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Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed #2886993
09/04/19 05:18 PM
09/04/19 05:18 PM
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Peter Hontaru Offline OP
Full Member
Peter Hontaru  Offline OP
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Hi everyone,

I have just "finished" the second out of the three pieces I am preparing for my Grade 5 exam in November and was wondering if I could get collect some feedback on how to get this piece to distinction standard.

I will now be focusing on the last piece for the next month or so, but I am collecting anything that you might have to offer and will keep it on the back of my head in October, when I get back to it to polish it off.

I have already been offered some advice but do not want to mention it as I do not want to influence anyone's interpretations.

Also, is there anyone on here planning to take Grade 5 ABRSM soon? Would love to see any videos of your pieces and maybe keep in touch.

Thank you!!!



I started playing at the beginning of 2018 and achieved Grade 3 distinction later in the year
I am now working to hopefully repeat the same achievement in Grade 5 around Nov 2019
If interested, you can find videos of my progress at https://www.youtube.com/user/YosPepy
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Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Peter Hontaru] #2886995
09/04/19 05:23 PM
09/04/19 05:23 PM
Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 242
Connecticut, USA
MichaelJK Offline

Full Member
MichaelJK  Offline

Full Member

Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 242
Connecticut, USA
The best feedback I can give is to ask you for your feedback. What do you think worked well in that performance? What didn't work well? Was there anything you tried to do that didn't work? Anything you wish would work better?

Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Peter Hontaru] #2887067
09/05/19 12:47 AM
09/05/19 12:47 AM
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 1,215
Moscow, Russia
I
Iaroslav Vasiliev Online content
1000 Post Club Member
Iaroslav Vasiliev  Online Content
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Joined: May 2016
Posts: 1,215
Moscow, Russia
There's one major problem that I've noticed. Your legato is pretty bad yet. Because of this you have difficulties with shaping of phrases and as the result your playing sounds mechanistically and not musically. I think you need to focus on working on your legato first of all. Then on shaping of phrases. Good luck!

(Sorry for criticism but I thought it's what you asked for.)

Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Peter Hontaru] #2887099
09/05/19 03:18 AM
09/05/19 03:18 AM
Joined: Jun 2019
Posts: 12
Sydney
terentius Offline
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terentius  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2019
Posts: 12
Sydney
Based on this piece I think you will pass but not get a distinction.

Have a look on YouTube at Emmanuel Ax playing Haydn and note how it flows musically.

No-one would expect you to play at his level of course, but it may help with improving "musicality", that intangible quality.

Hope it goes well in November.


“Modesty is a form of pride.”
Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Peter Hontaru] #2887159
09/05/19 09:09 AM
09/05/19 09:09 AM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 331
Texas
Dr. Rogers Offline
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Dr. Rogers  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 331
Texas
Some suggestions, probably worth what they cost you:

1. Be careful of your timing. The tempo sometimes wandered. (This is a problem that bedevils me as well!)

2. Don't let the left hand drown out the right. Sometimes the left hand was a little too strong or the right hand was a little too weak. You want to provide a firm foundation without being overpowering.

3. Work on your intonation. Work with the natural accents implied by the time signature, and also the natural alteration of strong and weak notes.

4. Work on the phrasing. This music needs to have a sense of motion

5. Most of your practice should be well below performance tempo.

6. You probably need to do a good bit more hands separate work. Get the timing, dynamics, intonation, articulation, and phrasing right with the hands separate, so that they sound beautiful (and correct). Then put it together. I would recommend spending most of your practice session hands separate, and then put them together at the end of the session. You will likely hear surprising improvement every day. Many of us (myself included) tend to be lazy and rush through or skip the hands separate work.

Lastly, and most importantly, this is not a good place to get the kind of help you need. Your teacher can help you with this. If you don't have a teacher, get one. (There is no shame in this - even Tiger Woods retained a swing coach when he was at the top of his game.)

Good luck. To misquote the great Hercule Poirot, "my sympathy is with all who take the music exams."

