Below is a blog post for the www.pianoworks.co.uk website. For home piano lessons in N8, such as Crouch End, Hornsey, Stroud Green and the surrounding areas, please click here: Piano Teacher Crouch End N8.
Music Assessments for Children
"How soon will it be before my child is ready for Grade 1?" is a commonly-asked questioned, and not an unfair one. As parents, we cater to our children's interests and self-development by providing them with music lessons. Sometimes we do these in the hope that the skills that they acquire through learning an instrument will benefit other areas in their lives. For example, learning an instrument encourages teamwork, independence and self-directed learning, which are useful traits to have. It would not be unreasonable to expect, too, that the financial investment put into music lessons ends up with something tangible, a certificate or qualification of some sort that may be beneficial down the line. It is with this expectation that we ask about starting piano exams.
Some secondary schools set aside a number of places for those who have music skills. And it would not be unreasonable to think that all other things being equal, a school might allocate a remaining place to a student who displayed some musical ability and might contribute to the artistic life of the school environment, over one who did not learn an instrument. Universities award UCAS points for post-grade 5 exam qualifications. A graded qualification might signal to a future employer that an interviewee is all-rounded and has skill sets beyond the immediate scope of the job.
The above reasons are factors that lead parents into wanting their children to sit piano exams. So how long will be it be before children attempt them? A good starting point to think about doing piano exams is probably after the child has developed some level of competency in reading music notation and is able to co-ordinate playing with two hands. Some level of independent practice is a good sign of readiness. Progressing at the piano is less to do with hereditary talent but like any other skill it is how hard you practice at it, and also the quality of the instruction and practice that matters.
If you are hoping for your child to progress quickly through the grades, then competency in reading notes is a must. Some children do move on to exams and get by without acquiring these skills - they write out all the letter names to the exam songs and then memorise the sound of the music and finger motions. Essentially, it is learning to play music by rote and muscle memory without having to know how to read music as you are playing. It is a static skill of knowing the content knowledge without being able to apply it in the moment. This unpromising method will get you past the earlier grades, but around grade 4 or 5 the complexity of the music will mean users of this method invest too much time trying to achieve too little. Those who go by this wrong method end up dropping out and having bad memories of learning music.
The ABRSM guidelines suggest that it takes half a year of preparation to be able to attempt the ABRSM Prep Test, and a subsequent year to do grade 1. This means that it takes about a year and a half to attempt grade 1, but of course this varies across individuals.
A year and a half to do Grade 1 may be a long time for younger students, and there are interim exams to direct student focus.
The ABRSM Prep Test is a good starter exam and gives the children the first experience of doing an exam, so that when they move on to grade 1 they have already that initial experience of doing an exam and are less fazed by the process.
Another possibilty to consider are Music Medals. Unlike the Prep Test, Music Medals are teacher-assessed. They are assessed on five levels - Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Copper and Bronze are stepping stones to Grade 1, while Silver, Gold and Platinum reward further progress.
The good news is that after the initial period where a child is learning to master the new complexities of reading music and coordinating two hands, it gets and more familiar and hence easier from then on. It is not uncommon for students who have learnt these skills well to be able to skip grades - for example, in moving from grade 3 to grade 5. So the initial period is long, to accommodate the need of having to learn to read music and master the instrument but subsequently there is the potential for the later grades to be attempted more quickly.
If you are looking for a piano teacher around Crouch End, Stroud Green or Hornsey to hold piano lessons at your home, please click here: Piano Teacher N8
N8 Local Guide: Crouch End
The iconic row of shops and flats behind the Clock Tower in Crouch End, along Tottenham Lane, bears similar resemblance in style to the buildings in Muswell Hill in the London Borough of Haringey. In fact, Topsfield Parade (a parade is a row of shops) in N8, and Princes Parade and Queens Parade in N10, were all built by the same developer, accounting for their similarities in style.
James Edmondson started work on the Topsfield Parade after acquiring the site from the estate of Henry Weston Elder (after whom Elder Avenue N8 is named). Topsfield Hall - Elder's home - had formerly stood on the site but with the acquisition of the land by Edmondson in 1892, it was demolished and replaced by the four storey parade of shops, which curves around to meet Middle Lane, which leads down to Priory Park, especially popular with families with young children. The signature style of the buildings along Topsfield Parade is one where there are different gables and windows on every floor. However the continuity is slightly disrupted at certain spots due to damage during the second world war.