I am convinced of the value of the jazz piano exams offered by London College of Music (“LCM”). I purchased handbooks 1 and 2 which covered most of what I need to know to prepare students for the exams from grade 1 to grade 8.
After much thought and consideration, I decided that it would be unsuitable for young children and definitely not for beginners. Even for grade 1, the requirements of:
- the set pieces, where you are required to pick at least one, is about grade 2 or 3 based on ABRSM or TCL level. However, the list of optional pieces is roughly on par with the equivalent grade in the ABRSM or TCL level although I think the grade 6 to 8 pieces are easier or shorter than their ABRSM or TCL equivalent. Also, the compulsory grade 1 jazz piano pieces require improvisation based on a range of notes. There’s another layer to teach here. Although I think LCM is right to do so – what is jazz without improvisation which should commence from the very beginning?
- For the creative response test at grade 1, two bars of material are provided and the candidate is required to improvise or respond creative with another two bars. It’s essentially a question and answer format. One of the two examples of the two creative response tests showed chords and inverted chords in the left hand, and chord tones with passing notes in the right hand. I imagine I can teach students to play chords I, V and IV in the left hand by rote. For the right hand, I can start by showing them how to create melodies using chord tones and then layer in passing notes. But I have to train them to play in beat as well while doing all that under exam conditions. And never mind the fact that they have to sight read the two bars of introductory material/question for them to respond to…
As of now, and my views can and will change, I think LCM’s jazz piano is better suited for a student who is of at least grade 3 ABRSM or TCL standard, or a motivated teenager/adult who’s into jazz or a talented young child.