I did G5 on my own and got distinction, but I'm a music teacher myself. I did get a more senior teacher (a retired conservatory department chair - expensive but worth it!) to help me with G8 and now with diploma work. I passed G8 with distinction back in May. I'll be doing G6 theory in November and ARSM next May.


Austin Rogers, PhD
Music Teacher in Austin, TX
Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko", Baldwin Upright, Yamaha P-255
Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: terentius] #2888330
09/08/19 05:50 PM
09/08/19 05:50 PM
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Peter Hontaru Offline OP
Full Member
Peter Hontaru  Offline OP
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Apologies for the late reply - I was travelling unexpectedly and did not have much access to my laptop.

Originally Posted by MichaelJK
The best feedback I can give is to ask you for your feedback. What do you think worked well in that performance? What didn't work well? Was there anything you tried to do that didn't work? Anything you wish would work better?


Thank you - I already knew some of the things that were suggested but there's one major thing I that came out and I don't know as much as I'd like to know about and that's phrasing.

Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
There's one major problem that I've noticed. Your legato is pretty bad yet. Because of this you have difficulties with shaping of phrases and as the result your playing sounds mechanistically and not musically. I think you need to focus on working on your legato first of all. Then on shaping of phrases. Good luck!

(Sorry for criticism but I thought it's what you asked for.)


Thank you, quite a few of this piece is meant to be staccato but I think you're referring to the section around 00:46 seconds? That should be legato and you're definitely right, it sounds too mechanical and that part especially needs more work - thanks for the feedback.

I will also bring phrasing as a point of focus to my teacher - that's one thing that I do not have as good of an understanding as I'd like and need to look into it. Is there anything specifically that you found helpful to better your knowledge on phrasing in general?
Originally Posted by terentius
Based on this piece I think you will pass but not get a distinction.

Have a look on YouTube at Emmanuel Ax playing Haydn and note how it flows musically.

No-one would expect you to play at his level of course, but it may help with improving "musicality", that intangible quality.

Hope it goes well in November.


Wow, thank you very much for the suggestion.

I have heard of Emmanuel Ax but never listened to him. Also, funnily enough, almost ended up going to see him play Beethoven's 4th concerto as he was a last second replacement for Murray Perahia. I ended up going to see Yuja Wang play Rach 3 instead as I could only go and see one out of the two! This was before I saw your message ha,

I've added a few of his Haydn sonatas to my watch list for the next few days!


I started playing at the beginning of 2018 and achieved Grade 3 distinction later in the year
I am now working to hopefully repeat the same achievement in Grade 5 around Nov 2019
If interested, you can find videos of my progress at https://www.youtube.com/user/YosPepy
Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Dr. Rogers] #2888337
09/08/19 06:01 PM
09/08/19 06:01 PM
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Peter Hontaru Offline OP
Full Member
Peter Hontaru  Offline OP
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers
Some suggestions, probably worth what they cost you:

1. Be careful of your timing. The tempo sometimes wandered. (This is a problem that bedevils me as well!)

2. Don't let the left hand drown out the right. Sometimes the left hand was a little too strong or the right hand was a little too weak. You want to provide a firm foundation without being overpowering.

3. Work on your intonation. Work with the natural accents implied by the time signature, and also the natural alteration of strong and weak notes.

4. Work on the phrasing. This music needs to have a sense of motion

5. Most of your practice should be well below performance tempo.

6. You probably need to do a good bit more hands separate work. Get the timing, dynamics, intonation, articulation, and phrasing right with the hands separate, so that they sound beautiful (and correct). Then put it together. I would recommend spending most of your practice session hands separate, and then put them together at the end of the session. You will likely hear surprising improvement every day. Many of us (myself included) tend to be lazy and rush through or skip the hands separate work.

Lastly, and most importantly, this is not a good place to get the kind of help you need. Your teacher can help you with this. If you don't have a teacher, get one. (There is no shame in this - even Tiger Woods retained a swing coach when he was at the top of his game.)

Good luck. To misquote the great Hercule Poirot, "my sympathy is with all who take the music exams."

