Piano books for piano exams Should you do graded exams?

This is very much a matter of personal preference. The exams of the two main organisations (Associated Board and Trinity) are a well-established part of the music education landscape in the UK and Commonwealth countries. Many students find the discipline of such graded structures extremely useful, even necessary. Moreover, the exams give scope to develop listening skills (via the aural tests in particular) and general musicianship.

But such exams are not for everybody, and indeed there are plenty of countries worldwide which don’t have any similar kind of system and are perfectly capable of turning out top-class musicians. Adults in particular, who are not part of any competitive educational environment, might find the rigours of following an exam syllabus more of a hindrance than a help.

My own view

Personally I’m not a fan of the ‘conveyor-belt’ approach to graded exams, where the student simply takes one exam after another without any pause to explore other repertoire or musical avenues. This can lead to pianists with a rather narrow focus. So when I’m taking students through an exam system I prefer to give them a broader range of musical experience between the grades, without causing undue delay in the attainment of the exams themselves.

Other information

Sometimes teachers neglect the aural test and sight-reading components of the exams until the last minute, which can lead to unpleasant surprises in the exam itself! So I always make sure to start work on these elements early, and prepare thoroughly.

Apart from the graded exams mentioned above, I also prepare students for the A-level piano practical exam, and can indeed coach you for any exam or audition you require.

The Associated Board requires the student to pass their grade 5 theory exam before taking the grade 6 piano exam, and you can study for that (and any other) theory exam with me too. Although the grade 5 theory is the only official exam stipulation, I believe in introducing the main components of music theory from the early stages, as a knowledge of these aspects helps the student learn pieces more quickly and interpret them more effectively.

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