Grade 8 Piano Help! Watch

Dr Carlsberg
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I've got my Grade 8 Piano Exam coming up on December 1st, but am not secure on a few things on the syllabus. I have all three pieces playable (if it interests anyone, they are A1, B2 and C2 in the 2015-16 Syllabus), but there are sticking points in each piece that I stumble on every time I play, even after hours of practice, especially in the Fugue for A1 and final page of B2. Also, my singing for the aural is not the best, (I have vocal dysphonia, but only mildly), scales are ok however. Sight Reading though... where to start?! Literally. I cannot coherently play any piece of the Grade 8 sight reading specimens, it takes me a good 8 minutes to play a piece, especially if its in an odd key. Has anyone got any tips on how to get the most out of the 30 seconds preview you get when you're given the sight reading, or how to get better in the month or so I've got left?

For reference, I passed my Grade 1 with distinction ages ago, then took Grade 2, passed with 118, then jumped to Grade 5, passed with 116, then jumped to Grade 7, scraped a pass. So, as you can see, not the best track record. Sight Reading was failed in every one of the exams, I get around 10 marks each time. I just want to pass this last exam, so I can leave grades behind and focus upon playing whatever I want in future, so I'm not worried about getting distinction or anything. However, with this, I feel I'll be really close to the pass/fail boundary, and just would like any tips you guys have so I can boost my practice in these last few weeks to get me over the line. Thanks!
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ions
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Things that my teacher does with me when I'm getting stuck on certain parts of a piece include;

The balloon exercise - draw 5 balloons on a page then play the passage that you're struggling with. If you make a mistake, draw a new balloon. If you do it without mistakes, put a cross through a balloon ("popping" it). Keep playing the passage until you pop all the balloons.

If its lots of semiquavers and you can't get them all exactly even - play it in rhythms, making the first of 4 longer. After that do the same but making the second of 4 longer, then the third of 4 longer, etc.

Transpose the bit you're struggling with up a semitone and then down a semitone. I find this incredibly difficult but then when it comes to playing it in the right key it seems so much easier!

In terms of sight reading, I would say that practice is still going to help you. Instead of just sticking to the grade 8 sightreading book, you could try using an old grade 5 or 6 pieces book, or even any grade, just to get you used to sight reading things all the time. Often what I do (if it suits the style of the piece) is use a lot of sustain pedal and varying dynamics. This makes it sound more like a piece and can sometimes distract from wrong notes or at least let the examiner know that you appreciate that it's a piece and not just a bunch of notes. Try to just keep moving through the piece even if you recognise you've played a wrong note/rhythm, don't go back to correct it.

Best of luck for your exam! I've got mine on the 23rd of November
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Dr Carlsberg
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(Original post by ions)
Things that my teacher does with me when I'm getting stuck on certain parts of a piece include;

The balloon exercise - draw 5 balloons on a page then play the passage that you're struggling with. If you make a mistake, draw a new balloon. If you do it without mistakes, put a cross through a balloon ("popping" it). Keep playing the passage until you pop all the balloons.

If its lots of semiquavers and you can't get them all exactly even - play it in rhythms, making the first of 4 longer. After that do the same but making the second of 4 longer, then the third of 4 longer, etc.

Transpose the bit you're struggling with up a semitone and then down a semitone. I find this incredibly difficult but then when it comes to playing it in the right key it seems so much easier!

In terms of sight reading, I would say that practice is still going to help you. Instead of just sticking to the grade 8 sightreading book, you could try using an old grade 5 or 6 pieces book, or even any grade, just to get you used to sight reading things all the time. Often what I do (if it suits the style of the piece) is use a lot of sustain pedal and varying dynamics. This makes it sound more like a piece and can sometimes distract from wrong notes or at least let the examiner know that you appreciate that it's a piece and not just a bunch of notes. Try to just keep moving through the piece even if you recognise you've played a wrong note/rhythm, don't go back to correct it.

