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Grades?

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reasonableman
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I was wondering what people think of Grades (1-8)? Are they worthwhile or helpful at all? Do any of the teachers here follow them?


   
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art&lutherie
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I have no idea what your refering to.

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NoteBoat
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Depends on what you mean by grades.

A lot of publishers (Mel Bay, Berklee) split their material into grades as a way to fit the 'right' number of pages. For example, the Mel Bay Modern Method is in 7 grades (each about 48 pages), while the Berklee is in three grades (each about 128 pages). Berklee grade 1 takes you through fourth position - you'll be at grade 4 of Bay's series before you get to that spot.

Grades like that are useful for a logical progression within the subject covered. For reading, I'll certainly follow the grades pretty closely - you'll want a student reading in C before trying G, F, or Bb. On the other hand, reading in C presents the chords C, F, and G7 - and F is a pretty tough beginner chord. I have students learn A, Am, A7, B7, C, D, Dm, D7, E, Em, E7, G and G7 before we tackle F. Most of those chords aren't in the Bay book 1, so I use other materials for chords.

If you're talking about grades for recitals/examinations, there are various organizations that have juried exams, certifying performers have reached a certain level. Canada, the UK, Australia, and I believe South Africa (and probably a lot of countries I'm not aware of) each have organizations with their own standards - similar, but slightly different. If you've passed a grade, you've demonstrated certain abilities for scales, technique, sight reading, ear training, and perhaps theory/history/harmony/analysis. All of those organizations are geared to classical guitar, although the UK is now starting to grade plectrum along similar lines. The countries that have those grading systems for recitals/examinations usually require passing a certain level for entry into college level music study... so teachers in those areas tend to follow that material, at least for students who aspire to higher education.

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reasonableman
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Yes I was referring to the second example NoteBoat. In the UK most people that play a instrument other than guitar will be graded. Which means they have passed certain exams regarding their instrument.

Many guitarists shun grades as they are seen as a bit 'academic'. For some reason I thought grades would be as common in other countries as the UK. I've heard that classical, acoustic and electric are all available as grades with in the UK at least.

I looked at the grading organization: http://www.abrsm.ac.uk and couldn only find one type of guitar - classical based.


   
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NoteBoat
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The electric/acoustic grades (which as far as I know are identical) are new - I think only RGT (the Registry of Guitar Tutors) has them. They're based loosely on the London College of Music exams.

I think both are accredited by the UK's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

The US doesn't have a grading system for guitar that I've seen. I've toyed with using the RCM standards - the Royal College of Music in Canada - as I've used some of their material when I studied piano - but I haven't seen a need from my students for anything so structured.

The music school I teach at on weekends does structured recitals, but I don't think there are any guitar students (certainly none of mine) pursuing that route for feedback.

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incognito167
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Reasonableman

I'm thinking about grades too. I used to play Viola and did the Associated board exams, because basically here in the UK no-one seems to play classical instruments and not takes grading exams. The thing about it was, was that you had to play crappy pieces that you didn't like of had never heard of (if you look at the ABRSM classical guitar syallabus you'll see the required pieces you need to play.)

Who wants to play stuff they don't like?

I'm am however going to start learning with a Resistry of Guitar Tutors (RGT) certified tutor, with the aim of taking the grading exams. I'm hoping that in addition to learning to play the guitar, i'll have a structure to it all.
If you read the RGT syallabus, it seems to be geared around learning in a way that will help you play what you want for example soloing is part of the exam.

Anyway if i like the way things go, i'll continue grading, but if not i'll stop.

Anyway that's just me!

Mart.


   
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alexduller
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Its everyone for themselves on this I think.....personally, I learnt piano from quite an early age, and was forced to do grades....In some ways it was worth it as it gave a sense of acheivement once you passed the grade. On the other hand, it forced you to play pieces that you didn't like, and that took the fun out of playing which was the reason I gave up. As, long as you're having fun, then its great to do grades, but if not, then don't...

Alex

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reasonableman
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Well personally I don't have a problem learning some classical pieces and presumably they would be pretty easy (for grade 1?).

I just think it's very odd that (I don't think I'm exaggerating here) that by far the most popular instrument doesn't have (m)any standardised courses/assesment.

I don't think examinations are nessecary but they should at least be available!


   
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alexduller
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I suppose its because generally, unless you play classical guitar, you don't tend to get whole guitar pieces for electric guitar (obviously there are a few). This makes it difficult to examine people. This is probably due to most people with electric guitars playing in a band. Also, the main board in the UK (ABRSM) tend to concentrate on the classical instruments.

