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27 March 2023

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Grade 3 ABRSM Piano 2023 - 2024 Teaching Notes

Minuet in G - BWV Anh. II 116 for Anna Magdalena Bach

Teaching Notes
The first thing to note, as mentioned in the paragraphs at the bottom of the first page in the ABRSM edition, is that "All dynamics, slurs except those in bars 15 and 23) and staccatos are editorial suggestions only."

Regarding dynamics, the original manuscript of 1725 probably had no dynamics written at all, but as is the custom with playing Baroque music, some should be added to give the piece shape. Those printed in the ABRSM edition work well, but notice that in the above performance an extra "p" dynamic has been added from bar 29 - 32.

Another convention of playing Baroque music is to separate the next to shortest note value, which in this case is a crotchet. Notice how the edition includes staccato marks in bars 2 and 4. Staccato literally means separated, not necessarily too short or bouncy. The same separation would sound stylistic for the crotchets in the rest of the piece.

Triplets (e.g. bars 15, 23 and 39) will need special care to make sure they are played evenly. It is a very common mistake to rush either the first two or last two notes, thus creating a "quaver / two semiquavers" effect (or vice versa).

Finally, a slight easing of the tempo at the end would be appropriate.

Vivace: Third movement from Sonatina in C Op36, 

No.1 Muzio Clementi

Teaching Notes
Like the Minuet above, articulation is a point to consider. This piece is from the classical period, not the baroque as previously, but still some styles pervade. You will notice therefore, that in this performance, the left hand is lightly detached throughout even though the right had invariably plays legato except for repeated quavers. This helps the melody to have more prominence, the lower part just providing a supporting role. Also notice that the left hand is softer than the right hand for the same reason.

The dynamics are NOT editorial suggestions, so they should be followed more strictly than those of the Minuet above. 

Finally, be careful to observe the exact length of left hand crotchets in bars 17, 18, 21, 22 etc. Many students will play these too short, almost as quavers, but they should release as you get to the third quaver beat of each bar. This also applies to the very last chord.

Hansel and Gretel: from "Album for Children"

Miroslaw Gasieniec

Teaching Notes
The main thing to master in this piece is the balance between tune and accompaniment. For the first 8 bars, be sure to keep the left hand as soft as possible and sing out with a firm cantabile the melody above. However, from bar 9, the roles are reversed, so the left hand should be louder. This pattern of alternation continues every eight bars until the final section starting in bar 25.

From here notice the sudden changes in dynamics, it might even be worth exaggerating slightly the "mf "to a "f" to make the change more dramatic.

Regarding articulation, you will notice that the accompaniment part (LH bars 1-8, RH part bars 9-16 etc) has the word "legato" written by it, whereas the melody contains the occasional staccato note. These should always be light and delicate and never feel like you're stabbing the key.

From bar 17, the LH accompaniment becomes more mobile moving through frequent hand position changes, but remember as mentioned above this needs to be legato. Therefore fingering needs care so that there are no breaks between the changes of position (the suggested fingerings in the ABRSM edition for bars 18, 19, 22-24 would be a good idea to follow).  

The Sad Ghost
Nancy Litten

Teaching Notes
Although not marked in the ABRSM edition, a performance of this piece would benefit from using the sustain pedal, changing twice per bar except for the two staccato bars (3 and 6), where it should release completely to achieve the staccato effect.

From bar 7, try to bring out the tune, notice that the word "cantabile" and the "mp" dynamic are written specifically on the right hand part. Another argument for the use of pedal are the long dotted crotchets in the left hand part which sustain right through half a bar at a time. If you pedal carefully it will take care of these sustained notes.
However, in bar 20 you must make sure you physically hold the tied G at the top of the LH as you will change pedal in the middle of this note and so harmony will be lost if you just rely on your foot rather than your fingers to sustain notes. 
A slight "rit" would be stylish at the end of bar 24 and be careful from this point onwards that you don't get too quiet too soon. There should be a gradual decrescendo and you don't want to "run out of road" so that there is no room to get any quieter without the notes not sounding at all.