I did G5 on my own and got distinction, but I'm a music teacher myself. I did get a more senior teacher (a retired conservatory department chair - expensive but worth it!) to help me with G8 and now with diploma work. I passed G8 with distinction back in May. I'll be doing G6 theory in November and ARSM next May.


I wanted to address this separately as it the previous post was long enough and you offered SO MUCH GREAT ADVICE - thank you!!!

The piece needs a lot more metronome work as you pointed out

Regarding phrasing, it's probably my biggest weakness at the moment. Is there anything you'd suggest I look into to better my understanding? It's been mentioned quite a few times, particularly regarding this video.

I will also focus on more hands separate/slow practice to get the details right. It's boring but as you said, probably better than any other technique.

I do have a teacher, but wanted to see what type of advice I could get by soliciting external help and I am so glad I did - you all offered a lot of great advice and always love to see what different people think on one subject.

It's very impressive that you got G5 distinction by yourself, well done on the great achievement! I bet it was nice to have such a knowledgeable teacher for grade 8 too. Thank you for the encouragement and wish you all the best with ARSM - I am sure that you will get another impressive result.

Do you post videos anywhere? Would love to see you play and follow your progress.

Out of curiosity, when did you start playing? I've only started last year but hope to get to around grade 8 level too in maybe 3 years if I go one grade / year after grade 5. That's just a rough estimate now, will see how I get on in the future.


I started playing at the beginning of 2018 and achieved Grade 3 distinction later in the year
I am now working to hopefully repeat the same achievement in Grade 5 around Nov 2019
If interested, you can find videos of my progress at https://www.youtube.com/user/YosPepy
Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Peter Hontaru] #2888479
09/09/19 03:27 AM
09/09/19 03:27 AM
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 1,215
Moscow, Russia
I
Iaroslav Vasiliev Online content
1000 Post Club Member
Iaroslav Vasiliev  Online Content
1000 Post Club Member
I

Joined: May 2016
Posts: 1,215
Moscow, Russia
Originally Posted by Peter Hontaru
Is there anything specifically that you found helpful to better your knowledge on phrasing in general?

I'd recommend one thing. Try to stop after every phrase, get your hands off the keys and play the next phrase in your mind at first, only then on the piano.

Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Peter Hontaru] #2888491
09/09/19 04:53 AM
09/09/19 04:53 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,838
Ireland (ex England)
Z
zrtf90 Offline
3000 Post Club Member
zrtf90  Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Z

Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,838
Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted by Peter Hontaru
Regarding phrasing, it's probably my biggest weakness at the moment. Is there anything you'd suggest I look into to better my understanding?

I have found Dr. Brent Hugh on phrasing helpful as a start.


Richard
Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: zrtf90] #2889075
09/10/19 06:37 PM
09/10/19 06:37 PM
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Peter Hontaru Offline OP
Full Member
Peter Hontaru  Offline OP
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Peter Hontaru
Is there anything specifically that you found helpful to better your knowledge on phrasing in general?

I'd recommend one thing. Try to stop after every phrase, get your hands off the keys and play the next phrase in your mind at first, only then on the piano.


Sounds very effective - thanks!


Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by Peter Hontaru
Regarding phrasing, it's probably my biggest weakness at the moment. Is there anything you'd suggest I look into to better my understanding?

I have found Dr. Brent Hugh on phrasing helpful as a start.



Brilliant read, thank you!

I've also mentioned phrasing to my piano teacher and we will be focusing on it a lot! Thank you so much to everyone that contributed to my question - you were all incredibly insightful.


I started playing at the beginning of 2018 and achieved Grade 3 distinction later in the year
I am now working to hopefully repeat the same achievement in Grade 5 around Nov 2019
If interested, you can find videos of my progress at https://www.youtube.com/user/YosPepy
Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Peter Hontaru] #2889222
09/11/19 09:57 AM
09/11/19 09:57 AM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 331
Texas
Dr. Rogers Offline
Full Member
Dr. Rogers  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 331
Texas
Originally Posted by Peter Hontaru
I wanted to address this separately as it the previous post was long enough and you offered SO MUCH GREAT ADVICE - thank you!!!


