Friday, June 4, 2010

Piano ABRSM Exam - A Dilemma

I was chatting with my sister about registering my girl for ABRSM exam next year. Considering her standard now, I believe she is ready for Grade 2 ABRSM next year if she works hard on it.

Well, I must admit that this is the mother-kiasu thing again (kiasu in Chinese dialect means scare of losing).... :( 

Recently, I was chatting with a friend. Her daughter is 7 and she is going for Grade 1 ABRSM this month. She told me how nervous she had been these few weeks worrying for the exam. She regretted registering her daughter because it gave her so much stress. She worried about her sight reading, scales and out of sudden, she realised that her daughter's tutor had not been teaching her the aural skills blah blah blah...

So, I thought well... her girl is 7 and going for Grade 1. Mine is 8, so rightfully, she should go to Grade 2 next year... That was what I thought.

I tried her with some scales, sight reading... It was really upsetting for her and learning became so stressful and boring. She used to enjoy the song she played. If the song comes with lyrics, she will ask me to play and she sings along until she is able to play the song herself.

When she is ready, she will try to sing along as she plays.

But now, she hates piano time now!

It makes me "pull my hand break" and start to reconsider my decision.

Should I continue to push harder? because like those who made it to Diploma would say :

"I was so thankful to my mom for pushing me hard enough, otherwise I won't be here."

Or should I leave it to her free hand? Let's see how far she can go?I recalled a friend who was a piano tutor, once told me that don't push your child to take ABRSM too early because learning music is to enjoy it, not for the sake of exams. I tend to agree with her a lot. It doesn't really matter at what age the child starts taking the exams or at what grade he/she takes the first exam. The fundamental is the child enjoys it.

I totally agree with her comments as only certain grades in ABRSM are compulsory.

Then, I recalled a Korean friend of mine, she enjoyed playing piano. In Korea, they do not follow ABRSM. She didn't go through any formal ABRSM lessons or exams either. In fact, she was very shock when I told her that we need to go for exam every year to get certification from Grade 1 to Grade 8 and all the way to Diploma.

I remembered one day when she visited the Reunification Palace in HCMC, in the living room, there was an old grand piano. She was very excited. Without thinking further, she sat down on the piano and started playing despite there were many strangers around. She played very confidently and she was enjoying it so much.

Everybody applaused as she ended her song.

I was very very impressed. 

I asked myself how many children from ABRSM passes really appreciate music and have such passion as her strong as her?

Really a dilemma...
I recalled when I was young, I never enjoyed playing piano because of the yearly exams. The scales, sight reading, aural thing and the exam pieces which I had to do over and over again for one whole year.

To add more trouble to it, I had a very good but strict piano tutor. She was not very patient with me. She liked to twist my ears when I could not play well or I could not understand what she asked me to do. I always ended up crying at the end of the lesson.

It was never a sweet memory for me. I wasn't sure why at that time, I never refrained myself from going for more lessons.

I guess I learnt because my daddy asked me to. He said that it can be a career when I grew up. 

But now, I am in a dilemma... whether I should proceed to register my daughter for ABRSM exam next year...  

I wish I have answers for that...


  1. Dear PN
    I "forced" my 1st boy on the keyboard, attended every lesson with him, had a 0ne-to-One tutor & bought a Continental piano because I never had the opportunity of learning music when I was young ... it was a disaster all the way.... we fought (verbally), we stressed ourselves out for over 10 years.... Finally I gave up, stopped the lessons & sold the piano.
    A few years later, he asked for music lessons, picked up guitar & played like a pro...then asked whether I can buy back the piano so he can compose.....BIG mistake made!!!! Motherhood isn't easy ._.

  2. what a lovely encounter, thanks a lot! I guess I know what is the next direction for my girl. yes, it is never easy being a mother. how i wish i could read the future!

    well, i suppose, as the song goes, "when i was just a little girl, ..... whatever will be, will be".

    if i were you, i willl rush to the music shop to grab a nice upright piano for him :)!