- The standard has been raised
It seems as if the levels of music have been getting harder and harder over the years! Open an AMEB Piano Preliminary book and the music is actually quite complex! Any beginner pianist would not be able to play the music in the Preliminary exam book on their very first lesson.
Think about Preliminary being like Prep (or Kindergarten) at school. Your children need a few years to learn the foundational music skills before starting Preliminary, just as they need to learn to walk and talk, before going to school to learn how to read and write.
- It takes 2-3 years to gain all the foundations before doing exams
Interested in your children taking music exams? Great! Music exams are not only a great motivator and provide a sense of achievement, but it may even help your children get into high school! It can be tough to get into the high school of your choice, and having a musical qualification can help.
Keep this in mind – it takes a few years to properly teach all the necessary foundational skills of beat, rhythm, technique, music reading, aural and listening. Unfortunately you cannot jump straight into doing exams when you just start learning an instrument.
Think about running a marathon – if you start off sprinting, you will run out of energy before the finish line. If you pace yourself throughout the marathon, you can sprint when you see the finish line in sight. Similarly, if your children rush into exams before they are ready, a few years down the track they may have foundational skills that are missing, and find it too hard to continue. They may lose confidence or feel discouraged from learning the instrument. However, if they take the time to learn all the foundational skills in the beginning, a few years down the track you will see their progress speed up, and they will be playing professional sounding pieces with ease. Armed with all of the foundational skills, they will be able to teach themselves their favourite songs off the radio, and may even be able to start composing their own music! Foundations are essential – don’t run before you can walk!
- Should my children do exams?
So what kind of exams are there? Here are 4 options for piano exams:
- P Plate Exams
P Plate exams are an introduction into exams for young beginners. Since the traditional Preliminary grade assessment is usually too hard to complete within the first few years of learning, the AMEB (Australian Music Examinations Board) have recently released P Plate Piano. Here, your children pick their favourite 3 pieces out of the P Plate book, sit for an exam and come out with big smiles and a certificate. There are three levels of P Plate, and when this is finished, they graduate onto Preliminary. Beginners can start P Plate within 6 months of learning to play the piano.
- Leisure Exams
Piano for Leisure exams are becoming more and more popular now, especially for students who do multiple extra-curricular activities. In these exams, your child will perform some scales and three pieces, and either aural tests or sight reading skills will be tested. The pieces they choose can be from the AMEB Piano For Leisure books, which have a great selection of contemporary pieces, popular classical pieces, jazz pieces, and movie themes that everyone loves.
- Classical Exams
Classical exams were very popular back in the day when children didn’t have so many extra-curricular activities to do, and when they had the time to devote an hour of practice every day! For this exam, your child will perform many scales, six pieces, and also be tested on both aural and sight reading skills. The pieces they choose will mainly be classical music (ranging from the Baroque period 1600s through to the Modern period 2000s). These exams are great for children who are serious about music, or who aim to become professional musicians.
- No exams!
Exams are not compulsory at all! Your children may want to just enjoy learning their instrument, without the added pressure of sitting for exams. This is absolutely fine, and gives your child the freedom to learn whatever they want to.