"When I had nothing else, I had my mother and the piano. And you know what? They were all I needed." -Alicia Keys
Musical instruments do not only produce lovely melodies that transport us to a better place than our reality; they have the power to change the lives of those who play their notes and scales.
For instance, let's take a moment to appreciate the world's most magnificent. Where would Lady Gaga be without her musical career? Would Mozart have had such a fulfilling life if he hadn't composed the most excellent sounds this world has ever experienced? What about Phil Collins, would he have accepted a life of mediocrity if it wasn't for the discovery of his musical talent?
And yes I stand by my inclusion of Lady Gaga beside the likes of Mozart and Phil Collins since many could argue she is one of the 21st century's most accomplished/diverse musicians.
The point is, music and playing instruments have made so many people's lives better than they were before, and the piano is no exception. In today's article, we shall discuss the ever-important topic of navigating through piano grades/classes in the UK and how students can succeed at any age.
How Many Piano Grades are there in the United Kingdom?
According to many reputable research sites, the piano is the most favoured musical instrument around the world. For example, if you ask someone if they play an instrument, the standard response will be either piano or guitar. Why? The keyboard is such a classic instrument that creates such beautiful music that evokes both sadness and joy.
Nevertheless, before starting to learn the piano, many aspiring pianists must what is the best way of study scales, practice pieces, and acquire more knowledge about arpeggios. If you're living in the UK, or anywhere actually, the absolute best academic institute to learn piano with is the ABRSM.
What is the ABRSM, and what do they do? The ABRSM stands for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. They are an examinations board and registered charity based in London that provides music/instruments assessments and training in schools all over the world.
ABRSM music assessments are critical and are widely regarded as the best in the business. But how are they divided? Whether you are learning the piano, drums, or the saxophone, the ABRSM divides music instrument learning into eight grades:
- Grades 1-3 are Level 1,
- Grades 4-5 are Level 2,
- Grades 6-8 are Level 3.
Each grade analyses specific aspects of piano playing such as mastering three pieces of music, scales and arpeggios, and aural testing. After each of the levels has been analysed, there is an examination with ABRSM examiners to measure the skills of every candidate.
During each of the Practical Piano Grades, students acquire skills that help them improve their posture, sheet-reading, and note recognition.
Now, what about assessment marks when completing piano tests? The following subheading discusses how students can aim for a distinction!
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How Can you Get a Distinction on your Piano Exam?
"If you want to be successful, find out what the price is and then pay it." -Scott Adam
Knowing how piano grade exams are marked and what assessors look for is available to all people on the ABRSM website; that means candidates can aim for top marks right from the beginning!
By knowing the marking system, piano players can practice useful techniques that will ensure top marks with their tutor before examination days. For instance, candidates need at least 100 marks for a pass, 120 marks for a merit classification, and 130 marks for the highest distinction.
Many organisations recognise the ABRSM for its assessments that are free of the bias connected to instrumental specialism. The following two things are assured:
- A universal assessment system that does not entirely focus on all the tiny details of each instrument,
- An examination of the overall musical outcome is critiqued and not just the whole music theory.
Also, since all students should aim for the highest marks, the following is a brief description of what is needed to get a distinction on a piano exam in the five categories that are tested:
- Pitch: highly accurate notes and intonation,
- Timing: fluent with breaths of flexibility when appropriate and rhythmic,
- Tone: all is well projected and extremely sensitive of all tonal qualities,
- Shape: expresses musical shaping and detail,
- Performance: confident, poised, and vivid with clear communication of the person's character and style is the best performance.
Candidates need to get at least 27 points in each of the categories mentioned above to get a distinction and be described as some of the best in their field of piano playing.
It's also worth mentioning that through the advice and counsel of many there is a success; therefore, by heeding the following tips, piano candidates can ace their exams at every grade and reach distinction level:
- Practice Makes Perfect: to get a distinction, amateur piano players must spend a lot of time in front of the piano practising classic compositions, scales, and arpeggios. Try practising in front of your piano tutor to see what they think and how you can improve.
