What you need to know when working on exam pieces

With the ABRSM session I practical exams around the corner, here are a few useful practice tips for both students and parents to keep an eye on their children.

At the start of each practice session, you should ask yourself what you are trying to achieve at the end of the session. 10 minutes spent in that way, is far better than 30 minutes mindlessly playing through pieces. There is no use playing your pieces over and over again badly and repeating the same mistakes. It might be one scale for the day, or a page of your piece. Quality always wins over quantity, especially when you are short of time.

  • Slow and Steady – There is a big difference when it comes to “performing a piece” or “practising a piece”. Do not practise at the speed you intend to perform and make sure you stop when you encounter a problem or difficulty.
  • Separate hands – Often, we are so used to the habit of playing hands together that we use our heart and feelings to play and not with our head. This is especially risky when you are under stress in front of the examiner. Separate hands are definitely not needed for the whole piece. Target on the parts with awkward fingerings, position changing and bars, combining different articulations in the right and left hand.
  • Small Sections – Allocate sections with the help of phrasings. There isn’t any use in just playing it through badly from the beginning each time. Most of the time, a piece is 60% ready except for a few difficult bars/sections and towards the end, when composers love to repeat the same elements in a different key and confuses us with colourful modulations. This is where most of our wrong notes and harmony start to happen. A very effective method is the “reverse practice” – instead of starting from the beginning, start from the coda/recapitulation and work your way backwards.

 

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