a bit of perspective needed on DS's piano teacher and exams

(20 Posts)
pugsandseals Thu 06-Dec-12 22:38:32

If that was the trinity guildhall bowing exercise, I can remember a lot of fuss about that one as people didn't think it was clear on the syllabus. I was one of very few teachers to prepare it as many believed it wasn't required & TG sent a note round to all the music services about it, so don't be too hard on your teacher.
Teachers have also had to go through a lot of training for the new AB aural tests as although lots of the questions are the same, the way pupils should answer them has. Another change that many teachers found it hard to get their heads around.
It is very unusual to have so many changes to these 'bread & butter' parts of the exams. The AB aural for example hadn't really changed for more than 20 years before it was changed last year.

Picturesinthefirelight Thu 06-Dec-12 22:36:32

A friend of dd's came out of her music exam upset becasue she hadn't been taught some of the scales. I think it was the argeggios. As it was an early grade she didn't even know what they were to at least have a go.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Thu 06-Dec-12 22:16:01

I think the standard bowing exercise for a Grade 2 violin exam is a pretty straightforward thing to get right. She hadn't just forgotten DD and the other 2 entrants hadn't prepared it, she said it wasn't necessary. At my insistence she checked and came back and told DD and the others to prepare it.

I'm not usually pushy but I was cross about that for a primary school pupil.

Picturesinthefirelight Thu 06-Dec-12 21:41:54

Hmm, when parents are paying quite heftily for the privelege of taking exams I think the teacher ought to make damn sure they are covering the syllabus. When I enter students for LAMDA exams I triple and quadruple check everything.

Besides myself or dd never showed any interest in her entering her for exams. It was her piano teacher who pushed for it.

Dh used to be a peri and never entered his students for exams as in the particular schools he worked in the parents were unwilling to pay the entry fees or even to buy any music.

pugsandseals Thu 06-Dec-12 19:05:07

Peri's are not perfect & we all make mistakes! Exams are very over rated in my opinion. There are many cultures & learning methods throughout the world that never use an exam & work beautifully. I would much prefer a child to be enjoying their music than well prepared for an exam! Exams are something we do to keep the parent happy & to prove progress. It's an extra pressure on lesson time which takes away from the music making. I for one, hate training monkeys to pass exams!

RaspberryLemonPavlova Thu 06-Dec-12 17:55:07

I check through requirements too after realising DDs violin teacher had missed out the bowing exercise!

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 05-Dec-12 22:42:08

Your post could have been me last spring. Lessons through school etc. dh us a peri teacher himself but knowing there is nothing worse than pushy interfering parents we had left teacher to do his job just supervising practice

Aural was fine as dd did an after school aural club but she hadn't le
Been taught any of the broken chords

We ended up pulling her from the exam 2 weeks before. Teacher agreed to pay hdlf the cost if resist and she took the exam in the summer getting a merit.

Theas18 Tue 04-Dec-12 15:54:42

15 months from start to grade 1 is fine. Playing the same pieces and not being prepared isn't fine.

We (with a trusted and experienced teacher) had a bad "under prepared " thing when at grade 4 or 5 singing DD1 had no folk song to do (argh!!) . It'was fine because she came out nearly in tears, and the teacher popped in, had a word to apologise to the examiner, came out and said " of course you do, go sing The Ash Grove for her it'll be fine" and, as they had a broad repertoire and DD knew it, all was fine.

I now check all requirements on line just to be sure! (But agree it's not a parents job!)

thekingfisher Tue 04-Dec-12 14:26:50

Thanks for all these comments really helpful.

I had googled and found out info about how marks are accumulated for the sight reading and have drummed into him about key, time signature, pulse/ beats in bar so hopefully he will get through this and get sufficient marks and understands & to just keep going

His broken chords are OK - once I realised he hadn't done anymore than C major he was fine in finding the others. His scales are all pretty strong bar nervous mistakes.

So i guess he will pass - I just feel bad for him that its so rushed now - given the time its taken he should have breezed through. & I feel cross with myself for being too trusting!

Thanks for all the comments

EdithWeston Tue 04-Dec-12 13:55:23

The exam must be imminent: the ABRSM exam season hasn't long to run.

So the first to do is boost your DS's confidence. If he is secure on his other scales and at least one broken chord, then you need to be matter-of-fact to breezy about it being straightforward to do the same pattern on a different start note. He needs to know which note to start on from the name. They are only asked to do about 3 scales in the exam, so even if he fluffs one, he can still pass that section. Have you got the syllabus list of all the ones they might ask for?

Do you play enough to go through the aural exercises?

Have you a sight-reading practice book? (These are available by grade). It might be worth doing one or two a day for the remaining days. Concentrate on making sure he puts his fingers to the keyboard correctly, looks at the time signature and the key. Make sure you tell him it really doesn't matter if he fluffs some notes, as long as he keeps going and makes it sound like a tune.

Good luck!

Katisha Tue 04-Dec-12 13:49:01

HAdnt clocked he had spent 15 months on the same pieces. I assumed he'd have been playing other stuff in the meantime!

singinggirl Tue 04-Dec-12 13:42:27

Hi, I work as a peripatetic piano teacher, and this doesn't sound great - especially not the sound of spending fifteen months learning one set of pieces.

