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Quick Study in the Piano Diploma Teaching Exam


Quick Study in the Piano Diploma Teaching Exam


In my years of preparing and mentoring young piano teachers for the Dipabrsm Piano Teaching Diploma, I find the most common cause of failure among exam candidates is the Quick Study section of the exam.

While piano teachers can prepare for the viva voce component by using my book, Piano Pedagogy: The Questions & The Answers, and practise the grade 6 pieces to get ready for the DipABRSM piano teaching diploma, there is not much that the candidate can do to prepare for the Quick Study Component. 

In the Quick Study exam, the student is given 5 minutes to prepare a piece of music (about 1-2 pages) afterwhich, they have to perform the music. 

In the day to day teaching, every teacher is really sight reading the music that they are teaching their students. Sight reading is a very important skill to have, especially in the task of piece presentation, accompaniment, or in playing duets. Very often, one cannot teach ‘music’ by just talking through the music.

The best way to teach is to demonstrate and to model the sound that we teachers wish the student to emulate. Hence, in the DipABRSM teaching diploma, the quick study is marked out of a total of 15 marks. To pass this segment of the exam, the student needs to score above 6 marks. Failing this segment also leads to failing the DipABRSM exam. 

One does not suddenly become good at sight reading, nor does one suddenly become bad at sight reading. The skill of sight reading is acquired by reading music consistently, reading widely every kind of music that one can lay hands on, playing the piano every day and applying the skill of sight reading in the daily activities such as accompanying a ballet class, or playing for church etc.

Very often, young teachers fail at the Quick Study because:

1. They don’t practise the piano because they have a full time day job and piano playing is only for the weekends.

2. They have skipped over too many grades when they were learning the piano. Often, students in Singapore will take only the key grades eg. grades 1, 3, 5, 8. And often parents want the children to embark on an accelerated learning so that they can ‘finish’ piano and then focus on the academic studies.

3. They have poor reading strategies eg. they cannot hear the music in the head, they cannot hear the phrase and read note by note, they don’t know the style of the music that they are playing due to inexperience.

4. Poor exposure to a varied Piano Literature.

5. Poor reading skill eg. poor integration and application of scale, arppeggio, chords and inversion

The skill of sight reading is best learnt through cumulative and daily commitment to sightread every day. 

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