Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alfred Publishing Skill Level
1 Beginner (Complete beginner, no previous musical knowledge)
2 Easy (Simplified arrangements; Grade 1-3)
3 Intermediate (Slightly simplified arrangements; Grade 4-6)
4 Intermediate / Advanced (Accurate transcriptions of most rock/pop titles; Grade 6-8)
5 Advanced (Accurate transcriptions of more complex pieces; Grade 8+)

Disclaimer: Our experienced Editorial team have assessed the skill level of this product; however, this is a subjective process and this rating is intended for guidance only.

Pre-staff notation:
- Groups of 2 and or 3 black keys with simple keyboard chart above to show placement and fingers numbers for what note/finger plays

- or letters names only for notes to be played
- or letter names in noteheads
Song lyrics included.

Quarter notes and rests, half notes and rests, dotted half notes, whole notes

Piano and forte

Early Elementary
Introduction to staff-reading

Guideposts: treble G, middle C, bass F
Usually required to play only one clef at a time, but can include grand staff
Single-note melodies
Middle C or C position
No hand position changes
Song lyrics included

Quarter notes and rests, half notes and rests, dotted half notes, whole notes

Piano and forte

Middle C or C position, G Major position, F Major position

Introduction to F# and Bb, but no key signatures
Tied notes
Melodic and Harmonic intervals of 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths
Song lyrics included

Quarter notes and rests, half notes and rests, dotted half notes, whole notes and rests, introduction to eighth notes

Piano, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, forte

Legato, staccato, slurs, phrasing

Late Elementary

Half steps and whole steps

Introduction to pentachords - basis for Major and minor
Major triads in root position
Song lyrics included

Eighth notes in various uses, introduction to syncopation

More dynamic contrasts, crescendo and diminuendo, balance between the hands required

Legato, staccato, slurs, phrasing

Early Intermediate
More movement of hand positions

Intervals greater than a 5th
Major scales and the chromatic scale
Major triads in inversions, root position minor chords
Arpeggios in root position
Alberti bass accompaniment
Concept of tonic and dominant
Introduction to 8va
D Major and A Minor added to keys
Compound time signatures

Dotted quarter notes, 16th notes, triplets, swing rhythm

Pedaling (damper and una corda)

Ornamentation (appoggiaturas)

Ecossaise (Beethoven)

Arabesque (Burgmueller)
Valse (Clementi)
Gypsy Dance (Haydn)
Soldiers Song (Kohler)
In Church (Tchaikovsky)
Fantasia (Telemann)

More inversions of triads

Minor scales
Chord progressions/cadences
E Major added to keys
Introduction to sonatinas
Original pieces by known composers

Trills, turns

Elfin Dance (Grieg)

Fur Elise (Beethoven)
Knight Rupert, Op. 68, No. 12 (Schumann)
Le Petit Negre (Debussy)
Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2, Mvt. 1 (Beethoven)
Prelude in C Major (J. S. Bach)
Two-Part Invention No. 8 in F Major (J. S. Bach)

Late Intermediate
Major and minor intervals

Most Major scales
Minor scales: a, g, d, c
Parallel 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and octaves
Keys up to B Major and Eb Major
Introduction to easier Sonatas and Bach Inventions

Dotted eighth notes and 32nd notes

Golliwog's Cakewalk (Debussy)

Solfeggietto in C Minor (C. P. E. Bach)
Sonata in C Major, K. 545 (Mozart)
Traumerei, Op. 15, No. 7 (Schumann)
Children's Corner Suite (Debussy)

Early Advanced
12 Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle (Mozart)

Cat and Mouse (Copland)
Clair de Lune (Debussy)
Nocturne in Eb Major, Op. 9, No. 2 (Chopin)
Prelude in Db Major (Chopin)Reverie (Debussy)
Sonata in F Minor, Op. 2, No. 1 (Beethoven)

virtuosic, technically and musically challenging - the most advanced level

Rhapsodie in Eb Major, Op. 119, No. 4 (Brahms)

Etude, Op. 10, No. 12 (Revolutionary) (Chopin)
Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14 (Mendelssohn)
Seguidilla (Albeniz)La Campanella (Paganini/Liszt)
Jeux d'eau (Ravel)Etude, Op. 2, No. 1 (Scriabin)

Progress Report 2009 #1

Had my lesson yesterday. These are my strengths and weaknesses at the moment. My teacher will be matching teaching my Theory grade based on my Practical grade. And hence from there, my teacher has the following plan (tentative) for me...

