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Grade 3 ABRSM Piano Teaching Notes 2021 2022

Teaching Notes for the Grade 3 ABRSM Piano 

from the 2021 2022 Syllabus

Ecossaise in E flat - A1

The main difficulty with this piece is going to be jumping accurately in the left hand, especially when the interval is greater than an octave, (for example between bars 16 and 17). Most students will rely on looking at their hands at this point, but it is good practice to develop piano geography by feeling this leap without looking. I would recommend trying to play bar 16 and the first note of bar 17 a few times with your eyes closed, (oh and without any hesitation of course!!) It will do wonders for your confidence at this tricky corner.

Notice in the above video performance all the left hand crotchets are played detached / separate. It might be possible to play some legato, but this would lead to an inconsistent style of playing when it becomes impossible and anyway, detached playing sounds like a typical bass line (imitating a double bass maybe), from this period of music.

The piu forte  of the last line is only editorial and can be taken with a pinch of salt. The thicker texture of the left hand will make it louder anyway. The forte  of bar 17 is Beethoven's own and so should be observed. Try and get a good contrast between the two halves of this piece, not only in dynamic level (first half should be softer), but also in character. The ending is more bold whereas the beginning is sweeter and lyrical.

Finally, a slight ritardando at the end would be stylish.

Innocence - A2

Although the tempo is rather fast in this piece, you need to initially practice it slowly to make sure you get all the details into your muscle memory before speeding it up. There is a slow practice track in the video above especially for this. Then when you have mastered the whole piece, including all the details such as dynamics and articulation,  then and only then gradually increase the tempo, with a metronome from Crotchet = 66 up to 112.

Notice in bar 2 the decrescendo. This is to indicate that you lean on the first note of the bar but lighten the following note. A similar effect is found in bar 7, where the second quaver of each beat needs to "tail off". Notice also the nice dynamic shaping of the scale  in bars 3 and 4.

It is quite stylish to add a slight rit in bar 8 before the "p leggiero" section. Here be careful that the left hand maintains a controlled legato against the sometimes detached notes in the RH,but be sure to observe the staccato in both hands on the first note of bar 14 (it might be tempting to let the LH linger longer than it should).

Gavotte in G - A3

This piece should be played with detached crotchets in the left hand and also try to make the bass line slightly quieter than the melody above it. 

Regarding the dynamics printed in the ABRSM edition, remember that they are suggestions only. You will notice in the above video performance that there is a different interpretation to that in the book, an echo effect has been added at the end of bar 4 (since it mimics the opening phrase) and also the section from bar 10 last beat to third beat of bar 12 is played piano  due to its minor key. As it says in the ABRSM regulations, 

"editorial suggestions ... need not be observed... candidates are encouraged to interpret the score in a stylistically appropriate manner.... examiners' marking will be determined by... the overall musical outcome."

Salut D'Amour - B1

This beautiful piece will need good tonal control to bring out the tune which is generally in the top of the right hand. All the accompanying chords should be played a lot quieter than this melody. Voicing of the melody becomes even more complicated when the right hand has more than a single line. For example, in bars 25, 26 and 30, notes with stems up, should be played louder than those with stems down in the same hand.

Pay attention to the very precise pedal markings. Most of the time you will need to change the pedal with each new harmony, which often occurs on the first beat of the bar, but at the ends of phrases, notice how the pedal is brought off before you get to the next change of harmony. This is to enable a breath between the phrases, as if you were literally singing this melody and need to breathe between. You'll notice on the above recording these little breaths between phrases.

Don't be too strict about the beat in this piece. It needs to ebb and flow, (which we call rubato), typically easing off the tempo at the ends of phrases

Andante (from Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Eb) - B2

The first thing you should do, before learning this piece is to listen to it, in its original form, that is as a Trumpet Concerto. There is a good example of it here. By doing so you will understand that the top melody of your arrangement in the ABRSM book is basically the trumpet part, and the lower chords that you play are the string parts of the original. Notice too in the original, that the trumpet generally has a smooth legato melody, whereas the string parts are very often detached. The only occasions where the trumpet part should be detached are at bars 8 and 16.

