How To Prepare for an RCM Exam
It can be daunting to prepare for an RCM examination, particularly if you haven’t taken one before. A flurry of scary thoughts may plague one’s mind as the date of an exam approaches. As nerve-wracking as it may seem, however, there are several steps one can take to ensure they are fully prepared for a piano exam.
The most important element of preparation is time. Unlike a school assignment, music is not something you can cram at the last minute and expect a good result. Giving yourself more time allows you to have a better understanding of the music you are playing, as well as more confidence. In addition, skills such as ear training and sight reading are only possible to learn through constant and regular repetition.
RCM exams require a student to perform several pieces of different genres in one sitting. It can feel overwhelming to prepare multiple pieces at once, particularly in the higher levels where students are expected to learn up to seven full-length pieces. Setting goals can make the learning process a lot more manageable. For example, try to figure out those tricky two bars in one practice session. Play the long game and divide the pieces into smaller sections; set out to learn one section a week. In some cases, for lower-level students with shorter pieces, it may even be beneficial—and very manageable—to learn one bar a day. Incremental yet regular practicing yields results in the long term.
Once a piece has been learned and memorized, the next step is to practice performing it. Take any opportunity possible to perform the piece for a live audience, whether it be family members, friends, music colleagues, or even on a public piano. The size of the audience does not matter; what’s important is that you get accustomed to the feeling of performing in front of other people. The mind works differently in different scenarios. It’s likely that you will falter during your first live performance, but that is all a part of the learning process. The more you perform, the more you will grow accustomed to it. For higher level RCM students in Grade 10 and ARCT, I would highly encourage them to put on a recital where they perform all their repertoire for a sizeable audience.
Congratulations! You are now on your way to being fully prepared for your RCM examination. Of course, these tips and tricks shouldn’t be limited to recital preparation. Any situation that requires you to perform for a formal audience—auditions, recitals, festivals, competitions—will benefit from the outlined advice.
Written by Braden Eguia