Women Composers, Piano Exams, and the Quest for Balance

When I published David Duncan’s guest article Women Composers and Grade Exams I really hoped that it would promote a healthy debate about a really important issue, and I am pleased that it has done so.

While I don’t generally comment on Guest Posts, on this occasion I would like to add a few thoughts. And I must begin by applauding David Duncan and his colleagues at LCM for their determination to address an imbalance. David makes a valuable contribution to the discussion, and I believe his efforts at LCM deserve our support and enthusiasm.

My hope is that by including far more works by women composers, their forthcoming piano  syllabus will be an eye-opener, in which unjustly neglected works will receive the greater exposure they deserve.

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ABRSM’s Theory rethink: a step in the right direction?

ABRSM surprised the teaching world this week with an email announcement detailing significant changes they plan to make to their Theory of Music Grades 1-5 examinations, from January 2018.

In this post I will explain the changes ABRSM are planning, assess reaction from teachers online, and share my own views, particularly in the context of my previous writings on this topic.

So let’s start by looking at exactly what ABRSM are planning to change.

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ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

An Interview with Michael Elliott, Chief Executive, ABRSM

I am hugely grateful to Michael Elliott, Chief Executive of ABRSM, for giving up his time to take part in this interview. At his suggestion, the questions were crowd-sourced prior to the interview.

As well as the many questions raised on the Pianodao site here, I received several via email and have included topics raised on the Piano Network UK forum.

So far as possible I will include reader questions word for word, but I have streamlined the recurring themes which cropped up.

And many of the questions asked were very probing – so get comfortable and prepare for an in-depth and revealing read! …

Continue reading ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

ABRSM Syllabus 2017-18: The Review

Sheet Music Review

July 7th 2016 sees the publication of the brand new ABRSM Piano Syllabus, along with Exam Pieces books for Grades 1 – 8. Review copies arrived a week or so ago, and I’ve enjoyed looking through the books, listening to the optional CDs, and trying out many of the included pieces.

Continue reading ABRSM Syllabus 2017-18: The Review

The Music Theory Revolution!

Sheet Music Review

ABRSM’s CEO Michael Elliott has reportedly said:

“Separating theory from practice can’t be a good thing.”

While this is a great soundbite for those promoting theory courses, the obvious irony here is that ABRSM have themselves – for generations – separated music theory from practice in their own examination syllabus and published materials.

Paul Harris’s new series ‘Improve your Theory!’, written for students preparing for ABRSM Theory Grades 1-5, aims to change this situation for the better.

Introducing the series, publishers Faber Music explain that:

“Firmly rooted in Paul Harris’s Simultaneous Learning approach, it will transform how music theory is taught and learnt, improving every aspect of musicianship along the way. Never before has theory been so fun or seemed so natural!”

The books have already been awarded “Best Print Resource 2016” at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, but let’s see if they really live up to the hype…

Continue reading The Music Theory Revolution!

“Grade by Grade”

Sheet Music Review

This innovative new series of books from Boosey & Hawkes makes the bold claim to be “the complete resource for the grade ‘x’ pianist”. But does it live up to its aims?

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ABRSM Encore! A game changer?

Sheet Music Review

Over the years ABRSM have produced a steady flow of graded piano repertoire books to supplement their exam resources, with series such as “A Keyboard Anthology” and “Short Romantic Pieces” becoming standard items in the teacher’s library. However, one could have been forgiven for wondering whether some of these selections were made up of the most obscure pieces set in previous syllabi rather than the most widely enjoyed. So when Faber Music brought out their “Best of Grade…” books a few years ago, those looking for a one-stop collection of consistently appealing and varied pieces breathed a collective sigh of relief.

This summer ABRSM have responded with the publication of “Encore”, a set of four books which, based on their own data, include the most popular pieces featured in graded exams over the last decade or so. Happily these collections include some great in-house pieces and arrangements now unavailable elsewhere. So, might these books play a central role in students learning over the next few years? Let’s take a closer look.

Continue reading ABRSM Encore! A game changer?