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Grade 2 ABRSM Piano 2021 2022 Teaching Notes

Teaching Notes for the Grade 2 ABRSM Piano 

from the 2021 2022 Syllabus

Allegro - from Sonatina No.1 in G - A1

The melody is in the right hand throughout this piece and so you should try to not let the left hand get too loud. Regarding the dynamics in general, the ABRSM edition adds some editorial suggestions, which you don't need to follow exactly, but in any case you should have some dynamic interest in your performance.

The same is true for the slur markings and you may notice from the video performance above, that the slurring is different to what is marked in the book. the rather fiddly three note slurs marked from bar 7 have been missed out, but instead you might notice that the repeated four note runs in bars 16 and 17 have a slight separation between each group.

Another point of articulation is that it is customary to separate the crotchet bass notes in a piece like this, so notice in bars 13-15, the left hand is played detached, rather than smoothly.

Finally, be sure to observe all the left hand rests wherever they are marked. A common mistake is to just let the last note linger longer than written in bars 6, 16 and 23.

Minuet in A - A2

You will notice from the above video performance that the crotchets are separated or detached. This is typical for music from this period. On the other hand, quavers should be played legato (smooth), which will require some skill in coordination at places where the hands are doing different things (for example in bar 3, the right hand is smooth when the left hand is detached).

The ornament in bar 2 is written out for you (above in small script) but you should use exactly the same rhythm (crotchet then quaver) in the other places you see the same ornament, i.e. bars 12 and 20.

The trill in bar 6 has more notes in this performance, than suggested in the ABRSM book. This is more likely how the composer wanted it played, whereas for grade 2, you would not be penalised if you used a slower version with less notes (as suggested in the ABRSM edition).

Be careful about the lengths of some of the longer notes, minims and dotted minims. Hold them for their full length. It might be tempting for example, to release too early the top minim notes in bars 13-15 and also the dotted minim in the left hand bar 18.

Try and  make the final two chords as legato  as possible and listen that you notes are synchronized together. A fingering of 1 and 4 for the first chord (right hand) sliding to 2 and 5 for the second chord would work well here.

Ecossaise in G - A3

This lively dance will need some careful attention to detail regarding the articulation. In the second half, particular attention should be paid to the places where one hand has a staccato and the other plays legato e.g. bars 9 and 11.

Another area to watch out for is that your semiquavers remain even throughout. To help, you could try some rhythm practice on all semiquavers as follows:
  • First time - play deliberately long-short-long-short-long etc, a dotted rhythm for any semiquaver groups in the piece
  • Then reverse the above starting with the short note.
  • Finally play as written - i.e. with even semiquavers.
Be sure to observe the mf in bar 9.

The First Flakes Are Falling - B1

The most important thing to achieve in this piece is to bring out the melody. Practice initially, making the melody notes (generally the dotted crotchets at the top) as loud as possible and the inner quavers as soft as possible. When you have got the hang of this, you can reduce the volume of the melody notes, but  still always making sure that they stand out from the softer accompaniment.

A common error with this piece is likely to be the last left hand note of bars 9 and 10 becoming a B flat rather than the G that is written.

At the end, don't be in a hurry to come of the final pause, and even when you do release your hands (gently), keep still for a moment, like a statue, so as to not break the pin drop atmosphere that you have created.

Le Chant du P√Ętre - B2

The notes may look deceptively simple in this piece, but to really achieve a high mark in an exam you will need good tonal control. Always be aware, which hand has the melody and keep the other hand quieter. At the beginning the tune is obviously in the right hand, but in bars 11 and 12, the marking en dehors instructs you to make the left hand louder, although even in the context of this, you will notice that in the performance above, the bar 12 is quieter than the previous, an echo. A similar echo effect can be used in bars 21 and 22. 

Then in bar 13, the melody returns to the right hand where you are told to sing out, but of course, bear in mind that the chords underneath still need to be subservient to the melody

Another place to bring out the left hand is bars 17 to 22.

Care must be taken with the legato pairs of chords in bars 11, 12, 21 and 22. Listen carefully to the sound you produce, ensuring that the notes always sound exactly together as you slur from one chord to the other, especially when moving unto black notes it is very easy that the two notes become unsynchronised.

Finally, notice the little commas or "breaths" after bars 4, 12, 16, 22 and 26. The music literally needs to breathe here with a little break between the phrases as in the performance video above.

O Waly Waly - B3

The melody of this piece is entirely in the left hand and you should notice that in the music both hands have different dynamic markings. The right hand starts  piano  and the left hand starts mezzo-forte. 

There is also an instruction to play marcato ed espressivo (marked and expressively).  To achieve this expressive style of playing, don't be afraid to sometimes linger on  note a little longer than its written length, indeed the marking ten. (tenuto = held) specifically requires this.

It would be acceptable to use the sustain pedal in this piece, changing with every change of harmony as indicated by changing chords in the  right hand.

Finally, notice the marking smorzando, meaning dying away in both volume and tempo.

March Hare - C1

For accurate rhythm, it is recommended to learn this one slowly at first with a metronome. There is a "slow practice" version in the above video which is set to 105 bpm (quaver pulse). Then gradually increase the speed going up 5 bpm every time until you reach 210 bpm. At every stage make sure you add the articulation and dynamics as written. If you try to add them later, when you have just got the notes up to speed, it will be too late as muscle memory will already have developed a habit of playing without the extra details.

Angelfish - C2

This beautiful piece needs a very delicate touch for the right hand quavers, picking out the melody notes in the left hand, just a little louder. The exception would be in bars 17 to the end, where the left hand notes are not so much melody, but part of the accompaniment.

The piece starts piano and then there is a crescendo in bar 11 and 12. However, in the above performance you will notice that this crescendo goes beyond the dynamic of the next bar and then cuts back to the written mezzo piano. This is because the section from bar 13 is not so melodic, but rather atmospheric with its broken chord patterns.

PLEASE NOTE: last chord should be an octave higher than shown on this video.

Inter-City Stomp - C3

You'll need to count carefully in this one, it would be very easy to add or lose a beat, especially at the end with the long notes.

It should be noted that except for the long chords at the end, every note should be staccato. Make sure you keep your wrist flexible and avoid any stiffness or tension in your arm. Let the notes bounce naturally. You might find it helpful to get this fluid style slowly at first, building the speed with a metronome. Note also, the footnote in the ABRSM copy, that the metronome mark can be Crotchet = 132 for the exam rather than the composer's original 144, but with practice, even at Grade 2, the faster tempo should be achievable and will definitely lead to a more exciting performance. 

Also, make sure that you place the accents in the right place, so for example, in the first bar of the right hand, the B flat gets the strongest beat, whereas in the next bar with the same melody, the accent goes on the D.

The final pedal marking is there to enable you to get your hands in position for the last four notes, without any gap in the sound.

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