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Looking for Grade 1 Exams: A Guide for Parents

Updated: Nov 23, 2023


Learn Classical Guitar

Introduction and Structure of the Exams



The Grade 1 exam is an important milestone for your child. It marks a significant step in their musical journey, culminating in a certified evaluation. Above all, it is a celebration of your child's love for music and their chosen instrument.


Like any exam, it brings some pressure and requires a significant effort from your child. It is crucial, for this reason, that everyone involved respects their work and the challenges they face, providing them with the time and space to grow naturally and enjoy the journey.


Most exams can be taken either online or in person. Each format presents different tasks and challenges. The most commonly used exam bodies are ABRSM and Trinity exams.


Currently:

Online exams require a video performance of 4 pieces for ABRSM and 3 pieces

and the technical work for Trinity exams.


In person exams typically consist of the following components:

  • Performance of pieces

  • Scales and arpeggios

  • Aural test

  • Sight-reading


Each component has specific books and programs for learning. It is important to discuss and share the goals and expectations with your child's teacher at the beginning of the year. Please keep in mind that these exams are designed to be accessible to everyone, regardless of age. They are suitable for both 5-year-old students and 80-year-old students. However, they do require a certain level of skill that can only be developed over time with passion and effort.



What Level is My Child At?


The most important aspect of music lessons is the enjoyment of learning a musical instrument. This is the first and fundamental aspect of your child's development. With a natural and satisfying journey, the exam will be approached with great pleasure. Generally, learning an instrument starts with basic books that can accompany your child's learning process.



The topics covered include:


  • How to read music

  • Pitch of the notes

  • Value of the notes

  • Dynamics

  • Fingering

  • Musical signs and expressions


As you can see, there are several topics, each requiring focus and dedication. It is amazing how children are able to learn all of these topics, and we should all be proud of their weekly progress.


Regular practice at home is very important.


Here is a general guideline:


Year 2/3: 10-15 minutes per day

Year 4/5: 15-20 minutes per day

Year 5/6: 20-30 minutes per day




What happens when your child doesn't practice?


As you can see, daily practice is as important as the lessons themselves. When considering taking exams, it becomes necessary and indispensable. Throughout the year, there may be busier weeks or school exams that require a decrease in music practice, and that's perfectly understandable. However, the complete absence of practice can affect the progress timeline.


For example, let's say your child has a guitar lesson where they learn "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".

If they have a week with no practice, the following lesson will be spent revisiting and working on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" again.

Then, if they have a week of practice, the subsequent lesson can focus on improving their performance of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and moving on to the next piece or topic.

Essentially, what could have been accomplished in one week ends up taking three weeks in total.


It's important to remember that:


  1. Practice is important, but everyone progresses at their own pace and has their own unique journey.

  2. The example provided is just one scenario, and throughout the year, there will be various situations and circumstances.


Why does my child practice, but the teacher keeps writing the same pieces in the practice diary?


It is possible that even with consistent practice and effort, your child continues to work on the same pieces for several weeks. This is normal and part of the learning process. It often means that the teacher believes it is necessary to study a piece in more depth. As musical maturity grows, it becomes possible to study a piece at a more advanced level. When preparing for graded exams, it can take up to a year to fully master a piece.


When considering taking exams, the duration of lessons is very important.


Here is a recommended guide:


  • Year 1/2: 15-minute lessons weekly

  • Year 3/4/5/6: not less than 20-30 minutes


The time your child spends working with the teacher will aid their practice at home.


It is also important to invest in obtaining all the necessary materials, including:



  • Books

  • Footstool

  • Practice Diary

  • Music Stand

All of these items are crucial and make a huge difference in their practice, helping to avoid bad habits and ensuring the materials are always available.


When Can My Child Start Studying for the Grade 1 Exam?


In the specific case of classical guitar, your child can start thinking about preparing for the Grade 1 exam when they are around halfway through the second book, by which point most of the required topics will have been covered. After that, it will take approximately one year to prepare all the required tasks or pieces. Unfortunately, the timeline is never clear, and other factors come into play, such as:


  • Age

  • Body size

  • Home practice and dedication


A good and healthy communication with your child's teacher will clarify when it is the right time to study for Grade 1. Starting earlier could lead to frustration and loss of interest in music. This is a crucial moment in their musical journey, so the decision must be made with responsibility and respect for their effort.


Remember that every student who decides to take Grade 1 is stepping outside their comfort zone with great courage.


The amount of practice at home needs to increase. Around 20-30 minutes per day is an average amount of practice.


Parents' Support


There are significant ways in which you can support your child in their music practice. Some of them are simple things that make a tremendous impact.

Here are a few examples:

  • Ask your child to play the pieces they are working on during the week.

  • Whenever possible, video record your child's performances.

  • Help them find time to practice during the day.

  • Mark the weekdays of practice in your practice diary.

  • Write a short comment in the Parent's comment section.

As a teacher, we understand how busy life can be, and we genuinely appreciate any additional help.


Suggestions


There are various activities that can enhance your child's music journey, such as:


  • Joining the Guitar Ensemble to share music with other peers.

  • Recording their performances (sending the video or pictures for a Blue Peter badge is an amazing idea to motivate them).

  • Congratulating them for their efforts.

  • Seizing any opportunity to perform. Try not to miss any of them!


Music is an incredible journey, and any student who shows interest and enthusias


m for playing an instrument should be supported in every possible way!





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