Instrumental Music Grades

To all music tutors but also classroom teachers.

In my opinion, there are a some parents that view music grades as another qualification to add to their own child’s step into university.

For music teachers do you feel that this takes away the joy of learning a musical instrument?

Classroom teachers: how does it feel when a child requests to come out of your lesson to attend a peripatetic lesson?

I’ve had students whose parents obviously just see achieving grades as the only priority. I try and make time in lessons for something that the student will enjoy, so we’ll maybe do something like 20 mins grade work (including scales, etc.) and 10 mins on a piece of their choosing - often without sheet music.

It doesn’t help that so many of the selected graded pieces (at least for piano) have been mind-numbingly dull for the last couple of years!

More frequently, I’m seeing how effective apps like Synthesia and Simply Piano have been for my younger students. A couple of them are playing pieces which are at a grade 8 level, yet would struggle to read notation above grade 1 or 2. I try to reinforce to the parents how incredible this is; the student has done this off their own bat and has persevered to learn how to play a piece of music that, on paper, should be beyond their ability - and, furthermore, the reason they’ve achieved that has been all down to the joy of learning it!

At the end of the day, there will always be parents who can’t see beyond grades and wouldn’t consider fun to be a priority, so you just have to make the best of it, for the student and for yourself - but, in my experience, those kinds of situations are, thankfully, fairly rare.

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Very interested in these apps you have mentioned. Are they free apps?

I think you can get a standard version of Simply Piano for free but you have to pay to upgrade for more more advanced features.

Synthesia is about £23 but I’ve found it invaluable for teaching online, e.g. I’ll share my screen and use Synthesia to demonstrate chords and melodies. It also comes with a whole load of songs built in, plus you can import MIDI files of songs. Really worth checking out: https://synthesiagame.com/