My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I wanted to be able to give this reply the time it deserves. I was afraid I may have offended you, but I am gratified that you took my comments in the spirit in which they were offered (or at least in the spirit in which I intended them... it can be hard to communicate that in writing).

Quote
Regarding phrasing, it's probably my biggest weakness at the moment. Is there anything you'd suggest I look into to better my understanding? It's been mentioned quite a few times, particularly regarding this video.


Iaroslav gave you some great advice. Consider each phrase by itself and then work them together. Also remember that even in relatively simple, homophonic music, you can have phrases in both hands.

The link Richard posted is also excellent, if a bit terse. I would not expect a Grade 5 student to necessarily master all the aspects listed in that link, but you should at least begin to develop a basic understanding of all those concepts at this level.

For this piece, the aspect I would prioritize is working with the natural accents and the alteration of weak and strong notes.

Let's start with the natural accents, and consider the first phrase as an example of how to apply this. This piece is in 2/4 time. This is a simple duple time signature. In duple time, the natural accent is on the downbeat (beat 1). Everything is is "weaker" and the second beat is a weak beat. However, is you look at the music, especially in the A part, Haydn seems to be mimicking quadruple time. In quadruple time, we have a strong natural accent on beat 1 and a not-as-strong natural accent on beat 3. So in the very first phrase, the pick-up notes will be weak, then the eighth notes will alternate strong - weak - a little strong - weak. Then we have a quarter note on the first beat of the next measure. That quarter note is the climax of that phrase, but it's not the end of the phrase. The phrase ends with the E eighth note on the weak beat of the second measure. That quarter note (A) should have some emphasis, and there are at least three reasons for that: 1) it falls on a strong beat, 2) it's a relatively long note, and 3) it's the climax of that phrase. The subsequent eighth note (E) is weak, but should be connected with the quarter note. After the E, you should roll up out of the phrase in preparation to drop in for the next phrase. (Let me say that all this emphasis and "accenting" should be subtle. There are implicit accents, not explicitly specified by the composer. The composer can override these.)

Consider the Alberti bass starting in bar 17. Here you need to show the alteration of strong-weak-strong-weak, but the first note will be the strongest. The first pattern we have is A E C E. The A and C are stronger, with the A stronger than C. The Es are weak. The Es are auxiliary harmony notes - they are consonant with the chord that we are "on" (in this case, A minor) but they are a little less important than the stronger notes. We can strongly suggest this A minor tonality with an A and a C (a minor third), and the E can in many cases be omitted. (So we are prioritizing the root and the third of the chord over the fifth.) I am not implying that the E is unimportant - it's actually the dominant in our key of A minor! But in the Alberti bass pattern, it should be subservient to the A and the C.

These are just two examples, but these sorts of principles apply broadly. This stuff should be subtle but audible, and should never scream. And, as I said, the composer can override them.

You always want to give a sense of motion. This is a somewhat long, slow movement, and without a sense of motion it will seem to drag. Each phrase is going somewhere. Figure out where the phrase is going, and show that. (For instance, that first phrase is going to A, and then backs off.)

A quick note about tempo. Stylistic awareness will help you here. This is music from the Classical period, so you want to keep a fairly strict tempo. Rubato is an exception in this music, not the rule.

Quote
I will also focus on more hands separate/slow practice to get the details right. It's boring but as you said, probably better than any other technique.


Absolutely. People who are playing just "for fun" would probably neglect such practice (but not in my studio!) but if you're shooting for the stars (I'm assuming you want a Distinction on the exam) then these boring practice techniques will help you get there. (Playing for fun is indeed a valid approach, but I want to be the best I can be.)

Quote
I do have a teacher, but wanted to see what type of advice I could get by soliciting external help and I am so glad I did - you all offered a lot of great advice and always love to see what different people think on one subject.


Excellent. I hope you find this post helpful as well. But if your teacher tells you something different for me, then by all means follow your teacher!

Quote
It's very impressive that you got G5 distinction by yourself, well done on the great achievement! I bet it was nice to have such a knowledgeable teacher for grade 8 too. Thank you for the encouragement and wish you all the best with ARSM - I am sure that you will get another impressive result.

