Search This Site

14/10/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 6 - B1

Moderato (No. 4 from Sechs Klavierstücke, Op. 12)

Max Bruch

Grade 6 ABRSM Piano 2019/2020 B1





Teaching Notes.

This piece will need very careful attention to articulation. For example, in bar 2 (and others similar), notice how there is a slur from the 1st to the 2nd semiquaver, but NOT on the others. This means that the final 4 semiquavers in this bar should be separated slightly. Not staccato as such, like the LH, but also, not completely legato. Generally the LH is staccato throughout, but sometimes a longer note is required. Notice that the staccato dots have disappeared from the LH in bars 22-24.

The slurred chords also provide a challenge. In some instances, the fact that the RH doubles one of the notes in the chord, will help (e.g. bar 8). In others, a careful fingering will be required to achieve a legato effect. For example, the chord on the 2nd quaver should be fingered 2,3,4 to enable a slur onto the next quaver chord.

Be careful also when there are dotted crotchets in the bass (bars 8 & 40) Make sure these are held to overlap the above harmonies.

There are quite a lot of tempo changes within this piece, and not just the ones that are marked. If you listen carefully to this performance video again you will notice the frequent use of rubato. Regarding the ones actually written in the part - the "a tempo" markings (bars 15 & 39) should start exactly on the semiquaver before the 2nd beat. Also, the stringendo in bar 30 indicates a quickening of pace, before the calando  (dying away) of bar 32.

Finally, always be careful to let the tune sing out, not letting the LH chords obscure the melody. As it says in the start - molto cantabile

Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details



12/10/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 1 - A2

Minuet in C - Grade 1 Piano

William Duncombe.

ABRSM Grade 1 Piano 2019/2020 A2.


Teaching Notes.


Make sure you hold the dotted minims of the LH their full length, not only in the opening bars, but also in the middle section (bars 10, 12, 14 & 16).

Unless marked otherwise with a legato slur, the crotchets in this piece should be lightly detached. This particularly applies to the bass line e.g. bars 5-8.

Also make sure that any changes of dynamics are "stepped" or terraced, that is, sudden changes rather than gradual changes.

A slight "rit" at the end might also be stylish.


Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details


08/10/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 6 - C1

Tugela Rail

Darius Brubeck

ABRSM Grade 6 Piano 2019/2020.



This delightful piece explores a slightly different genre to that usually found in the ABRSM exams. You will need very exact counting and it might be helpful at first to practise against a metronome to get the chords that "anticipate the beat" timed correctly.

The whole piece is supposed to describe a rail journey, so bear that in mind as you perform. Although it is quite a fast tempo according to the suggested metronome marking, it should still have a "laid back" feel, with the the almost ostinato LH chords, possibly describing the monotony of the train's motion and the RH tune describing more the variation in scenery.

The rhythm of RH vs LH usually coincides. However, there are a couple of unexpected corners that could catch you out. For example, it might be tempting to place the first chord of bar 13 a quaver early, to match the RH. Be careful here that the RH "anticipates" the LH. Another place that might catch the less observant out is bar 44, where the harmony changes the pattern of the preceding bars.

Regarding, pedalling - the instruction at the beginning sempre refers to bars that have the same LH pattern. However, in bars 18 & 20, some variation from this pattern will be needed. The whole of these bars, should be without pedal, being careful here especially to lift between the phrases marked and observe the accent and staccato chord at the end. Similarly, the last chord of bar 44, should NOT be pedalled to enable the staccato. Other places where a deviation from the opening pedalling pattern is needed, are marked in the copy (bars 32-34 and 37-41).


Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details

06/10/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

NEW WHATSAPP GROUP for MusicOnlineUK


MusicOnline UK now has a Whatsapp group for Subscribers.


Join our new Whatsapp group for SUBSCRIBERS AND PATRONS of MusicOnlineUK to chat about anything related to Music Education. Even share their performances for feedback from other members of the group. Check out this performance of  Fröhlicher Landman shared with the group by Rishabh Raj 


To see the full performance and participate in the group 

Click this link from your phone to join.
https://chat.whatsapp.com/4j1oLXNquVb9hTHxeiJCXR


05/10/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 1 - A3

Agincourt Song

15th Century - Anon.

ABRSM Grade 1 Piano 2019 - 2020.




Teaching Notes:
Although the tempo is marked with a crotchet beat, it really needs to feel like "one in a bar". Speed however, should never take precedence over attention to all the details of dynamics and articulation. Learn all the small details thoroughly first, at a slow tempo gradually increasing this with a metronome.  Notice for example, the use of "terraced dynamics", there are no crescendi or diminuendi, only sudden changes of dynamic. 


