Sometimes music is the only medicine the heart and soul need - Anonymous

Are you wondering how to go about your classical music exam prep? Struggling to understand the lesson plans or need help in learning new notes or choose the right piece for your vocal test? Then there is no need to worry. This article will give you an insight into how to succeed at singing exam through some useful and tested tips for singing exam preparations. 

As a student, you can strive for greatness or stick to mediocrity. That choice is yours. And the article will give you free advice on acing singing exams. But you need to learn to find value in what you do. You have to choose between being as good as you can be and being merely good enough. Understanding that humans don’t easily settle for the bare minimum when better could be had, we like to think that you're aiming much higher than simply passing.

Read on to find out how can you make the most of your classical music exam prep. 

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Aim for A Distinction

Singing is happiness
Sing from your heart and you will have no trouble with acing singing exams | Source: take5schoolofmusic.in

Many years into the teaching field, sometimes teachers often find themselves struggling to encourage a student to aspire for more than just passing marks. You will often find teachers telling you that you only need to pass. But remember that they do this to reduce your ordeal and stress. Unfortunately, this kindness often discounts the excellence factor that fail to add value to the student in the long-run.

If you are taking singing lessons to develop your voice and learn modulations for a career in public speaking, then you don't need to bother too much about how to prepare for singing exam. But if music is something you want to pursue as a career or higher education, you must aspire for a distinction in your singing test. This is sometimes the deciding factor in a successful music career or otherwise.

Attaining distinction is the key that unlocks the door to a world of opportunity. Most professional singers are a product of good grades and distinction in music school.

What Does Distinction Mean?

Acing singing exams in any grade depends on five important aspects of singing:

  1. Pitch
  2. Tone
  3. Time
  4. Performance
  5. Shape

Every music examination board- ABRSM or otherwise, has their own evaluation and scoring criteria. You will be allotted a certain mark in each of these aspects that will determine whether you,

  • Do not pass
  • Just pass
  • Make it to the merit list
  • Pass with distinction

Of course, as a passionate singer, you should aim to feature somewhere in between the bottom two outcomes.

How to Prepare for Singing Exam?

Singing
Practice your pieces in a way that you can hear yourself loud and clear | Source: instrumentalglobal.com

An invaluable tip that any teacher can give you for your singing exam preparations is to help you learn and gauge what examiners want during the theory and practical exams. And at each step of the exam process, there will be different types of expectations based on the five aspects of singing mentioned above.

So, how do you succeed at singing exam and meet these expectations?

Performance Measurement Standards

It is true that the music industry throws at you very tough competition, but more than that you will have to perform at par with the set performance standards of the concerned examination body during your classical music exam prep. This has two implications:

  1. You are your toughest competitor and it doesn't matter how the student before or after you performs.
  2. Your performance may fluctuate along the spectrum of pre-set criteria and you may still achieve a distinction. 

So, you need to adopt tactics that fetch you the highest marks:

  • Get enough practice with your basic musical skills.
  • Work on developing your sight-reading and aural skills.
  • Devise improvisation tactics.
  • Choose your pieces correctly for the exam from your repertoire; remember they carry the maximum weight and attract the most marks.
  • Seek the coaching of a music teacher or voice coach to help you choose the right piece that showcases your singing abilities.
  • Develop your fluency and accuracy.
  • Build a high degree of technical control and fidelity over the tone and with lyrics.

Choose those pieces that reflect not just your diverse talent, but also your personality. This means you should avoid relatively easy pieces like ballads and instead go for those that vary in dynamics, tempo, nuance, and articulation. Always keep in mind that musical character, phrasing and technical control are essential to garnering top marks. You should select your pieces accordingly.

Other Things to Consider for Classical Music Exam Prep

Singing
Singing in a choir can help with voice modulation and harmony | Source: colormagazine.com

Music is not to hear. It is to feel - Anonymous

You need to absorb the words and feel the song you sing. The exam syllabus is not the only thing you need to master as music students. If you want to build a career in music, you have to develop a passion for it. While your singing skills will ensure you get maximum marks, there are other components that you need to focus on in order to succeed at singing exam. 

Depending on the examination board, you can take supplementary exams that can significantly increase your scores and take your overall grade many notches higher. For example, there are institutes in India that have a 60-:40 ratio between your performance and supplementary exams. This means that even if you do not perform up to the mark, you can make up for the lost score with the supplemental.

This also calls for doing a thorough research on the exam board you want to enroll with for your music exams. You definitely need to find out which boards offer these supplementary exams because not all of them do. There are boards that conduct viva-voce, sight-reading, and technical study in addition to your performance. In some places, you have to perform without musical arrangements or perform a traditional folk song to demonstrate versatility. 

Still some other boards like ABRSM have the provision of optional papers or grades. This allows you to build prowess in one aspect like pitch or tone, if you are not confident about another like sight-reading. And so on and so forth.

Acing Singing Exams

Learning the violin
Impress your examiners by mastering how to play a musical instrument | Source: lewiscentermusicacademy.com

Singing exams in India are not mandatory to kickstart your music career. But they sure can be rigorous. There is hardly any vocalist or musician who has not gone through the grind of acing singing exams. These exams have the primary objective of refining the musical outcome without much emphasis on the technicalities of it.

Almost all music exam board apply universal criteria to assess a student rather than putting instrument-specific mandates. This means that your skill of playing a guitar or a piano is important but not everything to determine musical prowess. 

So, where does talent come into the picture?

Talent is the basic core of any passion. If you have a musical ear and a perfect pitch, you should consider yourself to be blessed. Because you are luckier than most people who spend entire lives trying to perfect those and earn a living through a musical career. What music exams do is level the playing field. And of course, if you have a talent, you need to nurture it. It will do you no good, if you just let it go to waste without any practice and striving for perfection.

Being a natural-born singer, you might be tempted to overlook some aspects of music-making such as sight-reading and, while you may intuit different musical characteristics, you wouldn’t know what name to put to them or how to classify them. And that is where exams come into play. They ensure the same foundation to everyone who wishes to train in music or have a career in it. What you do after that is entirely your choice.

Add to the talent and exam, the important component of perseverance and preserving your vocal talent- two very critical elements to gain distinction in singing. Seek guidance from coaches and teaches to learn even when you feel you have nothing more to gain. It is at those moments you will learn something new that will take you an inch closer to perfection. And keep practising. Singing is such an asset that will only get better and gain value through practice.

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Pragnajyoti

Doctor, dog lover, traveler..