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17 May 2021

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How to get a distinction at ABRSM - PERFORMANCE GRADES

ABRSM Performance Grades

The fact that you are reading this, means that you are serious about getting a distinction in your next ABRSM exam. By putting into practice the advice in this ebook, you can be confident of doing just that. As a teacher of the ABRSM syllabus for over 35 years, and more recently, since the introduction of the new performance grades I have helped students from all over the world to prepare for this new format. So you’re in good hands.

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. 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.

In this book, you will learn not only what the examiner is looking for with regard to the individual pieces but also how to obtain a high mark in the rather ambiguous section “the performance as a whole” and I have outlined in depth what you need in both 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?

Available from:
Free to MEMBERS of MusicOnline UK HERE

18 March 2021

Learning Theory Terms - The Auditory Method

A significant proportion of the population learns things via listening and this is called "Auditory Learning". Moreover, this percentage increases for musicians. If you play the following tracks of musical terms repeatedly, you will become so familiar with them that you can even predict which term is coming next. You can do it when walking the dog, going for a walk, waiting for a bus, in the car or even as you go to sleep...The concept of sleep learning, or hypnopedia, has a long history. The first study to demonstrate a memory and learning benefit from sleep was published in 1914 by German psychologist Rosa Heine. She found that learning new material in the evening before sleep results in better recall compared to learning during the day.

Give it a try and you'll find within a month you'll know all your Grade 5 Theory Terms 

Also available on 
Apple Music HERE
YouTube Music HERE
Amazon Music HERE

A full list of the REVISED ABRSM Theory Terms can be found HERE

14 January 2021

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ABRSM Performance Grades - All you need to know.

ABRSM Performance Grades - All you need to know.

From the latter end of 2020 the ABRSM started rolling out their new performance grades based on a video upload of four pieces as opposed to the previous model of three pieces plus scales, aural and sight reading and in this article,  I will go through everything you need to know in order to get a distinction in your performance exam.

First of all you will need to understand the logistics of how to prepare your video.

The performance must be a continuous video done in one take without any editing, where the performer and his instrument are in clear view. In the case of the piano this should include the pedals and if you have an accompanist they should also be visible, although not the main focus.

This video must be taken from a static position, i.e. using a tripod rather than someone holding the camera. A simple set up using a selfie stick and mini tripod works well such as the one below

At the beginning of your video you need to announce your name, instrument, grade, what pieces you’re going to perform and show a downloadable program form available HERE

Also, if you are taking a higher grade, that is 6-8, you will need to show some photographic ID.

If your fourth piece is from a different syllabus, you also need to show the title and opening few bars to the camera.

Finally, if the performer is under 18, a responsible adult must be in the room at the time of recording and also sign a declaration form when uploading to the ABRSM.

So those are the main logistics out of the way. If you have any further questions, please ask with a comment below.

How the exams are marked and what the examiner is looking for. 

There are 150 marks in total available for these exams, just like the old face to face exams and pieces still get 30 marks each. For more information on how the pieces are marked check out my video on “How to get a distinction at ABRSM - Pieces” below.

However there is a fifth element called “The Performance as a Whole” which is also worth 30 marks. In this the examiner will be looking for the following:

This means playing with conviction and commitment similar to the “performance” aspect on which the individual pieces are marked. However here a good mark involves a consistency throughout the whole exam, not just in one piece.

Sequencing and pacing: The choice and order of your pieces matter. Try to pick pieces that show a variety of styles and thus your ability to communicate in more than just one type of music. This applies to not just a variety of periods, but also moods and tempi. And when you construct your programme, try to create contrast between pieces that are next to each other. It maybe a good idea to start and finish with livelier pieces, a slow 2nd piece and a playful 3rd. The pacing of your performance, refers to not rushing from one piece to the next. Just like in a real concert, give a moment at the end of a piece, to let the atmosphere “settle” before scrambling to turn the page to the next piece.

Interpretation: Like the mark awarded in the individual pieces, the examiner will be looking for your musical ability, to understand consistently throughout the range of styles that you have chosen, how well you can convey the composers’ intentions.

Delivery: This refers to your technical abilities, how well you have mastered your instrument and can perform all the demands of the pieces you have chosen. Again, this mark is based on a consistent level demonstrated throughout your performance, so for a merit, the marking criteria mentions,
 “Mostly effective instrument management”
and for a distinction the wording is
 “Consistently effective instrument management”
Just to finish, sometimes, reading the examiner's comments gives us a good idea of what they are looking for. This is the comment for the “performance as a whole” received by one of my Skype students who recently got a distinction in their grade 6 piano.

Notice phrases such as “consistent sense of performance” and “range of styles were convincingly interpreted

ABRSM Performance Grades