Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Back in June I took my Grade 3 piano exam, after a hiatus of 26 years. The trouble with these graded exams is that when you pass one you start wondering what the next one will be like, so ignoring the voice in my head that warned of weeks of stress ahead, off I went to register for Grade 4, which happened today.

In some ways it was less scary as the routine was the same as last time so I knew where to go and what would happen. I know for example that the piano you do the exam on will be one of those big grand piano types and even sneezing on one of the keys will make an enormous booming sound, nothing like my little electric upright which has a volume control and requires keys to be pressed most distinctly before it will make any sort of sound at all. Unfortunately, grade 4 requires the pedal to be played - something I have never bothered with as it tends to make a terrible din. One of my three pieces (B1 Alone at Sunset) is constant pedal pedal pedal - if it was a car journey all the speed limits would be broken and you'd have a lifetime driving ban. Not only that, but every other second you have to play quiet, then loud, then quiet, then fast, then slow, then slow and quiet, then fast and loud. It's like an ultra-quick round of Simon Says and I always end up confused and whimpering quietly to myself by the end.

(This is not me playing)

I managed to get through my scales at the start OK, although started playing the right hand when asked to use the left, and I think I may have made a couple of minor errors at the end, but it is a complete blur. I can only recall that the kindly examiner did not ask me to play any of the dreaded F Minor scales which require your hands and brain to enter alternative dimensions. Instead I was given G minor, which I had spent literally minutes rehearsing over and over the night before to get it perfect.

I played my three pieces - not great but OK, and managed the sight reading bit OK as well. Then was the most awful bit - the aural test where you have to stand behind the piano and sing notes back and answer questions about whether a piece is in 2/4 or 3/4 time. I am just about able to get a mid-way score on Singstar on medium level, as long as I have a Tina Turner or whoever singing along with me to keep me in check, but I was somewhat thrown when handed a sheet of music and told to sing it, with no accompaniment. I kind of made a few nasal grunts, which even surprised the examiner at their ineptitude, and we moved quickly on.

I should find out the results in a few weeks - my fella took Grade 2 at the same time, so bizarrely, he has managed to get to the same level I was at 6 months ago - even though I have a 26 year head start on him. As for Alone at Sunset - it can stay alone. After four months of daily wrestling, that piece of music is due to be retired.

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