- Master the Scales: knowing the scales is a crucial detail to mastering the ABRSM exams since examiners are watching and listening carefully for the piece to be executed perfectly. Therefore, correctly examine the songs time after time to improve muscle memory in your fingers.
Want more tips and tricks to pass your piano exams? Read the last subheading in today's article to be fully equipped!
But what about skipping piano grades? Can it be done? Keep reading a little further to find out more.
Can you Skip Grades in Piano?
Do you want to move faster through your piano grades? Do you have the talent and enough qualifications to skip a few levels and arrive at the finish line before your peers? If so, it would be wise to consider the option of skipping between one and two Practical Piano Grades with the ABRSM.
Although many conservative peers might view skipping as an insult to the "system" and the structure of the ABRSM, it is essential to state that skipping should not be considered in any negative manner. Why? Since many progress at different levels and some might possess more natural and advanced musical abilities.
Therefore, not judge just play music!
According to many past amateur pianists studying with the ABRSM, skipping one, two, or three Practical Grades before Grade 6 is entirely possible and commonplace. Since all Practical Piano Grades (1-8) have the same structure, skipping through some levels is not the end of the world because music pieces, scales, and arpeggios are analysed with the only difference being the level of skill from grade to grade.
Also, it's worth mentioning that according to the structure of the ABRSM Piano exams, Grades 1-4 can be skipped without any issues; however, the Grade 5 theory exam must be completed since it is a prerequisite for practical grades 6, 7, and 8.
For students who have international qualifications, the ABRSM accepts some Grade 5 credits from equivalent music organisations from the countries of Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Ireland. Check out our article on the matter to find out more!
While skipping ahead a piano grade or two might be an excellent solution for some students; others might need the eight-grade structure to acquire new pieces and challenge themselves effectively carefully.
Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Piano Exam
What would the world be without tutorials, advice columns, and tips from reputable sources? A lot more complicated, that's for sure! The helpful advice received from more experienced individuals in a specific field is invaluable and should be heeded to ensure success from the get-go.
But what about piano playing? Is there some helpful advice to get better? Yes, there are! The following are some indisputable tips and tricks to make piano playing a breeze:
- Demonstrate Poise and Grace: having a good posture and showing poise is indispensable while playing the piano. Not only is a frumpy stance unfortunate to look at, but it also severely affects the overall performance. For the piece of music to stand out and for examiners to be impressed, what should be done? Well, candidates must sit up straight, keep the shoulders down, avoid moving their neck forward too much, maintain their elbows at a comfortable distance from the body, keep the fingers arched, and have their feet flat at all times. By continuing the previously mentioned tips in mind, amateur pianists can achieve greatness!
- Get a Practice Buddy: while completing Practical Piano Grades with the ABRSM, finding a fellow piano player, no matter which level they are, is a great idea to receive constructive criticism and receive tips without paying the big bucks to get a private tutor practice with you all the time. The mutual support received from a practice buddy is a fantastic way to feel confident for upcoming assessments.
- Study and Live the Music: working on the scales and arpeggios to learn a new piece should be taken very seriously but not be the only focus. Why's that? For example, consider how essential an in-depth study of the piece you are working on could get you to appreciate better the masterfulness of Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. When you start to admire great composers from the past, you will want to play like them and demonstrate a passion for musical instruments.
- Hire a Tutor: while there are many guide books and online tutorials to pass through ABRSM Practical Piano Grades, the best weapon a piano student can have at their disposal is a private tutor. Why? Private piano instructors are experts in their field and possess a large number of qualifications to back themselves up. They know what the ABRSM looks for during assessments, and they provide a personalised approach that puts even the most stressed-out student at ease.
Wonder how and where to hire a professional piano teacher? Look no further than Superprof! The best tutors in the education sector are found on our website at great prices.
Dear piano students, we are confident that by following the advice in today's article you will be 100% prepared for your impending examinations; may the odds be ever in your favour and godspeed!