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Grade 4 ABRSM Piano 2021 2022 Teaching Notes

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Prelude in C Minor - A1

This piece will initially need slow practice with a metronome to build muscle memory. Gradually increase the tempo only as long as everything remains in control. Additionally, be very careful that you playing is always even, as it gets faster. To help this there are some excellent exercises for even semiquavers HERE

Note that the quavers in the third beat of each bar, left hand, should be played as semiquavers, not quavers so that it sounds like an alternating pattern with the right hand.

Pay attention to the arched dynamics of the phrases and although crescendos / diminuendos and rubato are not normally used in baroque music, you can afford to put just a little nuanced pressure and delay on some of the intense moments in the harmony such as the bass note A flat in bar 9.

For the page turn, spend some time memorising bar 13, then play from bar 12 to 13 without turning the page. Then try the opposite, have the second page open, again playing from bar 12. Finally, turn the page with your left hand as soon as you have played the F sharp on the first beat of bar 12. (Folding the corner of the page helps, so that you can grab it quickly.)

Pay attention to the placing of the left hand rests, there is a temptation to linger over into the second beat of each bar, which should be avoided and particularly in the penultimate bar 42, be sure to release you left hand exactly on the second beat.

Finally, there is a pause on the last note. Let the atmosphere settle, before you jump off the keys too early.

Minuet and Trio - A3

In the footnotes of the ABRSM edition, you will notice that it says that "All dynamics are editorial suggestions only" and in the above video performance you will notice some variation from the printed dynamics in your book. For example, above, the section from bars 9 - 12 is played piano. 

Always bear in mind that a Minuet is a dance and so your performance should portray this character. Use some separation between the crotchets to add extra poise. Also notice where the slurs end. That is to say, very often they are just  pair of notes / chords joined together. In these instances don't be tempted to slur beyond where it is marked. For example, the dotted rhythms in bars 3 and 5, should release the semiquaver, lifting before, rather than running smoothly onto the next beat.

Also watch out for held minims such as those in bars 4, 8. 12 and 16, each of which should overlap the two crotchets underneath.

The Minuet and Trio form usually has two sections that are varied in style and character. In this case, the Minuet is very stately, courtly, whereas the Trio section is more delicate and playful. Try and achieve this change of mood in your playing.

One final piece of advice, always practice with the D.C. al Fine. You might be tempted to not bother with the repeat, thinking, "I'll just do it in the exam",  but if you're in the habit of stopping at the end of the Trio, the chances are, out of habit, you'll run the risk of forgetting in the exam. If you really don't need to play the whole first page again, at least get in the habit of going back and playing the first bar.

Moonbeams - B1

This beautiful melody will need a very sensitive touch, with not too strict a tempo. The term rubato meaning, with some freedom of time,  is appropriate for a piece like this. For example, if you listen carefully to above performance video and try to "clap the beat" as it plays,  you will notice there is often some easing off at the ends of phrases. At other points it will push forward. It is not something that can be prescribed in an easy to follow formula, but rather something that is felt. Again, listening to the above performance a few times, will give you some suggestions as to where the music ebbs and flows.

Another thing that is not so prescribed in the book is pedalling. There is an initial direction con ped. and then it is left up to you. Fortunately, there is a formula you can follow that will tell you where to pedal. Generally this is every change of harmony, which again is often once per bar. The best way to decide where the harmony changes is to play through the left hand, with pedal, and listen carefully if there are any clashes of notes. This clash will indicate the harmony has changed.

Another thing that the examiner will be looking out for is your tonal control. In other words, the right hand melody must sing out over the softer left hand broken chord shapes.

A further element to achieve a distinction deserving performance is you phrasing. Invariably during this piece, phrases start with three quavers before the bar line and you should breathe (slightly lift and maybe pause momentarily in the context of the aforementioned rubato), between phrases. For example, in bar 4, make a slight separation between the last three quavers of bar 4 and the one just before it.

Finally, work hard at making the high pianissimo chords (bars 17-20) as delicate as possible amongst all the business that is going on around them. Once more, rubato tastefully done, could help here.


Erster Verlust - B3

This piece will require a lot of rubato from the very first note. The opening  fp  should be held a little longer and then gently let the notes of the following phrase pick up tempo. The same will be true for all future occurrences of this   fp .

