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12/01/2019

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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



PRACTICE TIPS
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.

04/01/2019

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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.

26/12/2018

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21/12/2018

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MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 6 - A2

Fugue in G (from Prelude and Fugue in G, BWV 902

J. S. Bach

Grade 6 ABRSM Piano 2019/2020 A2

"
A Fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (a musical theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. As such you will need to have a good sense of the different voices coming in and as they do, give them a little extra weight so that they sound distinct.

It is also worth noting that the main theme starts on the second semiquaver of the bar and so this should be remembered as you think about phrasing. As with many Baroque pieces, there are no dynamics actually written in the part, but that is not to say that you should not add some of your own. On the contrary, dynamics will be essential for a good mark in the exam. In this video performance you will notice some changes of dynamics and feel free to copy these or explore your own ideas. Bear in mind however, that generally, in  Baroque keyboard music, dynamics are terraced. Also, referring to what I mentioned earlier about phrases starting on the second semiquaver of a bar, you will want to make your dynamic changes do the same.

Take care with articulation. For this piece, generally quavers are separated, but watch out for those that are marked with slurs. Sometimes a slurred group will occur in the same hand as a detached group (e.g. bars 17-22) and this will require attentive practice. Similarly in bars 53-58, release the lower two notes of the triads while keeping the top notes legato. Also be sure to hold the long crotchet in the penultimate bar.

Finally regarding tempo. The metronome mark given in the ABRSM edition indicates a dotted crotchet beat and so your performance should be fast enough to have a "one in a bar" feel to it with a slight "leaning" on the first beat of the bar to give the music flow and fluidity.

19/12/2018

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The Trouble with YouTube (and Alan Chan)

The Trouble with YouTube (and Alan Chan)

If you do a YouTube search for one of the pieces in the ABRSM syllabus, invariably, the first thing you will come across is a video by Alan Chan. That is not to say that his videos are better, but that he has a monopoly on YouTube in this niche, because he has been there one of the longest. Also, when a new syllabus comes out, he will publish the complete syllabus within a week or so, the speed of which cannot allow for any quality in performance. The result is that by"gaming the system", his videos appear first in search and the unsuspecting student will assume that this is how to play the piece, which is usually not the case. On the contrary, many times his performances would not even pass an exam.

To help students be more discerning, I recently uploaded a video about how NOT to play the Bartok Dance for Grade 3.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aziXKOHFMEg

It is clear from the video and sheet music attached (which in itself is of dubious copyright standing), that the articulation and tempo for this piece are completely wrong. However, I was shocked to find that subsequently ALAN CHAN then claimed copyright for this video, but within the terms of YouTube, he had marked his video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aziXKOHFMEg CREATIVE COMMONS - REUSE ALLOWED and my channel has received a copyright strike and the video was taken down on account of this. If he doesn't want his work copied it should be marked so. For those of you who SUPPORT QUALITY please go to the above video of his and leave your thoughts there.






Since then, Alan Chan has removed the "Creative Commons" attribution to his video, so I have deleted mine, even though there would be grounds on "fair use", because it is of educational value, in that I had added commentary to it, explaining why it would not be a good example to follow for a student preparing for an exam.

I have made a counterclaim to YouTube on the basis of what I have explained above, which now requires that he proves within 10 business days that he initiated legal proceedings regarding his copyright, or the claim and my "copyright strike" will be annulled. I don't fancy his chances if he decides to go down this route as YouTube automatically, took down my video while it was still under creative commons attribution, and I have since deleted it completely from the platform. I'll keep you posted.
I am grateful for the support of those who seek quality tuition, such as from the following 
https://www.music-online.org.uk/p/blog-page_6.html?showComment=1545035771689#c3677397447953853953 

If you agree with me, please share this post on your social media and let's fill YouTube with Quality not Quantity. 

You can also help by contacting Alan Chan directly and ask him to withdraw his copyright claim, on account of his making the video CREATIVE COMMONS - REUSE ALLOWED at the following addresses (all publicly available on any of his videos)

Email: alanchan1024@hotmail.com
WhatsApp: +614 1348 8221
WeChat: alanchan1024