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Thread: Exam nerves

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    Senior Member pianississimo's Avatar
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    Default Exam nerves

    Firstly, Hi. I joined the forum last week. My name is Andrea and I'm from the UK and I'm 47. I've been learning how to play piano for 3 and a half years.
    Last year I took grade 4 and shook like a very shaky thing all the way through. I totally forgot how my third piece started and made such a mess of it I had no hope of passing.
    In the end I got 111. I was stunned! My teacher thinks I exaggerated how bad I was - I didn't!

    Today is my grade 5 exam.
    I think I'm better prepared this time and the scary third piece I'm putting first to get it out of the way. I know I can play it if I don't lose it and shake like an idiot.
    Trouble is that these things are more easily said than done.

    Any tips?

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Nerves is normal. It's a sign that you are revved up for the exam.

    Basic guidance - take things easy. Get some simple practice in first - don't be in a rush. Get to the exam centre on time. When you get into the exam room and sit at the piano, take a few deep breaths to relax. Play a scale you know really well to test the piano and get used to things.

    The examiner is not there to torture you. They know all about nerves. You will not be the first very shaky thing they've seen. They make allowances for nerves. They're looking for musicality, accuracy, good sense of rhythm, appropriate tempo, dynamics. They know you're not a professional. They expect mistakes and nerves.

    None of this really helps, but it's just a way of saying relax, do your best.

    Good luck for the exam!
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member pianississimo's Avatar
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    Haha thanks. I shook again but made it through. Fluffed up here and there but I'm hoping I did enough to pass. The sight reading is always so easy and I can manage the scales. I wish exams could be all sight reading. I'd be fine then. At least I remembered to look at my music this time when I fluffed up!

    I will have to find a way to beat the nerves next time!!


    Is it too early for wine?

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    If you ever find a sure fire method to get rid of the "nerves" please let me know. I've been a professional musician for over 50 years and still get the jitters before a performance.

    I will begin my concerts with something that I know quite well - a piece that I know backwards and forwards and can play from memory ... that puts me more at ease for the rest of the program.

    If you begin with a very complex piece, and "fluf" things up, the rest of the program may likely follow suit. With a positive reinforcement of a beginning piece that is very familiar, we might do better as we progress to the the more difficult ones.

    Kh ♫

    ps: yes, wine is good, but only after the performance
    Last edited by Krummhorn; Nov-28-2014 at 17:45.

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    Senior Member MoonlightSonata's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianississimo View Post
    Firstly, Hi. I joined the forum last week. My name is Andrea and I'm from the UK and I'm 47. I've been learning how to play piano for 3 and a half years.
    Last year I took grade 4 and shook like a very shaky thing all the way through. I totally forgot how my third piece started and made such a mess of it I had no hope of passing.
    In the end I got 111. I was stunned! My teacher thinks I exaggerated how bad I was - I didn't!

    Today is my grade 5 exam.
    I think I'm better prepared this time and the scary third piece I'm putting first to get it out of the way. I know I can play it if I don't lose it and shake like an idiot.
    Trouble is that these things are more easily said than done.

    Any tips?
    111 is still a pass, so really that's the main thing.
    What I try to do is just focus on the music and forget that it's an exam. I'm still just as traumatised afterwards (after Grade 5 I was literally pale and trembling) but it gets me the marks. Since you seem to have much the same problem as me, it might help.
    ≥12

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    Senior Member pianississimo's Avatar
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    Thanks.
    I'd be happy with any kind of pass but it's frustrating when you've been playing something perfectly in the exam room moments before the exam and then you sit at the exam piano and suddenly the hands shake and the music is all over the place!

    The exam piano had a very bright and brittle sound too which threw me on the "To a wild Rose" This piece has a lot of pianissimo and I couldn't get that right on this piano. Given an hour or so with it I could probably adapt, but I'm used to my Casio digital piano or my teacher's baby grand.
    The warm-up piano was a Kawai digital which I'd never tried before. It has fantastic action and a lovely sound.

    I'm going to hope for the best again and start with the grade 6 scales. My results are due the week after next . Fingers crossed!!

