Last week, I went to Dublin to attend the OSS BarCamp in DIT, and to meet up with friends and to do a piano exam.
Bronwyn and myself have been learning piano for a few months, and I wanted to have some evidence that I was progressing.
I was nervous going in. In the exam, what happens is that you play a few scales and other little things, you play 3 songs from a selection of 8, and then you answer some questions.
The major scales were pretty easy – I was asked to play a few major scales, only one octave, and only one hand. Wasn’t asked to use the left hand at all.
I started out on the minors a bit wrong – the examiner asked my to play “A Minor Harmonic”, and I accidentally played “A Minor Melodic” (the difference is that the leading note, before the tonic, is sharp when ascending and natural when descending, in Melodic, and sharp in both directions in Harmonic).
I apologised and played the requested version. To be honest, I think the examiner made a mistake there, because the examinee is supposed to play /either/ harmonic or melodic, personal choice.
I made another mistake when asked to play triads. A triad is a group of arpeggios which start on a different note of the chord each time. For example, C triad is C E G E G A G A C A G A G E G E C. But, my teacher learned in the London School of Music, and the triads I learned ended on the dominant note – C E G E G A G A C A C A G A G E G E C G.
I corrected myself there as well. These were honest mistakes, but I think knowing the difference and being able to play them, helped with the score.
I had chosen three songs to play.
First, I played Menuet in F, by Leopold Mozart. I really like this piece – it’s light and airy, and there are a few stacatto bits that really fit well into the rhythm of it. I fumbled a bit on the first arpeggio, and wasn’t able to get the dynamics correct on the piano – the piano sounded weird compared to my own (tinny, maybe), and the keys didn’t have much “feel” to them – pressing the keys, I didn’t feel any “power” under them. Very hard to do piano forte when you can’t feel the difference between piano and forte ;-).
The second song, a waltz by Breslaur (Op. 46, No. 25), went perfectly – that’s another airy one, and I tried to play it as if it was being danced to, not as if it was being examined. Again, the dynamics were difficult to put n, but the fact that is a dance, and had a load of stacatto to it, helped get around that problem.
The third song, Study No. 1 by Felix Le Couppey, wasn’t too good. I chose this song because it was totally different in feel to the others – this was going to be the one that showed off the dynamics. I really should have practiced it on a few different pianos, so I knew how to approach the exam one.
I’ve been beating myself up all week over these mistakes, so was very surprised to find I’d passed the exam, “with first class honours”.
I’m choosing songs now for grade 2.