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17/03/2019

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ABRSM Piano Scales are changing - for the better or the worse?

According to the ABRSM’s official website there will soon be new scale requirements for piano exams of all grade. This post will discuss the proposed changes and when they are happening.

After reading about the proposed changes, I would be interested to see what you think, so please leave a comment below.

Just over a year ago the ABRSM published a consultation with experts and teachers and they are proposing to change the scale requirements for all grades from 2021. This consultation is still ongoing but I recently came across a PDF of the proposals. Please note that these are not in their final form, only a proposal, but I will keep you updated as things become clearer, so subscribe to blog posts, with this form, if you want to stay informed

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Grade 1 proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
C major 1 oct. hands together
G, F majors 2 oct. hands separately
A, D minors (natural or harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s
choice)

ARPEGGIOS
C major / A minor  1 oct. hands separately

BROKEN CHORDS
F major / D minor  hands separately, as current Grade 1 pattern

• A one-octave similar-motion scale has been introduced, in place of the contrary-motion.• One octave hands-separately arpeggios have been included.
• The D major scale has been removed and the number of
broken chords has been reduced.


Grade 2 proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
G, F majors / A, D minors  2 oct. hands together
D, A, E majors / 
E and G minors  2 oct. hands separately
Note : minor scales can be natural or harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice.

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
C major 2 oct. hands beginning on the tonic in unison

CHROMATIC SCALE
beginning on D 1 oct. hands separately

ARPEGGIOS
C major / 
A minor  2 oct. hands separately

BROKEN CHORDS
G major / 
E minor hands separately, same pattern as for Grade 1 (in 6/8) 

• This establishes the principle where scales that were introduced hands separately in Grade 1 that is G and F major and A and D minor become hands together
while the new scale keys D, A, E major and E and G minor are introduced hands separately.• C major, having already been covered hands together at Grade 1, becomes a contrary-motion scale here.
• Arpeggios introduced in Grade 1 are extended to two octaves here but still hands separately and there will be less of them than currently.• Broken chords continue with the Grade 1 pattern (in 6/8). Not the four note patterns currently used.

Grade 3 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)

D, A, F majors / 
E, G minors   2 oct. hands together B, Bb, Eb majors / B, C minors 2 oct. hands separately
(minors - harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice)

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
E major 2 oct. hands beginning on the tonic in unison

CHROMATIC SCALE (SIMILAR MOTION)
beginning on Ab 2 oct. hands separately

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
beginning on D 1 oct.

ARPEGGIOS
F major / 
A, D minors  2 oct. hands together
D, E, B, Eb majors / 
G, C minors  2 oct. hands separately
  • As before, the scales that were introduced hands separately in the previous grade become hands together while the new scale keys are introduced hands separately.
  • A contrary-motion chromatic scale is introduced, a grade earlier than in the current syllabus.


Grade 4 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)  LEGATO 
G, D, A, B, Bb, Eb majors / A, B, D, G, C minors  2 oct.  hands together. 
Ab, Db majors / F#, C#, F minors  2 oct.  hands separately
(Minors - harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice)

STACCATO SCALE (SIMILAR MOTION)     
C major  2 oct  staccato, hands separately

RUSSIAN SCALES (See video below)
C, E majors  2 oct.   

CHROMATIC SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)    
beginning on E, F  2 oct.  hands together 

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE     
beginning on Ab  2 oct. 

ARPEGGIOS    
G, D, E, B, Eb majors / E, G, C minors     2 oct.  hands together 
Bb, Ab, Db majors / B, F#, C# minors  2 oct.  hands separately

DOMINANT SEVENTH (resolving on tonic - See video below)     
in the key of C  2 oct.  hands separately 
• A hands-separately staccato scale is introduced (three grades earlier than in the current syllabus).

• The ‘Russian pattern’, combining similar and contrary motion is also introduced.

• A hands-separately dominant seventh is introduced, which will resolve on the tonic to encourage greater understanding of the harmonic function of the chord.
• More keys are featured than on the current Grade 4 syllabus; this better prepares for the appearance of all keys in Grade 5.



