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Think I've just flunked my grade 7 piano exam!

Discussion in 'Music' started by Mrs Mo, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. Just had my grade 7 piano exam - really disappointing. Made lots of silly mistakes in my first piece which I started off with. I tend to suffer terribly from nerves to the point of physically shaking, and the frustrating thing is that I KNOW I can play well, but put me in front of an examiner and I just go to mush. It didnt help that I was made to sit the the waiting room for an extra 15 minutes or so because they mistakenly took someone in before me.
    The other 2 pieces went better but still not perfect. Couldnt do the clapping part of aural either which was awful. Just felt really stupid.
    Felt like crying afterwards. The steward said it sounded really good from where she was sitting but I know it was awful. Feel pretty gutted.
  2. Just had my grade 7 piano exam - really disappointing. Made lots of silly mistakes in my first piece which I started off with. I tend to suffer terribly from nerves to the point of physically shaking, and the frustrating thing is that I KNOW I can play well, but put me in front of an examiner and I just go to mush. It didnt help that I was made to sit the the waiting room for an extra 15 minutes or so because they mistakenly took someone in before me.
    The other 2 pieces went better but still not perfect. Couldnt do the clapping part of aural either which was awful. Just felt really stupid.
    Felt like crying afterwards. The steward said it sounded really good from where she was sitting but I know it was awful. Feel pretty gutted.
  3. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    Hey chin up! Exams never go as well as practices and examiners are generally well aware of nervous candidates. You'd be surprised how they can see past that and get to the core musicianship. Besides, even if you fail, it's really not the end of the world. Try to see the bigger picture. YOU know you're grade 7 standard, your teacher (assuming you're not self-taught) clearly thinks so. You can always retake it, and try to fit in lots of playing in front of other people and on other pianos so you get more used to the pressure. I'm impressed you're even doing exams - they terrify me!
    Let us know how you did when you get the results!
  4. Thanks Bod. I feel a little better now but still feel I've failed the exam. Trouble is, I'm doing the 2009-10 syllabus so will have to start all over again and learn 3 new pieces from scratch. Not sure I can be bothered and not at all sure I want to put myself through these exams again! I'm such a nervous wreck.
  5. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    you can use the 2009-10 syllabus up til the end of period A of next year so if you retake next term you're ok to use the same pieces. They have one term of overlap with the new syllabus.
  6. I didn't know that. So could I retake it in March 2011?
  7. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    Yep. You have to use either the old syllabus or the new - you can't mix them up, but the old syllabus is ok until the end of the Spring exams. Enjoy! (p.s. you might not need to retake, perhaps it wasn't as bad as you thought!)
  8. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    And do be aware that it is only the 2010 pieces that can still be used in the spring session of 2011. Scales, sight-reading and aural must come from the 2011 syllabus, although for piano grade 7, the only changes in these areas are some small modifications to the aural requirements.
  9. mzuzu

