considering Grade 8 after 15 year gap...

Technique, methods and advice for learners

considering Grade 8 after 15 year gap...

Postby celia » Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:47 pm

Hi there, I studied piano from the age of 5 - 18, and passed Grade 7 ABRSM in 1995. Then adult life took over, the piano lessons stopped and I have never got around to doing Grade 8 although it has always been a vague goal for this lifetime... I know it will be lots of work, I still love playing the piano and I have been teaching for nearly 2 years, although I don't perform much! I know all the scales etc and have good note-reading ability... I think the main challenge will be training my fingers and my mind to play at speed (and with good technique) again after all these years...
So 3 questions:
Do you think I can achieve this if I work hard enough?
How long is it likely to take before I can sit the exam?
And most importantly...
How much practice would I ideally have to fit in each day whilst working towards this goal???
I would love to get anyone's thoughts on this!
Many thanks,
Celia.
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Re: considering Grade 8 after 15 year gap...

Postby Tranquillo » Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:06 am

Hi there, I studied piano from the age of 5 - 18, and passed Grade 7 ABRSM in 1995. Then adult life took over, the piano lessons stopped and I have never got around to doing Grade 8 although it has always been a vague goal for this lifetime... I know it will be lots of work, I still love playing the piano and I have been teaching for nearly 2 years, although I don't perform much! I know all the scales etc and have good note-reading ability... I think the main challenge will be training my fingers and my mind to play at speed (and with good technique) again after all these years...


It is great that you are thinking of expanding and growing your musical horizons. One of the things I love about uni is that I get to see teachers listen and learn from students who present their personal/special interest topics. As an adult and teacher it is best that you continue to develop your piano technique. Yes it will be lots and lots of work but you'd find that at this level, you will pick things up that you may have forgotten or lost, it will all come back very quickly. You have to also remember (though I am not advocating a poor mark) that it is easy to pass many grades quite easily, it's hard to fail up to grade 8. (though its hard to get something high).

Do you think I can achieve this if I work hard enough?

I feel like you would be best left in the hands of an exceptional and good teacher. Expense is one thing but in some circumstances (I don't know if it applies to NZ but here, you can claim tax back if you own your own business). Otherwise think of putting aside a certain amount each week that goes towards lessons. I think you will be able to achieve this, bearing in mind that you'd need something like 1- 2 hours of practice every day and you might like to consider some harmony and analysis as that helps a lot with performance studies. Another thing you might like to think of is setting yourself performance goals, first they can just be performances to yourself once every week (treating practice like performance and not stopping in the middle to correct something). And then you might consider recording yourself and listening back to it and getting ideas every month or fortnight. After wards you might try playing in front of one or two friends gradually increasing the number until you feel comfortable. Other things you might consider working on are interpretation in correlation with composers, context and period as well as style.

Other than that, it would be a good idea if you were given a technical regimen to help you to play pieces up to speed, this could consist of scales, arppegios (in differing keys and dynamics and speeds) a book of Hanon or Czeny or any other suitable drill/excecise book and perhaps a few excerpts of your pieces played slowly or fast or loud (to get a better sense of control).

Besides that, keeping up your sight reading skills as well as aural skills helps. Often exam boards would have a manual of exams that are designed to let you pass with flying colours. So do look into it, don't be afriad to go a few grades down and work your way up if you are not up to standard.

One of the things I think you shouldn't neglect is forming the WHOLE musician, being aware of the fuller picture and getting ideas so that you can make your performance appealing and interesting. The sad thing I believe, in the piano education world and all the instrumental private lesson world is that we tend to focus on producing 'piano-players' rather than performing artists or whole musicians. We have people who can play melodies and scales but we don't have people who understand the fundamentals to music, the culture associated to music, the meaning, composer, history, ideas on interpretation as well as the need to learn to PERFORM. Other than this, a neglected area lies in the lack of ensemble opportunity. I think that you'd want to get as much out of grade 8 as possible so you'd want to bear those other aspects in mind. Instead of just learning a few songs and learning to pass the exam look to find skills that really make you grow as a musician and don't limit your growth to just those four songs, listen to as much as possible and even play outside of those four songs.

Ultimately you'd want a teacher who shares the same values as you (as a musician) and who can also act as a guide to you in a pedagogical and musical sense. If are looking for one, besides looking into qualifications you might ask about special interest, what they consider to be most important to the world of pedagogy and music, what styles they teach and what they thing of pop contemporary/classical, what their views on exams are and perhaps what their experiences are and I'm sure some other queries that you have thought of.
[quote]How long is it likely to take before I can sit the exam?[quote]
It's hard to answer as I haven't seen you play and you don't have a teacher, but I guess it could be anywhere between 1 year or 2 depending on how much you can recall and how much time you are planning to devote to piano studies.
Last edited by Tranquillo on Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: considering Grade 8 after 15 year gap...

Postby celia » Sun Mar 21, 2010 11:05 pm

Thank Becibu,
I always appreciate your comments and you have given me lots to think about... There are many reasons I am seriously thinking about Grade 8... I have always realised you are right when you suggested it would always be beneficial to me to continue my piano studies with a more experienced teacher... and I now have more time and money to give it serious consideration... As a teacher I am often envious of my students, they don't realise how lucky they are to be a student and to have this opportunity to learn... I know that if I was paying for my own lessons now I would be an absolute model student and try really hard to play and practise just exactly as I was taught!! And of course also using my current skills and methods which have always worked well.
I have strong views on teaching in general so finding a teacher I am happy with will be my next challenge... also because my childhood teacher was so fantastic and sadly I now live on the other side of the world, otherwise I would be giving her a call!
Yes I know that one should always aim to do as well as possible in an exam and I would also make this clear to the teacher... As I said before, I was actually surprised that my grade 5 student (entered for exam by her mother who is also a piano teacher - and I was not at all sure she was prepared enough) got such a decent pass (114) and I know that grade 8 is going to demand a much higher standard, but it still has made it seem more achievable to feel that maybe the pass standard (generally) was lower than I thought...I am sure I had to work alot harder when i did Grade 5 but it could just be that I have a poor memory? The girl in question does not really enjoy piano but the pressure is on from mum and this yr she is going onto grade 6... she still has trouble with her grade 5 scales... Anyway I promise I would work really hard!!! And it would be great to learn something new...
I will definitely see about claiming tax back...
Anyway I played through all the grade 8 scales Friday night and (though not quite up to speed) I was extremely happy how my fingers and mind just knew what to do, the music theory would take me a little longer to work out though I know it, but my fingers hadn't forgotten - HOORAY!
Thanks once again. I will be looking into finding a teacher who's good enough for me!! And I know it will be good to have a different teacher to have a whole different experience of learning... I have had good teachers also for classical guitar and church organ and they all taught me different skills and ways of seeing and listening to music that still help me today...
I will let you know how I get on! (Plus if anyone else has anything to add I would also be interested, I notice a lot of people read my posts even if they don't reply!)
Celia.
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Re: considering Grade 8 after 15 year gap...

Postby Pianomommy » Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:47 am

Celia,

I went back to piano after a 15 year hiatus - I was working on my grade nine piano when I quit so that is where I started again. Shortly after I bagan lessons again, I found out I was expecting my fourth child, but I perservered. After I had my baby, she came to lessons with me and I completed my grade nine exam within 2 years of starting back. It is entirely possible if you want it! An aside, my daughter (now almost 4) loves music, walks around saying "me love Beethoven" and can't wait to start music lessons...
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