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ABRSM Exam Resources

The Essential Guide to ABRSM Examinations FREE

This series contains resources and further links to other resources featuring the ABRSM syllabus and is designed for elementary level players, young musicians and their teachers. Some articles in this series will provide a step-by-step (or phrase-by-phrase) approach to learning a piece thoroughly and securely, building a solid foundation for...


La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle)

Introduction

La donna è mobile (“woman is fickle”) is a tenor aria from Act 3 of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. After the premiere of the opera in 1851, this tune caught on immediately and became incredibly popular with the public. In more recent times the tune has been used as a...


La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle)

Touch and Articulation

We find legato and staccato touches, and two- three- and four-note slurs. Unmarked notes (bar 14, and 17-18) may be separated. Articulating the different touches clearly is challenging in this piece, because one hand is often called on to play differently from the other. Independence between the hands is such...


La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle)

Hands Together

The fun starts when we put the hands together and combine the staccato notes with the slurs between the hands. It’s not easy at first! Here are some useful preliminary exercises using a five-finger position. What are the benefits of beginning with a very basic exercise like this? It...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Introduction

This arrangement for piano by Clem Virgo is from the first part of the second movement of Mozart’s popular orchestral serenade, Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), written in 1787. “Romanze” (romance) is a simple vocal-type of piece for voice or instruments, often with a...


ABRSM Exam Resources

Grade 2 C1 - The Piper of Dundee (Worksheet)

The Piper o’Dundee is a traditional Scottish folk song, arranged for the ABRSM Grade 2 syllabus by Richard Michael. Click here to download a printable worksheet for this piece (instructions follow below). Here is the folk song itself, together with the words and a very simple left...


ABRSM Exam Resources

Grade 1 C3 - Oh When the Saints (Worksheet)

Click here for a worksheet that will help you get started with this piece. Let’s begin with the tune by itself. You’ll notice there is an introduction where both hands play the same notes an octave apart (bars1-3). The tune itself starts with the left hand in...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Articulation

Long, uninterrupted legato lines did not come into musical expression until the Romantic period, although we see Beethoven and Schubert heading in that direction. In a slowish piece such as this, short staccatos and abrupt phrase and slur ends would sound choppy and out of place. Nonetheless, composers from the...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Spot the Difference

You have probably played those "Spot the Difference" games in magazines, where two versions of the same picture are shown side by side and you must find all the differences between them. It is quite fun and very useful to do this with musical phrases that are based on the...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Double Thirds

The RH double thirds (bars 2 and 3) pose a technical challenge. Since the melody line is on the top, the “weaker” outer fingers (4th and 5th) need to be stronger than the “strong” inner fingers (3rd, 2nd and thumb) as well as equally coordinated and agile. This is why...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Introduction FREE

This walkthrough and accompanying Annotated Study Edition was kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Rachel Woodhouse. Chopin wrote the Nocturne in C-sharp minor, op. posth. in 1830, but it was only published in 1870. He dedicated the work to his sister, Ludwika “as an exercise before beginning the...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (1)

Lento con gran espressione means ‘slowly, with grand expression’. The introduction needs to be played with gravitas – grandly and expansively. Marked piano, these introductory bars set the stage for the Nocturne, and need to contain the kernel of the dark, sad feelings the...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (2)

The last RH C# is the end of the phrase, and needs to be shaded off. Take great care to spread out the notes of the RH triplet evenly, creating a proper two-against-three cross rhythm between the hands. Many players fudge this spot! The two...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (3)

Bars 24 - 26 Aim for finger legato in the upper voice, with light thumbs underneath. This exercise will help: There is yet another colour here, another key change (F# minor) and a change of mood; the sotto voce tells us to...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (4)

Bars 49 - 51 Build towards the final climax (bars 53-58). Bars 58 - 59 The 8-bar coda is full of beautiful moments, not least the magical fioritura groups in the RH. Fitting the hands together is not as...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (2)

In performance of this piece the trills should sound and feel free, but since trills are always made up of a finite number of notes it is a good idea to organise them rhythmically by practising a variety of different measured possibilities. Then, when you perform,...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (1)

The introductory chords set the scene for the Nocturne to follow, and need to be played with attention to mood and atmosphere, tonal balance (voicing) and pedalling. A sense of timing is also vital. The top note of each chord in the progression forms a melodic...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (4) - The Coda

