The difference between Grade 1 and Grade 8 in music

I’ve noticed that the real difference between someone who’s Grade 1 and someone who’s Grade 8 (assuming both are in ABRSM or Trinity where Grade 8 is higher than Grade 1) is really, when it comes down to it, the sheer amount of time spent playing whatever musical instrument their learning, such as the piano. Think about it. It takes years to go to Grade 8. That’s years more of playing the piano compared to someone in Grade 1, who is likely to have only played the piano for a few days up to a year or so.

And the exams. Those annoying stuff where you have to play pieces and scales and technical stuff. The thing is, you have to practice for hours just for one exam. And you have to practice longer the higher grade you are. Taking the exam forces us to get better because the pieces get harder and we have to practice longer to get it right. When you really think about it, by the time we reach Grade 8, if we add all the time we spent at the piano or whatever musical instrument practicing together, it’ll probably add up to at least a few months (for the lazy) or maybe years (for the hardworking).

The worst thing is, once you stop (like how many of us stop at Grade 8), if you don’t continue playing, your skills start going downhill. It’s like handwriting. Have you every noticed that once holidays are over, or after a long time of not writing with a pen/pencil, for the first few pages or so, your handwriting tends to be atrocious? Same with playing musical instruments. Don’t touch them for awhile, and when you play them, stuff you normally can do easily become really difficult. Your fingers slip all over the place and it takes longer to remember/read the notes. And then when people ask you what grade you are, admitting that you’re Grade 8 becomes a little… embarrassing.


Posted on January 19, 2012, in Random and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. An interesting post. As a music teacher (as well as a musician, of course) I mostly agree with you though I think any new instrument requires a lot of time to learn the basic skills. You probably learn more to be able play Grade 1 than you do for Grade 8 even if, as you say, the pieces are harder and take more practice. I am in Bangladesh at the moment and have been learning Tabla and Sitar for a year. I’m still pre-grade 1 I think ( but I’ve learnt most of the key techniques that will take me – one day – to the grade 8 equivalent. But then, as you also say, I need to make sure I keep practising!

    • I agree. Once we get the basics down, it’s easier to play songs and sound decent. The title of your minipost is actually a phrase my father is very fond of. Probably one reason why we are encouraged to try out many things. Even if we don’t learn a lot of it, people tend to get this wide-eyed look when they realize that you can do this and that and whatever. The downside is that you really can’t compare to those who actually take time to practice and hone their skills.

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