    mzuzu New commenter

    <font size="3" face="Arial">Start with the scales when you do your grade 8. They get you warmed up, used to the sound and touch of the piano and you can (hopefully) do them in your sleep. For the nerves you can help yourself in several ways, none of which involve alcohol! The best I know is to do lots of mock exams imagining the situation, or an audience, but only one a day.
    Start by entering the room and approaching the piano, making an occasion of it. If you can, record the mock, then you will have a much better idea how it really went. Have flash cards for the technical exercises so you do not know what is coming. Aural is a bit hard to do though.
    Apparently Beckham used to imagine a vast crowd and tense situation when practicing free kicks, worked for him...
    Nerves can be overcome and confidence gained by familiarity - so familiarize yourself.
  10. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    As an AB examiner, I can confirm that adults are far more nervous than most children in exams, and all examiners are aware of this and the need to be sympathetic - not that any allowance in marking can be given. Three very short anecdotes:
    Some years ago, up in the Yorkshire dales, a very elegant lady found every part of her Grade 2 piano exam almost impossible. Somehow we staggered through to the end, but she was still shaking. "Well done" I said, with a not entirely truthful note of encouragement, "now I recommend a gin and tonic in the pub over the road". "No use," she replied, "I had three of those before I came in!".
    Only a day later, at the same centre, I had a mature grade 1 guitarist who was unable to get beyond the first few notes of any of his prepared work. It was getting embarrasing for both of us and so, to try to break the tension, I asked a few general questions about what he did and what he hoped to achieve on the guitar. To my amazement, he said he was the CEO of a well-known FTSE-listed company, and that addressing his shareholders at the AGM was nothing compared with taking Grade 1 guitar.
    Neither of those passed, although I hope they had another go. But my most extraordinary experience occured in my first week of examining alone back in the 1970s. A grade 8 pianist was on the list, and this elderly gentleman arrived, announcing that he was 84 and that this was the first exam he'd taken since passing his school-leaving exam in 1906. The scales were a little arthritic, but the pieces exuded musicianship, and aural and sight-reading were more than competent, and he just scraped a distinction. I really hope he enjoyed his playing for many more years.
    I'd always encourage adults to enter for exams when appropriate - they usually offer a welcome change for examiners, and we are all well-trained in what to expect and how to react. But very few adults are prepared for the over-whelming nerves that can face inexperienced performers.

  11. I failed my grade 7 piano , and although I'm still not fantastic am a competant player and can accompany the children at school - You can still play, whatever the result
  12. If they cant make allowances in marking for nerves, then I reckon I'm sunk! Just made too many silly slip ups. Out of interest, Bod, you said they can see through the errors to the musicianship. How? Surely you could just be cocking it up because you dont know your stuff properly.
  13. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    What does anyone else think?
  14. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Making an allowance in the marking for nerves would be unfair on the many candidates who are just as nervous, but who have learned to control their nerves well enough for nervousness not to badly affect their performance.
    Basically, examiners can only mark what they hear on the day, and we're all aware that this is often not as good as when playing alone. The same happens to professional performers - mistakes are made in performances that never occurred in rehearsals.
    An important criterion is how the candidate copes with mistakes - small slips that don't disrupt the beat are far less important than errors which cause the performance to hesitate or even stop for a few seconds. Not so long ago, I had a Grade 8 who drew my attention to almost every slip by exclamations of "Oh, ****" - not a good strategy!
    Don't forget that it's the slip-ups we always remember - I dare say an awful lot (which doesn't stay in the memory so vividly) went well. The result might surprise you but, if it doesn't, treat the experience as a dry-run for the next attempt. And try to put yourself in positions where you are likely to feel nervous when playing - perhaps your teacher could arrange a concert for exam pupils. The only way to conquer performing nerves is actually to perform (not just play for yourself or your teacher).
    I'm not entirely sure what Bod meant, but it could be that evidence of musicianship (style, contrasts, touch, control, shaping of phrases and so on) will, despite mistakes, always get a better mark than a performance in which there are both mistakes and no evidence of any of these features. However, examiners have to mark to the board's criteria and, at Grade 7, there does have to be a sense of overall security (even if a few slips occur) and some evidence of musicianship for a pass mark in the pieces.
    If you haven't seen it, I recommend reading the ABRSM's publication "These Music Exams", which is available for free download from www.abrsm.org/resources/TMERevised05.pdf - it explains how exams are marked and includes useful advice on nerves.
    Good luck!<u>
  15. bod99

    bod99 New commenter

    Yep. Obviously there has to be a general level of competence with the notes, but a sense of style and shape make a big difference to an overall performance, which is what an exam is essentially. But I'm not an examiner. Good advice from Florian to look at the ABRSM booklet. Ta.
  16. Hi, Mrs Mo,
    Have you thought about taking beta blockers for a short time around the time of your next exam? They don't remove anxiety, as such, but they do take care of the physical shaking that results from it. Knowing that you're going to make fewer mistakes, as you won't be shaking, can then feed back into increased general confidence and reduce mistakes due to the psychological factors. Many GPs are very sympathetic to this kind of situation.
    God luck with your retake.

