2008 vs 2015 - New Technical Requirements Simplified Darlene Irwin     October 25, 2015

In Canada, music teachers are very fortunate to have several exam systems to choose from. Two of these systems include Conservatory Canada and The Royal Conservatory of Music. They both offer many excellent resources for assisting teachers and they both have an accredited examination system which includes all levels of study in many disciplines.

Every seven to ten years, The Royal Conservatory of Music revises their syllabus and teaching materials. The previous revision for the Piano Discipline was in 2008. The changes to the Piano Discipline for 2015 are extensive, exciting and sometimes overwhelming! These changes involve all aspects of the curriculum, including repertoire, technique, ear training and sight reading. 

I found an excellent article this week published by Dr. Chris Foley on his very informative website The Collaborative Piano Blog. It's entitled 10 Things You Need to Know About the 2015 Royal Conservatory Celebration Series and Piano Syllabus. He lists the main changes to the RCM examination system with many great links for additional information. There are many teachers, including myself, who use this system for their students. It's important that teachers be aware of all of these changes as our students prepare for exams in the upcoming months and years.

For this blog post, I would like to focus on the new 2015 Royal Conservatory of Music Technical Requirements, comparing the new material to the previous requirements of 2008. Here are some of the main differences between the 2008 and the 2015 Technical Requirements, as listed in the new Royal Conservatory of Music Syllabus:

  • Across the board, the 2015 technical requirements are more streamlined and easier to understand. Generally, there are less requirements per grade. However, teachers need to study the syllabus very carefully because there are quite a few additions as well.
  • Previously, one of the hardest thing for students on exams was the confusion of having to do scales hands separately or hands together, one octave, two octaves or three octaves, legato or staccato. Scales, triads or chords were sometimes hands separately two octaves AND hands together one octave. This has now been simplified. For the most part, staccato scales have been removed altogether.
  • Minor Dominant 7ths have also been removed. They are the same as the major Dominant 7th so it tended to be confusing for students. 

    Here is a grade by grade comparison (Level A - Grade 10). I have listed some of the main changes in each grade:

    • Level A - new C+ Triad Sequence, ascending only, solid and broken.
    • Level B - slight changes to Penta-Scales. Students are now required to do all inversions ascending and descending for broken triads.
    • Grade 1 - minimal changes. Requirements reduced from 26 to 23. Chromatic scale is now 1 octave instead of  tonic to dominant only.
    • Grade 2 - huge changes. Requirements reduced from 41 to 24, six key signatures instead of eight, no natural minor scales, no contrary motion. However, there is one more formula pattern.
    • Grade 3 - huge changes. Requirements reduced from 53 to 23, 2 fewer key signatures, no hands separate AND hands together scales. All scales are hands together, 2 octaves except the chromatic scale. All triads are hands separately only, 2 octaves.
    • Grade 4 - requirements reduced from 54 to 33. Seven key signatures instead of 8, no f#- scale, no cadences required for triads. All triads are now hands together, 2 octaves.
    • Grade 5 - requirements reduced from 59 to 43, no f#- or c#- scale, formulas have been changed from E Flat+/c- to A+/a-,  no diminished 7ths.
    • Grade 6 - two fewer key signatures, 2 formula patterns instead of 3, no hands separate 4-note chords, arpeggios root position only.
    • Grade 7 - four fewer key signatures, no b flat-, 2 formula patterns instead of 4, no hands separate 6ths or broken octaves. Cadences are longer.
    • Grade 8 - four fewer key signatures, no 3-octave staccato scales, formula patterns changed from A+, B+, B flat+, b- to E flat+/e flat-, no octave scales. Cadences are longer.
    •  Grade 9 - six key signatures instead of twelve, no b flat-, g#- or f#- scales, c#- and f- formula patterns instead of b flat- and g#-, no chromatic octaves. More complicated cadences.
    • Grade 10 - Huge changes. Requirements reduced from 294 to 108. Six key signatures instead of twelve, no formula patterns, no special exercises, Alternate pattern chords only (no regular broken chords). Cadences are more complicated. 

    I have found in my own teaching that it's so much easier for students to have this material written down on one organized chart. The 2015 scale charts are now available on our website in hard copy or in digital format. Student Technique Organizers are a great resource for both teachers and students.

    Here are some of the reasons that my students love using The Student Technique Organizers:

    • Scale Charts save time. They are super organized, simple and easy-to-use one-page colour-coded guides for each grade.
    • Charts are also weekly practice guides. All the material for each level is divided into six days.
    • Students or teachers can write specific information in the boxes i.e. key signature, raised notes, fingering reminders etc.

    Technique is a very important part of any piano exam. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post entitled "Terrific Technique Takes Time". In this article, I talked about the Seven Timely Tips for Terrific Technique. These tips have helped me as I have prepared my students for their practical exams and I hope that they will help you as well. Practicing technique every day is like going to the gym for your fingers.

    Successful technique requires great Preparation, Perseverance, Patience and Practice.

    Have your students take time to prepare their scales, chords and arpeggios well and they will be rewarded with greater technical facility and an increased confidence to do the best that they can on their practical exams.

    ♥︎ Remember - Great Music Comes From the Heart ♥︎

     Photo credits: Playing Piano, 12-2009Time, 01-2008