If you have been taking singing lessons for a while, ‘good enough’ marks on a singing exam is likely within your reach.

However, understanding that we don’t easily settle for the bare minimum when better could be had, we like to think that you're aiming much higher than simply passing.

Let us show you how to earn distinction in your singing exam.

While you might very well have been blessed with a set of pipes to Dublin’s finest choir groups but unfortunately raw vocal power alone will not earn you top marks in your exam. If you are serious about getting a distinction in your singing exams you have to have every other exam component nailed down too.

Did you know that you could skip singing exam grades?

That means you have to know which aspects of singing this exam will test.

  • Sight-reading: you get less than a minute to demonstrate that you can read music
  • Improvisation: depending on your exam board, you may be required to improvise a selection
  • Aural ability: you are expected to describe various aspects of the piece(s) played
  • Articulation, dynamics and style are just some of the features you are expected to discuss
  • Exam repertoire: you might have to present the examiners a list of songs you plan to sing

It is important to bear in mind that you only have 30 seconds to demonstrate your music-reading ability to the examiner. Successful students make the grade by practising within that limit at home. All you have to do is set a timer for a half-minute and off you go!

Be sure to note the key and tempo of the piece and other notation characteristics and make sure that you don’t forget the pauses!

It is often the best option to record your practice sessions and compare your sample interpretations point for point against the sheet music. That way, you can track improvements in your sight-reading as your level progresses.

Let's make sure you are set up for success in your exams so that you can achieve a distinction!

Even testing at Grade 1, you should be able to sight-read
The difference between 'merit' and 'distinction' could be as simple as a bit of music theory like understanding notation Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay
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How to Achieve Distinction

In the Irish, singing exams are rigorous not out of any particular meanness on the part of the exam boards, nor are they meant to discourage anyone from becoming the best vocalist and musician they can be.

The exams are quite tough to pass, and this certainly adds to the achievement when you manage to pass them and move onto the next level with your singing.

The point of these exams is to refine the musical outcome without putting undue emphasis on the technical means of achieving it.

Exam boards apply universal criteria in their assessments rather than instrument-specific mandates. No matter what your instrument is, piano, flute, guitar or voice, you will be awarded marks based on what you bring to the concert hall, not whether your music-making implement is popular or in high demand.

That rather begs the question: where does talent fit in?

If you happen to be blessed with perfect pitch and a musical ear, consider yourself fortunate; you might not have to work as hard as some to achieve your aim of making music for a living.

But again: the purpose of these exam boards is to level the playing field. A musical savant should have no greater advantage of acceptance into a conservatory than other candidates.

Besides, even the most exuberant of talents must be harnessed, restrained, focused and trained.

Being a natural-born singer, you might be tempted to overlook some aspects of music-making such as sight-reading and, while you may intuit different musical characteristics, you wouldn’t know what name to put to them or how to classify them.

These exams strive to ensure that everyone training in music has the same foundation. How you move forward is up to you.

The only way to gain distinction in singing is to persevere in your vocal training. Seek guidance from your voice coaches and music teachers and heed their advice even if you don’t think it applies to you right now.

And outside of your lessons, practise, practise, and practise some more.

Through your hard work and with the road map laid out for you, distinction in singing is within your reach!

Up next: how many singing grades are there here in Ireland?

This singer knows how to read music and so should you
He may be just a bit of street theatre but hr obviously got a 'pass' on sight-reading! Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay

Go easy on yourself before your Singing Exams!

Singers can often get ahead of themselves when preparing for their exams, particularly when they set their sights on achieving a distinction. It is important that you don't burn yourself out when trying to maximise your performance.

Just as all of the top athletes manage their workload during the lead up to the competition in order to prevent injuries, there is a necessity for singers to take the same precaution when it comes to their voice

Remember that you will also have a number of songs to perform throughout your singing exam. Given the fact that you will likely have spent the past few weeks, if not months preparing tirelessly in order to pass your exam you need to make sure that you are well-rested!

Particularly those vocal cords, as they will be exhausted by the time the big day rolls around. As a singer you should be looking after your voice every day, not just in the run-up to exam day is as vital to your future.

Avoid straining your voice. The main component of a singing exam is to sing but, in the run-up to exam day, you may want to limit yourself to only 15 minutes of singing per day. Believe me, all of that practice can take a toll on your voice and you don’t want to put yourself at any disadvantage.

Singing lessons can also help to strengthen your vocal cords and help you to develop the right singing techniques so that you are not putting any excess strain on yourself.

Spending time practising these techniques will also provide you with an enhanced sense of awareness, so you’ll know how much you’re voice can handle.

Practising your musical skills is important. You should develop your sight-reading and aural skills; they are two other components of your upcoming ordeal.

And then, depending on which exam board and what grade you’re testing in, you might spend a bit of time working on your improvisational skills.

All of that is part and parcel of the musical testing syllabus but the pieces (songs) you choose for your exam ‘weigh’ the most, meaning that they attract the most marks in relation to the exam’s other components, like the aural portion.

The choice of what to sing is entirely up to you but you should talk with your music teacher, voice coach or singing tutor about which pieces the best showcase your singing ability.

Singing is not just about singing, you have to know a bit of theory
Results matter! You need to know a bit about music theory to earn a higher mark on your exams Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay

Get a distinction with the help of a Superprof tutor!

Getting a distinction in your music exams is by no means an easy task, and even the most talented singers often fall short of this achievement. You really need to put the hours in and sustain your preparation for months before you step into your exam.

Leaning under the guidance of a mentor is a great way of ensuring that you get over the finish line and achieve a distinction in those final exams. They will help you get into the mind of an examiner and get a sense of what they are looking for in their candidates.

Among all of the tips teachers give their students about taking an exam, this one may be the most valuable: know what the examiners want.

Using the website for your search will not only give you a great way of finding the right tutor but it will help you find the right price too! More and more students are moving over to Superprof because they allow you to browse and connect with qualified tutors from all over the island of Ireland and beyond.

Luckily, with Superprof there is an abundance of singing coaches to choose from so you don’t need to worry about not being able to find affordable options for your exam preparation needs.

Your next singing coach can be found on the platform and for an affordable price too. The teachers the occupy the platform are also well equipped to help you master your skills or skip a few grades. So why not get ahead on your journey with a singing coach today?

Another plus of choosing to prepare for your singing exams in Ireland is that most of the tutors who list their services across the country offer a variety of options. From almost any part of the island, students will have the option to learn from the comfort of their own home, the home of the tutor or in a remote setting via webcam.

It really doesn’t matter what your personal goals are with singing. whether you are preparing to sing at a wedding, trying to catch up with your college course or studying music for the leaving cert. Superprof singing tutors are ready to cater for all different levels and challenges that arise.

The right singing teacher for you might just be waiting around the corner. So why not be sure that you will achieve a distinction with a singing tutor today?

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