Firstly, obviously you wnat to get your DS through Grade 1 as well as possible. For the broken chords, explain to him that so long as he keeps the same hand shape and finger patterns, if he can play one of them he can play them all! Children usually find this thought very empowering. For the sight reading, just check that he knows the names of the notes. For grade 1, the sight reading is hands separately and in a five finger position, so if his starting position is right he will have a good chance. You get seven marks in sight reading just for having a go, even if everything is wrong. If you have an ipad or iphone, you can visit the ABRSM website www.abrsm.org and download their aural trainer to practise his aural. Hope some of that helps.

For the future, I always like to have a book that travels between me and the parents, where I record what shold be being practised and suggestions of what to focus on and how to do it. This also gives parents somewhere to write a query if they have one. Rushing out now, but good luck to your DS.

Nothingtosay Tue 04-Dec-12 11:26:27

Could you hook up with any mums/dads of children playing same instrument with same teacher who are maybe one or two years ahead of your son? You might find that they walked the same path 12 months ago and can give you the benefit of their 'local' knowledge.

thekingfisher Tue 04-Dec-12 10:55:05

Thanks for all the comments.

I think maybe I have been a little naive assuming things were being taken care of. I know in my piano lessons we used to have the first 10 mins was always scales/sight reading aural stuff and rest pieces and then practice at home was generally scales and pieces.

I think its the fact that it all seems so last minute and that clearly lots of the syllabus is only being covered now.

Also he had been playing for 1 year prior to the start of preparing for G1 - ie started playing in Sept 2010....

I will speak with the head of music to talk through my concerns. As the lessons are at school it is very difficult to communicate with the peripatetic teachers other than through a book which is often more difficult and surely I shouldn't be the one asking about when he is going to be doing certain things.

I only recognise the gaps as I studied music myself.....

HollyDayzacummin Tue 04-Dec-12 08:15:16

My daughter has been having lessons for two years, privately, from her old music teacher at school who retired a year ago. She only entered DD for exam when we asked whether she would be put forward for it. DD was was getting really, really bored and we thought she needed something to aim for. She is 11, has just taken her Grade 1, and we've been told by music teacher she probably won't pass! This, despite her practising every day (incentivised by pocket money) for the last 6 months. I thought dd must be rubbish at music but her new music teacher at secondary school was shocked that she hadn't taken her grade 1 yet and thought she was playing at a much higher standard.

She has now been put down for lessons with the school. We don't care about exams any more. We just want her to enjoy playing!

ohfunnyface Tue 04-Dec-12 08:13:17

Am I right in thinking the lessons at school are only 15/20 minutes? And that is once a week, no lessons in the holidays?

Did you have a lesson book to communicate between you and the teacher? It sounds like there is a massive miscommunication here between you and the teacher: what practise should have be done at home and your son's progress.

I would contact the teacher to establish exactly what has been covered in the lessons, what is left to learn, and what he needs to be practising at home.

Katisha Tue 04-Dec-12 08:03:33

Just to add 15 months is not a long time to get from scratch to grade 1 though. Also you can help with his broken chords as they are all the same pattern, just different starting notes. How about scales - has he been practising those?

Katisha Tue 04-Dec-12 08:00:42

Doesn't sound great. Teachers are pushed for time in school instrumental lessons and unfortunately some do seem to be a bit cavalier about the sight reading and aural tests. Might be an idea to talk to the head of music if you think he hasn't had adequate preparation. It's not as if the exams are cheap after all. but you might just have to chalk this one up to experience .

thekingfisher Tue 04-Dec-12 07:42:01

I have to do school run so will be back later but tks in advance for the wise words!!!!

thekingfisher Tue 04-Dec-12 07:40:35

A quick bit of background DS(9) has piano lessons through school by a piano teacher who comes into school and the lessons and slotted in throughout the school day.
DS started piano about 2 years ago and took to it very easily. so much in fact that teacher said he shouldn't do prep test and just go straight to grade 1.

That was Sept 11.

On monday he is due to take his Grade 1 exam a full 15 months after he started! I find out about 3 weeks ago that he still has only been taught 1 of the 5 broken chords, has done sight reading on only a handful of occasions and DS thinks he is rubbish at it ( which to be fair isnt far from the truth as he hasn't really had much practice) and has done no rhythm/clapping thingy until yesterday.

Now the depth of lack of preparation has only just appeared really - we practise regularly at home on his pieces but i had naively assumed that all other stuff was being covered in lesson. Clearly not.

I am so cross that he is being inadequately prepared even though the teacher has had 15 MONTHS to do this stuff. I have talked to some other parents who have reassured me that he wouldn't have put him in unless he thought he could pass - but that he is notoriously bad at taking ages and being poor at the other stuff ( how come only only find out about this now!?)

So I am doing as much cramming with ds this week as possible and what little I do know of system I think he would 'pass' but it should be that he could be aiming for a distinction not working out how many points he can rustle up to pass.

I am thinking of seeing the head of music to ask that he changes teacher next term. WWYD????

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