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dcmbarton
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There was an article the ABRSM's 'Libretto' this morning about organ exams. It suggests that candidates should provide copies of the pieces for the examiner, and advise him/her where it is best to hear the instrument from. This seems very sensible advice, but how easy is it for a non-organ player to really make sound judgements about the playing in that situation? Do they aim to send a specialist to organ exams? As far as I am aware, none of the other instruments require you to provide copies of the music for the examiner, except for Grade 8.

 

David

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About 15 years ago I managed to pass Grade V Organ and always intended to go on to Grade VI, but the requirement to transpose at sight brought me to an abrupt halt because my poor cranium doesn't work that fast. I know our illustrious readership probably find this really easy but I don't! I wrote to the AB asking them why out of all instruments only the Organ had transposition as an exam element, and their reply predictably was that some churches or choirs might need it. But if I have no intention of playing in church why should this be thought of as essential to one's development? Many other instruments might need to transpose from time to time (ie, forgot to bring my A415 flute to the Baroque ensemble) but so far as I am aware they don't get examined in this way.

 

Any thoughts?

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Not strictly true as there is transposition in at least the trumpet too. There are other instrument specific tests as well. Singers have to sing unaccompanied, and bassoon and trombone have to sight read the tenor clef, to name but a few. As the marks for transposition are very few and you get some marks for attempting the test, you shouldn't let that alone stop you from entering.

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I wonder if anybody has ever got away with a transposition test by merely playing the exercise in the original key. If the examiner doesn't have perfect pitch, and isn't watching over you, there might be a chance of getting away with it!

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Hmm. I think we rehearsed all the arguments about keyboard skills in the RCO thread. I know the RCO exams are more exacting than the ABRSM grades, but the principles are the same and in my view (though others may disagree) there ought to be continuity between the two. They are, after all, the natural progression for the most able organists.

 

To put it another, more provocative way, organists have always been expected to have a greater range of musical skills than other musicians (except perhaps orchestral conductors). Why should anyone want to dumb the exams down?

 

I sympathise entirely about transposition. I for one don't find it "really easy". It can be learnt though. When I did my FRCO I do know that I managed to get the transposition test 100% correct - but that was only because I had put in lots and lots of practice and sheer, hard sloggery. I really worked at it for months and months. However I still absolutely hate transposition and, since I am not forced to do it, have let the skill slide. Some people do seem to be able to do it without batting an eyelid, but don't ask me what their secret is.

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I wonder if anybody has ever got away with a transposition test by merely playing the exercise in the original key. If the examiner doesn't have perfect pitch, and isn't watching over you, there might be a chance of getting away with it!

At the RCO exams I think the page turner would probably spill the beans. Interesting proposition at the ABRSM grades though!

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Far be it from me to suggest that any candidate capture their best performance of set pieces in midi, encourage the examiner sit as far away as possible, and then press PLAY.

For the performance part of one of my diplomas I tried to encourage the examiners to sit about half-way down the church where they would hear the organ at its best. Despite being two accomplished musicians (and one quite a well-known organist), they were having none of it! They insisted on sitting almost as close to the console as they could despite my warning them their heads were about six feet from a Solo Trumpet stop, and at much the same level, and that they wouldn't hear anything in balance as I had programmed the recital to be heard in the nave of the church. That didn't worry them in the least! I bet they wanted some paracetamol afterwards, though... :rolleyes:

 

But I did wonder at the time if they wanted to keep an eye on me in order try to ensure that I wasn't using some sort of self-play device!

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Just as an aside, we horn players always have a thorough workout in examinations at all levels, and in everyday life, with transposition. (Though often, playing from a part for horn in H becomes a matter of guessing 'what it can't possibly be' and playing that! Often turns out to be correct, amazingly.) It's virtually always necessary to transpose, often at sight, when playing in an orchestra - just look at Wagner's horn parts. Easier in a period instrument band, though, when just taking the right crooks will suffice.

 

At one time, horn parts intended for use by professional orchestras in America had the original, composer's version in the front, and the whole transposed in the back - because the American version of the Musicians Union had negotiated a higher rate for horn players called upon to transpose. Caused much amusement amongst European horn players.

 

I wonder if anyone has correlated any relationship between instrumentalists who regularly transpose their instrument's parts with the same people where they take organists' tests in transposition - I wonder if those used to single line transposition also find the kind of keyboard transposition demanded easier, too.

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OK, how about a bit of a hornet's nest and transposition?

