Wednesday, 13 June 2012

ABRSM Grade 1 Piano Sightreading tips

As it approaches the exam period. I thought I'd share some tips for the ABRSM Grade 1 Piano sightreading element of the Grade 1 Piano exam.

Two useful books published by the ABRSM - Associated Board, Royal Schools of Music for the piano are:

Characteristics of Grade 1 Sight reading
What keys?

  • F major (B flat)
  • D minor (C#)
  • G major (F sharp)
  • C major 
  • A minor (G sharp)

Tend to have fixed five finger positions in the left and right hands. But they give you a finger number to help you anchor your hands into the correct position!

As with any sightreading, scan the time signature (2/4 or 3/4  or 4/4 for Grade 1)
Key Signature - remember from your scales that one flat will mean the key is in F major and therefore all Bs are Bb (B flat). There may be additional incidentals (sharps) in the minor keys.

Hand position: lock on
For each hand: lock on to the first note,  your  first starting note of each hand and use the suggested fingering, this will then get all your five finger position over the notes. Keep your fingers over the keys during the practice, and hold them there until you finish completing the sightreading exercise. This will ensure you don't get your fingers out of position and press a wrong note.

Eyes on the score
Once you've got your notes securely over the keys you are playing, try as best you can to keep your eyes on the score, this will help keep your pulse and and flow to the music. Constantly looking down to your hands and back to the score introduces time delays and interrupts the flow of music.

Pulse try and keep a steady pulse throughout without too many stops and starts, remember the time signature and as best you can give an emphasis on the downbeat (first beat).

Dynamics - quite often when we are just trying to get the correct notes in sightreading, we forget the dynamics, assuming you get the correct notes, remember the dynamics.
P (piano) soft
F (forte) loud

Make sure you're familiar with all the musical notation indicated in the sightreading specimen tests such as.  Remember it's not only important to know what they mean, but to actually obey them! You'll get a much better score if you do.

  • Slurs (loud soft) 
  • Phrase marks - Phrase (play legato and imagine you are singing this)
  • Staccato (detached)
  • Accents (emphasis) 

To be good at sightreading, you should do this on a regular basis, always explore new music you are interested in that's at your grade level and try and play them! Use sightreading books like the ones suggested above as guided daily practice.

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