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NEW ABRSM Exam Booking

Have you ever found the examiners handwriting impossible to read, wanted to choose your exam day or check results as a student. Well now you can, with the ABRSM's new online booking system.

Starting from January 2020, all UK exam entries will need to be made using the ABRSM's new online service, with which results will be available more quickly, along with digital mark forms. And with their new candidate account option, candidates or parents will be able to log in to check exam information, change practical appointments and view their results and practical mark forms. 

However, to be ready for this new format, there will be some changes in the application process. First of all, those booking the exam will need to set up a new account, even if you already had an old applicant ID and you can register for this HERE

Also, when adding candidates, the date of birth will now be compulsory and if you want to see your results as a candidate, you will need to give the applicant an email address to log in to the online service. Teachers will need to be sure they comply with GDPR rules about the storing of personal data.

When applying, the applicant will now have the option of choosing the date, but to ensure the widest possible choice of options, this should be done right at the start of the booking period. So for example, the booking period for next term is 13 – 26 January. Probably many teachers in the past, will have left it until the last possible day, so this might necessitate a change in habits.

Certificates will still be issued by post as before, but the mark forms will be in an online pdf format, which addresses the old problem of being able to read the examiner's handwriting, although I can envisage it might make the exam process take a little longer if the examiner's typing skills are not so fast. 

One final change to the exam process itself, is that examiners will now be using ipads to not only make a written record of their marks and comments, but also an audio recording of the exam which can be used the the event of an appeal, which seems to me a good step forward.


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🔴 LIVE Grade 4 ABRSM Piano - Mock Exam

This video is a LIVE mock - Grade 4 Exam given to one of my Skype Students with no editing out mistakes or retakes, in order to mirror the experience of a real exam. 

To get YOUR MusicOnline UK Grade assessment click HERE

To get YOUR MusicOnline UK Grade assessment click HERE

All were played accurately with even rhythm and tone even if the tempo was a touch under the recommended for this Grade

A Kwela for Caitlin
A generally accurate performance that conveyed the lively character of this piece although there was a little upset in the rhythm and some piano dynamics could have been more contrasted

A very dramatic opening captured the character of the storm from the outset. As with the previous piece, the contrasting piano dynamic could have been explored a little more as could the marked changes of tempo in the final couple of lines. There were also minor note errors towards the end

Sonatina in A minor
Some effective and creative uses of dynamics and some nice shaping to this performance. The tempo was a little cautious for an Allegro but notes and rhythm were generally accurate.

There were small errors in all parts except c(i) although responses were confident and showed musical awareness so that strengths outweighed weaknesses

Sight Reading
A very fluent, even if rather slow performance, with largely   accurate notes and a realization of some musical detail



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How to Improve YOUR Sight Reading OVERNIGHT

Sight Reading is a skill in which many people concentrate just on the pitch and forget about the rhythm.

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”).

The Following Information will Dramatically Change the Way You Sight Read OVERNIGHT

When you sight read are you continually looking at your hands? It’s something I call "watching vertical tennis". It is the single biggest factor that will hinder your fluency in playing the piano. However I recently came across a product that makes it impossible for you to look down. It is called EyeTrainer

  • Concentrates your eyes onto the sheet music, 
  • Improves your geography of the keyboard, 
  • Enhances touch sensation and awareness and 
  • Helps improve listening and "musical" hearing.
In order to sight read well, you need to be able to play without looking at your hands. The video below demonstrates how EyeTrainer can be used even with pieces that involve large leaps (such as the Chopin Nocturne in this video). It also shows the impressive results I observed when I tried it out on my students. It seems counter-intuitive that you will play better when you cannot  see your hands, but in fact, time and time again, I have noticed this to be true with all of my students.

When you start training your eyes to look up, you will not only become a lot more fluent, but your ability to read notes instantly will improve as you start to develop a better sense of piano geography. To help specifically with this sense of Piano Geography,  try this series of videos 

EyeTrainer is an expandable lightweight device designed to cover both the piano keys and our fingers. It is made from foamboard and weighs less than 170 grams. It sits over the keys and expands to cover all 88 keys of a standard size piano or a smaller section covering 4 octaves whilst providing enough space for our hands to move freely.

So if you want to improve your sight reading dramatically overnight start training your eyes with EyeTrainer and you’ll #NeverLookBack. Click the button below to learn more

In an ABRSM exam, you are given 30 seconds to prepare. How you use this 30 seconds is key to effective sight reading. DON'T just start playing from the beginning. Rather, the first thing you should do is get a sense of the key you are in and if you are taking an early Grade (1-2), simply find the hand position for each hand before playing a note.

Then, concentrate on the rhythm, try and visualize in your head how the music should sound, again before you even play a note. This will include not just the rhythm but also other stylistic markings such as dynamics and articulation. Getting the right pitch is only a small part of what the examiner is looking for.

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.

Finally, for more hints on how to effectively sight read for a music exam, check out this video:  How to get a Distinction at ABRSM - Sight Reading

And for even 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 E-book, “How to get a Distinction at ABRSM”


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This is what makes it all worth it!!

Running a YouTube channel and this website, can at times be a little solitary, but there come now and again appreciative comments that remind me why I do what I do. I while ago a grade 8 student sent me a Grade 8 piece, Debussy's "Voiles", for appraisal for which I made the following video

Then just this morning, a month later and after the student got his result, I received the following comment from him,

 "Thank you very much for providing me with such an insightful appraisal of my performance. I took your suggestions onboard and polished my piece and managed to get 29/30 in the exam. I sincerely wish more students will be able to access to the high quality content of your channel and become better musicians. Many thanks once again!"

... and on that note, if you too would like an appraisal, or one to one skype support click HERE 


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Major Keys to Four Sharps or Flats

In Grade 2 you were expected to know up to 3 sharps or flats, so in this grade there is not that much more to learn. At this stage it might be helpful to look at all the keys you should know in a table.

Key             Key Signature
E major       F, C, G, D
A major 
     F, C, G
D major 
     F, C
G major   
C major       No sharps or flats
F major 
B major 
    B, E
E major   
   B, E, A
A major 
    B, E, A, D

Can you see a pattern here?

  • Each key loses a sharp (or adds a flat as you go down the list)
  • The order of the sharps / flats is the same and this is the order that they should be written in a key signature as in the example of an E major key signature in the treble clef below.
  • Notice also that there is an interval of a 5th between each of the keys, and between each of the sharps or flats. This is known as the cycle of 5ths, (because as you learn a few more keys they will go round in a "circle" and start back at the beginning.
For example there is an interval of a 5th up to G major, another 5th up to D major, another 5th up to A major etc etc

Then looking at the flats from D to A is a 5th, likewise A to E and so on. The same is true with the sharps, from F to C is a 5th, as is C to G - G to D etc etc. So as long as you can count to five you can work out any key signature.

Test yourself with a downloadable worksheet for this lesson HERE