Should I take Grade 1 yet?
This is a question I get asked regularly by children who have been learning for a year or so, and it’s a topic often raised by parents when I get a chance to meet them.
Broadly speaking, if you have got to the end of a Level 3 primer (Hal Leonard Piano Lessons, Book 3, for example) you could probably manage to start learning pieces of Grade 1 standard, and cope with the rest of a Grade 1 syllabus.
Working for, and passing, a grade examination is a good thing. It shows you have reached a standard of playing that is recognised throughout the world, and it makes sure that you have a good all-round technique by testing scale playing, sight reading and aural ability as well as performance skills.
BUT it is important to realise that exams take a lot of work. The pieces will be harder than those in your primer, and take weeks or even months to learn. Some people enjoy playing scales and arpeggios, but most find them a chore; they have to be learnt (and incidentally will lead to all-round improvement in your playing when you master them). Most importantly, it is not possible to pass an exam solely on the basis of work done in your weekly lesson. Regular and careful practice at home is essential.
So if you fancy the challenge, and are prepared to work for it, let me know and I’ll show you what is involved. You can find information about the exams on the Associated Board web-site. and you can click here to download a guide which explains what the exams are all about.