Don’t be intimidated by the long groups of fast notes in the RH (otherwise known as fioritura). I hope I will be able to show you that they are not nearly as difficult to fit together with the LH as may first appear. There are two...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (3)

The LH is so much more than just the accompaniment. In addition to providing the harmony, the broken chords also supply movement backwards and forwards (this ebb and flow is known as rubato), and the LH is integral to mood and colour. Make sure to shape...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

The Joy of Sight-Reading FREE

Sight-reading an interesting piece of music is like meeting an interesting person. We enjoy the pleasure of a new encounter, sense perhaps a mutual affinity, and look forward to a deeper acquaintance. And just as a new acquaintance can introduce us to a whole new set of friends, so an...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

Successful Sight-Reading: FREE

"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." - Alexander Graham Bell In most sight-reading exams, students are given a few moments (from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes) to look over a piece before playing it. How they prepare themselves in that short...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

How to Find the Tempo When Sight-reading: FREE

How do we find an appropriate tempo for a piece of music we’ve never seen or heard before? Sometimes the title can help, particularly in dances (Minuet, Waltz, Gigue, etc.), but only if we have already played quite a number of pieces with those titles. The tempo markings above the...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Introduction FREE

Read Ahead is a complete sight-reading curriculum based on high-quality music, carefully graded and supplemented with a wide variety of exercises to help instill the habits essential for fluent reading. Level 1A contains pieces at the early intermediate level, and provides suitable sight-reading material for students studying repertoire at the...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Introduction FREE

Read Ahead is a complete sight-reading curriculum based on high-quality music, carefully graded and supplemented with a wide variety of exercises to help instill the habits essential for fluent reading. The Online Academy will feature the first section (Section A) of each level. For further material, the complete levels (Sections...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

Introduction FREE

Introduction Friedrich Burgmüller (1806 – 1874) was a German pianist and composer who moved to Paris at the age of 26 and settled there. In addition to light salon music, he wrote three sets of études for young pianists. Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Études, Op. 100 have...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (5)

The character of the subject is in the spirit of a polonaise, lively yet restrained. I suggest a moderate tempo (the given tempo band represents an average) with light articulations. Whether you decide on my articulations or come up with your own be consistent throughout. I...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (7)

The fourth episode parallels the first (from bar 9). Fugue: Bars 29 - 31 Play the tonic pedal C octave firmly. If you prefer, you can make a diminuendo to the end (matching the upper voices to the gradual...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (1) FREE

The underlying harmonic progression gives a sense of how to shape the constant stream of semiquavers (16th notes). To discover the harmonic framework, play the first two notes in each half bar together thus: Give more weight to the first and third...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (2)

Grouping the semiquavers (16th notes) 1234 1234 emphasises the main beats in the most obvious and square way: Grouping them differently allows interesting patterns to emerge. It is more the way we feel or think the groupings than doing anything too obvious...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (3)

The bass line is interesting here: bringing out the marked notes by slightly overholding them gives a more musical result than accenting. The suggested articulation emphasises the change of pattern over the next two bars. Don’t overdo the accents; if you prefer, you can overhold...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (4)

This chord should come as something of a surprise. You may play a solid chord, or spread it from the bass up, or even arpeggiate it down and then back up if you wish: ...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (6)

The subject reappears, now in the more open and heroic colours of E-Flat major. The second episode modulates back to C minor. There are many different ways to articulate the lower voices; playing sixteen successive quavers (eighth notes) the same way is not interesting. My...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 3

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. You Don’t Say? (Travis Hardaway) Try to...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 5

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Surge This exercise will help you...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 4

Warm-up for Taking Turns As before, the lines in the left hand indicate that it copies the right hand. Memory Exercise Click here to...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 7

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Staccato and Legato (Cornelius Gurlitt) Take care...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 6

Warm-up for Follow Me This exercise uses a pattern found in the next piece. Follow Me (Louis Köhler) Try also to follow the phrasing and dynamic...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 8

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Walking Together (Louis Köhler) In this piece...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 12

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Floating Down the Stream (Heinrich Wohlfahrt) Scan...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 9

Warm-up for Footsteps in the Dark In this variation, the piece above is transposed to G Major. Compare the difference in sound. Memory Exercise ...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 1 FREE

Warm-up: C and G Major Five-finger Positions Play these exercises without looking down at your hands: Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 11