Study in F: No25 from "48 Etuden in Fortschreitender Ordnung" Op 65
C. A. Loeschhorn

Teaching Notes
Like the  "Hansel and Gretel" above, this piece uses an alberti bass in the left hand which should be always subservient to the right hand melody.

Also be careful when notes end. For example the minim in bar 8 should release exactly on the third beat of the bar and the crotchet chords in bars 16 and 18 should release on the second beat of the bar.

Notice in the description paragraphs at the bottom of the first page of the ABRSM edition it states that "dynamics are editorial suggestions" which is why you'll find the video performance above ends with two louder chords, something you may or may not wish to copy.

The Song of Twilight: from "Piano Pieces for Children"
Yoshinao Nakada

Teaching Notes
Usually in ABRSM exams repeats are not played, but note the instruction at the bottom of the page that in this piece the repeat should be observed.

Aim for a very gentle left hand. At no time should the chords overpower the melody.

Particular care needs to be taken in bar 12, where for the first time in the piece there is no pedal. This is to enable the staccato notes, but watch out for the minim at the bass of the left hand which should be sustained during the execution of the shorter detached notes above it.

T-Rex Hungry: from "A Day in the Life of a T-Rex"
Sonny Chua

Teaching Notes
It would be a good idea to start practising this one very slowly to get all the details into your muscle memory. As I often tell my students, "To play fast - practise slowly". There are small details which once you are playing "feverishly fast" as prescribed by the composer, you will find almost impossible to add later if you haven't learned them at a slow pace first.

For example, notice the LH quavers at the beginning are slurred in groups of 4. In other words, you need a little lift after each 4th note. This is definitely something you'll need to cultivate at a reduced speed.

Then in bar 7, notice the long minims in the LH. It would be tempting here to play these shorter than the values written, especially after the snappy staccato notes of the previous bar.

The direction "Tiptoeing" in bar 13 etc, will denote a softer dynamic for two bars, then returning to the louder "Snapping" in bar 15 and "Tiptoeing" again in bar 17.

Observe the accents from bars 19-24 and finally be sure the the crotchet is full length in bar 28. There is a reason why the composer hasn't written a quaver as in the previous bar. 

The Spanish Guitar: from "Accents around the World"
William Gillock

Teaching Notes
The Flamenco style of this piece needs an effortless execution of the triplets which you can imagine imitating the sound of castanets. Accents also play an important role in defining where the beats fall.

In bar 9, notice that the "pp" dynamic applies only to the left hand and in fact when the right hand enters in the next bar, it has its own "mp" dynamic thus singing out on top of the chordal accompaniment.

Care will be needed with the rhythm in bar 25 where a truncated version of the earlier triplet theme occurs, using only one quaver instead of two after each group of triplets.

Finally note the sudden loud change of dynamic to forte for the last two chords marked "ppp". Try to make this contrast a big as possible

The Entertainer
Scot Joplin (Arr Onac)

Teaching Notes
This will undoubtedly be one of the most popular pieces in the C list for this grade and so your performance will need to stand out from the crowd to impress the examiner.

Many will take it too fast, ignoring the very first instruction to play "Not Fast".

Another direction that will be missed by many is the "LH lightly detached throughout" in bar 5. Make sure you master this detached style at an initially slower speed, particularly in bars 5 and 6 as they seem to be a weker area among students.

It goes without saying that dynamics will set apart those who have read the music thoroughly from those who play largely by ear or from memory.

A question may arise about which hand to use at the start. Although the first note of each of bars 1-3 is written for left hand, it would be quite acceptable to play this whole passage with one hand (right) if you find that more comfortable. Indeed the original version on which this arrangement is based, has this initial melody played by both hands an octave apart, each playing the entire melody without any swapping of hands.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you this will really help me


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