Balanced Programs for Exams

I’ve been running around Australia saying to piano teachers not to bother trying to create balanced programs with their students pre-Grade 8, and of course teachers have been responding with “but students are required to present balanced programs”. Some exam boards, like Trinity College London and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, allow a very narrow choice of repertoire (just 6 pieces per list for ABRSM) in comparison to the AMEB, and students are completely free to choose any of these six pieces to make up a program of three works.  The assumption from the examination board is that your program will be balanced because they have grouped pieces in such a way that you will always end up with a range of styles, speeds and moods. But teachers believe that the AMEB syllabus requires them to select a ‘balanced’ program, in addition to selecting pieces from each of the three or four lists, and so students

read more Balanced Programs for Exams

How hard is a piece of music?

For piano teachers working in countries with a strong examination culture (this means anywhere that is, or once was, part of the former British Empire/current Commonwealth) there is a general consensus about how hard certain pieces of piano music are.  And this general consensus revolves around an idea of ‘grading’ – that a piece of music ‘is’ Grade One, or Grade Five, or Grade Eight. No one ever talks very much about what makes a piece have Grade One-like qualities rather than the qualities of a Grade Two piece.  But, within a teaching culture where the lesson is almost entirely focussed on the exam, teachers develop an acceptance of the gradings given to pieces by the examination boards they choose to use, and this becomes the basis for intuiting a degree of difficulty for new repertoire.  If the piece ‘feels’ like Grade Four, then Grade Four it must be. The challenge to grading new repertoire is most keenly felt when grading

read more How hard is a piece of music?