Monday, March 06, 2006


So far I've been unable to duplicate my miraculous feat from the other night. It's ok though. It will come in due time.

PY, good luck to you with your Grade 8 test!

I checked out the ABRSM website and the concept is very interesting. Maybe I should take a performance assessment at some point. They have representatives in Queens. As I've mentioned before I am always out to compare myself to other students because I have NO idea where I stand. Could I play in a high school level band? Or am I still playing at a junior high level? I guess it depends on the school. My friend is a high school music teacher but her band is playing really simple things like "Twinkle, Twinkle". Yet the kids in the Columbia University Orchestra are so good that I wonder how their high school bands must have been. A lot of them could have easily gone into a conservatory instead and in fact many of them are dual-enrolled at Julliard or Manhattan School of Music, or at least take lessons with professors from there. Are all high schoolers this good?

Anyway, so I checked out the ABRSM oboe syllabus to see where I fit in. I was looking around the site but couldn't find where they talked about the tempo for the scales. I could have sworn I read something about that at some point last year on that site. Well I could probably play just about any scale *very* slowly. And the ones that have 4 or less accidentals I could do a bit faster. I think I am at somewhere between 80 and 100 for eight notes (2 notes per beat) for those.

In terms of the repertoire I am not familiar with a lot of the material and the pieces I *have* heard of are on the more difficult side of the spectrum. I looked through my collection to try to find some intermediate level pieces and found several grade 4 pieces and a grade 5. Here's what I have:

(1) Tambourin - Hasse
(2) 4th mvt of Concerto No. 8 in B-flat Major (Vivace) - Handel
(3) Rigaudon - Rameau
(4) Sarabanda - Corelli
(5) Cui - Orientale (this one is the grade 5, all others are 4)

I have (1) and (2) on Music Minus one recordings and I heard number (5) online. Here is my impression of them:

(1) Ugh! Too fast for me and with difficult articulations. Also kind of long.
(2) Could probably play this so-so with a lot of practice, just don't expect any fancy cadenzas or anything of the sort. The notes are not the challenge: playing in tune and with dynamics control would be. As would be endurance.
(3) Ditto what I said for (1). Also seems like an intonation challenge with lots of high notes at the end when you're tired.
(4) Doable technique-wise at that slow tempo. The challenge here would be expression.
(5) Ok I am not sure I understand why this piece is grade 5 and the others are 4. I have been able to play the notes of this piece for a few months now. I think that with practice I could definitely do this one.

So let's ignore that grade 5 one because I *KNOW* I am not anywhere near that level. Most of the 4 ones are still out of reach for me but I could perhaps get to in the foreseeable future. If I can play some of the 4 stuff albeit badly then I guess I am not grade 1 nor 2. This leaves grade 3 as the reasonable choice where I could be comfortably challenged. The scale requirements are reasonable for me. I do need to practice the minors and arpeggios more. Maybe I will use these as a guide. Too bad I don't have any of the grade 3 music. Anyone have any suggestions for which one of those I should get?


oceanskies79 said...

Thanks for your good wishes.

Maybe you could check with your oboe teacher on which level is suitable for you?

oceanskies79 said...

My teacher told me that playing the scales is one good way to check. If you can manage a grade 3 scales confidently, you can move on to grade 4, and so forth.

I still have to practise to get to master grade 8 scales with confidence.

Toni said...

Hi Hilda, Toni here! :)

Here in the UK, the ABRSM exams are the gold standard for assessing where you are musically.

I took Grade 2 in June last year and am doing Grade 5 in a few week's time. I've started working on Grade 6 studies but I have to pass the Grade 5 Theory exam before

I can progress to the higher grades; I'll have a lot of work to do there as I've never studied theory before!

I'm playing the Orientale, the Siciliana from the Cimarosa Oboe Concerto, and a Brod study for my Grade 5. DO check out the Siciliana if you haven't already, as it's technically straightforward and is a beautiful sounding piece.

I think that the pieces are the easiest part of the ABRSM exams though. They also make you do sightreading, which is horrid. People who can already play another instrument to a high standard have an advantage here - don't you already play the sax? That ought to help :)

Then there are scales, arpeggios, dominant sevenths, etc. You have to learn certain rythmic patterns for these, and play them both tongued and slurred. If you've learned them all already then you'll have no problems!! :D

Lastly, there are Aural tests. I am terrified of these! For Grade 5 you have to sight sing, amongst things. I can really recommend that you get the "Aural Training in Practice" books and CDs which the ABRSM publish. I struggle with these as I haven't studied music long enough to develop my ear.

Good luck with the exams!! Email me if you fancy a chat about them, or come and join the ABRSM forums (I'm oboebunny on there) :)

Toni xxx