Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mozart Andante in C - What grade is that?

Dear Flute teachers,

So often there's a question in our flute discussion groups about what grade level a piece is, or what grade level a student is.
It can be very confusing as in Canada there are ten grades, in the United Kingdom there are exams that represent eight grades, Fluteworld and Alry grade their music from one to four, and the American Band System has grades from one to six.

It can make your head spin.
So I took my spinning head and made a serious/comedic recording of the ten grades of Canadian Flute Exams.
I used the well-known piece "Mozart's Andante in C" but I could have equally well used Bach's A minor Partita (as it was under discussion on Flutenet as having different grades for different movements.)

So...have a listen to GRADING MOZART, on mp3.

While I was making myself play "grade 2", "grade 4" etc, I felt like Victor Borge or perhaps Jascha Heifetz, trying to make typical student mistakes so to make the flute teachers out there laugh. :>) Hope you laugh! :>)

Below, I'll give a brief sketch of the pieces on the RCM syllabus for each grade, so you can get an idea of how the exam system would work here in Canada.
Enjoy this mp3.
There is also a chart online where all the grading systems are compared.
Jen on a Sunday evening.

Typical Flute repertoire for Royal Conservatory Exams in Canada.

An average flute student may take a year or more per exam in next even numbered grade. They must play 2-3 contrasting solos with piano, up to four etudes, extensive scales/arpeggios/chords. There's sightreading, eartraining and orchestral excerpts (mostly for later grades) for each grade as well as theory/history co-requisites:

RCM Repertoire:

Grade 2: Minuet from J.S. Bach's B-minor Suite no. 2/Minuet from Dance of the Blessed Spirits by Gluck/Schubert's Moment Musicale from "40 Little Pieces"/Dick's SunShower/Mendelssohn's Andante Espressivo/Ravel's Pavane pur une infante defunte.

Grade 4:Bouree or Rondo from J.S. Bach's B-minor Suite no. 2/Sonata in F Major by Vivaldi/ Purcell's Air and Hornpipe/Neilsen's The Children are Playing/Reger's Romance/Hindemith's Echo.

Grade 6: Sarabande from J.S. Bach's B-minor Suite no. 2/Handel's Sonata in F Major/ Faure's Sicilienne/Gaubert's Madrigal/Ibert's Aria/Woodall's Serenade/Pessard's Andalouse.

Grade 8: Mozart Andante in C/ Pergolesi's Concerto in G Major/Godard's Allegretto and Idylle/Schumann's Three Romances/Bloch's Suite Modale/Foote's Trois Pieces.

Grade 9: CPE Bach's Hamburger Sonata/Stamitz's Concerto in G Major/ Telemann Fantasias/Amirov's Six Pieces/ Genin's Carnival of Venice/Fukushima Mei/Ganne Andante and Scherzo/Honegger's Danse de la Chevre/Widor Suite Scherzo and Romance.

Grade 10: J.S. Bach's Sonata in A minor (Partita in Aminor)/Bozza Image/Hindemith Sonata/Milhaud Sonatine/Poulenc Sonata/ Griffes Poem/Taktakishvili Sonata/Mower's Sonata Latino etc.

Grade: Diploma/A.R.C.T.
CPE Bach Concerto in D minor/Ibert Concerto/Franck Sonata/Musczynski Sonata/ Molique Concerto/Prokofiev Sonata/ Widor Suite (entire)/Berio Sequenza/Dutilleux Sonatina/Ferneyhough's Cassandra's Dream Song etc.
Comments (17)
Blogger Joshua R B Michael said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Sunday, March 25, 2007 8:57:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Actually, I'm often quite taken aback when I have a 17 yr. old auditioner who wants to enter a Music Performance program but only performs at a grade 4 level. I've quite frequently heard Andante in C played at these lower levels especially by students from small towns who didn't realize that they needed to take private lessons if they are serious about going into music in University. It's almost impossible for them to practice enough or learn quickly enough to improve from grade 4 to approx. grade 9 during the first year of Music in College.
That's why I recommend at least three years of private lessons, and a minimum of grade 9 for first year University students who wish to go into music.
I think that anyone who plays in highschool band, (no matter how high in the band they're placed)that if they wish to take music in University, should seriously travel to private lessons starting at age 13 or so.
If they discovered too late that they wanted to go into music, they should take 1-2 years off between highschool and college and study privately, devoting 4-6 hours a day to practice, harmony/theory, piano and twice weekly private flute lessons before applying to University Music Programs. Trying to do the catch-up work while IN first year University is extremely difficult, and probably can't be accomplished.
Just my thoughts on preparedness.
Best, Jen