Attention also needs to be paid to the articulation. For most of the piece, this is quite homophonic, that is, the parts move, slur, lift, together, (the last note of all slurred groups needs to be lifted). However, care needs to be taken in bars 14 and 15. In the former, there is a two note slur in the RH, which as mentioned above needs the last note lifted, whilst the LH continues the legato into bar 15. And again here make sure the RH staccato note contrasts with the LH legato.


Finally, don't miss the B flats in bar 10, even though previously there was a B natural. 



This page will be a resource for students and teachers taking the ABRSM Piano Exams 2019-2020, including audio samples, teaching notes and video tutorials.

The New ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2019/20 - CLICK HERE




03/10/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 1 - A1

Theme - from Theme and Variations, Sonatina No.4 in DThomas Attwood ABRSM Grade 1 Piano 2019 / 2020 A1.


Teaching Notes:

The first challenge that you will encounter is the difference in articulation between the hands. For example, the opening three bars have a staccato RH, but a legato LH. The roles are reversed in bar 7. 

Also be careful in bar 6. Notice that only the last three notes of the LH are slurred. The first note should be kept separate from these last three.

The contrasting middle section, needs a sudden change in dynamic (from forte to piano) and also a change in touch. The tune becomes more smooth and it might be tempting, especially with the initial two repeated E's to continue the staccato style from the previous section. Even the repeated notes need to be longer here.

Watch out for the crotchet rest in the LH in bar 16. The first LH note in this bar needs to release exactly on the 3rd RH quaver.


Although only one poco rit is marked, in bar 16, a slight easing at the end might also be stylish.


This page will be a resource for students and teachers taking the ABRSM Piano Exams 2019-2020, including audio samples, teaching notes and video tutorials.

The New ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2019/20 - CLICK HERE




02/10/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 7 - A3

Sonata in G K.283 - II. Andante

W. A. Mozart.

Grade 7 Piano ABRSM 2019/2020 A3.



Teaching Notes


The first thing to notice is the articulation markings. Mozart is very specific. Right from the very first bar you will notice that he uses staccato and staccatissimo markings. 

However, keeping in context with the style of the piece, these - staccatissimo markings should be played like a normal staccato and those “marked” staccato, although separated, should be a little longer. 

Be careful also in bars 5 and 6, that you make each note marked, separated. It could be quite easy to slur these notes in pairs.

The same is true for bar 14. Make sure that you make a little lift after each group of 4 demisemiquavers before the final staccatissimo quaver.

The examiner will also be listening out for your length of notes. Going back to the first bar, notice the rest in the LH. Make sure you release the crotchet after the first beat. Also in bar 2, you need to hold the lower dotted crotchet it’s full length.

Next notice how Mozart is very specific with his dynamic markings. Sometimes they change where you might not be expecting it. A typical case in point is in bars 22 and 23. It would be tempting here, to play the semiquavers G sharp forte and the end of the preceding run. However you need to make the last note of each run piano.

Next I want to talk about, feminine endings. These are a feature of Mozart’s music where you need to lighten the 2nd note of a slurred group. Take for example the 2nd half of bar 9. Here you need to lean a little on the first note and lighten the second note in each slurred pair. This makes the dissonance on the beat, that resolves off the beat, that much more poignant.

Finally, a little note on trills. In the ABRSM copy, there is printed a realisation of the trill in bar 6, where the upper note of the trill is tied from the previous note. The same principle should be applied throughout this movement, with the exception of bar 21, where the upper note is played again at the beginning of the trill. If you are able, a faster trill than that suggested would be better. In this video performance a triplet demisemiquaver is used. Practice slowly with 6 triplet demisemiquavers against each LH quaver, not forgetting the turn at the end and then gradually speed up the tempo, maybe with a metronome until you can play it relaxed with no tension in your hand.

If you are playing this piece for your exam, please let me know in the comments below.

16/09/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 5 - B3

Joueuer de Harpe

Jean Sibelius.

ABRSM Grade 5 Piano 2019/2020.




Teaching Notes

Keep in mind throughout this piece that you are trying to imitate the sound of a harp. You will also need to be quite free with the timing. The Stretto marking at the beginning indicates a faster tempo and if you notice with the video performance above there is an accelerando and deccelerando in bars 2 and 3. This opening section also needs to be played WITHOUT pedal, so a good legato fingering for the LH chords is essential.

