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08/11/2018

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MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 8 - A1 - ii

Gigue - 6th Movement from English Suite No. 2 in A minor BWV 907
J. S. Bach
Grade 8 Piano - ABRSM 2019/2020 A1 - ii.



Teaching Notes.

I would like to preface these teaching notes, first of all, by saying that the video performance above was done by one of the members of the MusicOnline UK WhatsApp group. This is a group for music students and teachers like yourself to share, discuss and get feedback from each other about anything related to music education and when this particular performance was shared,  I thought it worthy to be used on my YouTube channel for the purposes of a tutorial. (By the way, anyone interested in joining this group may do so by clicking THIS LINK on their mobile device, and who knows, maybe your performance might appear in a future video on my channel.)

So, onto the teaching notes... A gigue, it should be remembered is a dance and this movement should at all times feel light and flowing with it's lilting compound time. Particular attention should be paid to the ornaments, that they do not lose time and "rock the boat" in terms of keeping a steady tempo.

Lengths of the longer notes should also be considered. The tradition in baroque music is to make longer notes, (in the case of this Gigue, the dotted crotchets), slightly detached, following the thinking that the music was originally written for an instrument that didn't have the same sustaining power as a modern piano. However, this is a matter for debate and interpretation and the above performance adopts a more legato approach. Maybe a slightly detached dotted crotchet would add a little more  lightness  to the dance like character, but of paramount importance in baroque music, is clarity, and this performance definitely achieves that.

Continuing with the idea of lengths of notes, take care with those longer notes that occur before rests (e.g. bar 16, 21, 23 etc). It could be tempting to incorrectly shorten these to an almost staccato quaver. Make sure that they last their full length.

A note on repeats. For the purpose of the exam, repeats are not usually played, except for D.S. or D.C. and so in this piece it effectively means missing out the first time bars on each occurrence.

The speed of this movement, will make the ornaments a challenge in terms of not losing time. Try to play them on the beat . You will notice that in most cases, these mordents are preceded, by the same note and so a little lift will be needed before the repeated note. Landing on the repeated note after the lift on the next beat, will help keep the tempo steady. Additionally, some slow metronome practice will help at the early stage of learning this piece.

There are no dynamics marked in this movement, however you can add some dynamic interest. Indeed, some creativity keeping within the style of the music would be rewarded in the exam, but bear in mind that baroque music traditionally is interpreted with terraced dynamics and the range is not as great a in music of later periods. A good structure for dynamics would include keeping the changes to where phrases start and finish and particularly emphasising sequences of similar melodic figures, by the use of stepped changes in volume.


06/11/2018

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How to Sight Sing - The Interval Song

Do you have trouble sight singing?
Are you taking an ABRSM practical exam, Grades 4 to 8? Then this is for you.

The secret to sight singing is being able to hear intervals in your head. By listening to the following video enough times that you can memorize the words, and sing along without the music, you will start to automatically associate the alternative lyrics of this well known tune - "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire", with the intervals that you are singing.
(Original idea and lyrics by David Rakowski and friends with alternative lyrics Dave Swenson).



You will need to listen to the song a few times to memorize the words and thus practice your interval training. When you are travelling, doing the housework, or even in the shower. For convenience, there is a PDF download of the lyrics along with an offline audio available to Patrons of MusicOnline UK HERE.

Special thanks also need to go to Raylin, the amazing vocalist, with whom we collaborated to produce this video
Special thanks also need to go to Raylin, the amazing vocalist, with whom we collaborated to produce this video and you can check out more of her work HERE 

Once you think you have mastered this song, test out your Sight Singing skills HERE


30/10/2018

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MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 1 - B2

The Echo

Theodor Oesten

ABRSM Grade 1 Piano 2019 - 2020.




Teaching Notes:

As the title suggests, a good dynamic contrast is needed to gain a high mark in the exam. Also notice that most of the "pianissimo" bars have a rest in the LH. Make sure you release the chord from the previous bar in each case, so that no notes are hanging over the bar line.


The exception to the above is the last two bars where the LH joins in for the final echo. Care must be taken to control the tone here so that the "pianissimo" is maintained.

