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MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 6 A1

Sonata No.1 in F.  1st Movement - Andante.

T. A. Arne.

Grade 6 Piano ABRSM 2019/2020 A1.

Teaching Notes.

First of all, notice the tempo marking of "Andante". Despite being quite busy at times, this pieces should not sound rushed. The steady LH quavers (which, by the way, are detached), should set a leisurely walking pace with the RH flowing gracefully above. 

To learn this piece well, you will need an effective fingering, so take some time to go right through, marking in pencil what fingering you want to use (which may, or may not be what is suggested in the ABRSM edition). Then STICK TO THAT FINGERING, every time you play it, starting off very slowly to develop muscle memory.

Also on the subject of consistency, make sure you know exactly how many notes you will play for each trill, making trills that are part of similar rhythmic patterns, match each other in the way you execute them.

Notice in bar 3 of the ABRSM edition, the little triplet marking.  This rhythm should also be used consistently throughout the movement, i.e. in the second half of this bar and also, later on in bar 20.

There are no dynamics marked in the copy, but for a good performance, you should add some of your own in keeping with the style and character of the piece. Generally, music from this period would use "terraced dynamics" and you might get some inspiration ideas from the video above, but feel free to be creative.

Pedalling, generally would not be necessary for this piece, but a little sneaky dab would be helpful on the page turn.

In bar 18 there is a trill in both hands at the same time. In the footnotes of the ABRSM edition, it says that the LH trill here can be omitted  because of the difficulty at grade 6 level. However, with practice it should be possible, thus impressing the examiner even more, with your technical skills. Start slowly, using  RH D-C-B_E and LH E-F-E,  trying to make the first and last note of each hand coincide, then gradually building up the speed until it becomes natural in your muscle memory.

Finally, a slight rit at the end would be stylish.


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How to get a distinction in ABRSM exams.

The fact that you are reading this means that you are serious about getting a good mark in your next ABRSM exam.

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Getting a good mark, is not just a question of spending hours and hours of practising your instrument, but knowing how to practice and also knowing what the examiner is looking for.

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How to get a distinction at ABRSM

The above screenshot is the results of one of my recent students, as you can see, dropping no more than one or two marks in EVERY category.

As well as studying the official ABRSM marking criteria, I have done in depth analysis of the comment sheets that are given to the students with their results, which are very revealing in this regard.

Within the pages of the book, 
How to get a distinction in ABRSM exams, (which are packed with useful hints and tips on how to get the best possible mark), I have broken down the four aspects of the exam; Scales, Pieces, Aural and Sight Reading and you need to give adequate attention to each of these aspects in order to get a distinction. So are you ready to start preparing for your next exam and get the mark you deserve? 

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Publisher: Independently published (28 Jan. 2019)
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    MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 7 C2


    Sergey Prokofiev.

    Grade 7 Piano ABRSM 2019/2020 C2.

    Teaching Notes
    Right from the beginning, keep the weight of the individual notes in the thirds even. It could be very easy for some of the notes to not even sound at this fast paced, staccato "piano".  Also give a little extra weight, not only to the obvious "forte" accented notes, but also to the tenuto notes, from bar 9 onwards.

    The main technical challenge of this piece is the positioning of the hands. In general, the LH would be placed towards the back of the black keys allowing the RH room in front. Be careful in bars 18 and 19, where roles are reversed, in the former the RH will be "sotto" (under) and in the latter it will be "sopra" (over).

    At all times, try to be aware of the melodic line, not letting the LH staccato thirds obscure this. This will need special care in bars 32 and 34 where the LH quaver F's could easily be mistaken for part of the accompaniment. Let them stand out, just that little bit more. 

    Also follow precisely the composer's articulation marks such as the staccato quaver just before the  legato semiquavers of bars 21 and 29 (an easy one to miss) and the little slur in bar 26. Another place in which the articulation will be commonly missed is the very last note - it is staccato in the LH and long in the RH.

    Speaking of the ending, in this performance the third chord of the penultimate bar is taken with the LH, although written for the RH. I found this works just as well and possibly easier.


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    MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 8 - C6

    Lullaby (for Edna Trident Hornbryce)

    Raymond Yiu

    Grade 8 Piano ABRSM 2019/2020 C6

    Teaching Notes
    To really understand this piece we need to know that the subtitle, "for Edna Trident Hornbryce" is an anagram of Richard Rodney Bennett in whose memory (he died in 2012), this piece is written. Although melancholy, there is a gentle lullaby, waltz type feel to it and at times a "one in a bar" feel is necessary. However, the style allows for a lot of ebb and flow with the tempo using rubato wherever it feels appropriate. One example in this video performance is the dramatic changes in tempo from bars 54-57 following the dynamic shaping of the tune.

    Voicing of the melody is paramount for a good mark, and this is often helped by the composer's dynamic markings. Keep the chords always very subservient to the cantabile melody. You will notice there is frequent use of subito (mezzo)piano creating a dramatic effect (e.g. bars 10, 27, 49 and 53).

    Also be aware of the tenuto markings on the semiquavers of 29, 30 and 47. be careful these notes don't come before the beat and give them a little extra weight so that they sing out a little stronger as the melody.

    Regarding pedalling, generally one pedal per bar will be necessary. The composer, in fact states that the pedalling written in bar 10 should be used from there on to sustain the lower dotted minims where necessary.
    To save "tangling" in the cross hands section (bars 63-67), keep the RH lower and nearer to yourself, with the LH higher and further up the keys.

    Finally, observe the molto rit maybe even pausing slightly on the last note before release to let the "pin-drop" atmosphere you have created linger just a moment longer.


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    MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 5 - A1

    Aria (4th Movement from Partita No. 4 in D, BWV 828.)

    Grade 5 ABRSM Piano 2019/2020 A1

    J. S. Bach

    While this piece should not be too slow, it is in fact a lively dance full of character, setting too fast a tempo at the beginning may prove a challenge to maintain.

    Liveliness can be obtained by other means apart from the metronome mark. For example, very crisp articulation and a slight leaning on the syncopated notes.

    Regarding articulation, you will notice in this video performance, most quavers are separated. Careful attention will also need to be paid to the lengths of notes and rests. For example in bar 3, it might be tempting to hold the first LH quaver too long (ignoring the rest) and then be sure that the long tied note at the end of the bar is sustained throughout the next three bars.

    A definite fingering plan is essential to develop muscle memory and execute some of the trickier moments of this movement. Notice for example the spread thumb over two notes in bar 5, and the use of a quick substitution in bar 6 (different to, but in my opinion superior to the suggested fingering in the ABRSM edition). Using a thumb on the last note before the large downward leaps in the LH bars 25-31 will also make life easier.

    Dynamics are left up to the performers discretion. Although none are printed in the part, they should definitely be added to add shape to the movement. You might take some suggestions from this video performance or express yourself differently, but bear in mind, baroque dynamics are generally terraced.

    Although pedal is generally unnecessary, you might want to add a "dab" for just the first quaver of bars 41-44, to imitate the extra resonance of the bass notes of a harpsichord, making sure you release on the second quaver.