Grade 5 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION) - LEGATO
C, Bb, Ab, Db majors / 
B, F#, C#, C, F minors   
2 oct. hands together F#/Gb major / G#, Bb, Eb minors 2 oct.  hands separately
(Minors - harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice)

STACCATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
G, A, E, F majors / 
E, G minors  2 oct staccato, hands separately

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
A, D harmonic minors 2 oct.

RUSSIAN SCALES
D, B, Eb majors 2 oct. (see example for Grade 4)

CHROMATIC SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
beginning on A, F#, Eb:  2 oct.  hands together

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
beginning on C:  2 oct.

ARPEGGIOS
C, G, D, A, E, B, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db majors / 
A, E, B, F#, C#, D, G, C, F minors  2 oct.  hands together
F#/Gb major / 
G#, Bb, Eb minors  2 oct.  hands separately

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of G, F 2 oct.  hands separately

DIMINISHED SEVENTH
beginning on G:  2 oct.  hands separately

• Notice that all scales are 2 octaves as opposed 3 required in the current syllabus.
• The complete cycle of fifths for scales is no longer required as is presently

• A hands-separately diminished seventh is introduced (a grade earlier than in the current syllabus).
• The first minor-key contrary-motion is set here as opposed to Grade 3 currently.

Grade 6 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION) LEGATO
G, A, E, F#/Gb, F, Bb, Ab, Db majors / 
E, F#, C#, G#, G, Bb, Eb minors 4 oct.  hands together 
(Minors now need to be harmonic and melodic) 

STACCATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
C, D, B, Eb majors / 
A, B, D, C, F minors  
4 oct staccato, hands together 
(harmonic and melodic)

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
E, G harmonic minors 2 oct. legato

RUSSIAN SCALES
G, A, F, Db majors 2 oct. legato: see example for Grade 4

CHROMATIC SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
beginning on G, B, Bb, Db 4 oct. legato, hands together

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
beginning on D# (LH) and F# (RH) / 
E (LH) and G (RH)
2 oct. legato

WHOLE-TONE SCALE
beginning on E 2 oct. legato, hands separately

ARPEGGIOS
C, D, B, F#/Gb, Bb, Db majors / 
A, B, G#, C, Bb, Eb minors  
4 oct. hands together

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of C, G, D, F 4 oct.  hands together

DIMINISHED SEVENTHS
beginning on F#, G, G# 4 oct. hands separately

• Notice that not every key is covered in the similar motion scales but as currently, they now extended to 4 octaves and minors are required in both harmonic and melodic forms.

• There are more staccato scales than currently but less contrary motion scales and easier ones

• A hands-separately whole-tone scale is introduced at this grade which is currently at Grade 8

• The staccato scale in thirds from the current syllabus is removed.

Grade 7 Proposals

LEGATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
G, D, E, B, F, Eb majors 
A, E, C#, D, G, C, Bb minors
(harmonic and melodic) 
4 oct. hands together and separately

STACCATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
A, F#/Gb, Bb, Ab, Db majors / 
F#, G#, Eb minors
(harmonic and melodic) 
4 oct.  hands together and separately

SCALES A 3RD APART
G, D, E, B, Db majors / 
A, C#, D, G, Bb harmonic minors   
4 oct.  legato

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
B, F harmonic minors 2 oct. legato

RUSSIAN SCALES
F#/Gb, Bb, Ab majors 2 oct. legato: see example for Grade 4


LEGATO SCALE IN 3RDS
C major 2 oct legato, hands separately

CHROMATIC SCALES A MINOR 3RD APART
beginning on 

C (LH) and Eb (RH)
C# (LH) and E (RH)
D (LH) and F (RH)
4 oct. legato

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
beginning on F (LH) and Ab (RH) / 
G# (LH) and B (RH)
2 oct. legato

WHOLE-TONE SCALE
beginning on G 4 oct. legato, hands separately

ARPEGGIOS
E, B, F#/Gb, F, Bb, Eb majors / 
B, F#, D, F, Bb, Eb minors 
4 oct. legato, hands together in root position and in 1st inversion 

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of A, E, Bb  
4 oct. legato, hands together

DIMINISHED SEVENTHS
beginning on F#, G, G#, A, A#, B 
4 oct. legato, hands together
• Chromatic scales a minor 3rd apart are included (a grade earlier than in the current syllabus).

