In this chapter, we aim to answer the following common question:
What shall we do after my Grading exam?
As piano teachers, how many times did we get that questions from students or parents after a grading exam? I have different ways to approach that question.
It really depends on the feedback that the student in question received during his last exam and the goal is to take three or four months working on his weaknesses.
Most of the times, the problems are in the sight reading and the aural test. I tend to structure the lesson in a way that it combines fun and learning at the same time. All my students love their pop songs or other pieces coming from movies and musical. After finding the right version of the song according to my students' level, it is time to apply the sight reading tool. That will give the student the opportunity to revise notation, key signatures, working on character and apply all the fingers, arms movement in relation to the type of technique needed. It is exactly the same way to learn a traditional ABRSM or TRINITY piece from their syllabus.
At the same time, I use the ABRSM series “Encore” which come for all eight grades and it is an anthology of the past favourites grading pieces. It is a valuable solution to increase your students repertoire. I also use these books to develop my students aural skills such as recognising if a piece is from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic or 20th century or talking about its character.
As fingers drill and warm up, it is fundamental to keep revising scales, introducing new ones, increasing number of octaves and let`s not forget the Arpeggios.
After Grade 4, I use the time “in between grades” to learn the scales according to the circle of fifth and relative major and minor. It can be a bit painful at the beginning but it pays off as it saves a lot of time when preparing for an exam. Pieces are subjective but for scales and arpeggios if they are well, it is guaranteed to achieve a great mark!
Just learn them well at once and it is done for a lifetime!
Another valuable book is “improve your sight reading a piece a week”. These are great books for the students to learn a piece in a week with interactive activities and interesting questions to answer to, such as structure, dynamics, key signature, which are the most appropriate musical tools to convey a certain character. Don`t get frustrated if the results are not very good in the first few weeks but keep playing and keep trying. When my students finish the book, it is performance time. I randomly open a page and they just need to play whatever comes! It will be very surprising to see the improvement at the end of the book when having a second attempt at playing the pieces.
When the students are more relaxed and not thinking about tests, it could be a good strategy to fit fifteen minutes of music theory to avoid the hurdle of having to do five grades of theory in few months. It could be a good way to get into the discipline of sitting down, writing music clearly and starting step by step for the most active and chatty students.
I do hope this helps you all out with your tuition either as a teacher or student. I am very much looking forward to get some suggestions on how to structure the lessons post grading exams, so do not hesitate to let us know your thoughts and other ways you have to teach yours.