Going thrue all the conversatory exams

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I have been studying piano for about 3 years and I'm wondering if I should go thrue the conservatory levels. I'm presently 35 years old. Is there any adults that are going or went true this process? Is it extremely time consuming for somebody that doesn't have 3 hours a day to practice? How is it working? According to my teacher I'm almost level 8 (for piano playing) and I'm also taking the theory lessons.

thanks Dominique

-- (noname_poster@yahoo.com), July 13, 2004


I think you need to look at why you're studying piano in the first place, and what your learning style and goals are. If you are able to practice regularly and improve without the external motivation of an exam, that's great! Some people find they work better with specific goals in view. Also, do you have any idea of using music professionally some time down the road, or do you just enjoy playing? Perhaps you could discuss this with your teacher.

The higher level you work at, the more time it will take if you go the conservatory route. I hit the upper grades of piano (RCM Gr. 9 - ARCT) as a young adult, and it felt like it took forever! (I had a pretty poor technical foundation.) I know a lot of people could achieve more in the less time than I, but if you don't have a lot of practice time, you may need to take your exams less frequently. By the way, if you do go the conservatory route, you don't necessarily have to take every exam. If you don't do the exams, you can concentrate on the aspects of music you really like -- for example, just play Bach if that's what you like.

I think it's great that you're studying theory; that will help you no matter which way you decide to go.

What conservatory are you thinking of, by the way?

-- Alice Dearden (alicedearden@look.ca), August 04, 2004.

Hi Alice, Yes I'm talking about the RCM. I really don't know at what level I would start though? I should ask my teacher she told me that I'm very talented to learning piano but I only have about 2hres/5 days to practice. So if I understand you correctly I wouldn't be able to play what I want if I go through the RCM? That means you have certain pieces of music to learn for each level? About using music professionnally who knows maybe as a third carrier? I started teaching electronic keyboard to some people in my family and I love that.

For RCM what else do you need to do? Scales, theory?

thanks for your answer Dominique

-- Dominique (noname poster@yahoo.com), August 09, 2004.

Hi Dominique,

RCM exams are organized like this:

Each grade has 3 or more "lists" of pieces (List A, List B, etc.). You must play one piece from each list (the lists are organized roughly by time period or style of music). Depending on the grade, you must also play one or two studies (you can substitute something from the "Popular List" for one of the studies). The marks for the pieces in Grades 1-7 (I think, I'm not absolutely positive) are worth a total of 54%, plus 2% for each piece that is memorized.

You must also play various technical tests: scales, triads, and in the higher grades 4-note chords, arpeggios, etc. You have to learn a lot more scales than you actually play in the exam...the examiner will choose some from the list and judge you on them. The technical tests are worth 10%, the study or studies is/are worth a total of 10%.

There are also tests on sight-reading (reading an easy piece of music at sight, and clapping a rhythm at sight) and ear tests (playing back a melody the examiner has played, clappping back the rhythm of a melody the examiner has played, and (in some grades) identifying intervals the examiner plays. In the higher grades the requirements are harder. Many people neglect their preparation for these parts of the exam, but they count for 20% (10 for sight and 10 for ear).

For higher grades, you must also take a theory exam (within 2 years of your playing exam, I think) in order to get the certificate for the playing exam.

If you want to see the lists and exactly what the requirements are, you can get the RCM Piano Syllabus from a music store. There is a wide choice of music on the lists, so you will probably find pieces you like, unless your tastes are limited to a certain style of music.

You could also take a look at the RCM books for the various levels, and see what looks like music you could play -- or ask your teacher, who should have a good idea of your level.

I can't say whether or not you could prepare for an exam at your current level of practicing, as I don't know how efficient your practice is!

Hope this helps!


-- Alice Dearden (alicedearden@look.ca), August 09, 2004.

Thanks you very much Alice.

This is very helpful.

Are you teaching piano now?


-- (noname poster@yahoo.com), August 10, 2004.

Yes, I am.


-- Alice Dearden (alicedearden@look.ca), August 10, 2004.

I finally talked to my teacher about RCM and I'm going for my grade 7. In piano playing I'm almost grade 10 but because I'm lacking some technical rudiments I have to go back to grade 7. I'm exciting about that and very anxious to start. Will see... Thanks you very much for all the information you gave me.

-- Dominique (noname poster@yahoo.com), September 28, 2004.

Good luck, Dominique!


-- Alice Dearden (alicedearden@look.ca), September 28, 2004.

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