"Life is like a piano; the white keys represent happiness and the black show sadness. But as you go through life's journey, remember that the black keys also create music." -Author Unknown
If I had to choose one instrument to create a score that would narrate my life, I would have to choose the piano. Why? In my opinion, no other instrument mixes joy and sorrow as beautifully as the piano.
Master musicians such as Mozart, Beethoven, Martha Argerich, Lady Gaga, Pollini, Billy Joel, and Alicia Keys have made piano keys sound sensational. Also, in their several decades and have influenced thousands of amateur players from all over the world to consider taking piano lessons.
Therefore, without further delay, we shall discuss in today's article how students completing piano grades with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) can receive a distinction on their assessments. What even is a distinction? Have no worries, Superprof is here to inform all types of readers!
The ABRSM: Grading Music Exams
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it's stupid." -Albert Einstein
Grading systems are often the victim of much scrutiny amongst those who work in different sectors of education, parents, and the students undergoing the assessments. In all honesty, those who institute marking criteria try their best to include the interests of all students. Nevertheless, since each pupil is a unique world, it might be challenging to establish a universal grading system.
But is it possible to feel that you are being tested fairly? What about music exams are they graded in the right way? The short answer is yes. Assessors in essential domains and from wonderful organisations have been able to rank fairly and have a system that works for the majority of candidates; the ABRSM is living proof of that.
For those who might not be familiar with the ABRSM, it is an examinations board and registered charity based in London that provides music assessments in education centres all over the world.
Now that we're all caught up let's examine how the ABRSM marks evaluations for their music programmes.
How does the ABRSM Grade Music-Based Assessments?
Unlike many standardised music tests, the ABRSM prides themselves on offering exams that are free of the potential bias of instrumental specialism. How is that done? By making sure of the following two things:
- Applying a universal assessment system that does not focus entirely on the minute details of each instrument,
- Examining the overall musical outcome and not necessarily the theory behind it all.
Also, instead of discouraging students, examiners from the ABRSM operate based on the principle of marking from the required pass mark positively or negatively rather than deducing from the maximum result possible.
It is essential to state that practical music exams, such as Practical Piano Grades 1-8, are marked out of a total of 150 points. The following results display what is needed to succeed:
- 100 or more points for a Passing grade,
- 120 points and above for a Merit,
- 130 marks minimum for a Distinction.
Also, good news, did you know that a pass in each section of marks is not necessary for a total passing grade?
Thanks to the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music website, we can catch a glimpse as to what examiners are grading music students on. For instance, assessors mark pupils playing various instruments on their pitch, time, tone, shape, and performance.
To receive a distinction in piano playing or a score of 27-30 points per section, the student needs to perform a piece that is the following:
- Pitch: extremely accurate notes and intonation,
- Timing: fluent with some breaths of flexibility where it is appropriate and rhythmic,
- Tone: well projected and sensitive of tonal qualities,
- Shape: expresses musical shaping and detail,
- Performance: assured, committed, and vivid with the communication of the person's character and style.
The previously mentioned descriptions for each section of grading and how to get a distinction is from the ABRSM website. Check it out to receive more information about how merit and pass levels are graded on the table of assessment.
The reason we highlighted the distinction level is that that is what all Piano Grade students should aim for since it is the best of the best; but can it be done? For many, distinction marks seem only accessible to prodigies or musical geniuses. However, that is not the case, with hard work, dedication, and by following our advice in the following subheading, anyone can achieve a distinction qualification on their piano exam.
Tips to Get a Distinction on a Piano Assessment
"It's not about perfect. It's about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens. That's how change occurs." -Jillian Michaels
Being the best comes at a price: hard work, perseverance, and constant effort. But the rewards of being on top surpass all the sacrifices made to get there.
Therefore, to be the best piano player in the UK, and maybe even all of Europe, studying with the ABRSM is an absolute must since they will guide you to triumph and provide you with all the necessary information to be a star.
From Piano Grades 1-8, as we previously saw, there are three assessment marks: pass, merit, and distinction. Now, without delaying the matter any further, let us analyse the following tips to ensure a difference on all piano exams:
- Practice Until You Can't Anymore: practice, practice, and practice cannot be emphasised enough. Although the Piano Grade examinations are not written, a pianist should prepare for them accordingly by spending hours in front of the piano reviewing classic compositions, scales, and arpeggios. Also, it is essential to remember that the three performance pieces count for 60% of the entire assessment; therefore, if you do well performing them, you'll be golden!
- Exude Confidence and Poise: while you might think that posture is only for good looks and to impress the examiner, it has been proven that poise and a straight back dramatically improve performance when playing the piano. Also, since confidence and individualism are rated highly in the performance section, practice fundamental movements before the exam that show confidence without giving away for individuality. For instance, adjusting the piano seat makes it easier to control the strength used on the pedal.
- Know Your Scales: since having vast knowledge of scales is such a vital part of playing the piano and mastering the ABRSM exams, it is most wise to start practice sessions by going through the scales of a song. Remember, to play songs correctly, time after time, muscle memory and knowing your fingerings is essential. Muscle memory is also necessary to play rhythmic and smooth melodies. A great piece of advice is to mix up your scales once and awhile and not follow the same structured practice lessons.
- Be a Good Sight Reader: sight-reading is a frequent foe of piano playing exams. How's that? It's nerve-wracking and sometimes negatively affects performance skills. Examiners like to use sight-reading during assessments because it tests aspiring musicians on their ability to understand an entire piece at a glance and to hone their theoretical music knowledge. During most Piano Grade exams, students are giving 30 seconds, so use that time wisely to practise and memorise the first and last bars.
There is no denying the fact that getting a distinction on a piano examination from the ABRSM is an easy feat. Nonetheless, by following the previously mentioned advice, we are sure that dedicated students from all cultures and ages can ace their Piano Grade assessment.
Also, we highly recommend taking full advantage of the books and apps providing on the ABRSM website that specialises in helping students completing Piano Grades 1-8.
What about hiring an online or in-person professional piano tutor to ensure yourself of getting a distinction? Keep reading to find out more!
Did you know it's possible to skip piano grades conducted by the ABRSM? Read more about it on Superprof!
Superprof Piano Tutors
Of all the hundreds of online tutoring resources currently offered around the world, there is one that stands above the rest and deserves special recognition for its efforts to connect students and tutors. Which site is that? Superprof! With over 12 million tutors worldwide teaching over 1000 subjects, the Superprof community has become a force to be reckoned with.
Subjects available for studying on Superprof include cooking, geography, history, maths, and, of course, piano. Our piano tutors have many years of experience and offer affordable prices for one-to-one tutoring classes that can be in person or online.
For instance, according to the Superprof website, there are currently 1359 tutors in the UK offering piano lessons from £20-70 per hour depending on experience and qualifications. So, for what are you waiting? Hire a Superprof piano instructor today to ensure a distinction on exams. Also, our tutors have many tips and tricks to get better at playing the piano.
In conclusion, we are sure that if you dream big enough and shoot for the stars, your goals will come true and you'll be a distinguished pianist with distinction marks!