Exercise in Parallel Sixths This exercise helps you to focus your attention on the lower staff. The right hand follows the left hand, moving in parallel motion a sixth higher. Exercise in Parallel Tenths...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 10

Warm-up for Happy Sixths This exercise introduces a new hand position. Notice that the hands are now a sixth apart rather than an octave. Memory Exercise...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 2 FREE

Touch exercise: Warm-up for Which Way? The lines in the lower staff mean that the left hand copies the right hand. They help you to read shapes rather than individual notes. ...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

1. La Candeur (Openness) in C major

The quaver patterns require the cultivation of a legato cantabile touch and tonal gradation. Begin with the voice and sing the lines, shaping expressively and giving some space where the music breathes. Fingers need to be close to the keys, and the wrist flexible and mobile. As you glide through...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

2. L’Arabesque (Arabesque) in A minor

Allegro scherzando tells us to play fast and playfully. Keep the LH chords close to the keyboard, the fingertips firm and somewhat active, the wrist loose but relatively still. You’ll need to organise a good fingering for the LH chords (I give some tips on this in my video below)....


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

3. La Pastorale (Pastoral) in G major

This study features a simple melody in the RH against a chordal accompaniment in the LH. For the required legato cantabile touch, the fingers need to be in close contact with the keyboard, playing from the key surfaces. The wrist is free, loose and mobile. Play the grace notes very...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

4. La Petite Réunion (The Little Party) in C major

The composer paints a jolly picture of a little party in this piece. We hear laughter in the bouncy thirds (RH bars 2, 10, etc.) and perhaps a note of disappointment (the A flats in bars 19 and 20) that the party is drawing to a close and it is...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 6

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Minuet in F (Leopold Mozart) Notice the familiar bass line at the end of each...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 5

Warm-up for Minuet in A Minor This exercise contains two sequences. Fill in the missing notes (marked with lines) by continuing the pattern of the first two measures. Warm-up for Spiritoso ...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 8

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Miniature Rondo Before you play Turk’s...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 1 FREE

Warm-up for Passepied in C In sight-reading, we rarely have time to work out a perfect fingering. One solution to this problem, especially in non-legato playing, is to finger in "packets" (in this case, one-measure groups), as shown in this excerpt. Practice playing...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 4

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Minuet in C The bass line in this exercise occurs frequently in...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 3

Warm-up for Agitato In this exercise, a simple outline in half notes is then filled in with 8th notes. Keep the same tempo throughout. Note the movement of the left hand between the two staves (shown with lines). ...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 10

Warm-up for French Air Practice this left hand passage a couple of times before playing Czerny’s French Air: Memory Exercise Click here to download...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 2 FREE

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Andante Play this sequence (descending pattern of chords) without looking down at your...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 12

Warm-up for Allegretto Play these chord progressions a few times. Warm-up for Off to the Meadows Notice the parallel motion, first in 10ths, then in 6ths. ...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 11

Warm-up for The Gentle Maiden In these three chord progressions, notice how the left hand of each measure becomes the right hand of the next. Memory...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 9

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Waltz by Hummel Use the rests...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 7

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Andantino This exercise presents two 2-measure...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Introduction (1)

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 – 1788) was the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. He was an influential and prolific composer who was writing at a time of transition between the baroque style and the classical style. His personal approach has come to be called...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Performance Aspects (3)

This video focusses on the performance aspects of CPE Bach's Solfegietto in C Minor: Resources & links Click here to download a PDF version of the score with each of the instances of the theme highlighted. ...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Practising Aspects (4)

This video looks at how to go about learning and practicing CPE Bach's Solfegietto in C Minor: Resources & links Click here to download a PDF version of the score with each of the instances of the theme...


Fantasy in D Minor K397

Walkthrough - Fantasy in D Minor K397

This video provides a section by section waltkthrough of Mozart's Fantasy in D Minor K397 (sometimes referred to as Fantasia): ...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Analysis (2)

This video provides an introductory analysis to CPE Bach's Solfegietto in C Minor: Resources & links Click here to download a PDF version of the score with each of the instances of the theme highlighted. ...


Two Short Pieces

Walkthrough - The Sun is Setting FREE

This video provides a walk-through of William Alwyn's The Sun is Setting which is a popular piece for intermediate pianists. Resources & links Click here to purchase sheet music for this piece (external link). ...