• The staccato scale in sixths from the current syllabus is removed.

• The option to choose group 1 or group 2 scales no longer exists and many of the scales that are not in the legato set are tested in the staccato set, thus covering most keys

Grade 8 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
A, F#/Gb, F, Eb, Ab majors / 
E, B, F#, C, F, Eb minors
4 oct. legato and staccato; hands together and separately
(Minors - harmonic and melodic)

SCALES A 3RD APART
F#/Gb, F, Ab majors / 
B, F#, F harmonic minors   
4 oct. legato and staccato

SCALES A 6TH APART
G, D, E, B, Bb, Db majors / 
C#, D, G, Bb harmonic minors
4 oct. legato and staccato

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
G# harmonic minor 2 oct legato

RUSSIAN SCALES
Eb major / A harmonic minor 
 4 oct legato (see example below)

C major 4 octaves Russian Scale for Grade 8 Piano
 

TWOS AGAINST THREES SCALE
C major 4 oct legato; duplets in RH, triplets in LH 
and vice versa 

LEGATO SCALES IN 3RDS
G, Bb majors 2 oct legato, hands separately

CHROMATIC SCALES A MAJOR 6TH APART
Beginning on 
Eb (LH) and C (RH)
E (LH) and C# (RH) 
F (LH) and D (RH)  
F# (LH) and D# (RH)
4 oct. legato and staccato

WHOLE-TONE SCALES
beginning on C, A 
4 oct. legato, hands together

ARPEGGIOS
G, A, B, F#, Bb, Ab majors / 
E, B, C#, G, Bb, Eb minors
4 oct. legato, hands together in root position, 1st and 2nd inversion.

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of B, F#/Gb, Eb, Ab, Db 
4 oct. legato, hands together

DIMINISHED SEVENTHS
beginning on C, C#, D, D#, E, F 
4 oct. legato, hands together
• The ‘Russian pattern’ is extended to 4 octaves. This is similar to the example I demonstrated earlier except now you play two octaves ascending in similar motion, then two octaves in contrary motion (out and in again), then another two octaves ascending together, followed by an exact reverse of what I’ve just described
• There are two completely new scales in this grade – a twos against threes scale where one hand plays triplets against the duplets of the other hand and chromatic scales a major 6th apart.

• The chromatic scale in minor thirds from the current syllabus is removed.


If you want to view the PDF of the proposed changes for yourself, Click HERE

16/03/2019

Sight Reading Trainer with Audio - Grade 1 : Suitable for Grade 1 ABRSM Sight Reading and Trinity College Music Exams

A New Fun and Interactive Way to Practice Sight Reading

Sight reading is one of the most dreaded parts of an ABRSM or Trinity Music exam. It is also arguably one of the most neglected parts of exam preparation.

That is why today, I am pleased to announce the publication of my new ebook Sight Reading Trainer with Audio - Grade 1.

This book will help you to make sight reading, not only part of your daily practice routine, but also in a fun way to improve this skill. They are arranged progressively so that they train you rather than give numerous specimen examples.

As well as many written sight reading examples, there will be tips on how to use the 30 second preparation time you get in the exam. Also, each example in this book comes with audio tracks which help you play in time - essential for getting a good mark.





US Users click HERE


Also available in PDF version with Audio Files HERE

Or get it FREE as a member of MusicOnline UK HERE

This is just the first in a series which I will be releasing over the coming months covering the higher grades. I will be posting on the main Sight Reading Page the new books as they are released HERE

Most students focus primarily on getting the notes the correct pitch at the expense of keeping the beat going. However, if you look at the ABRSM marking criteria for a sight reading test, the FIRST thing that is mentioned for a distinction is, “Fluent, rhythmically accurate” (followed by “accurate notes/pitch/key”).

As mentioned already, in an exam you are given up to half a minute to prepare. At this point most people will tentatively start to try and work out the pitches of the first few bars. This is a waste of your 30 seconds. Instead - Try and get the rhythm in your head, without touching your instrument.