In the "Lento e dolce" sections, pedal should be added and changed for each new chord, picking out the melodic line of the top note of each of the arpeggio figures. Don't be in a hurry to finish the long tied note between bars 5 & 6 too early, it is worth 8 beats.

In bar 8, (also 14 & 18) notice the minim A in the RH chord, make sure this is held through the 2nd beat. Between the 3rd and 4th beats of the same bar 8, you will need to swap fingers and even hands on the F and D flat in the bass clef tied chord.

The written out arpeggios should sound different to the  block chords that have an "arpeggiated sign" (e.g. bars12 & 16). In this video performance, you will notice a slight separation and extra weight on the latter.

Finally, observe the "commas" / breath marks in bars 12 & 14 as well as the pause on the bar line after bar 3.


Did you know....
You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details

09/09/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 5 - C2

Lentamente - No.1 from Visions Fugitives Op. 22

Sergey Prokofiev.

ABRSM Grade 5 Piano 2019/2020.


Teaching Notes

Although quite slow, this Lentamente has some hidden challenges. It would suit those with a larger hand span (there is a 9th stretch in bar 20).

The main thing to watch out for in this piece is tonal control. The whole thing never gets above a mezzopiano, while the tune still needs to stand out against the accompaniment. This is especially important in the second half where the descending quavers must be quieter than the notes above them. If you notice, the notes with "stems up" from bars 14-21, are the same tune as at the beginning where there were no quavers. Your performance should make this clear. In fact the ppp marking in bar 15 applies just to these descending quavers, NOT the tune which is still just pp

Pedalling, should be done on every change of harmony which is often every beat. Be careful to release for a beat of complete silence in bar 14. Finally, be careful to observe the overlapping minims in bars 12 & 25. Here, good fingering is essential and those suggested in the ABRSM edition are a good guide, although instead of substituting 3rd for 4th finger on the RH "E" in bar 25, you could just play this note with a 4th finger to start with.

Did you know....
You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details

31/08/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 5 - B2

Étude in A minor

Louise Farrenc.

ABRSM Grade 5 Piano 2019/2020.



Teaching Notes


This Étude in A minor, should have a gentle lilting tempo, making sure that the LH chords are not too loud, so that they don't obscure the RH tune.



To get the timing of the turn correct, in bar 3 etc, try setting a metronome to a quaver pulse of about half speed (i.e. quaver = 72) and make sure the triplet part of the turn is played before the 2nd quaver beat and the note after the triplet exactly ON the 2nd quaver beat. Then build up the speed gradually.

To add some extra tonal colour, this video performance adds a dab of pedal to the section from bar 9 - 12, on the first half of each bar only. Here the melody has less "step-like" movement and so will not sound mushy with the pedal. Also it will help with the ascending chords in bar 12.

Notice that the "p" in bar 16 starts on the 2nd note of the bar and in this performance you will notice also some extra dynamic shaping of this and the next bar, not printed in the book.

Ease off the tempo slightly in bar 18, just before the return of the main theme. 

When you get to bar 19, you'll need to take care that the LH semiquavers don't get too loud for the RH.

Finally in bars 26 & 27, notice the overlapping crotchets in the LH. The first bass note (A/G#) and the top E all continue whilst the following notes are being played.

Did you know....
You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details

22/08/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 4 - B2

Arietta

Edvard Grieg

ABRSM Grade 4 Piano 2019/2020.




Teaching Notes

The main thing that the examiner will be looking out for, is the voicing of the melody (that is, the quavers at the top of the RH). All the lower parts need to be kept at a lesser dynamic.

Good pedalling is also necessary. The piece is marked only with the direction "con ped" without specifying exactly where. Generally it changes twice per bar, which is where the harmony changes, but be careful to lift it for the bars with a rest in the LH (9, 11, 19 & 21).

Notice the shaping of the phrases with the crescendo/diminuendo marking in the RH. In each case the phrase should climax on the first note of the 2nd bar. In the above performance I have also added a kind of echo effect in bars 7 & 8. Play the video again if you didn't notice it the first time. You don't need to do this, but it might add some interest.

One of the trickiest bars, is bar 12 (which is repeated in bar 22). Here, I have found it easier to take the last LH quaver G, with the RH, substituting the 5th finger for a 2nd finger on the bottom B flat, so that you can tie it into the next bar.

Finally, the rit at the end should be fairly substantial, with the music virtually coming to a stop on the final pause.


Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details

16/08/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 4 - C2

A Kwela for Caitlin

Richard Michael

ABRSM Grade 4 Piano 2019/2020.




Teaching Notes


This energetic Kwela has swung, offbeat quavers - often cut short by rests and would ideally suit a student with a taste for jazzy pieces and a strong sense of rhythm.

At the start, make sure you have a legato LH (which happens to be the tune) to contrast with the light RH staccato chords.

Another thing the examiner will be looking out for, is your dynamics. Sometimes they change very quickly in this piece. Within the dynamics, you will also notice that there are often many accents. These should not be overdone, but try to give a little extra lean on these notes. For example, an accent within a "piano" dynamic, should stay "within the context of piano".

The rhythm of the last line, particularly bar 39 is quite tricky and you might find playing off a metronome helps here.


Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details

13/08/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 4 - B1

The Reef (No. 5 from in Southern Seas)

Walter Carroll.

ABRSM Grade 4 Piano 2019/2020.





Teaching Notes


One of the things an examiner will award marks for, is when your performance conveys the style and character of the piece. "The Reef" is a very dramatic composition, so will need big contrast of dynamics. To achieve a strong fortissimo, try to use the weight of your arm, not being afraid to come away from the keys a little in the opening chords. As you leap off each chord, land ahead of time on the following chord, thus making the big changes of position easier. However, not only the fortissimo but also, the quieter sections need noting. The crescendo/decrescendo patterns in bars 5-8 & 15-18, need to be very wide ranging to imitate the crashing of the ocean waves against the Reef.

There are many staccato markings in this piece, which strangely are at the same time as pedal markings, which effectively "neutralizes" any staccato effect. Therefore, the purpose of these markings is to indicate the type of touch needed, rather than the acoustic effect achieved. However, be careful at the end of bar 10, the last beat is not pedalled and so these notes will sound staccato. You may also have noticed in the above video performance a slight ritardando in this bar.

In bars 19 & 20, there is yet another kind of articulation, that is slurs with staccato dots and these should be played separated but not too short.

Finally, notice that the last 4 bars should be a little slower.


Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details


07/08/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

An honour indeed !!


TOP 10 UK MUSIC EDUCATION BLOG

Thanks to YOU guys this blog www.music-online.org.uk has been awarded a position in the TOP 10 UK MUSIC EDUCATION BLOG  list.

Thanks to YOU guys this blog www.music-online.org.uk has been awarded a position in the TOP 10 UK MUSIC EDUCATION BLOG list. The full list can be found HERE.


These blogs are awarded and ranked based on following criteria
  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
So thanks again for your continued support.

06/08/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 4 - A3

Petit Jeu

Georg Philipp Telemann.

ABRSM Grade 4 Piano 2019/2020.



Teaching Notes


First of all, notice the title of this piece. It translates as "Little Game" and so your aim should be to make this piece sound playful.


LH quavers are lightly detached throughout, in keeping with the style of music from this period. Also notice, that all dynamics and articulation marks are editorial. Feel free to be creative with dynamics, but as you do so, remember that music from this period uses stepped or terraced dynamics. It might be an idea to make  any changes on the half bar, that is after three quavers, which is where phrases start and finish. Play this video again and see if you can notice any variations from the ABRSM edition.


Talking of the starts of phrases, notice that this piece starts with a three quaver upbeat. Try not to make the notes in this "part bar" too heavy, (despite the editorial forte marking), but rather lead them into the first beat of the first complete bar, which is where the  natural accent should lie.

Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details


03/08/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

MusicOnline UK Teaching Notes - ABRSM Piano 2019/20 Grade 4 - A1

Bagatelle in C

Ludwig van Beethoven.

ABRSM Grade 4 Piano 2019/2020.



Teaching Notes

The major section of this Bagatelle, poses a challenge in achieving a good legato. The official ABRSM Teaching Notes  for this piece suggest, pedalling between each quaver beat may help maintain the legato, but the tempo for this section is quite fast and especially at Grade 4 level it might cause more messiness than help. In any case, it would be a good idea to practice a good legato fingering initially WITHOUT pedal to start. Some notes are impossible to make legato between successive chords, such as when there are repeated notes, but the technique is to lift those notes which are repeated and make the rest of the chord legato.


This page will be a resource for students and teachers taking the ABRSM Piano Exams 2019-2020, including audio samples, teaching notes and video tutorials.

