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Piano Exams and Systems

By Nicholas Trevatt - January 01, 2013

AMEB Piano Comprehensive

Classical syllabuses such as AMEB's pianoforte version is aimed at the earnest student who wants to develop a comprehensive range of skills by focussing on pieces in the classical repertoire.  The higher difficulty of pieces and technical requirements in this strand demand:

  • Strong technical skills
  • A refined touch with exact control and highly-tuned fine-motor coordination
  • A mature emotional and expressive connection with the music
  • A highly-developed ear
  • A strong set of mind skills that will help your child in all areas of academic and personal life. Here are just a few of the important skills a student will develop learning classical music:
    • Observation of complex and minute details visually and aurally
    • Memory
    • Problem-solving
    • Adaptation
    • Spatial-temporal reasoning
    • Following detailed instructions
    • Goal-setting, motivation, time-management and self-discipline

AMEB Piano for Leisure

The Piano for Leisure syllabus is a less strenuous and perhaps more encouraging strand for those students who enjoy playing but do not want the pressure of a high-level examination.  Designed for students with busy schedules, the Piano for Leisure exams have a lower set of requirements but maintain a high standard in performance.  It explores popular repertoire including well-loved standards from the classics, jazz styles and arrangements of movie themes and popular songs and caters to a wider variety of tastes and interests.

So, what are the main differences in terms of workload between the pianoforte and leisure syllabuses? The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the main differences. Requirements are based on a grade 6 level in both strands.

Compare Piano Comprehensive and Piano for Leisure (grade 6)

 Piano ComprehensivePiano for Leisure% Less Work for Leisure
Scales41 scales and arpeggios
Legato and Staccato
13 scales and arpeggios
Legato only
70% less
Pieces6 Pieces    3 Pieces 50% to 65% less
Ear Tests
Sight Reading
BothChoose One 50% less 

It's clear that there is significantly less preparation needed for the Piano for Leisure exam. We would suggest that between 50% to 70% less time would be required in practice. For time-poor students or students who just want to chug along at a leisurely pace the Piano for Leisure strand would be a good choice. Just remember that lower exam requirements demand less practice and depending on your particular needs this may or may not be the best choice.