Exam Piece Etiquette

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
el Zilcho
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Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by el Zilcho » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:21 pm

Hi

I'm wondering what the proper way to perform a piece for an exam might be.. or how much of your own interpretation can be afforded whilst still adhering to the direction in the score.

For example: Lagrima happens to be a peice which i've played for some time and as such i've developed my own understanding of it. In the score i'm using for my grade 5 exam there are of course elements which I perform that are not written I.E. some rubato, rolling the Emajor chord, a trill...

Obviously i'm not going to be omitting any score direction but i'm unsure wether to keep a strict time and just play what I see with some very subtle accentuation or just play it how I feel it.

Any advice would be a great help.

Thanks

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Mike Atkinson
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Mike Atkinson » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:57 pm

I've never taken a guitar exam ...

But, here is my suggestion ... Do YOUR thing !

First Break All the Rules.

I imagine, that the individual juror(s) will have an opinion on your personal style and interpretation ... and it is possible that you end up sitting before some one who is a stickler ... << shrugg >> what the heck does (s)he know anyhow. Obviously, you can't be creative with scales, scale and arpeggio tempos ... but the repertoire ... go for it.

They may ask some questions ... but it sounds as if you've already thought through the music for yourself. Go For It !
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Andrew Pohlman
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:58 pm

Here is an excerpt from the Trinity College exam syllabus:
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Performance and interpretation
 All pieces must be prepared in full unless otherwise stated.
 Repeats of more than a few bars should not be played unless otherwise stated.
 All da capo and dal segno instructions should be observed.
 Cadenzas should be omitted unless otherwise stated.
 Candidates are encouraged to use appropriate ornamentation, particularly at Grades 6–8.
 All tempo and performance markings should be observed (eg Allegro, rall., cresc.).
Metronome marks are given as a guide but do not need to be observed exactly, as long as the
style and character of the piece is maintained.
 Candidates may perform any or all of their pieces from memory, although this is not compulsory
and no additional marks are given for this.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
I highlighted "appropriate ornamentation" because I think that is the crux of your question. What do the judges consider "appropriate". Your teacher can help you with that. When my teacher says, "That was bold," it is code for "non traditional - don't go there." :D
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el Zilcho
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by el Zilcho » Mon Feb 12, 2018 6:07 pm

:) Thanks guys

So it seems that I should be ok to do what I wanted and use my own sense of the piece whilst observing the score.

I've never had an exam (or a teacher) either. I might just tone down the expression a notch to be on the safe side.

Thanksamuchly

DerekB
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by DerekB » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:57 am

What does your teacher think of your performance? At grade 5 it is likely that the examine will not be a guitarist and will mainly be listening to hear if you can play what is on the page. They will not necessarily be over-familiar with the pieces you play. On the other hand there are equal marks for interpretation. At grade 5 don't overdo this aspect. The point is to make it sound like a piece of music.

One general piece of advice, don't concentrate exclusively on the set pieces. Make sure you are well prepared for the other parts of the exam.
I've suffered for my music. Now it's your turn... - Seasick Steve

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el Zilcho
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by el Zilcho » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:16 am

DerekB wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:57 am
What does your teacher think of your performance?
I don't take lessons.
DerekB wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:57 am
One general piece of advice, don't concentrate exclusively on the set pieces. Make sure you are well prepared for the other parts of the exam.
I'll bear that in mind. I have been neglecting both the studys and practising sight reading.
Thanks

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am

Which exam board are you using?

In the end, the simple answer is that the examiner is an extremely experienced and highly trained musician and in marking the pieces is only interested in the performance (e.g. not the technical side of how you achieve it). Obviously music is a highly subjective art but that is what the training is for - to allow for personal differences and make the mark scheme meaningful nonetheless. If you are playing Lagrima, for instance, even if they've never heard it before, its musical language and its title make it obvious that it is a Romantic composition and that the usual matters of rubato etc would apply. In general terms students almost invariably do too little rather than too much. One obvious way we could assess your take on the pieces would be if you would post them to this forum.
Which other pieces are you playing?
Btw do not worry overly about the directions on the score. The examiner does not have reference to the score and only in very exceptional circumstances would ask to see it to check something. The most important thing is to do something appropriate with conviction. So if you can justify doing something different, e.g. in dynamics, that is not in itself a problem, so long as it 'works'. Not that I am recommending you change anything, especially if can be found that it is the composer's idea rather than an editor's.
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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Andrew Fryer » Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:37 pm

Yes, interesting question. It's tempting to answer, but it's necessary not to answer badly.
As Stephen says.
(although I think dismissing technical considerations is a bit risky, as I've had good feedback on that subject, for which I thank my teachers, not myself; and how your dynamics vary is technical and can be good or bad)
Different editions have different dynamics etc. In the past I was sometimes surprised when an adjudicator commented on good use of dynamics, and I thought, I was only doing what was in the score! Sometimes it surprises me how differently a guitarist like Bream will play something from what I've got written. It seems that as long as it's "expressive", it doesn't matter how.
Maybe the answer is to make the examiner feel that they are at a gig rather than quality-controlling on a production line.