Best of luck for your exam! I've got mine on the 23rd of November
Thanks! Yeah, the hard bits for on the pieces are mostly semiquavers and grace notes etc, so I'll have a crack at that method you said. I hadn't thought to use other sight reading grades, but it seems like a good move, especially for me, so I'll get my hands on those as well! Thanks for the tips though, and all the best with your exam, it sounds like you'll smash it
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ions
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(Original post by Dr Carlsberg)
Thanks! Yeah, the hard bits for on the pieces are mostly semiquavers and grace notes etc, so I'll have a crack at that method you said. I hadn't thought to use other sight reading grades, but it seems like a good move, especially for me, so I'll get my hands on those as well! Thanks for the tips though, and all the best with your exam, it sounds like you'll smash it
Yeah definitely, i struggle with semiquavers and trills the most! No problem. Thank you!
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furryface12
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I'm not a pianist, but for other instruments things like fast runs doing them bit by bit helps and as different rhythms etc just to get your fingers round them. That and playing it very slowly and getting faster as you can play it perfectly, finishing up a bit faster than you need the piece overall (so when it's slower again it'll seem easy).

Aural tests, things like this have practice tests, some free, which could help. Sight reading do some from other grades and also just any random pieces you can find online of pop music or whatever to make it a bit more interesting. Anything will help! Make sure you play them exactly as written not as you think they should go though, and focus on getting dynamics, articulation, the style etc once playing them in general gets a bit easier.

Good luck!
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will'o'wisp
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(Original post by Dr Carlsberg)
I've got my Grade 8 Piano Exam coming up on December 1st, but am not secure on a few things on the syllabus. I have all three pieces playable (if it interests anyone, they are A1, B2 and C2 in the 2015-16 Syllabus), but there are sticking points in each piece that I stumble on every time I play, even after hours of practice, especially in the Fugue for A1 and final page of B2. Also, my singing for the aural is not the best, (I have vocal dysphonia, but only mildly), scales are ok however. Sight Reading though... where to start?! Literally. I cannot coherently play any piece of the Grade 8 sight reading specimens, it takes me a good 8 minutes to play a piece, especially if its in an odd key. Has anyone got any tips on how to get the most out of the 30 seconds preview you get when you're given the sight reading, or how to get better in the month or so I've got left?

For reference, I passed my Grade 1 with distinction ages ago, then took Grade 2, passed with 118, then jumped to Grade 5, passed with 116, then jumped to Grade 7, scraped a pass. So, as you can see, not the best track record. Sight Reading was failed in every one of the exams, I get around 10 marks each time. I just want to pass this last exam, so I can leave grades behind and focus upon playing whatever I want in future, so I'm not worried about getting distinction or anything. However, with this, I feel I'll be really close to the pass/fail boundary, and just would like any tips you guys have so I can boost my practice in these last few weeks to get me over the line. Thanks!
Feelsbadman

Rip, it's literally practise, you gotta wanna practise and when you do you'll begin to see the improvements when you start practising the bits you suck at.

Really tho you didn't choose the easiest pieces did you?

A1 is the prelude and fugue on an indian scale and i mean it's probably the second easiest i'd say out of the ones in the book from the looks of it.
I chose A3 because actually it's really easy, just a few scale passages that's it.

B2 probably is 2nd hardest out of the pieces actually in the book, from the looks of it. I stayed away from B2 and B3 because of the number of semiquaver rests and accidentals.

I chose B1 because since all the B pieces in the book are about 8sides long B1 looked the easiest and it is, some good repeated sections, a weird section on the 5th side but other than that and a transposed ending it's all good.

C2, again i stayed away from this one because of the accidentals semiquaver rests and slurs.

I chose C3 because again it's easy and appealing to me actually o.o

Anyway did you choose those pieces of your own accord or forced/pressurised in anyway to choose those pieces? Most people i know who are doing grade 8 have chosen A3 and C3 for their A and C pieces
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Dr Carlsberg
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(Original post by will'o'wisp)
Feelsbadman

Rip, it's literally practise, you gotta wanna practise and when you do you'll begin to see the improvements when you start practising the bits you suck at.

Really tho you didn't choose the easiest pieces did you?

A1 is the prelude and fugue on an indian scale and i mean it's probably the second easiest i'd say out of the ones in the book from the looks of it.
I chose A3 because actually it's really easy, just a few scale passages that's it.

B2 probably is 2nd hardest out of the pieces actually in the book, from the looks of it. I stayed away from B2 and B3 because of the number of semiquaver rests and accidentals.

I chose B1 because since all the B pieces in the book are about 8sides long B1 looked the easiest and it is, some good repeated sections, a weird section on the 5th side but other than that and a transposed ending it's all good.

C2, again i stayed away from this one because of the accidentals semiquaver rests and slurs.