Alex

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Alan Green
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The London College of Music does Grade exams for electric guitar and bass guitar too.

The syllabus for Electric guitar starts with a preliminary exam which requires you to know:

C Major scale - 1 octave
G pentatonic minor scal - 1 octave
A natural minor scale - 1 octave
E blues scale - 1 octave
Chords - non barre - C, D, E G, Am, Dm, Em, A7, B7 and E7
One, possibly two chord progressions to play from sight (you get 30 seconds to look at them then you play)
One possibly two improvised solos over chord progressions played by the examiner
Fingerboard knowledge - where to find the notes
Basic anatomy of the guitar
Aural assessment - repetition, keeping time, pitch and harmony tests

Scales have to be played ascending and descending, and from memory.

And once you've got that, Grade 1 is a bit harder

You also have to specialise in Grades 6 and above. The choices are:

Slide/ bottleneck
Tapping
Solo fingerstyle or flatpicking
Sight reading from standard notation or tab
Rhythm playing
Improvisation

The "pass mark" is 65% and I have an 11 year old student who wants to go for it.

Have fun,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
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reasonableman
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Whoah that prelim exam looks pretty thorough. I expected it to be really easy.


   
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Alan Green
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It gets pretty scary at Grade 8 - any scale in any key chosen by the examiner, chords in up to 5 positions on the neck. You always get a certificate to stick on the wall, but the exams make sure you know tour stuff.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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NoteBoat
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Who wants to play stuff they don't like?

That's interesting to me...

99% of the world's musicians constantly play things they don't like. Symphony orchestras are filled with folks who might prefer Bach, but tonight's program is all Bartok and Hindemith. Studio musicians might feel like playing blues today, but the producer of the radio commercial they're recording wants a sound like a 40s big band guitarist. Even Lynyrd Skynyrd is probably darn tired of playing Freebird by now. If you're going to play for money, get used to the fact that you won't pick the tunes (I personally cringe every time I see a playlist with "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" on it - but when I balance my 'artistic sensibilities' on one side and my mortgage payment on the other....)

Graded programs are designed to develop musicians with professional level skills, not to teach you music you happen to feel like playing. If you study classical guitar, that means a lot of right hand studies that may or may not be particularly musical.... if you do piano, meet Misters Czerny and Hannon.

Skills build on skills, and graded courses do that very carefully - designing that progresssion of skills is a field in itself, called pedagogy. The goal is to develop the technique to play whatever you need to play, and to teach those techniques in the most efficient manner possible. Liking the exercises might be a bonus, but in the big picture it's unimportant.
It's the difference between being a hobbyist and having the discipline to be a professional, and do what it takes to get there.
that prelim exam looks pretty thorough. I expected it to be really easy

If the ultimate goal is to certify someone as a concert-level musician, and you're going to slice that into 8-12 grades, none of them will be 'easy'. When I first picked up RCM music for piano, I'd been studying for about two years (three if you count the class piano courseback in college). The introductory grade was challenging at that point.

If you're going to pursue a graded course... or even if you just have your eyes set on being a sideman, studio player, or teacher... redefine what 'fun' is - on that journey, the fun part is in being able to do something with your instrument today that you couldn't do yesterday, and looking forward to doing something tomorrow that you can't do today.

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incognito167
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That is a good point noteboat, about not always doing what is fun. I am certainly not one of those people that stops doing something just because the "fun-factor" has left.

I agree about the professional side of things, but in my experience many who started grading exams did so to work within some sort of strucutre, staring and building on basics and working with progressively harder stuff.

In the beginning however, when technique is a struggle, motviation and frustration is low because of the "beginner's lack of skill" i think that the individual is more like to persevere if they are playing stuff they know or like. Furthermore, once they have reached the goal of playing something they can recognise and sing-a-long too, then no doubt they will be more motivated to try more challenging things.

Once you've reached a stage where you are more confident with your instrument and gained some more experience then sure you may not enjoy everything you play, but at least you'll be able to play it.

Just my thoughts.
Mart :)


   
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Ignar Hillström
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In Holland all official music schools have a standardized grading system. So if I would pass my Grade A in Amsterdam, I could start with grade B in any other Dutch city. Don't care too much about it myself since private teachers tend to be more flexible and suit my needs better then the standardized ways music schools teach. But for those who care it is an option, so that's cool.


   
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