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17/03/2019

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ABRSM Piano Scales are changing - for the better or the worse?

According to the ABRSM’s official website there will soon be new scale requirements for piano exams of all grade. This post will discuss the proposed changes and when they are happening.

After reading about the proposed changes, I would be interested to see what you think, so please leave a comment below.

Just over a year ago the ABRSM published a consultation with experts and teachers and they are proposing to change the scale requirements for all grades from 2021. This consultation is still ongoing but I recently came across a PDF of the proposals. Please note that these are not in their final form, only a proposal, but I will keep you updated as things become clearer, so subscribe to blog posts, with this form, if you want to stay informed

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Grade 1 proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
C major 1 oct. hands together
G, F majors 2 oct. hands separately
A, D minors (natural or harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s
choice)

ARPEGGIOS
C major / A minor  1 oct. hands separately

BROKEN CHORDS
F major / D minor  hands separately, as current Grade 1 pattern

• A one-octave similar-motion scale has been introduced, in place of the contrary-motion.• One octave hands-separately arpeggios have been included.
• The D major scale has been removed and the number of
broken chords has been reduced.


Grade 2 proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
G, F majors / A, D minors  2 oct. hands together
D, A, E majors / 
E and G minors  2 oct. hands separately
Note : minor scales can be natural or harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice.

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
C major 2 oct. hands beginning on the tonic in unison

CHROMATIC SCALE
beginning on D 1 oct. hands separately

ARPEGGIOS
C major / 
A minor  2 oct. hands separately

BROKEN CHORDS
G major / 
E minor hands separately, same pattern as for Grade 1 (in 6/8) 

• This establishes the principle where scales that were introduced hands separately in Grade 1 that is G and F major and A and D minor become hands together
while the new scale keys D, A, E major and E and G minor are introduced hands separately.• C major, having already been covered hands together at Grade 1, becomes a contrary-motion scale here.
• Arpeggios introduced in Grade 1 are extended to two octaves here but still hands separately and there will be less of them than currently.• Broken chords continue with the Grade 1 pattern (in 6/8). Not the four note patterns currently used.

Grade 3 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)

D, A, F majors / 
E, G minors   2 oct. hands together B, Bb, Eb majors / B, C minors 2 oct. hands separately
(minors - harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice)

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
E major 2 oct. hands beginning on the tonic in unison

CHROMATIC SCALE (SIMILAR MOTION)
beginning on Ab 2 oct. hands separately

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
beginning on D 1 oct.

ARPEGGIOS
F major / 
A, D minors  2 oct. hands together
D, E, B, Eb majors / 
G, C minors  2 oct. hands separately
  • As before, the scales that were introduced hands separately in the previous grade become hands together while the new scale keys are introduced hands separately.
  • A contrary-motion chromatic scale is introduced, a grade earlier than in the current syllabus.


Grade 4 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)  LEGATO 
G, D, A, B, Bb, Eb majors / A, B, D, G, C minors  2 oct.  hands together. 
Ab, Db majors / F#, C#, F minors  2 oct.  hands separately
(Minors - harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice)

STACCATO SCALE (SIMILAR MOTION)     
C major  2 oct  staccato, hands separately

RUSSIAN SCALES (See video below)
C, E majors  2 oct.   

CHROMATIC SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)    
beginning on E, F  2 oct.  hands together 

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE     
beginning on Ab  2 oct. 

ARPEGGIOS    
G, D, E, B, Eb majors / E, G, C minors     2 oct.  hands together 
Bb, Ab, Db majors / B, F#, C# minors  2 oct.  hands separately

DOMINANT SEVENTH (resolving on tonic - See video below)     
in the key of C  2 oct.  hands separately 
• A hands-separately staccato scale is introduced (three grades earlier than in the current syllabus).

• The ‘Russian pattern’, combining similar and contrary motion is also introduced.

• A hands-separately dominant seventh is introduced, which will resolve on the tonic to encourage greater understanding of the harmonic function of the chord.
• More keys are featured than on the current Grade 4 syllabus; this better prepares for the appearance of all keys in Grade 5.



Grade 5 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION) - LEGATO
C, Bb, Ab, Db majors / 
B, F#, C#, C, F minors   
2 oct. hands together F#/Gb major / G#, Bb, Eb minors 2 oct.  hands separately
(Minors - harmonic or melodic, at candidate’s choice)

STACCATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
G, A, E, F majors / 
E, G minors  2 oct staccato, hands separately

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
A, D harmonic minors 2 oct.

RUSSIAN SCALES
D, B, Eb majors 2 oct. (see example for Grade 4)

CHROMATIC SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
beginning on A, F#, Eb:  2 oct.  hands together

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
beginning on C:  2 oct.

ARPEGGIOS
C, G, D, A, E, B, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db majors / 
A, E, B, F#, C#, D, G, C, F minors  2 oct.  hands together
F#/Gb major / 
G#, Bb, Eb minors  2 oct.  hands separately

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of G, F 2 oct.  hands separately

DIMINISHED SEVENTH
beginning on G:  2 oct.  hands separately

• Notice that all scales are 2 octaves as opposed 3 required in the current syllabus.
• The complete cycle of fifths for scales is no longer required as is presently

• A hands-separately diminished seventh is introduced (a grade earlier than in the current syllabus).
• The first minor-key contrary-motion is set here as opposed to Grade 3 currently.

