ABRSM Piano Exam Syllabus 2019-2020

Over the summer ABRSM released their next exam syllabus so, naturally, we had to have a session discussing our favourite pieces from this new selection. Below is a collection of the questions and responses we had during the session. At the end you can find a few blog posts from elsewhere that provide reviews of the syllabus.

Which of the grade 8 pieces are more suited to a small adult hand? 

A1 Bach: Sarabande & Gigue
A3 Shostakovich: Prelude & Fugue
B1 CPE Bach: 1st Movement from Sonata in A flat
C1 Chopin: Nocturne in G Minor
C3 Kapustin: Sonatina
C6 Raymond Yiu: Lullaby

Do you buy the books with the CDs, and how much do you encourage students to use the CDs in their learning? 

It is useful to have a quality recording, but teachers must be wary of students becoming over reliant on them. Often it is more appropriate to find a range of recordings to showcase and contrast different interpretations, or for the teacher to play the piece/selections of the piece for the student.

One contributor stated: “There are also plenty of routes to go down if you decide you want to learn the instrument by ear. But the ABRSM exams route really should not be one of them.”

What do you think of the current supporting tests (sight-reading, aural, and scales), and what would you like to see in future?

  • “The aural tests are just nonsense”
  • “The sight-reading is totally out of step with practical music making”
  • “There are too many scales…especially at the higher grades”
  • “The aural tests – less emphasis on singing”

What do you think of the selection of pieces across the grades this year? Do they match the grade levels? Is there a good range of styles and composers?

  • “Mostly a good selection across all grades…staple rep mixed in with unique compositions from living composers”
  • “happy to see Prokofiev in the higher grades”
  • “Grade 2 I feel is markedly better than last time”
  • “…on balance, they were better than the previous incarnation of the syllabus, but I felt List C lacked anything more adventurous than the standard jazz/blues pieces”
  • “Overal, I think it’s far too safe…but then I think that reflects the wider rhetoric in instrumental learning (i.e. the pinnacle is to play the works of ‘great masters’)”

Blogs on the new syllabus from our network 
David Barton
Andrew Eales & Karen Marshall
Fran Wilson

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