If you’re preparing to take a music exam, your nerves may be starting to kick in. Most students, whether they’re adults or kids, have a niggling fear of failure as the date of these assessments draws closer. To help you avoid an all-out panic as your exam approaches, it’s worth bearing the following tips in mind.
Choose the right pieces
It’s really important that you choose pieces for your exam that you enjoy and feel confident playing. If you don’t already have one, you can get set exam music books and recommended repertoires for both exam boards from music specialists such as Caswell’s Strings. When you’re practising your selected pieces, get into the habit of playing right through to the end without stopping, even if you make mistakes. Also, as soon as you feel confident enough, start performing the pieces in front of your friends or family. This will help to build up your confidence ahead of the big day.
Practise your page turns too and try to memorise the first few bars of the next pages so that you don’t hesitate during your exam. Also, if you’re taking an exam in a string or wind instrument or you’re a singing candidate, try to rehearse with your accompanist. At the very least, make sure you’re familiar with the accompaniment, especially any introduction.
Practise your scales
As well as your chosen pieces, you’ll need to spend time working on your scale and arpeggios. You should do this daily until they become second nature. By the time you enter your exam, you should be able to do your scales almost without thinking about them. This will mean you have one less thing to worry about during your test.
Get stuck into sight-reading
Pay attention to your sight-reading too. By the date of your test, you should have built up plenty of sight-reading experience. When you’re playing pieces for the first time, get used to carrying on until the end keeping a basic pulse, rather than stopping to correct any mistakes.
Prepare for your aural test
Then there’s your aural test to consider. Your teacher will be able to recommend exercises during your lessons, but it also helps to listen to as much music as possible in the run up to your exam. Download mock aural tests too so that you know exactly what to expect and practise clapping the rhythm of music excerpts you’re unfamiliar with. Also, sing back parts of tunes that you have heard for the first time, keeping the intervals in mind.
When the day of your test arrives, you’re bound to feel a little nervous, but as long as you’ve followed tips like these and done plenty of practise, you should be able to shine even when the pressure’s on.
Thanks to Caswell’s Strings for contributing this post. For details of how I work with brands, see my Work With Me page. Image: Shutterstock