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Taking Grade 2: Here we go

7 months ago

Barbara Eifler

Chief Executive at Making Music

It’s March 2017 and Barbara Eifler, Executive Director at Making Music, is finally tackling one of her New Year’s resolutions: to get her ABRSM Grade 2 Singing. Follow her in a series of four blogs as she shares her experiences.


In 2015, I passed my Grade 1 Singing with Distinction – and fundraised over £200 for Making Music in the process. This year, I’m determined to do it all again. 

Why singing?

As a child I played the piano, and enjoyed it. But my regret was that while the piano made me self-sufficient (I didn’t need an orchestra!), it didn’t quite tick all the boxes in terms of making music. Surely that should involve playing or singing with other people?

Fast forward 30 years and although there's a piano in the house again, after taking part in a couple of local short choir projects, I decided I’d like to sing instead. 

Why do a grade?

With four children my time is rarely my own, so nothing much happened about singing until the Making Music Grade 1 Challenge came along in 2015. I thought I should lead from the front and take part, and once I was entered for the exam I had no choice but to get on with it!

That is one reason to go for a grade again in 2017. There are always many priorities jostling for my attention, but having an exam date will suddenly push singing practice to the top of my list of things to do.

Aiming for a grade also gives me something to work towards, and confidence. When I sang in those choir projects, I felt quite inadequate and my sight-singing was rubbish. Grade 1 has already made me believe that I can sing a bit, so I’m hoping Grade 2 will make me feel even better!

First things first – what songs?

Back in January 2017, I went straight to the ABRSM website, downloaded the Grade 2 lists and bought the ABRSM Grade 2 Songbook. I even started working my way through the three lists to work out which songs I liked and might be able to sing, playing through the Songbook and complementing that with searches on YouTube. 

And quite quickly I found a song I really liked in List A, but got stuck on List B – just not my kind of thing, except for the Welsh hymns, which I was having trouble tracking down. Then life and work got in the way, and the lists didn’t get looked at for a few months, especially as there was a more serious obstacle to overcome.

Can I do this by myself?

The answer is ‘probably yes’, but another reason for embarking on a grade is that it will improve my singing. For my Grade 1, I had two sessions with an experienced choral singer, a friend of a friend, just to point me in the right direction. There was no time for more.

That was helpful and I did get a Distinction, but I realised that for Grade 2 I'd need more assistance. I knew nothing about breathing and warming up. I wanted exercises and help phrasing things and understanding how to bring out the character of a song. And now I also needed advice on what repertoire to choose.

In short, I needed a teacher – but where to find one?

Check back later this week to discover how Barbara got on finding a teacher.

Interested in taking a Singing exam? Find out what’s involved.
Making Music is a UK charity that provides advice, support and resources for leisure-time musical and music groups.


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