About Self-grading

ACMS members grade themselves into five levels of competence from Grade 1 (highest) to Grade 5 (lowest).

You can work out your grade by using the Interactive Self-grader.

Before You Start

Remember that self-grading is not a hard and fast science. Everyone's interpretation of the questionnaire will be personal to some extent. You may like to consider the following explanations, which might help to clarify things for you.

How Much Practice is Meant by 'Daily Practice'?

'Daily' means most days. That is, in a typical month where you are not travelling overseas, camping, or otherwise unusually unable to practise, you would practise at least an average of four days a week, each practice session being 30 minutes or more in duration.

The practice subject should be technical items such as bowing, scales and studies as well as technically challenging parts of chamber music. Just playing through a work for pleasure doesn't count!

N.B. Playing in a regular group should not be counted. This is addressed in the next question.

What does 'Often' Mean (as in Playing in Groups)?

A full morning, afternoon or evening session with a chamber group can be defined as 'one'. So, if a full day plus evening session is organised once each week with your group, it can be counted as three groups. Christmas and/or annual holidays, when it can be difficult to get together, can be ignored in the calculation. If a regular group comprises only two members, the gatherings should be halved.

What is Meant by 'Lost'?

This assumes that you are playing in a group of three to five players, all of whom are as experienced as - or slightly more than - yourself. You are sight-reading a work you have not played or heard (or only once at least several months ago). The work is one that, within a week or two of normal practice, you would feel 'comfortable' with.

'Lost' means missing notes or playing in the wrong place for at least two bars in the tempo of Allegretto or faster, or one bar when slower than Allegretto. Missing a few semi-quavers in a difficult run or leaving out some of the piano's left-hand notes does not constitute being 'lost'.

N.B. If you find your way back within the bar or two mentioned above then you haven't been 'lost'. However, if you recovered quickly (as above) and haven't counted it as 'lost', you can't then count this as 'finding your way back' as is explained in the next question.

Finding Your Way Back

You have found your way back if, without stopping, you rejoin the group within a phrase or by the next general pause or conspicuous fortissimo, whichever is the shorter period. So if the group stops, or continues to play without you beyond a phrase, you haven't found your way back.

What Does 'Comfortable' Mean?

Comfort is defined in the context of a well-matched group playing through a work for their own pleasure (not in a public performance and not necessarily with a public performance in mind).

You may have played the work many times before or are able to sight-read it comfortably, but the question assumes that there is no forewarning, so you have no opportunity to practise it beforehand. It means that you can play the work in whole without getting lost and that wrong notes and timing errors are sufficiently few that stopping would be a matter of choice rather than of necessity. The tempi need not be professional speed but at least, say 70%, so as to have the right 'feel' to the music.

Most (at least 70%) of the dynamics and phrasing marks should be observed. For strings, bowing directions need not be observed provided that style and expression marks are largely (also 70%) correct.

Now on with your self-grading!