Monday, March 26, 2007 10:15:00 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for the demonstration, Jen. I really didn't have an understanding of the RCM levels and how they compared to the US system. Then again, in the US the rating system seems to focus on the difficulty of the music, rather than the ability of a student to perform it.


Monday, March 26, 2007 1:29:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks for your comment, Cindy.
I have noticed that wherever there is no grading system or music exams that there can arise the sticky problem of younger students playing music that's too hard for them.
One of the things that happens when inexperienced intermediate flute students teach slightly younger novice students is that they might just give the youngster pieces that they have just recently played themselves (!)
The intermediate student "teacher" doesn't recall exactly what steps they took in order to play that particular piece well, and just love it so much they want to share it.
Instead they should be consulting their own private teacher and getting advice on "how to teach".
(I know you know this, but I need to say it. :>)
Hopefully, when flute students can avail themselves of various graded repertoire lists they can pick pieces that progress in a skill-based sequence, so they don't overwhelm themselves.
Interesting thought: the frustration with these kinds of problems undoubtedly led to the creation of grades, exams and syllabussssesssss. :>)

Monday, March 26, 2007 2:03:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it very interesting that the US has not established a concrete system. Wouldn't that be to their own benefit?

Thank you for demonstrating the differences. It's very interesting to see the vast differences between what a Grade 2 student can do with a Grade 8 piece, and what a Grade 8 student can do with a Grade 8 piece. This is a very important tidbit of information I must remember! Also, thank you for the laugh. What a contrast between your 'Grade 2' playing and 'Diploma' playing!!!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:29:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Sheila,
I did find on the internet a list of U.S. flute solos for "solo & ensemble" competitions, that rated the solos from 1 to 7. As I had suggested to you, the piece called "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" (grade 8 RCM) was rated "4" in the U.S. system, whereas a much more difficult piece to my mind; "Morceau de Concours" by Faure, was rated as a grade "3".
I guess that happens in alot of graded lists; we all find different pieces difficult for different reasons.
But you may find this particular list interesting:
Florida Bandmasters Assoc:

For other U.S. lists I would click on some of these other state's associations, and see what they grade certain pieces as:

However, yes, as you say, there seems to be no unified system in the U.S. for grading music and rating musical proficiency.

Interesting points.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 11:35:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Jen
I have just started to play band at my school. I've only been playing for about a day and i know eight notes. B, A, G, C, D, F, bE, and bB. would that at all help me know what level i am?

Sunday, September 07, 2008 4:22:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Ericka,
Your flute teacher will let you know when you're more than "a beginner".
There's also a chart here: if you'd like to see where you're eventually going to be.

Sunday, September 07, 2008 6:53:00 PM

Blogger bellaswanharrypotter said...

What about jazz fflute exams?

Monday, November 24, 2008 11:42:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

The jazz exams they have in England (U.K.) might be of use to you in learning more.
Check out the syllabus of flute pieces/scales/jazz studies at ABRSM.
I'll go find the link and put it up for you. Jen

Monday, November 24, 2008 1:30:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

ABRSM Flute Jazz syllabus (graded pieces and technique):

All graded ABRSM flute syllabus:

Monday, November 24, 2008 1:33:00 PM

Blogger Sylvia said...

I have become very interested in the Suzuki Method. Any idea how it fits in with all of this?

