ABRSM Grade 1

 

A1

 

 

This is the Theme, the opening section of Thomas Attwood's Sonatina no. 4 in D. The rest of the piece is a series of 7 variations which require nimble fingers! Thomas Attwood (1765 - 1838) was music teacher to the royal family, so we might imagine this being played by any of King George III & Queen Charlotte's children, three of whom were to become Kings (two of the UK, one of Hanover). Perhaps their granddaughter Queen Victoria also played it?

The LH uses an Alberti Bass, an accompaniment pattern much used in late 18th-century music. The piece is structured in two 8-bar sections (b. 1 & b. 9), the first in D, the second in A (the dominant). The opening A section is repeated exactly from b. 17.

 

A2

 

This piece is RCM (2015) Level 1.

 

It is taken from William Duncombe's First Book of Progressive Lessons (1778).

The opening melody sounds very much like a trumpet fanfare as it repeats notes of the major triad. The piece is in two sections (b.1 & b.9) with the first section repeated exactly from bar 17.

What is a Minuet?

 

A3

 

This song celebrates England's victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. We don't know who came up with the melody ...or the words.

There are four main types of 'minor': natural, melodic, harmonic and dorian. The first 5 notes of all of these scales are identical. So, with D as our tonic note (first note of the scale), these would be D, E, F, G & A, all naturals, no sharps or flats. These five notes give us that characteristic minor sound. Then there are the two final notes, notes 6 & 7 of a scale (B & C in the key of D) which might be natural, flat or sharp to give us our different 'flavours' of minor. In Agincourt Song bars 1-8 use B♮ & C♮ - this gives us D Dorian; bars 9-16 use B♭ & C♮ - this gives us D natural minor (Aeolian).

Each RH phrase is launched with a staccato upbeat (anacrusis). The song is made up of four, 4-bar phrases. Do any of them have the same rhythm? The song might sound good and given a martial feel, with a tambour, perhaps repeating a minim-crotchet rhythm.

 

B1

 

Wiegenlied (Cradle Song) is no. 4 of Brahms' Five Songs op.49. It's one of his best-known songs, in English known simply as 'Brahms' Lullaby'. It was first performed in Vienna in December 1869, Clara Schumann was the pianist.

Songs invariably work very well as instrumental pieces. Here is a video of Wiegenlied played by Yo-Yo Ma on cello accompanied by Kathryn Stott.

 

 

B2

 

The Echo is from Mayflowers, op. 61 (1850), a collection of 25 short piano pieces.

 

B3

 

The Lonely Road is from Work and Play, a collection of 12 short piano pieces (1935).

 

B4

 

Quasi Adagio is no. 3 from For Children, Volume 1.

 

C1

 

Ian King describes this piece as:

"...a jaunty little tune which should be played in a spirit of light-hearted fun."

You may enjoy playing it with the backing track I used in the video.

 

C2

 

Who Said Mice? is from Cats, (1964). This piece creates an image of a prowling cat. Do you think the mouse gets away?

 

 

C3

 

The Egyptian Level is from Spooky Time Piano (OUP).

Kevin Wooding advises us, "to keep all those hungry mummies happy, you must make this piece as smooth and snaky as you possibly can!"

Scales & Broken Chords

 

 

A detailed look at the technical requirements for ABRSM Grade 1 Piano for the 2019 & 2020 syllabus. (The requirements have changed for the 2021 syllabus).

We look at hand position, ways of practising, fingering, key-signatures and tempo. At the end, we run through them all as if for the exam.