"Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it." -Harper Lee

People are often too quick to give unsolicited advice without fully meditating on the needs of the person who might require assistance. Therefore, many refuse to accept the counsel of others since they do not think the ones offering tips have their best interests at heart, and it might cause more stress than good.

Some might even question, should I even ask for advice or follow the beat of my own drum and see what happens? 

Although counsel at times might come across as a drag, we highly recommended asking trusted people in your life for tips on how to improve yourself in various facets. 

For example, asking for tips from instructors, parents, or close friends contribute to personal growth, a morale boost, and getting on track to succeed. Therefore, when studying the piano and preparing for its impending assessments, you should look to the experts for advice. Who are the experts?

Superprof; also, your long-suffering piano tutor! Nothing makes the writers and instructors more content than seeing students from our community excel at things they are passionate about. Hence, without further delay, we shall discuss the six valuable tips to help UK-based amateur pianists succeed in their ABRSM Piano Grade assessments.

Work Hard to Understand the Material

Long before a piano exam date, a student is wise to analyse what might be featured on the assessment and the criteria that examiners are searching for to give you either a pass, merit, or a distinction.

It is best to ask your piano tutor what scales, arpeggios, and pieces should be practised to prepare and understand the material through and through adequately. 

If you are completing piano lessons with the ABRSM, after each Practical Piano Grade, there is an examination that judges the pitch, time, tone, shape, and performance. Each of these five significant sections is graded out of 30 marks for a perfect score of 150 marks.

It is in the best interest of each candidate to examine the table of exam criteria that is available on their website, before undergoing a piano exam with the ABRSM.

Study the Music Carefully

scales and arpeggios
Playing a piece is more than just reading its sheet music but understanding the artist and the story behind the work of art. (Source: Unsplash)

Dedicate yourself fully during your classes with your piano tutor and when you are practising alone. If you are doing an hour piano class per day, practice 2-3 hours more on your own, and you'll be golden.

Also, practicing the music assignments does not only mean mastering the scales, arpeggios, and pieces of classical music, which are of extreme importance, but also a more in-depth study of the artist and the story behind the part you are playing. Studying music knowledge will increase your passion for the great works of Mozart, Bach, Schubert, and Beethoven and will exponentially improve your performance skills.

Hot tip: when practicing scales, don't always learn them in order. Mixing them up a bit will help with memorization.

Remember, assessors have examined amateur pianists for years and know who's a phoney and who feels the music. Therefore, it is essential to understand the pieces you are playing and make them come alive.

Practice Sight Reading and Aural Skills Ahead of Time

Since sight-reading and aural tests are the more difficult and strenuous parts of the piano grade exams, please do not leave them to the last minute. Why? Reading notes by sight and completing aural exercises are considered at the end of level assessments, and they require a lot of individual attention to be carefully executed. Even the most talented musicians want to escape sight-reading and aural practice.

Hot tip: ask your teacher to start or finish the class with 10 minutes of sight-reading and aural tests. 

Sight-reading is defined by many experts as the practice of reading and delivering a musical piece without any previous comprehension. It is a severe memorisation exercise since amateur pianists view the sheet music for a short time.

Some things to keep in mind when sight-reading is that if you cannot place the piece quickly, it is best to slow down and play what you can. Also, most examiners allow 30 seconds or a minute of playing the sheet music before they evaluate you; therefore, take full advantage of this part to iron out any potential issues.

We highly recommended completing a practice sight-reading exam with your instructor; remember, the beginning and the end of the piece are most important.

As for aural exams, the best suggestion is to know your notes like the back of your hand. Why? During the exam, assessors might ask you to clap the rhythm or sing the notes. Also, don't worry if you have a lousy voice, examiners are not expecting you to be Adele, they want to hear you sing the notes correctly.

Before concluding this essential tip, it is crucial to mention that to ace aural exams, a lot of ear training and carefully listening to scales is much suggested.

Perform a Mock Exam

There is nothing more stressful for a dedicate student than a performance examination. Whether pupils are analysing maths or playing the piano in front of examiners to move ahead in Practical Piano from the ABRSM, the nerves are always present and at centre stage.

What's the solution to a pack of nerves? A mock exam with your tutor! Practice examinations are instrumental in preparing for the big day. Candidates can decide to do it alone with their instructor or invite friends and family to make it seem more realistic.

It is highly recommended to practice all crucial aspects of the exam such as scales, sight-reading pieces, aural tests, etc. 

After a mock exam, pianists in training usually feel more at ease and remember that reviews can be aced successfully.

Have Poise and Good Posture

having good posture
Simple things as having good posture and poise when sitting down to play the piano is of great importance. (Source: Unsplash)

Did you know that not only is a slumpy posture unappealing for the eyes but also affects your piano playing performance? Little do many people know that pianists need to be always concerned about their position and poise to deliver a memorable music piece.

From your hands to your legs, all body parts need to be in the correct position to make a piece of the sheet music stand out.

First and foremost, the piano bench or stool needs to be adjusted correctly to the height of the person since it's easier to control the pedal and sit straight. When watching you play, a professional piano tutor will urge you to adopt the following tips to have good piano posture:

  • Keep the shoulders down, 
  • Avoid forward neck,
  • Elbows need to be a comfortable distance from the body, 
  • Keep the fingers arched, 
  • Feet should be flat at all times. 

By following the previously mentioned piano posture tips, you will not only play music better, but you will also impress examiners during the performance section of your assessment.

Review Techniques with a Fellow Piano Player

piano players
Having a friend to practice playing the same instrument is a definite plus. (Source: Unsplash)

Since the piano is one of the top five musical instruments played in the world, it goes without saying that there are other passionate learners in your local area. Also, if you're undergoing assessments with the ABRSM, you will most definitely find fellow pianists to practice with at home or school.

Why find a piano friend? Well, your piano instructor costs money and doesn't always have as much time as you would like. Therefore, it's worth the effort to find a practice mate that you can analyse the scales and arpeggios together. Also, don't underestimate the brilliance of doing rapid-fire tests together, even if you aren't at the same level of expertise.

The mutual support is also a fantastic motivator between both parties to continue mastering techniques and moving ahead to the next levels of training. 

Hiring a Professional Piano Instructor

Throughout this entire article, we've mentioned the assistance of piano instructors and how they can aid students to master their skills. Nonetheless, with so many tutoring websites and companies that offer private educators, the choices are endless and overwhelming.

Therefore, where can I find a professional piano tutor with years of experience and qualifications to improve my abilities and effortlessly pass all Practical Piano Grades in the ABRSM syllabus? The answer is straightforward, Superprof!

With over 12 million tutors worldwide teaching more than 1000 distinct subjects, Superprof has become a cornerstone of the online education industry in recent years. Also, according to the Superprof site, there are currently over 1300 piano tutors offering their online or in-person services throughout the UK.

But what are the benefits of hiring a piano teacher compared to learning on your own? The following are some indisputable advantages of learning hiring a piano instructor to pass music-based exams:

  • Personalised Approach, 
  • Someone to Track Your Progress, 
  • Questions Answered ASAP,
  • Structured Lessons From the Beginning, 
  • Years of Teaching Tips to Offer Students. 

In conclusion, we are confident that the six previously mentioned tips will significantly aid new piano learners towards success when completing grade exams. Remember that through hard work and determination, great things can happen!

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