I have e-mailed several Suzuki flute teachers about the progression of the Suzuki flute books, but not gotten a good answer.

For example Serenade by Drigo, I think should be in book 5 or 6, not 3.... (It reminds me of your grade sample-- Mozarts Andante in C) and some pieces in book 5 are easier than a few of the ones in book 3. (I just have books 3-5).

Anyway, curious if you have any ideas on this.

Love all your amazing flute information you have online BTW! It's been fun to read through!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 10:24:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Sylvia,
I agree with you there. :>)
The Suzuki flute books seem to advance very rapidly into difficult material, and I've never used them because of that.
Have also asked (and would still like to hear from) Suzuki flute teachers, who often reply that they use many supplementary sheetmusic resources.
Best, Jen

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 10:28:00 PM

Blogger Malcolm said...

Thanks for the Mozart Andante in C mp3. A humbling eye/ear opener:the piece beautifully played by James Galway at the end.

My flute teacher has just given me this piece to learn. I have completed two ABRSM grade 8's in the past (brass instruments) and I have some ability to interpret the music. However, I am new to the flute (7 months). I can just about hack my way through the piece :)

I will seek to have more intelligent discussions with my flute teacher in future.

I really agree with your comments about the need for 1-2-1 lessons. I initially learned a brass instrument simply by attending school and town band practices. I picked up all sorts of bad habits and made fairly slow progress to get to an intermediate level with no real prospects beyond this. Attending 1-2-1 lessons I achieved an advanced level (ABRSM Grade 8).

Saturday, August 24, 2013 10:31:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Malcolm,
I know exactly what you mean.
When you "hack your way through" what you later realize is a lovely piece of music, you ingrain the hacked version into your memory, and you actually teach yourself to play "hacky" whenever you try and play that piece again. It's aural re-call mixed with incrementally improving skills. It burns itself into your brain, so even when you want to play the piece well, your body reverts to some "hacking" you did at the three month mark.
That's why we realize suddenly that great music that demands simplicity of sound and effortless mastery of technique should not be "pounded in" to the memory.
It slighly ruins the piece for re-learning it "un-pounded". ha.
When you do re-learn the Andante in C, you find yourself re-living all the physical sensations of poor skills.
Best, Jen

Saturday, August 24, 2013 11:06:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dear MS Cluff,
Although old, disabled and retired I am still a student of the world. As a great lover of music and art, I have always thought this could span any ocean or landmass as to bring people together. I know Zero about flautist and their craft, but found need after reading an article to find out what a Grade 8 flautist was. From a layman's point I immediately found the absurd and humorous difficulty our countries have placed on your art in the grading system. And in doing so came across your interesting and educational blog along with your very, very funny playing interpretation, which helped explain it to me very well. I never respond online and this may not make print due to my inability to post, however I wished to try and thank you from some one in the U.S. Yours truly Dewayne as robbroy1410

Friday, March 10, 2017 8:22:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Hello Dewayne, and thanks for your comment.
I think any human sport or art eventually has a "grading system" for competitions and exams. It makes sense on the one hand; the person who wishes to move systematically from one skill to another can see the path laid out before them. But when it is viewed from the outside (for example, if I were to view how Chemists or Physicists, Plumbers or Drivers were trained, level by level) it seems bizarre; why go to so much trouble to list and examine all the skills, and order them into a progression that's standardized?
Then, if you actually take the training, you look backward and say "Oh! It's so that I learn A before I learn B, because learning B without A is almost impossible."

So each art, science, or skill set eventually becomes systematized for the use of institutions, so that the bulk of students can progress in a timely and sensible manner.

But to the free-experiencer type of person, of course, this feels like a "school system" that doesn't leave room for free expression; yet, over time, you find that you can be "free" outside the constraints, and then, finally, at the end of your learning, you realize you can be "free" INSIDE the constraints.

I learned a lot just from writing this.
And I HATE disciplinary systems.

So thanks for the stimulating discussion.
Best, Jen

Friday, March 10, 2017 8:41:00 AM


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