Aural tests are very easy to neglect. They are a small portion of the exam marks, and only take a few minutes at the end of the exam. They can seem unimportant. Nothing is farther from the truth!
The marks for aural tests can make a big difference to the outcome of an exam, especially when a candidate is borderline. Don’t leave them until the last minute!
Unlike for sight-singing, there are several good resources on the market. I’ve used all of these:
- Specimen Aural Tests (1-3/4-5/6-8, book/book & cd)
- Aural Training in Practice (1-3/4-5/6-8, book & cd)
- Improve Your Aural (New editions seem to be one per grade)
The first two books are essentially collections of tests which can be used in lessons. They both now come with a CD which means candidates can buy Aural Training in Practice for use at home. Improve Your Aural is more of a workbook which covers preparation exercises to help students unpack the requirements and transition from the skills in one grade to the next.
Aural training for the next grade should, ideally be started after the last one, so that students are confident with the requirements long before the exam rolls around. This aspect of general musicianship can also be supported using the materials for practical musicianship exams which have activities which are similar to the aural tests, but more wide-ranging. I have also found that Hal Leonard’ s Basic Skills Rhythm Without the Blues and Ear Without Fear work really well as supporting materials for aural perception, particularly for students who already read music (and so Go for Bronze and Jolly Music aren’t appropriate).
From around Grade 5, it’s also important to supplement the aural test practice with wider listening to help students get more confident with identifying styles and suggesting composers. From around aged 9 or 10, I start doing listening activities with students, and help them create a History of Music binder which supports this aspect of aural training. Follow this blog for more on the History of Music project, which I will be posting about over the next few months.
With all this in place, candidates should be approaching the day of the exam with confidence. Next week’s post is on tips for putting all this together and succeeding on the day itself.
–> Next post: “Putting it All Together”
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