Two Short Pieces

Walkthrough - The Sea is Angry

This video provides a walk-through of William Alwyn's The Sea is Angry which is an excellent piece for intermediate pianists who want to play something that will expand their sound: Resources & links Click here to purchase...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

From hearing to phrasing to key and chords

Let's experiment some more. We'll begin with simple connections among a few pitches — C, B, and D will do to start. To be sure, the advantage of working with extremely simple things in the beginning is from them we get to draw very solid conclusions. Our sequence So,...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Permutations and shapes

Let's move on to another experiment with our { C B C D } sequence. Here we use those notes to generate twenty-four permutations. That is, we re-order those four notes in twenty-four different ways. The formula behind the number of possible permutations is 4! (four factorial or 4 x...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Overtone and undertone series

We often think about pitches as they're represented by the keys on a piano. But, that's only one way to think about the tones that we know and hear. For a different point of view, we can turn to the acoustical foundations upon which music in the Western art music...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Scale Guides

C Major G Major D Major F Major A Natural Minor D Natural Minor A Harmonic Minor D Harmonic Minor A Melodic...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Introduction (2)

Scales are made up of two groups per octave, beginning with the thumb. We find a short group (123) and a long group (1234). All scales in Grade 1 start at the beginning of a group (scales starting in the middle of a group are reserved for later grades). F...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

C Major Contrary Motion Scale

Notice that the finger numbers match between the hands. This means when you play the thumb in one hand, you also play the thumb in the other (the same goes for 2nd fingers, 3rd fingers and so on). If you struggle to play the scale hands together,...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

C Major Scale

Blocking 1 Each scale is made up of a short group (123) and a long group (1234). Here is an exercise to get your hand used to these patterns, RH ascending and LH descending. Hold the thumb while tapping the...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Broken Chord Guides

C Major G Major F Major A Minor D Minor ...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Introduction (1)

I decided to include some resources for scales in the Online Academy in addition to walk-throughs and worksheets for the ABRSM exam pieces , since it is easy to neglect them not only in lessons but also in day-to-day practice. The Online Academy Scale Guides are designed to be as...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

C Major Broken Chord

Begin by playing the three positions of the triad of C: root position, first inversion and second inversion. Watch your fingering! The first inversion uses the 2nd finger in the middle; the others use 3rd finger. Here is an exercise to help your hand...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Contents FREE

Introduction (1) Introduction (2) Exercises C Major Scale C Major Contrary Motion Scale C Major Broken Chord Guides and Worksheets Scales Broken chords ...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Metaphors

A good way to illustrate a new point of view on anything is to use metaphors. Let's try that out. We'll revisit the idea of tonic/dominant harmony and polarity through a few metaphors. Complements We know already: I and V7 are a yin and yang. Is there anything...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Back to the 18th and the 17th centuries

Our crash course begins somewhere around 1600 at the beginning of the 17th century. That coincides with the Baroque period which falls more or less into the years between 1600 and 1750. Classicism is usually assigned a beginning at or around 1750. Meanwhile, we can date a bridging style between...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Welcome! FREE

Of course! You've arrived here because of your interest in music theory! What, how, why? Our course is designed help you develop your skills in theory and to have fun at the same time. It comes out of the box with broad, ambitious goals, a practical agenda, and a gentle...


Scales & Arpeggios

The Basics of Playing Scales

It seems to me that a thorough knowledge of scales and arpeggios is an absolute necessity for all serious students of the piano. Western music is built on the major/minor tonal system, and to attempt to study the instrument without scales (or basic theory) would be as nonsensical as learning...


Scales & Arpeggios

The Basics of Playing Arpeggios

Arpeggio playing relies on similar technical skills to scale playing, only an arpeggio is more demanding. A scale is built up of eight notes per octave (counting the key note twice), the arpeggio four (for major or minor). Thus, arm and whole-body movements are much quicker in an arpeggio. The...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Introduction FREE

In the Baroque Period composers did not mark very many performance details in the score, leaving many decisions about dynamics and articulation to the judgment and good taste of the performer. You will notice some slurs and some staccato notes from the composer, and we need to...


The Merry Farmer

Practice Suggestions

Left Hand: The melody is, of course, in the left hand. Project the line with a solid forte tone but don’t forget to give it shape. You will probably find the climax of the phrase is around the top F in bar 2. Try singing the melody, making up your...