 

People say that because I have perfect pitch, transposition must be easy. They back up their case as playing hymns in any number of keys I find quite easy. However, I find it rather hard BECAUSE I have perfect pitch. Because my brain knows what it sees should sound like, the fact that my brain is seeing one note and hearing another is quite hard to get over. I do the transposing of hymns purely by ear, the more times you've played them, the easier it is. I found the RCO transposition tests really hard (I'm not expecting any sympathy, by the way), and it was sheer slog and hard work and constantly doing it at every practice that got me through. I used to have the same problem listening to Baroque music at early pitch (eg, surely Handel didn't write this in C sharp major, for example)

 

How are others experiences, perfect pitch or not?

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Certainly the transposition question for hornplayers makes having a player with perfect pitch in the horn section problematical. Basically, using a modern double horn we realted all our transposition to Horn in F, even when we're playing on the Bflat side - so horn in A alto is a mental transposition of up a major third for most players, but different for someone with perfect pitch.

 

It's even more fun when querying something with a conductor who is NOT a hornplayer! This can make for hours of fun, sometimes using up a whole rehearsal.

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OK, how about a bit of a hornet's nest and transposition?

 

People say that because I have perfect pitch, transposition must be easy. They back up their case as playing hymns in any number of keys I find quite easy. However, I find it rather hard BECAUSE I have perfect pitch. Because my brain knows what it sees should sound like, the fact that my brain is seeing one note and hearing another is quite hard to get over. I do the transposing of hymns purely by ear, the more times you've played them, the easier it is. I found the RCO transposition tests really hard (I'm not expecting any sympathy, by the way), and it was sheer slog and hard work and constantly doing it at every practice that got me through. I used to have the same problem listening to Baroque music at early pitch (eg, surely Handel didn't write this in C sharp major, for example)

 

How are others experiences, perfect pitch or not?

 

Hi

 

I have near perfect pitch - and I don't have much toruble with the small amount of transposition that I need to do - but I do have to mentally "tghink" the notes in the new key.

 

as for keyboards with transposers - I never use them - not hearing the notes that I'm playing causes things to fall apart rather drastically!

 

Strangely, I don't seem to have any problems with baroque pitch.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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OK, how about a bit of a hornet's nest and transposition?

 

"People say that because I have perfect pitch, transposition must be easy."

 

Yes, I've also encountered this many times. I've yet to work out why people think that having perfect pitch makes transposition any easier. I don't think it does. OK, you can "hear" the printed notes, but as you say, this makes things harder because it clashes with what you actually hear.

 

"I used to have the same problem listening to Baroque music at early pitch............" This is still a problem. I'm just listening to Buxtehude's Praeludium in F# minor on a CD recorded at the Groot Kerke, Zwolle. I can't convince my brain that it's not G# minor.

 

Graham

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"I used to have the same problem listening to Baroque music at early pitch............" This is still a problem. I'm just listening to Buxtehude's Praeludium in F# minor on a CD recorded at the Groot Kerke, Zwolle. I can't convince my brain that it's not G# minor.

I'm a bit jealous of musicians with perfect pitch as it would mean I wouldn't have to listen quite so hard to long symphonic movements to follow the harmonic journey; for perfect-pitch-people it must be a case of "Ah, we're in G minor now" - that'd be cool.

 

OTOH I can't imagine that Bach and Mozart (who I believe to have had perfect pitch :huh: ) would have been debilitated to any extent. They both grew up in a world of many or no pitch standards so D, for example, had no definitive pitch, but would vary from church to hall to chapel to attic, and, relevantly here, from manual to manual.

 

Question: what's the difference to the hearer between the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in D at A440 and the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in Eb at A415?

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Question: what's the difference to the hearer between the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in D at A440 and the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in Eb at A415?

String players, in particular but not uniquely, will use an entirely different finguring strategy, and will have different possibilities for the use of open strings, when playing in E flat as opposed to D.

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Guest Barry Williams

[Question: what's the difference to the hearer between the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in D at A440 and the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in Eb at A415?

 

Oh dear! The E flat should not be heard at all! It is riddled with errors that the Master corrected in the D major version, written a couple of years later. Think of all those wrong notes and the way in which the trumpet shouts down the sopranos in Suscepit - all corrected in the D major setting.

 

Barry Williams

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Question: what's the difference to the hearer between the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in D at A440 and the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in Eb at A415?

Depends on the temperament - ranging from none in equal (if it really is equal) to a heck of a lot in pythagorean.

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[Question: what's the difference to the hearer between the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in D at A440 and the first movement of the Bach Magnificat in Eb at A415?

