Viva Voce: What it is & how to prepare for it (II)

[anti-rclick]October 16, 2011


Let’s talk about ABRSM diploma exams’ “viva voce” – a Medieval Latin term which literally means “with living voice”.

“Viva voce” is “an examination conducted by spoken communication”, or simply, an oral exam about your exam pieces in specific and music in general (history, period, theory, performance practice and your instrument) .


What would the examiners ask about?

First of all, they would usually ask you questions piece by piece. They would start with some general questions about each work. For example, they might simply ask you to talk about it (“tell us something about this work”). You should just spit it out as much as you know of that work.

Then, the examiner would follow with some more specific questions, e.g. the form of the work, the significance of the work among other works of the same composer. They would ask you to point at the score to explain the structure and key changes.

They might even point at one chord and ask, “what is this chord? Why is it so important in this section?” or something similar. They would also refer to the program note you handed in to them and ask relevant questions from it. They would say, “in the program note you wrote ‘……’, could you further explain your points here?” Therefore, know what you wrote on the program note and be prepared to be asked about it. (Otherwise, read what your ghostwriter wrote for you before going to the exam.)

Other than the exam pieces and the composers, the examiners would also ask you questions related to your instrument, obviously piano here (or for those who are not pianists, the instrument you are playing in the exam anyway). They might ask you about the changes in the structure of the piano in relation to the works you played in the exam, that how those works you have chosen reflect the development and changes in the history of piano making etc.


(to be continued…)

Teresa Wong


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