The Merry Farmer

Introduction

Schumann’s piano music is a joy to play – it is full of inspiration, fantastic contrasts in mood and character as well as beautiful melodies and breathtakingly beautiful harmonies. He wrote Album for the Young for his three daughters in 1848. It contains 43 short pieces suitable for the beginner...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Practice Suggestions

The way you practise determines how you end up playing in your performance. If you practise with lots of mistakes, you’re not going to be at all secure when you perform. What counts as a mistake? Here are the basic ones: Wrong notes Wrong rhythms (including hesitations and unplanned...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 1

Start by choosing a slow tempo to work at. It will be easier to feel crotchet beats when you are practising slowly, rather than the minim beats you’ll want to feel when playing up to speed. Set your metronome to =60...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 4

Here is the last phrase. We’re going to work on it in exactly the same ways as we did before. 1 Here is the first part of the phrase in the right hand. Notice how the music journeys up from C to...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 2

Now you’re getting the idea of practising in small sections. Remember these points and you will learn deeply and securely: Clap and count aloud the rhythm of each hand before playing on the piano. Practise each hand alone three times correctly in a row before you put the hands...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 3

The first half of our piece took the music to the dominant key of C (this is very common in a Baroque or Classical piece in two halves); the second half takes us back to the tonic key of F. We know as soon as we reach the Bb in...


Sonatina in G

Practice Suggestions (1) FREE

The way you practise determines how you end up playing in your performance. If you practise with lots of mistakes, you’re not going to be at all secure when you perform. What counts as a mistake? Here are the basic ones: Wrong notes Wrong rhythms (including hesitations and unplanned...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

The Three S's: Sections

This video is part of a series of overviews to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and concludes the introduction to the "Three Ss" (Slowly, Separately and Sections) with "Sections": ...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

Introduction FREE

This video is part of a series of introductions to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and shows how to approach analysing and learning a new piece: ...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

The Three S's: Slowly

This video is part of a series of overviews to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and introduces the "Three Ss" (Slowly, Separately and Sections), starting with "Slowly": ...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

The Three S's: Separately

This video is part of a series of overviews to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and continues with "Separately" from the "Three Ss" (Slowly, Separately and Sections): ...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (6)

I would like to share a process that will help you play any polyrhythm smoothly, accurately and without the need for conscious thought in performance – but it might take a little time to acquire the knack. Think back to when you learned to ride a bicycle; you probably wobbled...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (3)

Schumann: Sicilianisch from Album for the Young Any piece that alternates between simple and compound time (6/8 to 2/4, for example) is excellent preparation for two-against-three polyrhythms in subsequent pieces. One elementary piece that stands out is Schumann’s Sicilianisch from Album for the Young. The...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (4)

The first cross rhythm we have to deal with in piano playing is two-against-three, or duplet against triplet. One hand plays in beat divisions of two while the other hand plays against it in divisions of three (three notes in the time of two). As with any cross rhythm, we...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (5)

I highly recommend practising exercises with two-against-three in one hand, such as these from my ebook on technique (click here for more information): If we think of the hand as being made up of two teams (a team of three fingers versus a team of...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (1) FREE

A polyrhythm (sometimes referred to as a cross rhythm) is the effect produced when two conflicting rhythms are played together. The music requires one hand to divide the beat into two, for example, while the other hand has to divide the beat into three simultaneously. There are all sorts of...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (2)

Before we can hope to manage a polyrhythm, we need to be very adept at keeping a steady beat and subdividing it equally into twos and then threes. The fun starts when you go from one subdivision to the other – this has to be done completely smoothly and seamlessly....


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (6)

Mozart: Sonata in C, K545 To return to the Mozart K545 example, in the second phrase we can make a skeleton of the RH scale patterns by playing the lowest and highest notes of each scale only. This is valuable as an interim stage, since it is shows the simple...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (4)

Haydn: Sonata in C, Hob.XVI:35 In this Sonata by Haydn we can use blocking techniques to serve a technical end. Blocking in the following different ways helps us to organise the hand and learn the triplet patterns more thoroughly. Use those that help you, and leave out...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (2) FREE

Blocking is the most obvious way to group note patterns into solids. It helps us see and feel the bigger picture more easily. We can also use it for technical reasons by securing hand positions. Bach: Prelude in C Major (WTC Book 1) A very obvious and extremely neat...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (3)

Here is the opening of Mozart’s Sonata Facile, K545, where we might begin by blocking out the LH: Beethoven: Pathétique Sonata, Op. 13 In the second subject of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, Op. 13 (1st movement), blocking the LH chord shapes temporarily simplifies the requirements of...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (1) FREE

