Diary of a Music Teacher Day 8: Music Exams…Hmm…

At least in the UK, there is a lot of emphasis on music exams, or grade exams as they are known, when learning a musical instrument or taking singing lessons. Exams are beneficial when you then at the end get the certificate to prove what level you are at in your musical journey. They can also motivate you to practice and finesse what you are learning, which can in turn take you to the next level of learning. In the UK, the added bonus is that there are more music scholarships and other opportunities at schools once one has passed grade exams.

I understand the positive reasons behind grade exams. However, the reservations that I have about them are that, if students only focus on learning the three pieces that they need to perform for the exam, they miss out on learning anything else.They would miss out on playing Mozart, Beethoven and other classical composers, in addition to jazz music and even beautiful covers of pop songs.

In my teaching practice, I encourage students who are advanced enough to undertake the exams, but always ensure that they carry on playing other pieces as well. Playing a wide range of pieces helps students develop their technique and note-reading ability as well. Also, it is always nice to learn well-known pieces such as ‘Moonlight Sonata’ or ‘The Fifth Symphony’. And great to have them in your repertoire for when you decide to play pieces to friends and family!

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