A diploma candidate's guide to exam success: Trumpet DipABRSM.
Quick Studies can be the bête noir of DipABRSM examination candidates. This need not be the case, but confidence in this area will not come overnight. Nor should the Quick Study be seen as merely a longer version of the sight-reading tests encountered in the graded exam syllabus. One key difference is that a Quick Study needs to sound reasonably robust – more like a 'learned' piece and less like a sketch or outline. Too many hesitations or passages bogged down by note-searching will cost you dearly, while uncertain tonality coupled with woolly rhythms will undoubtedly nosedive your attempt. Misjudged tempi, inobservance of critical expression markings, or significant shortcomings in musical or stylistic awareness are also more than likely to jeopardise success. If it doesn't resemble a performance to you, it won't to the examiners!
Bearing in mind that a typical Quick Study will approximate to Grade 6 in the musical and technical demands it makes of you, it should hardly be an undue cause for concern, irrespective of whether you are taking a diploma in performing or teaching. After all, by this point in your musical life you will have doubtless come across a sizeable number of pieces at this relatively modest level, and being able to get to grips with such a piece in a short time frame is surely a reasonable expectation for a prospective diploma candidate living in the 'real world'. Diplomas are, after all, the first rungs on the professional ladder for a Classical musician, emphatically not a grade 9, and as such they demand a significant gearing-up in mental attitude. You'll need to think more analytically, not just instinctively.
This new series of books targets the Quick Study head-on: all freshly composed pieces with the exam kept firmly in mind. It is not a solution in itself, nor a means of short-circuiting the skills you will need to develop, but a practice tool to steer you in the right direction. The initial pieces are prefaced by a guide page to help you sift out the nitty-gritty in the music. Come the big day, you should feel confident, alert and more able to respond to the challenge in a measured, systematic way. It's all about making the most of the five minutes you'll be given, focussing on what is indispensible in the musical text and, just as importantly, gauging which surface details you can afford to leave out; essentially, the skill is seeing the wood for the trees and keeping up the concentration.
If you consider yourself to be a fair sight-reader, then it's more than likely you'll have experienced a reasonably smooth course through the grades. However, sight-reading skills, though a significant boost to your chances of success in a Quick Study, are not what is being assessed: think studying, not sight-reading. If you can follow a simple and sensible regime for your precious five minutes preparation, you'll be more likely to get the gist of the thing and less likely to overlook something critical.