Music is made up of three main elements - melody, harmony and rhythm. Apart from grace notes (traditionally in smaller notation), there is little a composer can do to distinguish between background, foreground and middle ground of the composition, and it can be difficult to make a path through the...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (5)

The dictionary defines hull as the main body of a ship or other vessel, including the bottom, sides, and deck but not the masts, superstructure, rigging, engines, and other fittings. But what has this got to do with practising the piano? When playing slow movements, ornate music or pieces with...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Octaves (7)

It almost does not matter what sort of octave work is used in a general technical regime, as long as some is included. I recommend scales and/or arpeggios in octaves, using thumb and 5th finger, played in three different ways: Quasi-legato - hold each octave as long as possible....


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Chords (6)

My very favourite warm-up is to play chords in all inversions, major then minor, through all twelve keys. Do this hands together, two octaves apart. I like to play each chord using a staccato from the fingers, pulling the finger tips towards the palm of the hand without allowing the...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Double notes (5)

I will cover the subject of double notes in depth in further articles and resources dedicated to the subject. My preferred double note exercise for warm-up and for building technique is one that modulates through the keys, the pattern changing from major to minor to diminished, and then to the...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Finger Exercises (3)

The idea behind finger exercises is to make each finger as strong and as efficient as the others. Copious amounts of such exercises exist in virtually all method books and books of technical exercises. I neither particularly wish to add to these, nor to reinvent the wheel. If you choose...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Scales and Arpeggios (4)

I will cover scales and arpeggios in depth in separate sections, but I would like to make some suggestions here about their role in a regime of warm-up exercises. Some of the world’s great pianists do not feel warmed up unless they have gone through all the scales and arpeggios...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Stretching Exercises (2)

It is a very good idea to include stretching exercises, or extensions, in any exercise regimen. When selecting stretching exercises, be very careful of those that overdo the stretch between individual fingers, especially between the 4th and 5th fingers. This is one of the fastest ways to become injured. Therefore,...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Introduction (1) FREE

Introduction When I was a student, I was struck by the two camps I noticed among my peers. There were those who did finger exercises religiously each day, and those who didn’t. My teachers had given me specific exercises when necessary, and once these exercises had done their job I...


Sonatina in G

Walkthrough (3)

REMEMBER: Practise BBB+1 hands separately as well as hands together. Phrase 1 Here is the BBB+1 for the first phrase. Observe fingerings as well as the repeat marks (three times is a good number to start forming muscular habits). You can practise BBB+1 slowly as...


Sonatina in G

Practice Suggestions (2)

Looping is a way of managing repetitions without interrupting the rhythmic flow – without actually stopping the pulse. When we repeat, we count the rests at the end of the phrase as well as any that we might find at the start. You’ll notice there are repeat signs in all...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (4)

Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903 We find a clear example of two-directional rolling in Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. In the Fantasia, Bach writes three sections in block chords with the direction arpeggio (bars 27-30, 34-42 and 45-49), leaving it to the performer to decide exactly what to...


Spread Chords

General Suggestions for Spreads in Baroque Music

To summarise the main points in this article, here are a few pointers: The speed of the spread reflects mood, tempo and character. The spread can be evenly paced, or include accelerando/ritardando shapings. Hold onto the notes of the arpeggio after you have played them, except for any...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (3)

In bar 39 of Bach’s Prelude in C Minor (Book 1), we may simply spread the chord upwards – many players do it this way. There is time to make a grander statement by rolling it down and then back up again (as I suggested in my...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (1)

Bach Italian Concerto, BWV 971 Let’s look at the opening chord of Bach’s Italian Concerto. Some players (harpsichordists and pianists) spread the opening LH chord, others don’t. What does this tell us? That there is no one right answer, and that the option to spread the chord lies with the...


Spread Chords

Introduction FREE

This is the first part of a series on spread chords, kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Orlando Murrin. Introduction to the series Spread (or rolled, ripped, broken or arpeggiated) chords are simply chords where we play one note after the other, rather than playing all the notes...


Spread Chords

Baroque Conventions of Notating Spread Chords

There were a number of different ways of notating spread chords in use in the Baroque. French composers included arpeggiation signs in their table of ornaments, and were specific about the direction of the spread. Here are the two signs for arpeggiation from D'Anglebert’s (1629-1691) table of ornaments...


