I played Concert Cornet for many years when I was younger. I was good at it, and enjoyed it immensely. However, for teens and young adults there are several "measures" to gauge, how well you're doing.

I imagine that if I were to drop everything and focus on a career in music, I would find measures for growth and success, but that is not something that I want to do.

I am looking into "re-learning" my instrument for fun and relaxation. However, to me, a real part of learning is measurement from outside, by an external source. What resources are available to an adult, trying to re-learn? Are there any external measurements for amateur adults?

4 Answers 4


Tim mentioned formal exams. This is very good up to the equivalent of a highly skilled, advanced high school student. But an experienced adult musician can very easily surpass what is needed to get high marks on an exam, especially if they studied music intensively when they were young. Here are a couple of alternatives if that's your situation, or if you aren't somewhere exams are easily available.

1) Play in a local orchestra, and judge yourself against the players there. Auditions will give you a chance for your skill to be assessed by the people listening. Keep auditioning for higher skill ensembles, and more challenging roles as you continue to learn. This will work best if you are in a metropolitan area with a tradition of high level amateur orchestras. Otherwise, you may have only one to choose from, or none.

2) Get a teacher who is understanding of your goals, and can periodically put together a formal assessment of your abilities, and how much you've improved since the last one. For such a report to be reliable, it should be a good teacher, and someone you take lessons from regularly (not necessarily weekly).

3) Learn to accurately assess your own abilities. This is absolutely key if you want to progress beyond an advanced student level. By doing this, you will be able to pick something you want to play, and figure out which of your skills aren't up to the task. Then focus on improving those skills. You'll have a measure of your improvement in how much better you sound after mastering the piece than before. This should be something you do no matter what route you take with outside feedback, because outside feedback is occasional, but what you give yourself is constant.


By 'measures', I guess you mean examinations that can be taken, with a view to reading the appraisal to ascertain how well you did, along with the marks awarded. It is very dependent as to where in the world you are situated, as to what exams/boards are available to you. Several questions have been posed on this site, with similar intentions. Exams are taken by all ages, not just kids. One's age is not usually a consideration in these matters, or one's experience, etc.

Just worked out - it's Texas! There may well be an exam board there, there certainly isn't one particular U.S. board, as each state seems to have their own.

A good yardstick is to record yourself playing a difficult piece, maybe every month or two. Refer back to previous recordings, and you'll hear improvements (or not!).


The brutal truth is that in MUSIC, there exists no objective measure that's worth spit. (pun intended). When music is approached as a "sport" or "competition" or something like that, it stops being music and starts being something else that is NOT music.

You can establish some objective personal criteria of course: select increasingly difficult pieces to learn and play; record yourself and listen for mistakes and interpretive shortcomings; And of course, audition for ensembles/orchestras that are recognized for their quality.

It comes down to this:

  1. Does the horn beckon to you: "come play with me...come and play..."?
  2. Do other musicians that you respect want to play with you?
  3. Do other people that aren't your mother or your dog like to listen to you play?
  • 1
    I think a lot of the musicians who regularly enter competitions might disagree with your first paragraph, especially those who have gone on to have successful, sometimes prominent musical careers.
    – Karen
    Oct 1, 2015 at 17:44

Are there any external measurements for amateur adults?

Performing. Your audience is your ultimate judge.

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