Get the Official ABRSM Teaching Notes HERE

Another thing to bear in mind is that the dynamics are editorial suggestions only. You may have noticed that the video performance above uses different dynamics to those printed in the ABRSM Grade 4 book. Have a listen again if you didn't catch this the first time. For example, I played bars 5 and 6 piano returning to a mezzo forte in bar 9. Feel free to experiment, the examiner will give credit for creativity that is in keeping with the style and character of the piece.
In the minor, middle section, always be sure to keep the LH quieter than and just supporting the RH. This tonal control will also help achieve a good mark in the exam.

Finally, notice again in the performance above, that the tempo is not always strict. There is often an easing of the tempo towards the ends of phrases. As before, listen again and see if you can spot this.


Did you know....

You can get a personal appraisal of your performance of this or any other ABRSM Piano Exam piece as a Patron of MusicOnlineUK. Click HERE for more details

30/06/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

ABRSM Misprint?

If you are learning Blues in the Attic from the ABRSM Grade 3 2019/2020 Syllabus then read this.


Do you see what I see? The triplet quavers at the end of the bar would mean that the RH part of this bar has only three and a half beats (the piece is in 4/4 time). When I first noticed this, I decided to phone the ABRSM to let them know it was a misprint, or so I thought. Within a few hours they got back to me stating that the part was in fact, correct. The digit "3" under the group of quavers was actually a fingering, not a triplet marking. Well the notation here is at least ambiguous, so much so, that I'm sure many would read it as a triplet, indeed the number one result in a YouTube search for this piece, at the time of posting this, (a channel I would not recommend by the way, for students looking for good example performances), plays this three quaver group as a triplet. 

However, we now have it on good authority that they are just three normal quavers and so in fact there is no misprint. As a guide for the future, I decided to look through other pieces from the syllabus and found that all other triplet markings are in fact in a different type face, that is italicised. So if you ever want to know if a digit is a fingering or some kind of tuplet, fingerings are always in normal type face, tuplets are always in an italic type face.

Please share this article with anyone either teaching or studying this piece as I am sure it will be a common area for ambiguity.

For a hear how this piece should be performed and a fuller tutorial please watch the video below.


30/05/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

Solitary Confinement - The Downfall of a Musician

The majority of Music Students spend over 80% of their time playing their instrument practicing in solitary

According to a recent survey I conducted on my Youtube Channel - The majority of Music Students spend over 80% of their time playing their instrument practising in solitary, that is, not to an audience or with others e.g. in ensembles/lessons. IF THIS IS YOU - read on....


It is true, that to be a good musician you need to spend many hours practicing. However, this very act in itself can be the downfall of a musician. We can spend so much time perfecting our technique or a particular piece, that we can lose sight of the reason we started studying music in the first place. Ask yourself now, "Why did I start learning an instrument? Just to perfect a certain piece and pass exams or to share the talent I have with others?"

Even thinking about that aspect of taking exams, it is interesting to note that the ABRSM criteria for a distinction on your pieces mentions, 
Vivid communication of character and style
Your aim is not to just play the notes correctly, but to convey the composer's intentions, to communicate emotion through musicality and this can be much harder when practicing on your own. I can speak from personal experience, that when I am playing to an audience, the senses are heightened, I feel a connection with the audience and that gift of communicating emotions to them through my instrument is a rare opportunity that many people on this planet will never have.

Added to this, practising on your own for long periods, can have negative psychological effects. You could liken it to working in a dead-end job where no-one seems to notice what you do and this mundane monotony can find it's way into your playing. On the other hand, playing well to an audience gives you the performer a reward. To use our work analogy again, wouldn't you feel more motivated in your job if someone acknowledged your efforts, praised the work that you do. As a musician, I guarantee you, sharing your music with others, will make you a better musician. 

"But I need to practice", I hear you say, "and I don't have the opportunity to play to others everyday." Well, I have an interesting exercise for you. Find a piece that you consider is up to performing standard and make an audio recording of it, trying to communicate the composer's intentions as if playing to a live audience. Then listen to your recording and be your own audience. You will be surprised at what you hear, that you never noticed when you were playing. Then, I have another proposition for you. I have opened a new discussion post on the MusicOnlineUK Forum HERE on this blog, where you can upload and share with the community, your recording and also listen to other people's recordings on which you could give feedback. It will be like having a virtual audience, complete with the "reward of sharing" that I mentioned earlier.

Of course, nothing can beat the experience of a real live audience, but if such opportunities don't come your way that often, I would encourage you make use of this community and not just keep your music confined to the privacy of a practice room.