I chose C3 because again it's easy and appealing to me actually o.o

Anyway did you choose those pieces of your own accord or forced/pressurised in anyway to choose those pieces? Most people i know who are doing grade 8 have chosen A3 and C3 for their A and C pieces
Yeah, I could've chosen easier ones, but I chose them all myself, and to me, I felt I wanted to spend my time learning pieces that sound nice, not just the easiest ones, as I'd get bored and not play them as well.

To me, the C2 sounds the best of the lot, I love the rubato you can use in it, and the flourishes towards the end. The B2 just sounds really impressive, especially towards the last couple of pages, and the A1 prelude sounds really nice (fugue less so, it's horrible rhythmically, but you cant win them all). I considered C3, but just didn't like it as much, never liked B1 too much I'm afraid, and didn't do C3 because it seemed too repetitive to me, and a bit sparse dynamically.

But yeah, it's down to practice now, hope you do well in your exam by the way, whenever you are taking it.




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Dr Carlsberg
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(Original post by furryface12)
I'm not a pianist, but for other instruments things like fast runs doing them bit by bit helps and as different rhythms etc just to get your fingers round them. That and playing it very slowly and getting faster as you can play it perfectly, finishing up a bit faster than you need the piece overall (so when it's slower again it'll seem easy).

Aural tests, things like this have practice tests, some free, which could help. Sight reading do some from other grades and also just any random pieces you can find online of pop music or whatever to make it a bit more interesting. Anything will help! Make sure you play them exactly as written not as you think they should go though, and focus on getting dynamics, articulation, the style etc once playing them in general gets a bit easier.

Good luck!
Thanks for the advice! I've had a quick look online for some aural and sight reading tests and there are a few, so I'll use those 🙂


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will'o'wisp
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(Original post by Dr Carlsberg)
Yeah, I could've chosen easier ones, but I chose them all myself, and to me, I felt I wanted to spend my time learning pieces that sound nice, not just the easiest ones, as I'd get bored and not play them as well.

To me, the C2 sounds the best of the lot, I love the rubato you can use in it, and the flourishes towards the end. The B2 just sounds really impressive, especially towards the last couple of pages, and the A1 prelude sounds really nice (fugue less so, it's horrible rhythmically, but you cant win them all). I considered C3, but just didn't like it as much, never liked B1 too much I'm afraid, and didn't do C3 because it seemed too repetitive to me, and a bit sparse dynamically.

But yeah, it's down to practice now, hope you do well in your exam by the way, whenever you are taking it.




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True, tbh tho i liked C3 and B1 as the best outta all the B pieces but actually i really liked A2 but it was too difficult for me to do when i couldn't commit enough time to it due to school in the way of it :/
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TheConfusedMedic
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(Original post by Dr Carlsberg)
Thanks for the advice! I've had a quick look online for some aural and sight reading tests and there are a few, so I'll use those 🙂


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Hey, would it be okay if you could link some of these please?
I'm in a similar/worse position because I haven't really had a lesson since March due to my teacher being ill & quitting teaching
Good luck for your exam though and let us know how it goes! (I'd give advice but I'm absolutely useless )
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Dr Carlsberg
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(Original post by surina16)
Hey, would it be okay if you could link some of these please?
I'm in a similar/worse position because I haven't really had a lesson since March due to my teacher being ill & quitting teaching
Good luck for your exam though and let us know how it goes! (I'd give advice but I'm absolutely useless )
Hi,

Yeah of course. First, have a look at the ABRSM website, they have a feature on there where you can have a go at marking an exam, so from there I picked up a few tips about how to play better and what do to in order to gain marks.

For the sight reading, there's of course the proper book you can buy online for about £6.00, but if you want, you can just google around for 'grade 8 sight reading' and google images brings up lots of old examination ones you can have a look at and try.

In terms of aural, theres an ABRSM app for it that was kind of useful, but it makes you pay after a little while in order to 'unlock' further tests, which I didn't do. Instead, I found this, which was so useful:

http://www.e-musicmaestro.com/auraltests/free

Hopefully that helps a bit. Good luck in your exam too!




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furryface12
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Just got this up as there's quite a few people seem to be doing exams this time and/or struggling with them hope it goes okay though!

CheeseIsVeg and Kvothe the Arcane you guys might be interested too.
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CheeseIsVeg
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(Original post by furryface12)
Just got this up as there's quite a few people seem to be doing exams this time and/or struggling with them hope it goes okay though!

CheeseIsVeg and Kvothe the Arcane you guys might be interested too.
nice idea
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