  17. Thanks for all your comments, they are really helpful.
    I have thought about beta blockers, but I dont think they will prescribe them to anyone with asthma, and I'm an asthmatic.
    To be honest, I wasnt really shaking this time - I shook much more when I did grade 5, but somehow I managed to get through that exam and pass it. This time I was very nervous but not in the shaking sense! Still managed to keep hitting the duff notes though. I think I was kind of put off because there was a moderator too who was sitting there taking notes beside the examiner.
    I think when I did grade 5, which was the first exam I've ever done, it was all a bit of a game and I didnt take it too seriously. Since then, I've kind of decided that I'd like to go all the way to grade 8 if I can, because I'd like to do tutoring. My piano teacher suggested I aim for this as she felt I was good enough. I saw this as my way out of a hum-drum existence working in admin for &pound;7 an hour (probably wont have a job at all next year as I've just had my "at risk of redundancy notice" from my employer.) This was/is my attempt to do something I really love and actually make something of myself. Perhaps I'm just taking things a bit too seriously.

  18. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    That's how many kids (particularly younger ones) seem to sail through performance exams with few apparent nerves. Nervousness often starts to become more apparent once they reach the self-conscious years of adolescence.
    From what you say, this Grade 7 was only the second exam you've taken, and that brings me back to the point that you may need more experience of playing in tense situations - perhaps your teacher could run occasional small concerts in which exam candidates perform their pieces to a small audience of other pupils, parents and friends. Many instrumental teachers do this successfully, making the occasion seem not too formal by inviting everyone to bring a few cakes and scones to end with. It's also worth bearing in mind that most pianists take every one of the eight grades, so by the time of reaching the more difficult demands of grades 7 and 8, they have had some experience of dealing with exam nerves.
    I still say, wait for the results - you could be pleasantly surprised! And, if not, I recommend going through the examiner's comments carefully with your teacher, as we all try to write something helpful in the short time available. Although the question of nerves is currently figuring strongly in your own mind, there could be some useful tips on specific areas that you need to brush-up on if another attempt is needed next term (or that will be useful in preparing for a grade 8 in the future).
    I do hope it all turns out better than you currently fear.
  19. Just read all the comments re your Grade VII. As a former piano teacher I fully understand how you felt as I have just come second in an audition for an accompanist and know that nerves played their part in me 'failing' to get the post. They get worse as we get older but I had some advice from my professor just before I took my ARCM and had some Alexander Technique and that helped a little. I tried beta blockers and they didn't work so had a small sherry just before I took my ARCM and passed - just! You can retake in the spring if you have failed but if you have just failed I woudl suggest going on to Grade VIII and put it down to experience but learn from the comments of the examiner and the ones on this site. I would also advise having some classes to learn teaching techniques if you want to more on to piano taching as just being able to play at a high grade is no guarantee you can teach and know all the 'tricks of the trade.' I was able to have sessions with a student at the Brimingham Conservatoire who had teaching experience and she helped me understand why we have the various things that make up technique trather than just use them. She also was able to give me a variety of methods to overcome technical difficulties, some new to me, and some were ways I maybe didn't need to know for myself but for children/pupils who were having difficulties in certain areas it gave me the 'tool box' I needed to help.
    Enjoy your playing and I hope you become a successful teacher.
  20. violingirl

    violingirl New commenter

    I took my Grade 7 this time last year and it was the first exam I had taken on the piano in 18 years! (Since Grade 6) I had really high hopes for a Distinction, but I really stumbled over the first piece, even though I did start with scales. To say I was terrified is an understatement. I was shaking like a leaf and it was so much worse than taking exams when school aged! I was worried I had failed but knew the aurals were fine and funnily enough, the sight reading was OK - so I calculated a pass. In the end, I got a high merit, which I am pleased with now, but I really did not enjoy the process and am not sure whether Grade 8 will ever be in my reach! Do you know how you did yet? I hope you did better than you fear.

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