If you found this post useful - please share using one of the social media buttons below

23/05/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

GDPR for Music Teachers - Make sure you are LEGAL

If you live in a European country, you have probably received a whole load of emails recently, from companies asking you to accept their updated privacy policy. This is because the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force on 25th May 2018 and requires that all businesses issue a privacy statement to all clients and contacts, regarding the data held about the individual.

GDPR for Music Teachers - Make sure you are compliant
This also includes music teachers, as they hold personal data about their students such as phone numbers, email and postal addresses, dates of birth (for exam entries) etc., and these are often stored on digital devices such as phones or computers. It will become a legal requirement on 25th May 2018, that all businesses which hold data about individuals comply and non compliance can incur fines of up to €20 million, or 4% annual turnover – whichever is higher, depending on the severity and nature of the infringement.

This article will explain what you need to do if you are a music teacher and want to stay legal.

Basically, any processor of personal data must disclose what data is being collected and how, why it is being processed, how long it is being kept, and if it is being shared with any other parties. Users have the right to request a copy of the data collected by a processor and the right to have their data deleted under certain circumstances.

Here are some questions that might help you ascertain what you need to do.

1. Do you have a record of the personal data you hold?

2. Have you explained to your students why you have personal data and how you use it.

3. Do you have a plan in case people ask about their rights regarding the personal information you hold about them.

4. Is your storage of data secure. This can include locking filing cabinets and password-protecting any of your devices and cloud storage that hold your students personal data.

There has also been some confusion as to whether music teachers need to register with the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) that keeps a register of all businesses that hold data about individuals in the UK.

Most organisations that process personal data must notify the ICO of certain details about that processing and this includes a £35 admin fee. However, the Act provides exemptions from notification for organisations that process personal data only for accounts and records in connection with their own business activity and some not-for-profit organisations (i.e. if you give piano lessons for free) and organisations that do not process personal information on computer (i.e. if you only have hand written records)
Further information about these exemptions can be found here
https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/exemptions/

So basically most teachers won't have much to worry about or do, to be in compliance but they should provide a privacy statement to which all their students should consent and I have made a sample privacy statement which you can copy and use for your own students HERE

Please do pass on this article to anyone who you think is affected by this new law coming in tomorrow and make sure that we all stay legal.

21/05/2018

ABRSM 2019 Piano Syllabus.

The New ABRSM 2019-20 Piano Syllabus will be released on 7th June, but you can pre-order your copy NOW

      
      

16/05/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

Depth vs Breath

You've probably heard the phrase, "Jack of all trades, but master of none", and this can apply to the way we learn our pieces. However, it can also be the case that opposite describes more often many students.


You've probably heard the phrase, "Jack of all trades, but master of none", and this can apply to the way we learn our pieces. However, it can also be the case that opposite describes more often many students.

A typical student will practice three exam pieces for a very long period of time and know them in great depth, be able to perform them from memory, know every dynamic, articulation and nuance, even in their sleep. This in depth knowledge is very important and the ability to play a piece as the composer intended it is not only rewarding to the performer, but also to his audience. However, considering that the average period of time between exam grades can be just under a year, there is not a great breadth of musical experience happening if this is all that a student practices.

I want you to think about what aspects of taking an exam are your weak areas. Many of you will probably answer, "sight reading and aural." I have mentioned before about not letting music lessons just become an exam factory and playing a wide breadth of music albeit in not so much depth will do wonders for these two areas. You might be thinking, "OK sight reading I get it, playing lots of different music will definitely improve my reading skills, but Aural? How does that work?"

I will let you into a secret. Have a guess which video on my YouTube channel gets the most watch time of all my videos every month? It is the one entitled "E Aural Trainer - Recognizing the Style and Period of a Piece of Music". That tells me that this is an area that many are looking for extra help with. Now, I'm sure you'll agree with me, if you played fifty pieces of music a year instead of maybe just three with a little analysis of where they came from, I'm sure this aspect of Aural Training would be less of a problem.

So where do you find such material to broaden your musical experience. Well for example, if you are an ABRSM student you will have a book of nine pieces (or more for grade 8) of which you have only prepared three. It seems a bit of a waste to never even look at the other six. And if you are above grade 1, you will also have old books from lower grades. I would suggest you just play through some of these pieces from lower grades, maybe spending no more than a week on any particular piece. Then again you can try and play in ensembles or if you are a pianist, maybe accompany other instrumentalists

I would be interested to hear from you, how many pieces a year do you reckon you get through, even if it is  just three and how this topic of depth versus breadth has affected your  musical experience.


