My Grade 8 Trumpet ABRSM Experience

Grace Harman Music

BLOG | My Grade 8 Trumpet ABRSM Experience

In the Autumn term of 2018 (after a year’s hard work) the day had finally come – to take my Grade 8 exam on Trumpet. I was playing from the ARBSM board, for which I had taken all my violin, piano, cornet and trumpet grade’s on. After constantly reciting the scales, running the 15-minute program every day, and preparing my singing voice, it was all down to this. Here’s what happened…

10.00am – Warm Up

Obviously, the main part of playing a wind instrument is breath, so I was determined to control my breathing as early as possible. I did 5 mins of breathing in and out, followed by simple trumpet warm up (a few long notes, some lip slurs, and a little tonguing). 



10.15am – Relax!!

For the next few hours, I decided to just relax and forget about what I was going to do in the afternoon! I watched some TV, and listened to some light-hearted music, to calm my nerves. 

13.00pm – Lunch

It was time to get some lunch. I knew I needed to eat lots, because I feel it’s much easier to get through the programme on a full stomach! I think it’s very important to treat yourself, so a bit of chocolate is great for boosting your energy!!

13.45pm – Recap 

Next, I grabbed my trumpet, and did another small practise session. This time, I played a few scales, prioritising the hardest ones first, such as F# melodic minor, Bb harmonic minor, C major arpeggio (slurred!!!) and whole tone scales on C and B. Then, I got the music for my chosen pieces, and had a look through them, and simply played the toughest sections. 

My three pieces were:

•    Andante and Scherzo – Barat
•    Trumpet Concerto Movement 1 – Hummel
•    Sonatina for Trumpet – Maxwell Davies

Each piece was challenging in its own right! From fast semiquaver passages in the Barat, to large dynamic ranges in the Hummel, and awkward time signature changes in the Maxwell Davies. I absolutely loved the pieces I chose, and I think this is key when preparing for your exam, as you will be playing and listening to these pieces a lot! 

14.30pm – Organisation


I was getting my stuff ready to leave for the exam! Trumpet, valve oil, pencil, straight mute, music, scale book and water! I wanted to feel as prepared and organised as possible, because I didn’t want to forget anything essential, or worry about losing something! 


14.45pm – Time to leave!

My mum picked me up to leave! Eeeeekkkk!


15.10pm – Arrive

I arrived at the centre where I would be taking the exam. Once I entered, I filled in a form that I would later give to the examiner, to show them what pieces I would play. Then it was time to visit the warm up room. 

15.15pm – Last Warm Up

I walked to the warm up room. Once I got there, I played a few high notes, for example, A’s, B’s and C’s above the stave, as I was determined to hit them in the actual exam. At the same time, my accompanist arrived, and we proceeded to open each piece, and only play for the first 20 seconds, because I didn’t want to wear myself out!

15.30pm – Exam Time

It was finally time to go in. A few deep breaths, and I started my first piece…

15.50pm – All finished!

I came out of the exam feeling very relieved! My pieces had gone very well, and I was very proud of the scales and sight-reading. However, aural and transposition had not gone as planned. Although it did bother me, I tried to forget the mess up’s and remember about the positive aspects of the exam! Nethertheless, I had to wait a few weeks to find out how I’d done!

3rd December 2018 – Result day!

After waiting for 2 weeks, my teacher revealed the result! It was 137 – a distinction! I was thrilled to bits and so proud of myself because my hard work had paid off! It just goes to show what you can do if you work hard and practise!


Overall, my ABRSM exam was a positive one, and I felt the whole experience was a rollercoaster with its ups and downs, but the exam board help you to relax! My examiner made me feel calm, with her soothing nature, and I believe all ABRSM examiners are on your side to do well! My advice to examinees and musicians is to be prepared before your exam day, so that you can spend the actual day feeling prepared and relaxed. Also, organisation is key so make sure your instrument is in fine condition before it’s too late! I know exactly what it’s like to take the exams, so remember to remain calm and most importantly have fun!