I started piano lessons when I was about 12 or 13 years of age. I did grades, up to Grade 4 – which I scraped through in December, 2000. Suffice it to say, I didn’t really practice that much!
I should take a moment to explain that if you don’t know much about the ABRSM grading system, if you are learning an instrument you can do various grades, which range from grade 1 (the easiest) through until grade 8 (the hardest).
Anyway. Three years ago, once I’d graduated, I took up the piano again (not literally, pianos are heavy things). I’ve been playing a fair bit since then, and I think I’ve made progress. I’m pretty sure I’m better than I was when I did Grade 4, but of course it’s actually quite difficult to quantify that.
One of the pieces I’ve learnt to play over the past year or two is Arabesque no. 1 by Debussy. It’s a lovely piece, and according to this page – it’s Grade 8 standard! Ok, so it’s probably not “hard” Grade 8 standard, but still… it came as something as a revelation to me, because I’d always seen Grade 8 as a sort of mystical place where people who have actual musical talent roam.
I’m not saying that I’m one of those people who have actual musical talent, but it was an interesting perspective for me nonetheless! I don’t think I’ll actually do another exam for grades — doing scales etc was one of the things which put me off playing the piano in the first place – but it’s good to know that you can make progress even if you don’t have anything to prove it formally!