End of School Year/April Tests – Playing and Theory

Recently, in Music class, we did two summative assessments which totalled to 30% of our final grade: a playing test and a theory test.

On May 10, I did the Scales Playing Test. We were required to play 5 minor scales of choice from memory, with an even balance of 2 or 3 harmonic and melodic scales, and 1 chromatic scale starting on any note. For the 5 minor scales, I chose to do 3 harmonic and 2 melodic, as I have always preferred harmonic minors, even on the piano. I decided to play G Harmonic, F Harmonic, B Harmonic, D Melodic, and C Melodic. These were minor scales that I was relatively familiar with, and could do well in with some practice. As for the chromatic scale, I decided to start on Bb, as it is a note that I often play to warm up and tune, and it was not one of the notes that I started on for the any of the other scales. Although I was nervous when I was playing, I believe that I did pretty well and did not make any major mistakes. After receiving the marks and comments, it can be seen that I got all 8’s for the scales, with the comment “Awesome!”. This shows that I was able to take what I learned from my flute examination and apply it at school to achieve a good grade.

On May 12, I did the Solo Playing Test, in which we had to play a Jazz solo for Stella by Starlight written by Mr. Taitoko and modified slightly by Mr. O’Toole. As someone who typically plays classical music, it was a bit of a challenge for me, as I had to learn to get used to the swing rhythm and the syncopation within the solo, as well as play with an accompaniment. However, most of the practice for this was done at school with the class, and I did not get the chance to practice at home the day before the test. Even so, I made sure to be cautious with my tone, breathing, tempo and rhythm, and to stay in time with the accompaniment. Since I had time to practice and go over the solo a few times before it was my turn, I was able to warm up and get ready to play. As I pretty much memorised the whole solo, the most important part was the execution and style of the solo. Though I messed up a bit while playing a high Bb, the mistake was minor and did not really affect my performance. I was able to obtain “Excellent” for almost all of the aspects, including note and rhythm accuracy, dynamics, tempo, swing feel, tone quality, intonation, connection and air, with minimal errors. However, two aspects that I could have improved was articulation precision and melodic shape. This was something that I noticed while playing, as I realised that it sounded rather static and plain, and could have more variation and phrasing to make it sound more interesting, with the use of crescendos and diminuendos. The comment that I received from Mr. O’Toole was “Beautiful tone and well played. Maybe think about some “dahts” in your playing. Very classy!”. I agree with what he said regarding the stronger articulation and tonguing, as I acknowledge that it was something that I did not carry out to its full potential.

In general, my playing tests were rather successful, due to the fact that I was able to achieve a level 8 for both tests.

On May 16, I did the Theory Test. Topics included key signatures, scales, intervals, triads, transposing, 7th chords, figured bass, and composition. Although a Theory Test was done in December as well, on the same topics with the exception of composition, I still had to brush up and review on all of the aspects beforehand to make sure that I had a full comprehension of the knowledge required. While doing the test, I found that it was rather easy, as they were all topics that I knew about and was prepared for. However, there were definite careless mistakes that were made, as well as questions that I was not sure about, such as scale degrees (e.g. submediant, leading tone). Playing the piano, doing the ABRSM Grade 5 Theory Examination, and being exposed to music for many years definitely helped, as they served as the basis of my musical knowledge. After getting my Theory Test back, I was able to identify questions which I did not answer correctly. A scanned version of the marked Theory Test can be found here. I was able to achieve a level of 8 out of 8, with 95/100, an increase of one mark from last time. I made 5 mistakes in total, three of them being careless and two of them due to a misunderstanding. The two misunderstandings were made for the questions that asked to circle a scale degree in the scale we wrote. Having not studied for this, I had to guess what the submediant was (I guessed the 4th note instead of the 6th), and I did not know which was the leading tone when the scale was both ascending and descending (I circled both 7th notes when the answer was the one when ascending). This was something that I could have better prepared for when studying. The third and fourth mistakes were made in Figured Bass, when I saw 6 4 and thought that there was an assumed 3. Although I had studied Figured Bass, it was obviously something that I could have paid more attention to. Finally, the last careless mistake was made in the 7th chord questions, in which I did not sharp the D in an E Major 7th chord. Since I was counting up with major/minor thirds, it was probably something that I miscounted while doing the test, and I should have checked over it more precisely.

Overall, for both tests, I was able to achieve a desirable grade of 8, both individually and for Criteria B. Even so, they have helped me to realise my strengths and weaknesses in music.