Spread Chords

Spreading Chords in the Baroque Period FREE

There seems to be some confusion about managing spreads in Baroque music, probably because the way we read a printed score nowadays is rather different from the way a 17th or 18th century musician would have understood things. From Beethoven onwards, many more of the performance choices were removed from...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (2)

The opening of the Sinfonia in the second Partita continues to receive a variety of treatments concerning not only the chords, but also whether there should be consistent double dotting throughout (meaning the printed semiquaver after the crotchet rests is played as a demisemiquaver, to match that in the next...


Healthy Piano Playing

Sitting Posture

Our sitting posture at the piano not only affects our overall wellbeing, but it also has a profound effect on our arms, hands and fingers and on our ability to move freely around the piano. The more balanced our sitting posture, the more freedom we have in our arms and...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Expressive Fingerings (3)

A good understanding of the basic principles of fingering can greatly enhance our playing, and give us much more security and fluency. However, it is also fascinating to go beyond mere practical considerations to find fingerings which express clearly all the nuances of the music as well as our own...


Healthy Piano Playing

Healthy Piano Playing - Introduction FREE

Piano playing is a deeply satisfying artistic activity, but it can also be very demanding physically on our arms and hands. Just as elite athletes understand and care for their bodies, so should pianists think carefully about their approach to playing and practising. A healthy piano technique not only avoids...


Healthy Piano Playing

Warming-Up

Most pianists agree that it is important to warm up before playing, but those who do regular warm-ups tend to differ greatly in their views on what an effective warm-up might be. Some place their hands in warm water, others play scales or other exercises and some do more general...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Understanding Chords, Grand Arpeggios and How to Harmonise FREE

This article provides a more in-depth explanation of the material in the video. However, after watching the video you might light to jump ahead to try some of the examples yourself. If so, then please click here to view the worksheets...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Beginning to Improvise FREE

Feel the beat – and just play the black notes! Here is a four phrase (eight-bar) template to help structure your first improvisation. Your left hand will just be playing open 5th chords on F# and C#, and your right hand will only be...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (1)

This walkthrough and accompanying Annotated Study Edition was kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Rachel Woodhouse. The texture is very delicate and transparent. Aim to make legato connections by hand and then use shallow touches of pedal for resonance and colour. The movement...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (4)

You might think of the next 11 bars as a pedal texture, experimenting with a long, partial pedal all the way to bar 71. Because this low A can be present throughout, the amount of tone you give it needs to be judged carefully....


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (1)

General: it is often not possible to achieve a true finger legato in notes under slurs. Joining by hand where possible is a good general rule for any passage to be played legato (it gives the best control of sound and phrasing); where it is awkward or...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 2nd Movement (1)

The tempo is restrained; feel three beats in each bar, and not too fast. Play the melody line legato; gently lift lower notes out of the keyboard for the mezzo staccato touch while lightly pedalling quaver beats. Experiment here – some players prefer a more...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (4)

In the absence of harmonic support from the bass it is challenging to create an effective ff here. As before, aim for brilliance in the top line and practise each RH line alone to ensure the RH is well coordinated. My fingering, which appears odd...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (2)

Flutter the pedal in this bar to thin out resonance gradually in the diminuendo. The Agité section needs very light, shallow pedalling to avoid it sounding muddy. Hold low F sharp basses as long as comfortable, and work towards a finger legato in the upper...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (2)

The RH is awkward here. Practise the top line alone with the fingering you will use in performance, and experiment with the following practice formulae. En dehors tells us to project the top melody line (violin 1). This line needs...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 2nd Movement (3)

Do not return to the tempo yet – this section is slightly slower. Ravel achieves yet another magical sound world here – allow the glassy top RH to ring out gently, bringing out clearly the canon in augmention in the top notes of the...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (3)

The octave Es (lower stave) are usually played by the LH (passing underneath the RH) but may be played using both hands (LH takes the lower note, RH the upper). The section from bar 31-34 is somewhat awkward; if playing according to the score layout,...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 2nd Movement (2)

Respect the value of the dotted crotchet chords over the next three bars by avoiding a change of pedal on the downbeat of bar 14. Make an adjustment if you really need to, but retain the bass F (the accented Fs are important; project...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (5)

Use light (shallow) pedals in this section, changing each bar. Bars 142 - 143 If it helps, take the lowest RH note on the last beat with the LH. Bars 159 - 161 ...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (3)

Practise the RH line until you are completely happy with how you want to shape and shade it. This section demands the utmost delicacy of touch (semiquavers are leggiero, as though staccato), combined with sensitivity of the right foot (shallow pedals for resonance with transparency)....