09/05/2018

Developing Aural Skills

Aural Training is, from my experience something that is often left until just before an exam. Typically a teacher will get one of the ABRSM Aural Tests books out a lesson or two before the big day, or a student will start scouring YouTube for some extra help in a last minute panic, realizing that their aural skills are a little lacking. Many might simply think, "I'm just not good at Aural, but it's only worth 18 marks maximum in an ABRSM exam". 




But would you start preparing your pieces only a couple of weeks before an exam? Of course not. Aural skills can be developed more easily than you think if you spend just a few minutes a day practicing them.


I'm sure most of you are aware of my E Aural Trainer video series, which can help and I have recently been doing some interactive live streams a couple of Sundays a month where viewers participate answering questions on aural training but there are also things you can do yourself.

At the heart of ABRSM Aural, whether you like it or not, is singing. Here is a little exercise you can try that will help develop this area.


  • Take a short phrase from a piece you are currently playing, say just four bars.
  • As a warm up try to sing the melody while you play.
  • Then sing it again without your instrument.
  • Without looking at the music, but by using your inner ear, try and name the interval between each note
  • Next, try to sing the bass line while you play just the melody line.
  • Finally sing the melody line and then the bass line, backwards, paying attention to the rhythm as well as the notes
Aside from the singing, whenever you hear a new piece of music, try and identify certain features about it, for example
  • The time signature
  • Dynamics
  • Major or minor tonality
  • Texture and structure
  • Style and Period
  • Can you identify any cadences or modulations
  • Try and pick out a bass line
There is so much music around us in our everyday life, not just when we are in a practice session, so make use it rather than switch off as if it were background music in a department store. And by the way, you could even use that for Aural Training. In the car? After a certain song has finished, switch off the radio for a second and analyze what you have just heard. Walking along the street and a car horn beeps, sing the note a 4th below the sound you just heard. Doing the vacuuming? Hear the pitch the motor is making and sing a third higher along with it. It makes surprisingly  pleasant harmony. The possibilities are endless. Have you got any more ideas how you can use everyday life for Aural Training - put them in the comments below

03/05/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

Scales Fingerings - are they important?

Scales Fingerings - are they important?
When taking over students who have previously had other teachers, it has been surprising how many of them were using random fingering for their scales. Very often they would play them fluently, without mistake and as the ABRSM regulations on scales points out, fingerings are for guidance only and you do not need to follow them as long as the end result is not affected. So is strict fingering important.

One of the key words I used in my opening phrase was “random”. It is OK to use a different fingering in some cases. In fact, there are some scales where I even recommend changing from the standard suggestion. The problem arises when you don’t use the same fingering every time. Let me explain why.


First of all, bad fingering produces uneven results. For example, most scales tend to avoid putting thumbs up on black notes and if your fingering is random, OK, you may get away with it, even 90% of the time, but there will be moments when your fingering will lead you into awkward corners, such as forcing a thumb up on a black note, or finishing on a little finger one note short of the end. This invariably leads to a poor legato or unevenness in the rhythm.

Secondly, if your fingering is not consistent, but changes every time, you will never develop muscle memory and without muscle memory, you will never be able to play scales fast without hesitation.

With this in mind I have made a new FREE resource for you. I am putting together a video reference chart for every scale you will ever need for any grade. Starting from today, you will find all majors, harmonic and melodic minors played at a slow tempo, 2 octaves for you to be able to follow the fingering carefully.
However, this is only the beginning, in the coming weeks I will be adding links for every single scale, arpeggio or broken chord for any grade, so return regularly for updates and if there is a specific scale you want help with urgently leave a comment below.

So say goodbye to bad, random fingerings and say hello to efficiently training your muscle memory today.

26/04/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

Maintaining Motivation

It is not an uncommon occurrence that some of my students, particularly the beginner ones,  don't always practice enough. Usually the desire and intention is there, promises are made that this week will be better, but when it comes to the following lesson, it can often be the case that there has not really been much improvement.

How to maintain the motivation to practice


One suggestion that I offer in such circumstances is to have a schedule. A typical conversation, might start,
"So will you practice more this week?"
 "Yes," comes the reply they are expecting I want to hear. To which I reply,
"When?"
"Every day."
"When every day? What time? When you get home from school, after dinner, in the morning, exactly when?  

... and after a little discussion it might be that we make a little practice diary for them to fill in each practice.

Now this might seem too babyish for a more mature, advanced or self disciplined student, but is it really. Could you not ask yourself  the same questions? Is a practice diary just for younger children or would even an adult benefit from setting themselves goals to achieve rather than aimlessly filling in half an hour of playing their instrument (notice I didn't say practicing).