Grade 6 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION) LEGATO
G, A, E, F#/Gb, F, Bb, Ab, Db majors / 
E, F#, C#, G#, G, Bb, Eb minors 4 oct.  hands together 
(Minors now need to be harmonic and melodic) 

STACCATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
C, D, B, Eb majors / 
A, B, D, C, F minors  
4 oct staccato, hands together 
(harmonic and melodic)

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
E, G harmonic minors 2 oct. legato

RUSSIAN SCALES
G, A, F, Db majors 2 oct. legato: see example for Grade 4

CHROMATIC SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
beginning on G, B, Bb, Db 4 oct. legato, hands together

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
beginning on D# (LH) and F# (RH) / 
E (LH) and G (RH)
2 oct. legato

WHOLE-TONE SCALE
beginning on E 2 oct. legato, hands separately

ARPEGGIOS
C, D, B, F#/Gb, Bb, Db majors / 
A, B, G#, C, Bb, Eb minors  
4 oct. hands together

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of C, G, D, F 4 oct.  hands together

DIMINISHED SEVENTHS
beginning on F#, G, G# 4 oct. hands separately

• Notice that not every key is covered in the similar motion scales but as currently, they now extended to 4 octaves and minors are required in both harmonic and melodic forms.

• There are more staccato scales than currently but less contrary motion scales and easier ones

• A hands-separately whole-tone scale is introduced at this grade which is currently at Grade 8

• The staccato scale in thirds from the current syllabus is removed.

Grade 7 Proposals

LEGATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
G, D, E, B, F, Eb majors 
A, E, C#, D, G, C, Bb minors
(harmonic and melodic) 
4 oct. hands together and separately

STACCATO SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
A, F#/Gb, Bb, Ab, Db majors / 
F#, G#, Eb minors
(harmonic and melodic) 
4 oct.  hands together and separately

SCALES A 3RD APART
G, D, E, B, Db majors / 
A, C#, D, G, Bb harmonic minors   
4 oct.  legato

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
B, F harmonic minors 2 oct. legato

RUSSIAN SCALES
F#/Gb, Bb, Ab majors 2 oct. legato: see example for Grade 4


LEGATO SCALE IN 3RDS
C major 2 oct legato, hands separately

CHROMATIC SCALES A MINOR 3RD APART
beginning on 

C (LH) and Eb (RH)
C# (LH) and E (RH)
D (LH) and F (RH)
4 oct. legato

CHROMATIC CONTRARY-MOTION SCALES
beginning on F (LH) and Ab (RH) / 
G# (LH) and B (RH)
2 oct. legato

WHOLE-TONE SCALE
beginning on G 4 oct. legato, hands separately

ARPEGGIOS
E, B, F#/Gb, F, Bb, Eb majors / 
B, F#, D, F, Bb, Eb minors 
4 oct. legato, hands together in root position and in 1st inversion 

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of A, E, Bb  
4 oct. legato, hands together

DIMINISHED SEVENTHS
beginning on F#, G, G#, A, A#, B 
4 oct. legato, hands together
• Chromatic scales a minor 3rd apart are included (a grade earlier than in the current syllabus).

• The staccato scale in sixths from the current syllabus is removed.

• The option to choose group 1 or group 2 scales no longer exists and many of the scales that are not in the legato set are tested in the staccato set, thus covering most keys

Grade 8 Proposals

SCALES (SIMILAR MOTION)
A, F#/Gb, F, Eb, Ab majors / 
E, B, F#, C, F, Eb minors
4 oct. legato and staccato; hands together and separately
(Minors - harmonic and melodic)

SCALES A 3RD APART
F#/Gb, F, Ab majors / 
B, F#, F harmonic minors   
4 oct. legato and staccato

SCALES A 6TH APART
G, D, E, B, Bb, Db majors / 
C#, D, G, Bb harmonic minors
4 oct. legato and staccato

CONTRARY-MOTION SCALE
G# harmonic minor 2 oct legato

RUSSIAN SCALES
Eb major / A harmonic minor 
 4 oct legato (see example below)

C major 4 octaves Russian Scale for Grade 8 Piano
 

TWOS AGAINST THREES SCALE
C major 4 oct legato; duplets in RH, triplets in LH 
and vice versa 

LEGATO SCALES IN 3RDS
G, Bb majors 2 oct legato, hands separately

CHROMATIC SCALES A MAJOR 6TH APART
Beginning on 
Eb (LH) and C (RH)
E (LH) and C# (RH) 
F (LH) and D (RH)  
F# (LH) and D# (RH)
4 oct. legato and staccato

WHOLE-TONE SCALES
beginning on C, A 
4 oct. legato, hands together

ARPEGGIOS
G, A, B, F#, Bb, Ab majors / 
E, B, C#, G, Bb, Eb minors
4 oct. legato, hands together in root position, 1st and 2nd inversion.

DOMINANT SEVENTHS (resolving on tonic)
in the keys of B, F#/Gb, Eb, Ab, Db 
4 oct. legato, hands together

DIMINISHED SEVENTHS
beginning on C, C#, D, D#, E, F 
4 oct. legato, hands together
• The ‘Russian pattern’ is extended to 4 octaves. This is similar to the example I demonstrated earlier except now you play two octaves ascending in similar motion, then two octaves in contrary motion (out and in again), then another two octaves ascending together, followed by an exact reverse of what I’ve just described
• There are two completely new scales in this grade – a twos against threes scale where one hand plays triplets against the duplets of the other hand and chromatic scales a major 6th apart.

• The chromatic scale in minor thirds from the current syllabus is removed.


If you want to view the PDF of the proposed changes for yourself, Click HERE

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