The launch of ABRSM’s biennial piano syllabus is always a significant event in the piano education world: particularly in the UK and Far East, where the exam board’s offerings remain hugely popular and influence much of what is taught.
For their 2021-22 syllabus ABRSM are heralding several structural changes:
- A new Initial Grade, providing a pre-Grade 1 assessment that follows the same structure, content and marking criteria as their other graded music exams
- Completely revised repertoire lists and scales requirements
- A revised list structure, with lists defined by musical characteristics rather than period of composition
- More choice and variety of repertoire (30 pieces per grade)
- A duet option from Initial Grade to Grade 3
- A one-year overlap period, with the 2019 & 2020 syllabus valid until 31 December 2021.
The new Scales Syllabus and supporting publications are reviewed separately here.
ABRSM have also announced a “remote” alternative to their Practical Grades. Although these video-based alternatives are dubbed Performance Grades this is somewhat a misnomer; unlike the Practical Grades, where candidates must face performing live to an examiner, these new assessments take the form of a submitted recording of four pieces, including three from the Grade syllabus.
With a whopping 270 pieces included in the new syllabus, including 81 published in ABRSM’s nine Piano Exam Pieces books, even this in-depth review can’t cover every piece, and as always I recommend readers download the full syllabus lists from ABRSM’s own site.
However, as in previous years I will look at particular trends within the syllabus, the direction of travel, highlighting those general features which will interest teachers and players alike.
I will bookend the review with a more detailed look at two specific grades: Initial and Grade 8, representing the start and end points of a student’s journey through these assessments, and in which the broader changes in the syllabus are writ large.
And finally, I will offer a personal list of some of the highlights selected from each Grade in turn. So let’s jump in…Continue reading ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2021-2