In this Christmas holiday, we are doing a special discount for ALL online music programs on our teachable platform, and that includes our most popular ABRSM Grade 8 Aural Training Course and Piano Teacher Training Course (Level I).
Quick Study is definitely deemed one of the most challenging parts in a piano diploma exam (ABRSM).
Many exam candidates are confused, believing that a quick study test in piano diploma exams is not much different from a sight-reading test in graded piano exams. They cannot be more wrong.
Needless to say, passing a sight-reading test in graded piano exams is not an easy feat for some. Many piano students spend most of their time drilling the piano exam pieces, leaving little time on the scales (because they are “boring” and “technical”, and ah, they bear less marks), and not much at all on the sight-reading test.
The truth is, one does not need to pass the sight-reading part in order pass the whole piano exam, and therefore, students (and teachers) simply ignore this part that’s deemed “unpreparable” and focus instead on the other parts that are much more manageable. Years go by, and many piano students’ sight-reading ability went undeveloped.
Poor sight-reading skill is a major contributor to a majority of piano students’ decreasing interest in music learning and piano lessons. When a piano player can read quickly, grasping most of the music elements at first glance without taking a lot of time to figure out what’s going on in a new piece of music, s/he can then focus on how to project varieties of beautiful tone and express musical phrases and styles suitable for that particular piece of music. Reading and learning new music become fun and exciting as opposed to a chore or to some, an excruciating experience.
When students in their graded piano learning years are not trained with the amazing skills to sight-read quickly, they are not only left with the notion that learning new pieces is a difficult and long process, they also find themselves dread about advancing to the next level: piano diplomas.
A lot of piano students (and piano teachers) choose ATCL, the first professional piano diploma by the Trinity College London, as it does not have a sight-reading/quick study test. On the other hand, for those who prefer dipABRSM, the first professional piano diploma by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), one must pass “all the requirements of both sections” in order for his/her diploma to be awarded, and that includes a quick study test (Note: Section I is the recital, while Section II has quick study and viva voce, towards which programme notes is counted).
Now, a lot of piano diploma exam candidates thought they were well prepared for the quick study test, since they believe they could read music fairly well. Sadly, they are usually surprised (or even shocked) by the fact that their quick study score is so low that they cannot pass the whole exam, even when they pass all other sections.
So what is the difference between a sight-reading test and a quick study test, you might ask?
The difference cannot be underestimated.
The level of difficulty in sight-reading tests increases as the grades progresses. Examiners might not be as strict in their markings when it comes to earlier grades like grades 1-3, but I see comments on sight-reading test for a grade 5 piano exam candidate that demands certain level of musical phrasing and stylistic awareness. One can understand the level of sight-reading ability a grade 8 piano exam candidate needs to display in order to achieve a higher score.
In a quick study (using dipABRSM as an example), the music is of two pages long. That requires quick reading and grasp of musical styles in the 5 minutes of preparation given to the piano diploma exam candidate. Although the music is composed especially for the exam, the styles can be of any musical period. What that means is it can be composed in any style of the Baroque to contemporary period. Candidates should familiarize themselves with all kinds of musical styles and periods.
One must wonder, “how is it possible for me to know all kinds of musical styles and periods before the exam?”
To this question, I say, no one can do that in a week or two. However, it is entirely possible to learn to play all kinds of music with certain level of ease at first glance, not to the degree of perfection, but to show a pianist’s awareness and well-rounded knowledge (and surely, skills), performing a new piece of any style at a pleasantly enjoyable level. I myself absolutely enjoy playing all kinds of musical pieces at first glances, from early period to new music. For me it’s a great opportunity to learn something new – there’re just too many pieces I’ve never heard or played before even after years of study, performing and teaching!
Since one cannot improve his/her quick study ability in a short period of time, a diploma piano exam candidate must start training early and systematically.
I apologize for not having been here or on any social media channels lately.
I just came back from a wonderful trip in Hawaii. It’s beautiful and just a great time there. It actually made me miss Hong Kong a little bit regarding all the food selections! Hongkongers are definitely spoiled with their food choices.
During my holidays in Hawaii, I tried to do a couple things that scared me, both of them required me to be in the ocean. I don’t know if any of you read what I wrote all this time, but I did write about my fear in water. I took swimming lessons and so far I am somewhat better in the pool but if you ask me to go do some water sports in the big ocean I would definitely think twice (or more like hundred times!).
I think I didn’t write about this for some reason, but I went on a diving trip (yes, diving in deep deep water under many feet) a couple years ago in Taiwan, after I tried this “discover diving” thing in Okinawa. I thought it was fun and easy (!) and therefore I decided to venture out to get the open water diving certification after my Taipei stay to finish my Music Together teaching certification (oh yes that’s another story for another time).
That diving trip was gruesome three whole days of me being in the cold open murky wavy water, floating on top of and diving in deep in the ocean. I am not sure if I want to do it again soon, but I do think I will get back at it in the (far) future, perhaps at some place some time with clearer and warmer water.
Anyway, back to the Hawaii trip. I went snorkeling for a few times and I saw some amazing sea creatures! It was not a really fun thing for me to do – like I said, I do not like being in the ocean or somewhere deep. But I made myself do it and I thought that was good.
The other thing I tried actually changed my mind of me being in the ocean and that I actually could enjoy AND have fun about it. It was surfing.
I have seen people surf in TV shows and movies, thinking “wow, that looks so cool”, and especially when I see girls doing it, I am like, “that just looks hot”. Like for me girls doing anything I normally won’t do is “hot”, like driving (which I do now), and being athletic and lifting heavy weights (which I also do now). So being great at water sports is just something that blows my mind and I cannot fathom I can even manage to do it, let alone being good at it.
And there I went surfing.
Needless to say I had this HUGE anxiety before the morning to take my surf lesson, which was like two hours (“Why do anyone want to take surfing lesson for two hours straight? Is there a break in between?”). So with much anxiety (imagining I might drown or thrown out in the ocean without my surfboard and hit my head on the rocks etc) and sleepiness (it’s 8 in the morning! and hey it’s holiday), I arrived at this truck full of surf boards, standing nearby a fit young lady. I thought she was one of the surf students, but no, she’s my surf instructor!
I put on a tee shirt and water shoes my instructor handed me, and we were off to do some practice on the grass nearby with the surfboards. I watched intently what she was demonstrating to me and then I copied. The instruction lasted for 15 minutes. And then she said, “let’s go to the water and try it out!” “What?! That’s it??” I was shocked inside. But I took up the courage and picked up my surfboard and there I went with her into the water.
(…to be continued)