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08 September 2022

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Grade 1 ABRSM Piano 2023 - 2024 Teaching Notes

Allegretto in C: No 3 from "Die Ersten 12 Lectionen" Op125,
Anton Diabelli

Teaching Notes:
The key to a good performance of this piece is articulation. Notice in bars 2, 4 etc the slur above the RH crotchets, but notice also the decrescendo mark. In other words, when you release the last note of a slurred pair, be careful not to "stab" the second note. Rather, it should be lighter than the first note.

Next consider bar 7. There is no slur written and so avoid the temptation to join together the RH notes. In bar 1, there was no question whether to join them as it would be impossible with repeated notes, thus keep the pattern consistent. Notice that slurred crotchets in the RH are always accompanied by a minim chord in the LH from bars 1-16.

From bar 17, the accompaniment becomes an "alberti bass", but you should be careful that these busy quavers don't become too overpowering for the melody above them.

Finally, a slight "rit" at the end would finish the piece in a stylistic manner.

Dragonflies: from "The Greenwood Tree"
Marjorie Helyer

Teaching Notes:
This descriptive piece is very delicate in nature. Like the  Allegretto above there are many short slurred figures and one needs to be careful not to "stab" the final note of the slur.

Pay attention to the length of the LH notes. For example in bars 2-4 etc, the dotted minims need to be full length, but in bars 9-11 etc there should be no overlapping lingering notes.

Particular care will be needed to make a well executed slur onto the chord in bar 16, and in the next bar a big contrast in your dynamics will be very effective, but take care to leave yourself some extra room for the "pianissimo" at the end.

Minuet in C: No10 from 24 Short & Easy Pieces Op. 1
Alexander Reinagle

Teaching Notes:
The title itself tells us how to play this piece. A Minuet is a Dance and so your performance should reflect this style, light and nimble.

It was common in music from this period to separate certain notes and you will notice in the video above that most of the crotchets are separated except those marked with a slur. This is easy for repeated notes such as in bar 2, since you can only play them detached, but it might be not so obvious to separate the LH crotchets in bars 8 and 16.

When the LH has a quaver accompaniment, such as bars 5, 6 - be careful that these don't become too heavy for the RH melody.

Dynamics, by the way are editorial suggestions only, so feel free to adapt them if you feel it could be interpreted differently. For example the third line could be softer with a contrasting fourth line louder again.

Fresh Air
Andrew Eales

Teaching Notes:
You'll need to be good at maths to play this piece accurately. Notice the semibreves, such as in the RH thumb of bar 1 and 3. This needs to be held for it's full length until the end of the bar. The same is true for the outer notes of bar 16 and be careful which notes are tied in the last two bars.

A little breath after bar 8, before the phrase restarts would add shape, just as if your were singing and literally had to breathe between phrases.

Don't be afraid to apply quite a firm touch in the crescendo leading up to the "forte" of bar 15, but from here graduate the tone evenly to a very soft ending making sure as always that the final chord gets its full length. A common mistake when counting a 4 beat note is to release it when you get to the number "4", but actually, when you count to four, the fourth beat only starts as you say 4, and finishes where you would say "5" (I know it doesn't exist, there are only four beats in a bar, but use your imagination).    

A Morning Sunbeam - No3 from "Three Sketches for Little Pianists"
Florence B. Price

Teaching Notes:
The examiner will be looking for sensitive voicing of the melody in this piece. For example, the first four bars should have a firm melody but much softer LH. Be careful in the next four bars, 5-8 (and similar later) that the tune moves smoothly from one hand to the other without overlapping.

At the end of bar 16, notice the change of key signature and in the next bar (17), the melody has moved to the bass, so this should be brought out more strongly than the RH.

From bar 33, there is a lot of repeated material from the beginning, but watch out for the louder  final chord.

The Quiet Wood
Michael Head

Teaching Notes:
Although mathematically, 2/2 time has the same number of crotchet beats as 4/4 time, you should try to feel the minim beat rather than count 4 crotchets to each bar. The former will have more flow whereas the latter will sound "ploddy".

Also observe the phrasing, with the slightests of breaths at the end of each, e.g. after bars 2, 6, 8 etc. The minim rest in bar 12 gives a slightly longer silence before a slightly more intense theme in bar 13.

Speaking of rests, careful that the LH chord / notes are always released as written not lingering longer than prescribed. For example, it would be quite easy to forget about the LH in bars 15 and 19, letting the chord of the previous bar hang on longer than it should.

You will need to practice moving onto the final chord with a soft legato making sure that the two notes of the LH sound together. Going from 4th finger to 3rd and 5th fingers is quite tricky to synchronise especially at a soft dynamic. 

Virginia Hall
Shruthi Rajasekar

Teaching Notes:
The word staccato literally means detached and care should be taken that all the notes marked such don't start getting connected. At this dynamic, such a staccato will need a very delicate touch with a loose wrist action. However, watch the shaping of crescendo / decrescendo in bars 3 and 4. 

At the end of bars 4 and 8, you might notice that the video performance above deviates from the suggested fingering, with the last three notes in the LH starting on 4th finger rather than 5th. This is to avoid having to clumsily try to get your thumb up on the A flat in the next bar.

In bar 11, make sure your LH doesn't run over into the next bar with the dotted minim.

A very subtle piece of articulation, that many will miss, is the final two RH notes, where the last note of the slur should be lifted (before the LH), and not run into the D on the next beat.

Sneaky Business: from Jazz, Rags and Blues Book 1
Martha  Mier 

Teaching Notes:
In bars 3 and 4 etc, pay attention to the tied notes, so for example, the bottom A at the beginning of bar 3 is still sounding by the end of bar 4.

Again, attention to the detailed dynamics in bars 5 and 6, will add some dramatic shaping thus bringing out the "sneaky style" of this piece.

From bar 11, although the dynamic level is lower (mp), notice the little accent on the first notes of bars 12 and 14.

Then right at the end, don't be shy with the  crescendo to forte.

Finally, notice the pedal mark which needs to come off precisely with the final bottom A.

Little Whale Explores the Calm Sea
Caroline Tyler

Teaching Notes:
Not just in the title, but also in the tempo direction we are told to play "calmly". This might seem strange with a tempo of crotchet=160, but if you feel the beat as "one dotted minim per bar" rather than three crotchets per bar, then this will add to the gentle flowing style.

Dynamics are very specific, notice for example the dramatic change from the forte in bar 11, to the sudden drop to piano in the very next bar. Then again in bar 17, the bottom C needs a full toned weight after the preceding delicate quaver run. By the way, you'll need to practise carefully the smooth transition onto the chord of bar 16 from the 4th finger C in the previous bar to 3rd and 5th fingers. At grade 1, it is quite common for students not to synchronise the two notes of this chord so that they don't sound together, but with SLOW practice at first, this can be mastered.

Finally, be careful of the "octave above/below" instructions in the last two bars. 

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