Music Exam Preparation Tips

Exam timetable  

With music students across the country taking exams next month, I thought it would be apropos to post some exam preparation tips. Some of these are "general exam" tips, but for the most part, they can be applied to music exams. After all, an exam is an exam, whether it is theoretical or practical.

A few other things I've been constantly reminding my students are:

  1. You can't cram technique: practice those scales, chords and arpeggios (and vocalises if you're a singer) and get everything faster than the listed speed. The required speed gets you a pass. If you want a higher mark, go faster (just make sure it's a tempo you can maintain, play cleanly and with good tone).
  2. Spend more time on the areas that need work. For many students, it's the technical requirements or the ear and sight reading tests. For others, it's memory or "that one dreaded piece".
  3. Look at the mark breakdown, spend more time on the areas that are worth more marks and also make sure that you're not giving any "easy marks" away. If you're in Conservatory Canada, that information is in the back of your piano book. If you're in RCM, check the Syllabus for your instrument at any music store (perhaps consider investing in one).
  4. Practice frequency is the key. Right now, the more "airtime" your pieces and technical elements get, the more opportunities you give for everything to sink into your mental and muscle memory.
  5. Perform often between now and exam day - it's the closest you can get to simulating exam performance conditions. See if your teacher can sign you up for a student recital hosted by one of the local teaching associations or schedule your own mini-recital and invite all your family and friends to hear you run through your exam repertoire.

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