The Art of Piano Fingering

Ergonomic Fingering for Scales and Arpeggios (1)

Introduction A thorough understanding of the principles of good fingering is a vital basis for good piano playing. Without comfortable, musically appropriate fingerings, we can waste hours of practice time trying to remedy a problem which could have been averted much earlier. Good fingerings give our muscles security, which increases...


The Art of Piano Fingering

General Principles for Choosing Fingerings (2)

Fingering is a vital element of piano playing: a good fingering gives us much greater security and can often make a technically difficult passage suddenly seem effortless. Musically speaking, it can also shape a phrase, balance chords, regulate the tone and rhythm, co-ordinate the hands, clarify the articulation, and project...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedalling According to Basses (8)

This video demonstrates how to pedal according to bass notes using examples from Chopin, Rachmaninov, Grieg, Debussy and Ravel: ...


The Art of Pedalling

The Sustaining Pedal (1 & 2) FREE

This video (in two parts) provides a brief history and introduction to the use of the sustaining pedal and is the first in a comprehensive series of videos focusing on the subject of piano pedalling: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Finger Pedalling (3)

This video introduces and demonstrates the technique of finger pedalling (or "overholding touch") which is indispensable to both players of baroque keyboard instruments and the modern pianist: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique and Function (4)

This video provides an overview of pedal technique and function as an introduction to subsequent videos which investigate specific pedalling techniques in more detail. ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique - Fractional Pedalling (7)

This video introduces the concept of different levels of pedalling and the technique of "flutter" or fractional pedalling using a "damper cam" to provide a close-up view of the damper action: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique - Direct Pedalling (5)

This video demonstrates direct pedalling (or "staccato pedalling") through examples including Mendelssohn's Rondo Capriccioso, Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude and "Minute" Waltz: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique - Legato Pedalling (6)

This video provides exercises for mastering legato pedalling and includes examples from Schumann's Kinderszenen and Liszt's La leggierezza: ...


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major – Walkthrough (4) FREE

Bars 37 and 39 require a new pedal on the last beat, as the dissonant E double flats in the tenor and alto parts resolve to the D flats. Exaggerate Schubert’s fp marking. Feel the LH C flat resolve to the B...


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major – Walkthrough (1) FREE

The A section looks like an etude for the RH – fast, relentless triplets spanning the upper registers of the keyboard. However, don’t play the figuration mechanically at any point. The opening, marked p, lends itself to a delicate leggiero played from the fingertips supported by...


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major - Walkthrough (2) FREE

Spring off the first-beat crotchet of bars 6, 7 and 8 and enjoy the syncopation as you land on the chord, where a touch of pedal adds resonance. Play more legato in f – deeper into the key, very lyrically, and always with melodic shaping....


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major - Walkthrough (3) FREE

The music now becomes harmonically and melodically richer as Schubert moves into E flat minor, using a chord progression based on a full descending fifth sequence (the bass line is E flat - A flat - D flat - G flat - C flat -...


Separate Practice

The Practice Stepladder FREE

Learning a complex piece each hand alone before putting the hands together is a strategy favoured by the majority of piano teachers. While it is of course possible to practise a fugue hands separately, this misses the point. Rather than working hands separately, I advocate strands separately (playing each line...


Lyric Pieces, Op.54

Nocturne (1) FREE

Grieg wrote his famous Nocturne (Night Piece) in the summer of 1891 during his annual country retreat to the Norwegian mountains and fjords. Along with five other pieces, he included the Nocturne in Book V of his Lyric Pieces, Op. 54. In 1894, Anton Seidl, the conductor of the New...


Hanon

Jail-breaking Hanon (1)

The three books that make up The Virtuoso Pianist by Charles-Louis Hanon have been a mainstay with piano students since they were first published in 1872. It is interesting to note that Hanon had up until then been active as an organist and through his own publishing house...


Slow Practice

How and When to Use Slow Practice FREE

I have noticed some folk think they are beyond slow practice – that’s something only beginners do. Far from it! One of the twentieth century’s great pianists, Sergei Rachmaninov practised so slowly that even his colleagues didn’t recognise the piece. This was not music he was learning from scratch, but...