Do you post videos anywhere? Would love to see you play and follow your progress.

Out of curiosity, when did you start playing?


I have some videos out there of me playing other instruments. I've never recorded my piano playing, except as a diagnostic to aid my practice. I don't have hardware to do the recording, and I'm too shy/insecure about my playing anyway! Also, microphone placement would be a challenge - I have a 9ft concert grand in a space that's acoustically borderline for a piano that size. And that piano, which I bought right after a complete rebuild, has ongoing voicing issues that my tech and I are addressing but still haven't settled.

I started playing at the tender age of 3. I learned to read music in parallel with learning to read English. I never took any music exams as a young man - they were not available in my country/region. I moved away from the piano and classical music in general as a teenager, and focused on more "traditional" music (Irish, Appalachian old time, and bluegrass). If exams had been available to me at that time, I would have probably stuck with classical piano and gone for a distinction. My work in those fields was not wasted - I studied practical musicianship and developed a gut feeling for how music works. That's helping me greatly with my music theory exams now!

I returned to serious piano study about five years ago when an attack of arthritis forced me to put down those other instruments (mainly banjo and fiddle). As a teenager, I had been playing around the Grade 8 level, but twenty years of little to no serious piano practice did wonders for my technique (/sarcasm). About that time I also started to get more serious piano students, and felt I needed to up my game as a teacher. So I set my sights on ABRSM diplomas. About that time, I also took on a highly motivated student who also wants to shoot for diplomas. She'll be taking G3 in the same session that I take ARSM, but I feel like I have to stay far ahead of her.

I took G5 theory in March of 2018, G5 practical in May of 2018, and G8 practical in May of 2019. I am registered for G6 theory in November, and hope to do G7 theory next March, ARSM next May, and G8 theory next June or November. Hopefully I can do DipABRSM in performance and AMusTCL in music theory sometime in 2020.

I would like to get a DipABRSM in piano performance, a DipABRSM in piano teaching, and AMusTCL in music theory. Once I have all those down, I will consider the LRSM/LMusTCL diplomas. (I have no plans for those right now, but I do have a program picked out for LRSM...)

Quote
I've only started last year but hope to get to around grade 8 level too in maybe 3 years if I go one grade / year after grade 5. That's just a rough estimate now, will see how I get on in the future.


That's probably doable, but will take huge amounts of hard work. You might get better results if you give yourself more time. Don't skip any grades, and play lots and lots of pieces at and below your level. (It's okay to just bring three pieces a year up to exam standard, but one should always work on lots of other pieces.)

Good luck to you, and keep us posted on your progress!


Austin Rogers, PhD
Music Teacher in Austin, TX
Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko", Baldwin Upright, Yamaha P-255
Re: Grade 5 ABRSM exam piece - feedback needed [Re: Dr. Rogers] #2889638
09/12/19 07:37 PM
09/12/19 07:37 PM
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Peter Hontaru Offline OP
Full Member
Peter Hontaru  Offline OP
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 26
UK
Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers


My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I wanted to be able to give this reply the time it deserves. I was afraid I may have offended you, but I am gratified that you took my comments in the spirit in which they were offered (or at least in the spirit in which I intended them... it can be hard to communicate that in writing).



Absolutely no problem, you have taken so much of your time to write all of this information - rest assured I have added this post as a bookmark to my piano folder. I hope more people get to see this because you offered a lot of gold within 2 posts (and the others contributed a lot too!)

And I would not be offended by any type of constructive feedback - I do not care much about being told how great I am because I know I am not but the type of feedback you all provided was very helpful in getting to know how far behind I am from where I want to be and also what I need to work on. I highly encourage feedback like this on my playing, whether it's on YouTube or on here.

Quote

Iaroslav gave you some great advice. Consider each phrase by itself and then work them together. Also remember that even in relatively simple, homophonic music, you can have phrases in both hands.

The link Richard posted is also excellent, if a bit terse. I would not expect a Grade 5 student to necessarily master all the aspects listed in that link, but you should at least begin to develop a basic understanding of all those concepts at this level.