Throughout the year, learning about various aspects of music, and getting the opportunity to play the flute has helped me to develop as a musician. Over the course of the year, I have been able to refine and improve my theory skills, develop my playing skills on the flute, and learn more about the different aspects of Jazz. In terms of theory, the two theory tests definitely helped me to redevelop the pre-existing skills from a few years ago, as well as helped me to learn new aspects and tricks, specifically regarding figured bass, triads and 7th chords. The theory presentations that we did also provided me with a better insight into the many components of music, as the presentations were done well and gave good explanations to allow for clear understanding. Composing a ternary melody was also something that I found interesting and was one of my favourite parts of the course, as I enjoy composing music, and I like the way the piece sounds when everything is combined together with a melody and accompaniment. Through composing, I was able to further develop my abilities to write and listen to a piece from scratch. As for playing, I believe that I definitely improved a lot this year. Being in a band is a requirement for Grade 9 Music students, so I decided to audition for Symphonic Winds. Ever since I got in, my skills were certainly able to improve greatly over approximately 8 months. Since Symphonic Winds plays rather complex music compared to what I am used to, I was able to push and challenge myself. Even as Flute 2, the demands of the 6 pieces that we played including runs, trills, quick fingering, and tone allowed me to grow as a flute-player. This is definitely something that I am passionate about and want to continue to be a part of for the next 3 years that I am at CDNIS. Playing in class also helped me to discover my strengths and weaknesses in playing, as we were graded and given comments based on what we played. In Jazz, I was able to learn more about it in 3 different ways – playing, composing and presentations. Playing a Jazz solo helped me to understand what one would typically look like, as well as how to successfully execute swing rhythms and syncopation with an accompaniment. Composing a Jazz solo for the flute with the same song (Stella by Starlight) was also beneficial, as I was able to learn how to write in a Jazz style, something that I’ve never done before, and learn about the different components that make up a successful Jazz solo. The ePubs on the different eras and genres of Jazz allowed me to develop a better understanding of how Jazz has developed over the years, with cultural and historical influences, and famous Jazz artists and songs.

Furthermore, I was also able to personally develop some of my IB Learner Profile attributes. As an Inquirer, I was able to nurture my curiosity in the various aspects of musical theory and jazz, by doing research and studying things that I did not know or understand, developing my skills and being enthusiastic about whatever I was learning. As a Knowledgeable musician, I was able to broaden my knowledge on many different components of music, as mentioned above. This information and knowledge was able to be applied to various tasks and assessments, to demonstrate my understanding. Being a Communicator was also something that I was able to do this year in Music, as I was able to express myself through composing and playing, as well as collaborating effectively with my peers by receiving and giving feedback, as well as correcting and improving accordingly. I believe that I was a Risk-Taker as well, especially when it came to playing in Symphonic Winds and choosing topics for the Theory and Jazz presentations, challenging myself and working independently and cooperatively with others to explore new ideas and achieve good end results. As a Balanced musician, I was equally successful in all tasks for all four criteria, meaning that I was proficient in the different aspects that we were taught, demonstrating the balance of knowledge and abilities that I have within Music. Finally, I was definitely able to be Reflective, as I constantly wrote reflections on my iFolio to evaluate my work and performance, understanding my strengths and weaknesses in order to support my learning and personal development, particularly with what I can improve in the future.

Overall, taking Music as an Art subject this year has definitely been beneficial for me, as shown above through the many areas that I have reflected on. Developing my skills and learning more knowledge was a big part of what I did, and it allowed me to realise my personal strengths and weaknesses and improve as an all-round musician. Music is something that I want to continue next year and possibly will be a course that I will choose to take in DP.

December Music Tests – Theory and Playing

Recently in Music class, we did two summative assessments: a Theory Test and a Playing Test.

On December 11th, I did the Theory Test. Topics included key signatures, scales, intervals, triads, transposing, figured bass and 7th chords. Since I did the ABRSM Grade 5 Theory Examination a few years ago, I remembered most of the major concepts that I learned. However, I still had to brush up on aspects such as figured bass, 7th chords and transposing, and study before the test so that I could achieve a good grade. Overall, I think that I did pretty well, as I seemed to know all of the answers while I was writing the test. Though I could have made some errors and careless mistakes, I believe (and hope) that most of the answers were correct. The part that I found the easiest in the test was key signatures, scales and intervals. This is most likely because I play the piano, and have played all the Grade 8 scales, meaning that I know most of them by memory. This contributes to the test, as it made it easier for me to write out scales, even the enharmonic scales and the ones with many accidentals. On the other hand, I think that the hardest part of the test was transposing. Even though I learned it before, I was still very unsure about how to do it and the key that each instrument is in. I tried my best to remember the keys of the instruments that we learned, so I hopefully transposed the music accurately. In my opinion, I think that I obtained a level 7 out of 8 for the Theory Test.

A few days later, on December 15th, I did the Playing Test. We had to play 5 major scales of choice from memory, 1 chromatic scale starting on any note, and Number 118 from the book Standard of Excellence: “March from the Nutcracker”. For the 5 major scales, I have already learned the majority of them, as I took my Grade 5 Flute Exam in November. I decided to go chromatically from F to A (F, F#, G, Ab, A). I chose to do this so that when we do our next Playing Test, I can continue starting from Bb in an orderly manner. I got rather nervous when I was playing my scales, so on the second scale (F#), I played a note wrong and started again. I started on Eb for the chromatic scale, as it was one of the notes that I had to start on for my Flute Exam, and I had practiced it beforehand. No other errors were made for the scales, so I think that the mistake with F# major will only have a minor effect on my grade. As for “March from the Nutcracker”, I made sure to be cautious with my articulation, breathing, tempo and rhythm. I knew that the first part needed to be short and detached with the staccato notes, and the second part needed to be more connected and legato. I knew the fingering of the whole piece by heart, so everything depended on the way I executed my breath and tonguing. Reflecting back on how I played, I think that I achieved a level 7 or 8.