Oh dear! The E flat should not be heard at all! It is riddled with errors that the Master corrected in the D major version, written a couple of years later. Think of all those wrong notes and the way in which the trumpet shouts down the sopranos in Suscepit - all corrected in the D major setting.

 

Barry Williams

I think the Eb version is charming. A good trumpeter on the right instrument should balance perfectly in Suscepit. I prefer the recorders in Esurientes. And Trumpets with strings in a flat key is unusual. The Christmas interplations are good too, and can't really be done in the D major version.

 

Bach making errors, how did that happen?!? :huh:

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Conversation with an organist with perfect pitch whilst driving to the pub after locking up the church:

 

Organist: You know when you set the alarm?

 

Me: Err, yes ...

 

Organist: And when you've put the code in it beeps in A flat?

 

Me: OK, I'll take your word for it.

 

Organist: Well, what does is mean if it goes "da-da da-da da-da" in E flat and G flat?

 

Absolutely true - except possibly for the actual notes.

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Conversation with an organist with perfect pitch whilst driving to the pub after locking up the church:

 

Organist: You know when you set the alarm?

 

Me: Err, yes ...

 

Organist: And when you've put the code in it beeps in A flat?

 

Me: OK, I'll take your word for it.

 

Organist: Well, what does is mean if it goes "da-da da-da da-da" in E flat and G flat?

 

Absolutely true - except possibly for the actual notes.

 

Reminds me of a recent situation with the alarm in one of my churches when one of our old dears tried to set it. It went something like this (names and alarm code changed!):

 

The Scene:

 

Ethel and Doris are locking the church.

 

Ethel is setting the alarm at the vestry door.

 

Doris is half way down the churchyard path, with several members of the public walking past (the churchyard is a handy short-cut), and a layabout a few feet from the vestry door drinking cider.

 

Due to the deafness of both participants, and there being some distance between the two participants, the conversation was shouted.

 

Ethel: "Doris, the code is 1234 isn't it?"

 

Doris: "No, it's 1244."

 

Ethel: "What's that?"

 

Doris: "The code is 1244."

 

Ethel: "What? 2244?"

 

Doris: (yelling at the top of her voice) "NO ETHEL! THE CODE IS ONE TWO FOUR FOUR!"

 

Ethel: "Did you say 1244?"

 

Doris: "YES ETHEL. ONE TWO FOUR FOUR! ONE TWO FOUR FOUR!"

 

After that, I think half of the parish now knows the alarm code! :huh:

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I wonder if anybody has ever got away with a transposition test by merely playing the exercise in the original key. If the examiner doesn't have perfect pitch, and isn't watching over you, there might be a chance of getting away with it!

Reminds me of a story told by a friend who is an AB examiner who was doing some examinng in Hong Kong. She asked a particular cnadiate to play a variety of major and minor scales , to which the candidate responded by playing a G major scale time after time. Upon querying this with the candiate, their fluent English apparent at the start of the exam completely abandoned them in favour of Cantonse.

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Reminds me of a story told by a friend who is an AB examiner who was doing some examinng in Hong Kong. She asked a particular cnadiate to play a variety of major and minor scales , to which the candidate responded by playing a G major scale time after time. Upon querying this with the candiate, their fluent English apparent at the start of the exam completely abandoned them in favour of Cantonse.

 

 

Slightly similar, one story told to us some years ago by our Country Music Adviser for Shropshire:

One of his Trombone stars in the County Youth Orchestra claimed that he had only ever learned four different scales and they served for everything. Apparently his theories were

1. the examiner probably didn't have perfect pitch

2. if he did, he still wouldn't know which clef the candidate would be playing from (because he had a choice ie. 'as written' or 'as transposed on a score')

Apparently this system had stood him in good stead all the way through to a Distinction at Grade VIII.

 

I've known candidates who have deliberately played a wrong scale, choosing one they knew well in place of one they didn't, hoping that the examiner would think they were deaf! I can't be sure in every case that this tactic worked, but you can't blame them for trying!

 

Reminds me of the two best excuses if you are ever pulled over for dangerous driving or jumping a red light:

1. you were trying to brush away a bee ['Where is the bee?' Answer: You succeeded and got rid of it!]

2. You sneezed. [Closing of eyes and distraction while sneezing or trying to suppress a sneeze are quite involuntary.]

Not that I've ever tried either because to date I've only been pulled over by past pupils (now in blue uniforms) who have recognized my vehicle.

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