At all times the marking grazioso (gracefully), should be conveyed by an unhurried flowing melody. Even the demisemiquavers, should be controlled in such a way that there is never any sense of panic.

Make sure there is a marked decrease in volume for the minor key phrase (starting the quaver before bar 11) and a gentle easing off of the tempo at the very end 

Anastasia - B3

The style of this piece should be legato throughout, without any breaks. Obviously the sustain pedal will help in this regard, but there are places where the composer has not marked pedalling and here you'll need to be extra attentive to your fingerwork. To this end, make sure you have a clear idea of what fingers you are going to use, especially in some of the chromatic passages (bars 9-13).

The right hand should also sing out over the left hand and work especially hard at keeping the chords in the middle soft.

In bars 24 and 25 be very careful about which notes are tied are which are not. If you want to stand out from the crowd in the exam (I predict this will be a common mistake) the left hand quavers in bar 24 should not tie over into bar 25, whereas the right hand quavers should.

Disco Baroque - C1

Articulation is paramount to get a good mark in the exam for this piece. You will notice that although the notes of bars 5 to 8 are very similar  to those of bars 1 to 4. In the second phrase however, the right hand quavers are slurred in pairs, meaning you should lift off the second note in each slurred group.

Likewise, in the next phrase (bars 9-12), notice where the curved line  that marks the slur finishes. In bars 9-11 for example, you need to release the third quaver and make is separate from the fourth quaver in each of these bars. This actually will add to the accent asked for on the fourth quaver, but most students will miss this and slur right to the end of the fourth quaver. 

In the fourth phrase (bars 13-16), the left hand joins in with some of the slurring. Notice the little legato mark on the last left hand note of bars 13-15 into the first note of the next bar in each case. This will match the same articulation in the right hand at this point, but be careful, the note before bar 13 has different articulation for each hand (right hand slurred / left hand separated)

Watch out for the 8ve lower sign on the last left hand note and here, in the last couple of bars your tempo can be a lot freer. Up until this point an absolutely steady beat is required, maybe some metronome practice might be useful this. Also listen very carefully to the two note chords of the right hand in this quiet section, that they sound synchronised exactly together.

Riding the Hobby Horse - C2

The 6/8 time signature must be clear to the listener at all times which will be helped by observing the marked accents. Also be careful that rests are observed. For example, it might be tempting to make the right hand chords of bars 3 and similar, crotchets, rather than quavers with a quaver rest after them.

Also notice in this performance, a little variation in the tempo. The composer has added what could be described as programme notes. Bars 19-22 are labelled,  "Too far" describing the moment when the rocking was taken to its tipping point and to correspond with this you could add a slowing down as you teeter on the edge of possibly falling over the front of the rocking horse. However, we are informed that "all's well that ends well" in bar 23, which means that the performance returns to its normal speed - a tempo.

Scary Stuff - C3

The first thing to notice is that the quavers need to be swung. This means that a pair of quavers, rather than being equal halves of a beat are divided into 2/3 and 1/3 of the beat. Be careful when there is just one quaver, as for example at the end of bar 1. This is the second quaver of a swung pair and so is played as a 1/3 of the beat. 

The temptation in this piece might be to play it too loud, notice it starts piano and as the composer themselves explained,

"It should feel at first as if you are quietly creeping into a spooky place."
In the above performance, at bar 13, you will notice the left hand has a detached style, rather than legato. This helps emphasize the lower melody at this point.

For the tremolo in bar 20, make sure your wrist is very loose, and simply shake your hands between the two pairs of notes/chords without any tension whatsoever. It will also help to add some sustain pedal to this bar.

Amendment - right hand chord in bars 14 and 18 should be F, G, B and D


  1. Hi. I am studying Scary Stuff for exam next year. Please can you clarify why the change of chord in bars 14 and 18. Surely you would lose points for not following the correct music?

    Many thanks.

    1. Well spotted and apologies. I've added an amendment to the post above to reflect the correct notes that should be played here.


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