Although not marked, the use of careful pedalling is quite acceptable and will even enhance the flowing melody. For example, in bars 2 - 4, one pedal per bar can be used on the broken chord patterns (and similar instances throughout the piece).

Pedal will also make a better legato where the fingering becomes awkward to do so. In the above performance video, the first two quavers are joined with a pedal (since the repeated F natural, alternating between the hands creates a rather bumpy, non-legato effect without pedal) and also each of the last two quavers of bar 24 into the first chord of bar 25, would similarly benefit from some careful pedalling.

Attention should also be paid to the exact lengths of notes. For example, make sure that the bottom E at the end of each half is played solo, that is - the right hand rest is observed. Another place that might be easily missed is the minim G in the lower right hand of bar 25.

In bar 30, make sure the last two quaver chords are slightly longer than the first two as directed by the semi-staccato marking.

Finally, always bear in mind the title of the piece, imagine maybe the sadness of a broken heart after a break-up and perform this piece with such feeling.

I Hear What You Say - C2

The instruction at the beginning with pedal, leaves the decision of where to pedal up to the performer, but as a rule of thumb, you should change the pedal every new harmony, which is usually indicated by a change in the shape of the left hand chords.

The melody is, for the most part in the right hand and so the repeated left chords should pulse ever so softly underneath. Now and again, the bass provides an interesting figure such as at the end of bar 3 and into bar 4, and here, obviously you can bring out this lower part. It is noteworthy that in these passages of left hand interest, the right hand often has a rest, be sure to observe these, thus giving the bass even more opportunity to shine. 

The syncopated rhythms, although they look quite complicated on paper, should always have a care-free ease about them and not sound in any way mechanically calculated. Be careful about sneaky tied notes across the line (e.g. at the end of bars 8, 11, 14, 17, 21 and 24). Since they are between the different lines of music on the page, they may get easily missed.

There are a couple of instances where the right hand crosses over into the lower clef as  marked by the bracket, half way through bars 15 and 19. In both these cases, this again is melody  and so should b brought out. Take particular care at the beginning of bar 17, where the tied F sharp (played by the right hand), should be louder than the two notes surrounding it (played in the left hand.

Finally, don't be in a hurry to get off the final chord. Let it linger as you keep completely still, hands, feet and in fact whole body enjoying the pin drop atmosphere you have just created.

Shark Soup - C3

Articulation is paramount in this piece, you will notice from the very beginning how the composer marks the last right hand note of bar 1 tenuto and that of bar 2 staccato. You should learn this piece at a speed slow enough to incorporate all the finer details from the outset, only increasing the speed as they become muscle memory. 

Another detail that is likely to get missed is the lengths of the last notes of phrases and any subsequent rests. For example, te left hand of bar 1 should release as the right starts on the second beat, whereas in bar 8, it needs to be a full minim. Again, make all these finer points secure at an initially slower tempo. 

You will notice in the above performance, that in general the left hand has a rather detached style, at least at the beginning. There is however, a contrasting more legato section from bar 25 until the da capo, also backed up with a softer general dynamic. Within this gentle section however, notice the delicate staccato figures of bars 26 and 28. By the way, the right hand minim B of bar 30 is impossible to play as a minim with the suggested fingering, but rather than change the fingering to make it possible, treat it as a dotted crotchet, because the next three quavers at the end of the bar need to flow smoothly and starting them on the marked thumb makes this achievable.

Finally in the coda section, bar 33 could have slight accents on the notes with chords.


  1. Hello, I have always found your teaching notes very helpful and managed to get a distinction 136 in grade 3 PIANO (ABRSM), thanks to your teaching notes and video. I am now preparing for grade 4 Piano, have chosen an alternative piece from list C - Fur Anna Maria by Arvo Part. Would it kindly be possible to make a video for that piece please? The staccato and slight pressure marks in the slurs are a bit confusing as to how they need to be played effectively (eg Bar 1). Also, Bar 13(Staccato and an accent on the same notes). It looks like an easy piece to play but I think the phrasing with staccatos and marked notes can make it a bit tricky to play gracefully. Hoping you can help. Thanks.

  2. Have you made 2023 2024 piano Grade 3 pieces upwards yet? These are very helpful and well written notes thank you


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