That is very accurate - I could not digest everything and I am sure I won't be able to put all that into practice now but I will relook in the future and it definitely helped understand basic concepts about phrasing and how it can be "created" through different measures.

Quote
For this piece, the aspect I would prioritize is working with the natural accents and the alteration of weak and strong notes.

Let's start with the natural accents, and consider the first phrase as an example of how to apply this. This piece is in 2/4 time. This is a simple duple time signature. In duple time, the natural accent is on the downbeat (beat 1). Everything is is "weaker" and the second beat is a weak beat. However, is you look at the music, especially in the A part, Haydn seems to be mimicking quadruple time. In quadruple time, we have a strong natural accent on beat 1 and a not-as-strong natural accent on beat 3. So in the very first phrase, the pick-up notes will be weak, then the eighth notes will alternate strong - weak - a little strong - weak. Then we have a quarter note on the first beat of the next measure. That quarter note is the climax of that phrase, but it's not the end of the phrase. The phrase ends with the E eighth note on the weak beat of the second measure. That quarter note (A) should have some emphasis, and there are at least three reasons for that: 1) it falls on a strong beat, 2) it's a relatively long note, and 3) it's the climax of that phrase. The subsequent eighth note (E) is weak, but should be connected with the quarter note. After the E, you should roll up out of the phrase in preparation to drop in for the next phrase. (Let me say that all this emphasis and "accenting" should be subtle. There are implicit accents, not explicitly specified by the composer. The composer can override these.)

Consider the Alberti bass starting in bar 17. Here you need to show the alteration of strong-weak-strong-weak, but the first note will be the strongest. The first pattern we have is A E C E. The A and C are stronger, with the A stronger than C. The Es are weak. The Es are auxiliary harmony notes - they are consonant with the chord that we are "on" (in this case, A minor) but they are a little less important than the stronger notes. We can strongly suggest this A minor tonality with an A and a C (a minor third), and the E can in many cases be omitted. (So we are prioritizing the root and the third of the chord over the fifth.) I am not implying that the E is unimportant - it's actually the dominant in our key of A minor! But in the Alberti bass pattern, it should be subservient to the A and the C.

These are just two examples, but these sorts of principles apply broadly. This stuff should be subtle but audible, and should never scream. And, as I said, the composer can override them.

You always want to give a sense of motion. This is a somewhat long, slow movement, and without a sense of motion it will seem to drag. Each phrase is going somewhere. Figure out where the phrase is going, and show that. (For instance, that first phrase is going to A, and then backs off.)

A quick note about tempo. Stylistic awareness will help you here. This is music from the Classical period, so you want to keep a fairly strict tempo. Rubato is an exception in this music, not the rule.


This all makes a lot of sense and I can see how I could be working on these issues.... slowwwwww practice. Will be taking all of your advice into consideration!

Quote
I will also focus on more hands separate/slow practice to get the details right. It's boring but as you said, probably better than any other technique.


Quote
Absolutely. People who are playing just "for fun" would probably neglect such practice (but not in my studio!) but if you're shooting for the stars (I'm assuming you want a Distinction on the exam) then these boring practice techniques will help you get there. (Playing for fun is indeed a valid approach, but I want to be the best I can be.)


Quote
I do have a teacher, but wanted to see what type of advice I could get by soliciting external help and I am so glad I did - you all offered a lot of great advice and always love to see what different people think on one subject.


I am definitely aiming for Grade 5 distinction - I managed to get it last year for Grade 3 and hope I can still manage it for Grade 5 (although it might be a bit too quick). Plan is to then do theory and G6 next year at the end but I will go by feel and not just try and rush through grades. Curriculum for next year might also have a big impact on what happens after G6 (go for 7 or skip to 8 depending on repertoire).


Excellent. I hope you find this post helpful as well. But if your teacher tells you something different for me, then by all means follow your teacher!

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It's very impressive that you got G5 distinction by yourself, well done on the great achievement! I bet it was nice to have such a knowledgeable teacher for grade 8 too. Thank you for the encouragement and wish you all the best with ARSM - I am sure that you will get another impressive result.