As you go through this book you will notice dynamics and articulation marks are added in the later examples. Again the marking criteria for a distinction mentions “Attention to Musical detail.”

Once you have a sense of the music as a whole, you should get a sense of what key you are in. The Key Signatures that you should know from memory in this book, are those of one sharp (F sharp) and one flat (B flat). You don’t want to be wasting time in the exam counting up lines and spaces to work out the accidentals in the key signature.

Grade 1 ABRSM sight reading tests may be in any of the keys C, G or F major and A or D minor. Trinity College Grade 1 only uses C and G major and A minor.

Once you have established the key signature, then after placing the suggested finger on the first note of the test, play a 5 note micro-scale in that hand position.

The last thing mentioned in the marking criteria for a distinction is “Confident presentation”. A sight reading test is an assessment on how well you can convey the music as a whole performance, NOT if you can recognise the pitches A, B, C etc - that is a theory exam!!

Finally - a word on mistakes. If you miss a note, DON’T go back and correct it, you’ll only upset the flow and rhythm of the music and this effectively then counts as a 2nd mistake. You can’t erase the first mistake, and the examiner is not interested if you can improve on your wrong note, he wants to hear a performance of the music as a whole which conveys as best you can, the character of the piece.

For more tips on how to get the best out of all the aspects of the exam, Sight Reading, Scales, Aural and of course the Pieces, check out my other E-book, “How to get a Distinction at ABRSM”

08/03/2019

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ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 6 C3 - MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes

Un Amanecer en Santa Marta.
Federico Ruiz.
Grade 6 Piano ABRSM 2019/2020 C3


Teaching Notes.

A first clue to understanding the character of this piece is the collection from which it comes
 "Pieces for children under the age of 100". 
It should be performed playfully, somewhat "scherzando".

Also there are moments when a little rubato would be appropriate and a distinction deserving performance will include dynamic shaping of the melody beyond what is printed on the sheet music.

You also need to pay close attention to the articulation. Remember the general rule, that the last note of any slurred group needs to be lifted. This becomes increasingly complicated from bar 10, where often a short note in one hand is accompanied by a long note in the other. Take for example, the 2nd beat of bar 10 where the upper RH note is released (being the end of a slurred group), but all lower crotchets are held. Then again, in bar 12 - 2nd beat, both upper RH note AND LH bass note are short in contrast to the two middle crotchets of the RH, which should be held.

In the section from bar 18, voice the hands to emphasize the imitation, letting the  tune alternate between the hands. Here also is a typical example of where dynamic shaping can make your performance stand out, dynamics rising and falling with the line of the melody.

Notice the little accent in bar 28.

For the staccato section of bars 36-42, try to avoid any undue accentuation and be aware of the crescendo in the last line.

21/02/2019

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ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 7 A1 - MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes

Suite No. 8 in F minor: V - Gigue

George Frideric Handel

Grade 7 Piano ABRSM 2019/2020 A1



Teaching Notes


Articulation and length of notes is key to a stylish performance. The persistent LH quavers, should be lightly detached, but be careful of longer crotchets and dotted crotchets that occur in other parts. A particular tricky passage is bars 31 and 32. Be careful here that the quaver in the RH on the half bar is shorter than the LH crotchet beneath it.

Also be aware that occasionally, some quavers are marked with a slur. 

Taking the first of these instances (the cadence in bar 5) it seems logical that similar passages would imitate the same articulation. For example, in this video performance, a similar slur is added to bar 13, 39 and 47.

Likewise, in the vein of keeping the style consistent, the slightly longer first note of each triplet group in bar 10, is repeated in similar bars such as 11, 21, 22, 36-38, 44 and 45. Now for most, the big leaps of a 10th or 11th would be beyond the normal hand span, so a dab of pedal could be used to lengthen just this first quaver of the triplet group in the bars noted above.

Your musicality will shine through with the addition of creatively added dynamics, which although not written, need to be added. (This video performance gives just one possible example of dynamic shaping, but feel free to be inspired with your own interpretation.)

Finally, a slight easing of tempo at the end produces a stylish finish to this movement.

09/02/2019

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

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.