Finally, be careful of the duplets in bars 15 & 17. By this point you will have been so used to playing the triplets from the beginning of this piece that it might be tempting to play a triplet quaver at the end of these bars. Make sure this final quaver is exactly HALF a beat, NOT A THIRD of a beat.

27/10/2018

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MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 8 - C1

Nocturne in G minor - Op 37 No. 1
Fryderyk Chopin
Grade 8 Piano - ABRSM 2019/2020 C1.




This Nocturne in G minor is one of the most melodic of Chopin's hugely popular works. As such, despite the piano  marking at the beginning, the RH tune needs a deep cantabile which sings out above the LH chords. Also worthy of note is the tempo marking of Lento. In the ABRSM edition there is a metronome mark of crotchet = c.69, but this should be taken with a pinch of salt as a stylish performance of this beautiful piece will have so much rubato it makes a strict beat meaningless. Also, the middle section will need an increase in tempo. Chopin himself, marks this section Andante sostenuto, in an early manuscript. (Somewhat surprising, that this was not reproduced on the ABRSM copy.

In the ABRSM edition, you will notice that there is some pedalling marked. This however, is not the only place you will need to pedal. On the contrary, most of the time, pedalling should be done throughout the piece, with every change of harmony, which is usually every crotchet beat. The marked pedalling, is only in cases where it is used over more than one beat, indicating that a bass note still needs to be heard under the next beat.

A word on ornaments. Much of the melody is very embellished with groups of grace notes. According to Chopin's own teaching notes, these should start on the beat, that is, synchronised with the LH bass notes. Pay attention also to the arpeggiated chords in the middle section. In bar 44 of the ABRSM edition, this ornament is written out, so that the arpeggio figure spreads out onto the grace note, not the melody note, the latter being played just after the beat. The same style needs to be used on all the following arpeggiated chords in this middle section.

Staying with the middle section, pay attention to the tied notes. Very often, they link two phrases together. Generally, this section is sostenuto anyway, but at the ends of phrases a slight breath should be made. Indeed, some of these phrases have a comma at the end (e.g. between bars 44 and 45), a slight wait on the silence between the phrases. However, the tied bass note here needs to ring on through the "silence". The same is true for the slur between bars 57 and 58. Again, generally the sostenuto  feel of this section, will require that you pedal right up to the next chord in most cases, with the exception of the phrase endings. Play the video performance again and see if you can hear the slur between the E flat (bar 57) and the A flat (bar 58), when the pedalling breaks for a slight breath between phrases.

Finally, pay particular attention to Chopin's phrase marks. Phrases are often reinforced by the dynamic shaping written on the score. For example, the end of bar 4, completes a phrase and bar 5 is a new phrase. It would be tempting here, to slur off the last note of bar 4 onto the first note of bar 5. But Chopin has written it differently and accentuated the, new phrase, with a subito forte.

22/10/2018

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MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 7 - C1

Rosemary's Waltz -
Richard Rodney Bennett
Grade 7 Piano - ABRSM 2019/2020 C1 




Teaching Notes

First of all, you need to notice the phrasing. Most of the phrases in this piece start on the 2nd quaver of the bar. On the opening line, this is quite easy to see. However, in bar 6, you need to be careful that the 1st quaver belongs to the end of that which started in bar 5 and the 2nd quaver of bar 6 is a NEW phrase. Make a little breath in your performance between these two. 

Now go through the rest of the piece noticing where the phrase marks start and finish. Usually you will find that they start on the 2nd quaver of the bar.

Next, you need to be aware of the voicing - where the tune is. Generally, this is in the upper RH part. Be careful to keep the supporting harmonies at a lesser dynamic. However, it is not the WHOLE of the upper RH part that is a melody. For example, in bar 20, the long dotted minim "A" is the tune note and the following "arpeggio figure" should be played quieter, so that the A can ring out above the supporting harmonies. The same happens in bars 22, 26, 28, 30 etc.

Finally, this piece will need a lot of Rubato, an ebb and flow in the tempo. Play this performance again and see if you can notice where the music gets faster and slower. Feel free to copy these in your own performance, but even better, would be if you can FEEL for yourself where the emotional intensity increases and where there needs to be some holding make to make your performance more expressive.

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