Do you post videos anywhere? Would love to see you play and follow your progress.

Out of curiosity, when did you start playing?


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I have some videos out there of me playing other instruments. I've never recorded my piano playing, except as a diagnostic to aid my practice. I don't have hardware to do the recording, and I'm too shy/insecure about my playing anyway! Also, microphone placement would be a challenge - I have a 9ft concert grand in a space that's acoustically borderline for a piano that size. And that piano, which I bought right after a complete rebuild, has ongoing voicing issues that my tech and I are addressing but still haven't settled.

I started playing at the tender age of 3. I learned to read music in parallel with learning to read English. I never took any music exams as a young man - they were not available in my country/region. I moved away from the piano and classical music in general as a teenager, and focused on more "traditional" music (Irish, Appalachian old time, and bluegrass). If exams had been available to me at that time, I would have probably stuck with classical piano and gone for a distinction. My work in those fields was not wasted - I studied practical musicianship and developed a gut feeling for how music works. That's helping me greatly with my music theory exams now!

I returned to serious piano study about five years ago when an attack of arthritis forced me to put down those other instruments (mainly banjo and fiddle). As a teenager, I had been playing around the Grade 8 level, but twenty years of little to no serious piano practice did wonders for my technique (/sarcasm). About that time I also started to get more serious piano students, and felt I needed to up my game as a teacher. So I set my sights on ABRSM diplomas. About that time, I also took on a highly motivated student who also wants to shoot for diplomas. She'll be taking G3 in the same session that I take ARSM, but I feel like I have to stay far ahead of her.

I took G5 theory in March of 2018, G5 practical in May of 2018, and G8 practical in May of 2019. I am registered for G6 theory in November, and hope to do G7 theory next March, ARSM next May, and G8 theory next June or November. Hopefully I can do DipABRSM in performance and AMusTCL in music theory sometime in 2020.

I would like to get a DipABRSM in piano performance, a DipABRSM in piano teaching, and AMusTCL in music theory. Once I have all those down, I will consider the LRSM/LMusTCL diplomas. (I have no plans for those right now, but I do have a program picked out for LRSM...)


Thanks for sharing your story in such detail - I enjoyed hearing about your background. It's a shame that you've had injuries but I guess it all ended up in who and where you are today and it seems like you are doing very well for yourself and having fun doing it too. I hope to get to diploma level too and follow a similar trajectory but now I am just focusing on learning basics, enjoying music and taking part in amateur recitals/posting on youtube as well to try and document my progress in some sort of way. Can never know what happens in the long term but am just taking it step by step now.

If you feel like sharing a video with someone rather than post it on YouTube or on the forum due to it being very public, do feel free to get in touch and send it across. I am sure your playing is excellent!

Just looking back to last year where I had absolutely no knowledge of music and thought that "Do" was the same as "A" and "Re" was "B", as well as not being able to name notes outside of middle C-G range.

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I've only started last year but hope to get to around grade 8 level too in maybe 3 years if I go one grade / year after grade 5. That's just a rough estimate now, will see how I get on in the future.


That's probably doable, but will take huge amounts of hard work. You might get better results if you give yourself more time. Don't skip any grades, and play lots and lots of pieces at and below your level. (It's okay to just bring three pieces a year up to exam standard, but one should always work on lots of other pieces.)

Good luck to you, and keep us posted on your progress!


Thank you - I will see how G5 feels now and how G6 will feel in about a year time to then be able to decide on anything else. I am not trying to rush it for the sake of getting grades because I do not really need anything official for music school or anything like that (past that age, ha).

Lastly, your progress is very inspirational and it motivates me to see that it is possible to achieve if you're willing to learn and put in the hours!

Last edited by Peter Hontaru; 09/12/19 07:38 PM.

I started playing at the beginning of 2018 and achieved Grade 3 distinction later in the year
I am now working to hopefully repeat the same achievement in Grade 5 around Nov 2019
If interested, you can find videos of my progress at https://www.youtube.com/user/YosPepy

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