To a scientist, the question of how anything is marked in the arts is always thorny - I began wondering about it when I had friends in the Slade art school in the 1970s. I didn't understand it until I began an arts degree in 1999. It's the kind of thing Richard Dawkins and his groupies like to misunderstand as much as they possibly can, but that's enough of that.
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el Zilcho
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by el Zilcho » Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:00 pm

Great help Stephen, thankyou.
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am
Which exam board are you using?
ABRSM
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am
One obvious way we could assess your take on the pieces would be if you would post them to this forum.
As invaluable as that would be i'm not sure I could muster the courage :shock:
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am
Which other pieces are you playing?
Fields of Green and Romance. The former is completely new to me so i'm finding my feel for it.

Thanks

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Arash Ahmadi
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:23 pm

el Zilcho wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:21 pm
Hi

I'm wondering what the proper way to perform a piece for an exam might be.. or how much of your own interpretation can be afforded whilst still adhering to the direction in the score.

For example: Lagrima happens to be a peice which i've played for some time and as such i've developed my own understanding of it. In the score i'm using for my grade 5 exam there are of course elements which I perform that are not written I.E. some rubato, rolling the Emajor chord, a trill...

Obviously i'm not going to be omitting any score direction but i'm unsure wether to keep a strict time and just play what I see with some very subtle accentuation or just play it how I feel it.

Any advice would be a great help.

Thanks
Based on my experience in preparing students for LCM, TCL and ABRSM exams, I can't emphasize musicianship enough. Having a secure technique would certainly help but you also need to apply dynamics into your playing and know where to play rubato and where to be in strict time. The examiner will be looking at the score as you are playing and if you miss an accent, piano or forte you will lose points. Performing for an exam is a lot more strict than in real life. Playing your interpretation is appreciated but as long as you are not crossing a few lines...

Good luck!
To send light into the darkness of men's heart, such is the duty of the artist. (Robert Schumann)

el Zilcho
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by el Zilcho » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:30 pm

Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:23 pm
I can't emphasize musicianship enough. Having a secure technique would certainly help but you also need to apply dynamics into your playing and know where to play rubato and where to be in strict time.
I think this piece speaks to me well enough to be able express it with what i'd imagine to be a sufficient degree of musicianship. It's technique where i'll likely fall short I expect.
Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:23 pm
Playing your interpretation is appreciated but as long as you are not crossing a few lines...
That appears to be the consensus.. I feel clear now on how to go. You've helped a lot guys I can practise with more purpose going forward.

Thanks

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:02 am

el Zilcho wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:00 pm
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am
Which exam board are you using?
ABRSM
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am
One obvious way we could assess your take on the pieces would be if you would post them to this forum.
As invaluable as that would be i'm not sure I could muster the courage :shock:
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am
Which other pieces are you playing?
Fields of Green and Romance. The former is completely new to me so i'm finding my feel for it.
Please excuse my extreme confusion - ABRSM? Those pieces are not on the G5 syllabus for AB - or TCM. More alphabet soup required?

Please muster the courage to post. If you can think of going in and facing an examiner, posting here, where we are all friends, should be much easier!
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:12 am

Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:23 pm
....
Based on my experience in preparing students for LCM, TCL and ABRSM exams, I can't emphasize musicianship enough. ..... The examiner will be looking at the score as you are playing and if you miss an accent, piano or forte you will lose points....
Don't know about LCM but AB and Trinity examiners never have access to the score except in diplomas. When you consider that they have to be prepared to exam a couple of dozen different instruments, each with 8 grades plus a pre-grade 1 level, probably 30 or so pieces per grade (fewer for TCL), how many books would they have to carry about - on public transport (usually!)?

In diplomas, the candidate has to supply scores as required.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
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Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
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DerekB
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by DerekB » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:26 am

One word of comfort amidst all this discussion of how close to the score you have to be. Don't worry too much if you make the odd mistake. As long as you keep going the examiner will not deduct more than a mark or two for them. I thought I had made a real hash of my grade 7 but the examiner was merciful.

As to whether the examiner will consult the score or not, they certainly do for TCL. If you play one of the alternative pieces you have to provide a photocopy of the music on the day.
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Arash Ahmadi
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Re: Exam Piece Etiquette

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:23 am

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:12 am
Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:23 pm
....
Based on my experience in preparing students for LCM, TCL and ABRSM exams, I can't emphasize musicianship enough. ..... The examiner will be looking at the score as you are playing and if you miss an accent, piano or forte you will lose points....
Don't know about LCM but AB and Trinity examiners never have access to the score except in diplomas. When you consider that they have to be prepared to exam a couple of dozen different instruments, each with 8 grades plus a pre-grade 1 level, probably 30 or so pieces per grade (fewer for TCL), how many books would they have to carry about - on public transport (usually!)?

In diplomas, the candidate has to supply scores as required.
Same for LCM, the point is that examiners are very familiar with the pieces. Some centers do provide the scores for the examiner though (graded exams). Even if the examiner has never seen the score or heard the music, it's very likely that during the viva voce he/she will ask the candidate "how come you didn't play this part as is indicated", etc... So virtually, either way, it's as if the examiner does have access to the score if you know what I mean.
To send light into the darkness of men's heart, such is the duty of the artist. (Robert Schumann)

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