The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

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Gill the Piano
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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by Gill the Piano » 14 Sep 2009, 17:19

I would say your best frame of mind would be; I'LL SHOW 'EM! :lol:
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by markymark » 14 Sep 2009, 17:54

I think the psychology is very simple - make yourself confident and an expert in what you are doing so that you don't have to "fake" confidence.

I would argue that confidence comes from good preparation so that you have confidence in your pieces. Even before doing something like making a presentation, you will rehearse what you are going to say so that you are not looking for the language to convey your point. How much more then is preparation not a key to gaining confidence at the exam. Knowing that you can do something and do it well leads onto what Gill was talking about, namely that abnoxious "I can do it" stance.

It is very easy by looking at someone's body language and how they play the instrument (visually and auditorially) as to whether or not a candidate believes in him/herself and in what he/she is playing.

Gill the Piano
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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by Gill the Piano » 15 Sep 2009, 18:18

Read. learn and inwardly digest 'The Inner Game Of Music'. We all have gremlins on our shoulders whispering in our ears that we're crap , and we all get Les Dawson days.
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

Descombes
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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by Descombes » 16 Sep 2009, 07:07

Note to younger readers: Les Dawson was a lugubrious Northern comedian, whose act often included him playing the piano, competently at first, but with increasingly comic "mistakes".

It's worth pointing out that his mistakes were meticulously practised. Anyone who has played and gone wrong will know that it does not sound funny. Les would sometimes completely change key or change the melody while maintaining the harmony. It must have taken hours of practise!

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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by Descombes » 16 Sep 2009, 11:30

He died in 1993 - so anyone whose memories do not go back 16 years would not remember him (apart from TV repeats.) I suppose I thought of this because I'm used to getting blank looks when teaching, if I mention anything or anyone from more than a couple of years ago!

Apparently he began as a club pianist, but then found that he got more response when playing wrong notes. I had forgotten that he was one of Hughie Green's discoveries on Opportunity Knocks in 1967. Now, today's audiences really would cringe if they saw Hughie Green!!

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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by Gill the Piano » 16 Sep 2009, 15:07

There are clips on You Tube, I think...he was a genius and Descombes is quite right, it's extremely hard to play like that...intentionally!

I would say that everybody gets Dawson days, Dave. Sometimes it's tiredness, sometimes lack of concentration, sometimes (as in my case) it's lack of practice, sometimes it's just the Law Of Sod. Just don't take it personally, break the cycle - in the bad old days when I taught, I'd get the kid to go over to the window, touch its nose, turn round three times and come back and play it again. The sprog was so busy planning to tell its mother I was a raving lunatic that it would play the piece right. then look at me in amazement as if to say 'Witch!'
At least, I think it was witch... :mrgreen:
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by markymark » 16 Sep 2009, 18:22

dave brum wrote: I had absolutely no idea I was that 'old' as to remember Les Dawson and to assume everyone else remembered him too! I can remember 'lestening' to him (think it was called Listen to Les) on our old radiogram on 1500 metres long wave on a Sunday afternoon immediately after Family Favourites with Jean Challis and all those B.F.P.O numbers!
If it's any consolation, I remember him, tho' primarily through "Blankety Blank". I have seen his hilarious off-key playing. I remember doing this for "Happy Birthday" where I started in E major and my right hand suddenly moved into F major. It was so hard to get without having to stop and think.

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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by Stuart » 18 Sep 2009, 11:27

There will always be people who can play better than us: think of all those concert pianists out there. It doesn't matter - what we are concerned to do is (for exams) our best on the day. So it is to do with anxiety, primarily the performance anxiety that can strike anyone. It's called stage fright in the theatre - same thing. How to reduce anxiety? Well, as has been said, good preparation is useful, but not over-preparation. Over-preparation stems from anxiety itself. So, given a deadline, decide when enough has to be enough. Further work is likely to be counter productive - it leads to other errors creeping in, more anxiety. If for example there is tricky bit in a piece or a scale which is still a bit hit and miss, well, you aim to get it as nearly right as possible. (If there are too many 'tricky bits' then you just aren't ready. Abort the mission.) Aiming for perfection, in the sense of really hoping to get it, is counter productive. We can always criticise aspects of our playing, even if the notes are perfect.

The mindset then, given a steady state which you believe is or may be good enough, needs to be as free from anxiety as possible as anxiety leads to tension which sabotages your efforts to do your best. So worrying about the mistakes you might make increases the chances of making them. Worrying about the examiner asking you to play the most difficult scale will lead to playing the other scales less well. Now, there are a lot of ways in which anxiety can be reduced. Mine (I have a 2 hour recital coming up in a fortnight) consists of closing down all external input before the event: I just don't engage with people an hour or two before. My attention is not, hopefully, on what may be good or bad (this creeps in inevitably!), but on the music as music and the task in hand: getting in touch as closely as I can to that music, so I can communicate it as truthfully as possible. The examiner (or audience) are only relevant insofar as we are trying to communicate with them, communicate our sense of the music to them. Not to prove anything! In one sense, just focus on the music, how you want to communicate it and just play.

I have always rated musicianship above technique and I think examiners do too. Audiences certainly do. If we can communicate what we feel - even scales and arpeggios - then we are providing the best conditions for a favourable external judgement. Our internal judgement is likely to be more harsh: that's how we improve.

Hope it goes very well.

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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by Gill the Piano » 18 Sep 2009, 17:24

I've never forgotten my piano teacher saying to me when I was eight (about 40000000 years ago) that someone who plays wrong notes in an exam can still get more marks than someone who doesn't. She was trying to instil the idea of musicianship trumping technique, I think. Thanks, Mrs Palmer - I've never forgotten you! :)
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: The right frame of mind for doing a piano exam

Post by PianoAngel » 18 Sep 2009, 22:51

Hi Dave,

I think on this occasion you need to rethink what getting a distinction in the exam really means. Someone can practice for 2 years solidly on the same 3 pieces and then get a distinction in a Grade 2 exam - I really don't think this makes them a good Grade 2 pianist. Someone else can learn their pieces, and many others, very well and then have a slip of the fingers in the actual exam which puts them off entirely, and causes them to score quite badly - I really don't think this makes them a bad Grade 2 pianist.

How accomplished you've become is something you can assess outside the exam situation. Can you now place pieces which you could only dream of playing before? What is the feedback from your teacher? When you record yourself, does the music sound fluent and like a 'real piece'?

A distinction in a Grade 2 exam simply means that you performed certain pieces at a certain standard on a certain day in the subjective opinion of a certain examiner.

I'm definitely not trying to take away from the usefulness of an exam. It's a test of what you've learned, and not least of all of your nerves! It's an opportunity to perform to someone with musical knowledge, someone you couldn't normally access. I just think that the real results of the exam are what you gained from it, and not what the piece of paper they send 2 weeks later says. One of my teachers always said that the experience of a performance is worth 5 lessons. For me, it's gaining that experience that the exam is really about.

Much Love,
Lou

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