However, motivation is not just dependent on setting strict goals and schedules, but also on desire and getting enjoyment from practicing, especially some of the more tedious aspects such as technical work or scales. One of the best ways start enjoying what you are doing is to see the results and these results come from those self disciplined plans mentioned earlier. It is a circle which can be either positive or negative.

A positive circle starts with discipline = results = motivation
A negative circle starts with no goals or plan = slow progress = loss of desire to continue.

Maybe in the past or now you might feel in this negative circle and what you need to kick start this circle into reverse is a little self discipline and goal planning.

Please feel free to share in the comments below what you do to organize your practice schedule, or is there something else that motivates you?


18/04/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

How to play semiquavers evenly

Many years back, an excellent teacher of mine showed me some brilliant exercises to get semiquaver passages even and I would like to share them with you today. The problem often arises with the weaker fingers such as 4th and 5th. For example, when moving from the ring finger to the little finger it is easy to "trip" and rush onto the last note.

In addition to this, it is not only the rhythm that can be affected, but sometimes the evenness of tone. A typical example is the "bumpy thumbs" in a scale of B major. If you play this scale you will notice that the thumbs are always together and the natural tendency is for the thumb to play a little harsher than the other fingers. Try it now and see if you can hear that the thumb notes, are slightly heavier. So lets get to the exercises, which by the way, are suitable for any instrument, not just piano. The first couple use dotted rhythms.
Use these rhythms to play semiquavers evenly

In example A you start with the longest note and alternate long - short - long - short - long - short etc, with a slight emphasis as you would naturally do on the first note of each group and in example B you swap this around. The longer you can make the dotted note and the shorter the demisemiquaver, the better. A lazy almost  triplet rhythm, will be less effective.

Applying this to the scale of B major, you will notice that the accent falls in different places in each octave, contrary to the natural tendency to only accent the thumb notes.

The next pair of exercises uses triplet rhythms.

Using triplet rhythms is an excellent exercise for getting semiquavers even.

Again try and make the long note of each group, as long as possible and the triplet as quick as possible, remembering to slightly accent the first note in each group of four, for maximum effectiveness.

Finally after playing each of the four exercises, you should play the passage normally with straight semiquavers trying not to accent any note.

So why not give it a go, try it on your scales or another passage that involves fast semiquavers and let me know in the comments below if it made any difference to the evenness of your playing.

10/04/2018

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

Why hands separately practice is unhelpful.

Should you start to learn a new piece hands separately or straight away hands together? This might be a controversial topic and I would be interested in your thoughts, so leave a comment below how you usually practice.

Why hands separately practice is unhelpful.


Obviously it is easier to work on one hand alone, but is it really beneficial? With my own students, I try to get them to put hands together as soon as possible, OK one play through of a section with one hand is acceptable, to familiarize oneself with the notes, but more than this is not helpful. I will explain why and feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

As soon as we start repeating a physical action over and over, we develop muscle memory. When we start a piece hands separately, continuing to practice like this for a period of time, we will develop two distinct muscle memories. When eventually we come to putting these two memories together, it's like we are starting from scratch. You can't add two separate memories together to make a new memory. All the time you have been practicing separately has been effectively a waste of time. It's like you are learning a completely new piece.

This is very obviously noticeable when moving from Grade 1 ABRSM piano to Grade 2. One of the biggest hurdles I have found with my students, jumping from the first Grade to the second is putting scales hands together. They may well have been able to play a single hand G major with each hand, one at a time, perfectly. However, as soon as I ask them to try it hands together for the first time, the muscle memory they developed previously - single-handed - completely falls apart. Fingering goes right out the window. Usually one hand tends to copy the other (incorrectly) and they now need to develop a completely NEW muscle memory.

On this point, it is interesting to note, that in ABRSM piano exams, students generally prepare scales hands together only, from Grade 2 and above. However the syllabus requires that you can play them separately as well. You might think, "well that is easy, if I can play hands together a certain scale, of course I could do it with just one hand" and so you might tend to not practice it such. However, it has been known, that a student has been asked for a one handed scale in an exam and that has completely thrown them off, because they have never practiced it single handedly, resulting in a very poorly executed scale. It all comes back to muscle memory.

Let me know if you agree with my theory, maybe before you practiced otherwise and something today has made you think. Or maybe, you're not convinced. All polite thoughts on either side of the coin are appreciated.

Popular Posts.