Now that I have received my grades for the Theory Test, I understand what areas I am strong in and what areas I need to work on. A scanned version of the marked Theory Test can be found here. Although I got 8 out of 8, the score out of 100 was not perfect (I got 94/100), meaning that there are still areas that I can improve on. I made 3 mistakes in total, two of them being careless and one due to a misunderstanding. The first two mistakes were for the scales. The error was not in the notes of the scale, but rather the clef they were written in. I mixed up the Alto and Tenor clefs, as they look exactly the same but are placed slightly differently. I believe I mixed the two clefs up due to the fact that in a choir, Alto represents the lower part for girls, and Tenor represents the higher part for boys. This cost me two marks for each clef. The other mistake was for Figured Bass, where I put a natural sign instead of a flat. This was due to the fact that the note where the flat was meant to be placed was already sharped/raised by the key signature, so I thought that a natural sign would be more appropriate to lower it down one semitone. This only cost me one mark, but since I did not get all the Figured Bass questions correct, I lost the bonus mark, taking away an extra mark. I aim to do better next time, and I will try to do this by studying for the things that I have previously learned as well, as I never know what will come up on the test or what I still remember from before.

After receiving my grades for the Playing Test, I believe that it’s safe to say that I did well too, as I achieved a grade of 8 out of 8. As expected, the F# major did take away one mark from the maximum overall scale mark of 48 (I got 47), but I was still able to obtain a level 8 for the scales. As for the piece, I got “Excellent” for all aspects, including note and rhythm accuracy, dynamics, tempo, articulation, tone, intonation, connection, air and melodic shape. This allowed me to get a good overall score. Even though I got 8, there are still things that I think I could have improved on. For the scales, I should continue practicing them at a reasonable pace, so that I get more accustomed to it and can play all the scales fluently next time. For the piece, I personally think that my dotted notes could have been slightly longer, and I could have been slightly more legato in the second part. This could have been done by practicing more prior to the test.

Overall, I’m proud of my results for both the Theory Test and the Playing Test. The tests have helped me to realise my strengths and weaknesses in music, and I will work towards these areas to achieve an even better result for next time.

iPlay Response

How has the content covered in class so far (theory and performance) helped your development as a musician?

I think that the content covered in class so far has definitely helped my development as a musician. In terms of theory, I had learned it before and passed the exam a few years ago, so it was good that I was able to refresh my memory. Theory is very important, especially since I am considered to be a musician and I play two instruments. It helps me to understand how music works, to write and perform music accurately, to be able to sight read well, and much more. One thing that I had never done before during theory was creating my own notation, complete with notes and rests. This was interesting for me since I never thought that it would be considered to be theory as well, as I thought that theory was just about key signatures, time signatures, note and rest values, intervals, cadences etc.; but not about creating a new notation. In terms of performance and playing, it was something to add on to the pieces that I play outside of school, and it was something that I looked forward to every class, since I enjoy playing pieces on the flute. Playing in class is one thing, but performing in front of an audience in the LLAC is another. Performing in the Winter Concert has helped my development greatly, since I don’t have many chances to perform on stage. I did it quite a lot last year, since I was in a band, but this year I did not join one, so there were less opportunities. Performing in a band is another thing that I enjoy, so the experiences of performing increased my enjoyment for music.

Discuss the ways in which you are furthering your development as a musician.

I am furthering my development as a musician by taking piano and flute classes weekly, an hour for each class. I often practice at home. I have also downloaded some pieces for flute off the internet so I play the pieces in my spare time. As for the piano, I try to play some pop songs, so that I can have more enjoyment for piano, since I don’t really like playing the piano (I absolutely hated it when I was younger; I think I played too much of exam pieces).

Discuss how other musicians have inspired you to be more successful (consider musician in your class and/or in the school and/or outside of school).

I think that many other musicians have inspired me to be more successful, the inspiration mostly being motivation for myself. Many people in my class are amazing musicians, so just by hearing them play in class, I get the motivation to strive to become as good as them. Same goes to when I heard the bands playing at the Winter Concert. Comparing myself with the people playing, I noticed a large gap. Because of that, I have practiced the flute more often now, hoping that I can reach their level and perhaps join a band next year. Looking at my piano and flute teachers, and watching orchestras play also gives me the feeling that I’m not trying hard enough to improve my skills and techniques, and that if I do try hard enough, I’ll be able to play as well as them. This is a big source of motivation for me.