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Good luck! Hope you get results you will really like this time.
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Senior Member pianississimo's Avatar
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    Didn't pass . I've spoken to my teacher and I'm going for it again in March. Nerves were the only problem really. I want to conquer them so it's best to give it another go with the material I know best. Disappointed but determined to pass!

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Oh, hard luck! It must be so disappointing when you know how well you can play when nerves don't kick in. I've decided to go in for another violin exam myself (grade 4) & although I did well last time, my bow shook (and shakes) because of nerves and there was literally nothing I could do to stop it. Let me know if you find any ways to calm yourself down, because I could do with them too.
    Very best of luck next time!
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianississimo View Post
    Didn't pass . I've spoken to my teacher and I'm going for it again in March. Nerves were the only problem really. I want to conquer them so it's best to give it another go with the material I know best. Disappointed but determined to pass!
    Sympathy! Hope it goes better next time.

    Some thoughts based on an earlier post. Bright pianos are a total nuisance. You either have to use the soft pedal - not good -or else accept that what you're going to produce is up a couple of levels i.e. instead of going from pp to ff you're going to have a range from mp to ffff. What matters is not the actual level of sound but the contrasts between soft and loud. That's part of playing a scale or whatever at the start to see how bright the beast is. The examiner will have tried the piano - he needs to before trying the aural tests - so he will know how good or bad it is and make allowances. The point is - don't get thrown - easier said than done.

    One thing to do is play in front of friends or if your teacher organises a concert - play in public. It all helps.

    Best of luck for next time.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member pianississimo's Avatar
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    Thanks I'm done sulking now I think!

    I've started on the grade 6 stuff but I don't think I could face the grade 6 exam knowing I hadn't passed grade 5. It's not going to get easier and I know there's a steep step up from 5 to 6. The grade 6 pieces are Mozart sonata K545 mv 1, Chopin Mazurka op 33 no 3 and Villa-Lobos, Carangueijo (The crab). All of them are very tricky!
    My teacher has advised me to leave the grade 5 pieces until January when we'll work on my confidence. I've also found out some material concerning performance anxiety (Ingélou, I'll know if it works when I've done the exam and I'll be glad to pass on any tips about what works!!)
    The exam centre I use hires the piano for the exams and it was a different one for grade 4.
    Another exam centre I could use is a bit further away but they have their own piano. It's a lovely mellow grand piano which you can hire on non-exam weeks for practice. So I can practice on the exam piano, in the exam room before the big day. I think that'll help a lot.

    Good luck with the violin exam Ingélou, I think shaking would have a greater effect on the violin than piano. With the piano you can just muddle through. A lot of professionals confess to shaking hands!

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    In my experience, it was pretty much a matter of muscle memory...

    If I messed up once, the second time was usually good to go.

    It`s been a while since the last time I passed piano exams though and I didn't care whether I passed or failed because ... rebellious youth, ye know.

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    Senior Member Majed Al Shamsi's Avatar
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    Really sad to hear that.
    You probably won't need any more advice on how to handle yourself next time. If you're repeating the exam, the sense of familiarity should hopefully get you through.
    Best of luck, and do let us know how well you fare in March!

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    Senior Member MoonlightSonata's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianississimo View Post
    Didn't pass . I've spoken to my teacher and I'm going for it again in March. Nerves were the only problem really. I want to conquer them so it's best to give it another go with the material I know best. Disappointed but determined to pass!
    Oh no!
    I think the first exam is always the hardest. Maybe next time you'll do better because you know the routine
    ≥12

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    Senior Member pianississimo's Avatar
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    Proud and delighted to say that I passed on the second attempt!!! I got 115 which was more than grade 4! I took the decision to change to a different exam centre which has this lovely piano as it's permanent exam instrument. You can hire time in the exam room before the exams start so you know what it sounds like and feels like. The piano in the other place was a horrible over-bright thing. Last time I got 16/30 for my romantic soft B piece ( to a wild rose- McDowell). This time I got 26! The difference was the piano!
    So pleased I can draw a line under that and concentrate on my awesome Chopin for grade 6!!! going to be smiling for the whole WEEK!image.jpg

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