piano examinations

The New ABRSM Syllabus – Grade 3

I’m currently in the process of producing an extensive collection of resources for the syllabus on my Online Academy. These include detailed video walk-throughs providing practice suggestions, tips on style and interpretation and other ideas for each of the main pieces (from initial to Grade 8), and a selection of alternative pieces. Continuing my exploration of the new ABRSM syllabus, this week I am having a look at the pieces in the main book for Grade 3 (click here to view my previous post featuring Grade 2). But first here is a preview where I highlight one piece from each list (A, B, and C), as a taster of the type of content you’ll find in the Online Academy’s ABRSM resources: The following are brief overviews of each of the main pieces (an index with links to the full videos for my ABRSM resources on the Online Academy is available here): LIST A Beethoven: Ecossaise in E (No. 4 from Six Ecossaises, WoO 83)  A lively dance in 2/4 time, an ecossaise is actually the French word for “Scottish”! Flexibility in the right hand is necessary to avoid tension, and flexibility in the pulse (while not indicated in the score) is essential to bring grace and elegance at the start, and then some forward movement in the forte ending. Burgmüller: Innocence (No. 5 from 25 études faciles et progressives, Op.100)  A study in delicacy of touch and articulation, tonal balance between the hands and control of scale patterns in the upper register, Innocence gives plenty of scope for developing an understanding of harmony. The beauty of Burgmüller’s études is that they develop musical as well as technical skills.  Handel: Gavotte in G, HWV 491  A model of symmetry and tightly organised musical structure, Handel’s Gavotte […]

The New ABRSM Syllabus

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the initial selection committee for the 2021-2022 piano syllabus (grades 5-8), published last week. Along with two colleagues from the Piano Teachers’ Course UK, I spent a happy day or two browsing the library of scores in the ABRSM’s main London offices. I also received a fair number of scores through the post from various publishing houses, and got to try out loads of music (familiar and unfamiliar). In addition to this, I went through my own substantial library of scores and from all of these sources and compiled my selection. There was a subsequent committee who made the final choices, so I was not sure of the final repertoire until the exam books arrived last week. On receiving them, it was very exciting to see some of my choices in the books! I’m currently in the process of producing an extensive collection of resources for the syllabus on my Online Academy. These will include detailed video walk-throughs providing practice suggestions, tips on style and interpretation and other ideas for each of the main pieces (from initial to Grade 8), and a selection of alternative pieces. I kick off this week with a very brief overview of the Grade 2 syllabus, choosing one example from each of the three lists (A, B, and C). This will give you a taster of the sort of content to expect in the very near future. Overviews and preview videos for other grades are available via the following links: Initial Grade, Grade 1, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7 and Grade 8. *** The complete collection of video walk-throughs for ABRSM Grade 2 is […]

Mendelssohn’s Children’s Pieces, op. 72

This week I am featuring a video tutorial on Mendelssohn’s beautiful miniature, the second from the set of Kinderstücke, op. 72, currently on Trinity College London’s Grade 7 syllabus.  Mendelssohn wrote his set of six Children’s Pieces for his young relatives during his summer holiday to England in 1842. No. 2, an andante sostenuto in the key of Eb, close in spirit to the composer’s many Songs Without Words, features a lyrical melody in the right hand supported by gently flowing semiquaver patterns in the left.  Cantabile style After a short introduction based on the tonic and dominant chords the melody appears with the indication cantabile (in a singing style). What does this mean for the pianist? Apart from playing the melody more strongly than the accompaniment, we also need to add shaping and shading to the line. Singing it is the very best way to find where the line needs to breathe; you will also discover where the high and low points occur. When you play, aim to replicate the line as though you were singing it. Intervals that are close together are easier to sing (seconds and thirds); those that are further apart may need a little more time to be expressive. We will surely want to give a little more space to the interval of the sixth in bar 9, for example.  The Left Hand The left hand needs lightness and delicacy of touch, subtly pointing out the implied bass line (the melodic element in the left hand that underpins the right hand’s song) while hiding the repeated notes in between the beats. The left hand, like any good accompanist, needs to accommodate the singing line between phrases as well as helping to move it forwards […]