water ( the well developed ears and memory, and wide experience of pieces really helps at this point). I am not a read-first kind of teacher, although I teach (physical) rhythm reading from first lesson

Around the level of grade 3 pieces is a perfect time to give them a book with CD where they learn pieces all by themselves. This teaches them the joys and value of reading, even if not the sight reading technique that you need for an ameb exam.

I've had great success recently giving students Getting to Preliminary the New Mix with CD. The CD is the key. I ask them to listen to CD, choose a piece, learn it and show me next lesson. I also say "doesn't have to be perfect" (and it won't be of course). Soon they are addicted to this, it is fun not work and I often find they have taught a sibling something from the book too - and if this is not musical success I don't know what is! Choose level of book she can manage, and music She likes

They get used to looking at the score and really using it, with the CD as a very big help. Perhaps this is a good example of learning a piece where perfection is not the goal. After they play it for me I make sure I really enjoy it "Play it again and I'll play tambourine - or should I use marraccas?" "Play marraccas" they say - they are the boss of this piece not me. I will show them where in the score they have deviated, if and when this is valuable, as points of interest not corrections. They are free to play it how they choose.

PS Eye of the Tiger is so good I often suggest it first. But there is a piece in the book which is banned... If I hear one more student play those first few bars grrr (gales of laughter then some wicked teasing chords).

Gosh I didn't mean to rave so much! well I hope this may be of use to someone at least.
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Composers manufacture a product that is universally deemed superfluous—at least until their music enters public consciousness, at which point people begin to say that they could not live without it.
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#1473277 - 07/13/10 02:00 AM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: Canonie]
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
I had a bit of a rumage around and found a "Classics to Moderns" book (http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/0435/details.html) from waay back. I put it in front of daughter yesterday and asked her to sight read the first piece (no assistance from me). After 5 slightly painful minutes she was just about ok with the first couple of lines.

What I'm going to have ago at is trying to see if she can do a different couple of lines every day. With a bit of luck by the end of the book (about 100 days time?) - Her sight reading should have improved dramatically and perhaps her improved reading will help the rest of her playing. (She'll also have 'worked on' another 50 pieces :-p )

Thanks to everyone here re-stating the case for playing lots. On reflection perhaps indulging her quest for absorbing 'great and thrilling performances' has meant missing some vital skills along the way?
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1473401 - 07/13/10 09:43 AM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Which book in the Classic to Modern series is she using?
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#1473655 - 07/13/10 05:28 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
the first one (see link in previous post)
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1473673 - 07/13/10 05:57 PM Re: AMEB Exams - too many pieces? and admin too slow? [Re: DadAgain]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
DadAgain, just a quick point: what you are doing is (effectively) 5-10 minutes of sight reading a day. That's fine and will be a great addition to your daughter's routine, but it's not the same thing as 'working on' a piece.
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
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