Music Theory
Sight Reading

Tempo (Internal pulse)
Daringness in creating dynamics. Teacher says I have the ability, but very shy to express. Brush up on Techniques and Fingers Training.

2009/2010 Musical Plan (given by my teacher):
1. Complete Grade 2 Music Theory - 31 Oct 2009 seating
2. Complete Grade 2 Practical Exam - Feb/Mar 2010 seating

Piano Grading Progress & Fees
Dec 08 - Apr 09: Grade 1 (S$130 per mth)
May 09 - Feb/Mar 10: Grade 2 (don't know yet)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ABRSM Exams Info for Piano

Each level of diploma or its substitution must be passed before proceeding to the next level.
Grade 8 Practical (and, for Teaching,Grade 6 Theory) or substitutions must be passed before taking DipABRSM.
DipABRSM ---> LRSM ---> FRSM

Graded exams
Grade 1 to Grade 5: Candidates may be entered in any grade without previously having taken any other Practical grade.
Grade 5 or above in Theory, Practical Musicianship or solo jazz subject must be passed
before taking Practical Grades 6 or above.

Grade 1 to Grade 5 ---> Grade 6 ---> Grade 7 ---> Grade 8

Practical exams for Grade 1 takes place within 12 minutes, each grade taking a little longer up to the 30 minutes allowed for Grade 8. Candidates can choose to do the exams in any order, and should inform examiner of their preference.

You should get yourself comfortable and settled before you begin. If the stool or music stand is the wrong height, don't be scared to adjust it or ask for help. Pianist may ask to try out the piano first by trying a scale to get a feel of the instrument.

Pieces (90 marks)
Most exams consist of 3 pieces. Each piece is marked out of 30.
Distinction ... 27 - 30
Merit ........... 24 - 26
Pass ........... 20 - 23
Keep going even when you stumble. Do not replay the wrong repertoire again from the start. Learn to pick up and continue.

Scales and Arpeggios (21 marks)
Distinction ... 19 - 21
Merit ........... 17 - 18
Pass ........... 14 - 16

Usually the examiner will only ask for 2 major scales, 2 minor scales and one from each other sections.

Sight-reading (21 marks)
Distinction ... 19 - 21
Merit ........... 17 - 18
Pass ........... 14 - 16
Candidates are always given 30 seconds' preparation time to look through and try out the test. Check the time signature, key signature, set up regular basic pulse, play or sing the opening and final bar and check any awkward-looking corners on the way.

Aural Tests (18 marks)
Distinction ... 18
Merit ........... 15 - 17
Pass ........... 12 - 14

Marks are awarded based on candidate's overall response.

Total marks in all individual Practical exams are 150.
Distinction ... 130
Merit ............120
Pass ............100

Each theory paper is marked out of a total of 100.
Distinction ... 90
Merit ............80
Pass ............66

Practice questions within the time limit of an exams to get used to the type of questions asked and the speed needed to complete the paper.

Results are posted to applicants after the end of each exam tour once all the double-checking has been completed. Applicants will receive in post a large envelope containing:
1. the mark form, written at the time of the exam
2. an impressive certificate, with the candidate's name on it
3. an entry form for the eventual next grade

All the above information is extracted from the ABRSM website. I have only extracted the information which I want to take note to have an overview and understanding of the exam structure. And of coz for all the details, please refer to the original information from the website.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ABRSM Examination 2009

ABRSM Theory Music Examinations 2009
Registration Period: 17 Nov 08 to 26 Nov 08
Examination Date: 14 Mar 09 (Sat)

Registration Period: 3 Aug 09 to 14 Aug 09
Examination Date: 31 Oct 09 (Sat)

Music Theory Exams Fees:
Grade 1: S$79
Grade 2: S$81
Grade 3: S$89
Grade 4: S$104
Grade 5: S$116
Grade 6: S$131
Grade 7: S$137
Grade 8: S$143

ABRSM Practical Examinations 2009
Registration Period: 29 Sep 08 to 17 Oct 08
Examination Period: Feb to Mar 09

Registration Period: 9 Feb 09 to 27 Feb 09
Examination Period: Jul to Sep 09

Piano Practical Exams Fees:
Grade 1: S$138
Grade 2: S$168
Grade 3: S$184
Grade 4: S$202
Grade 5: S$218
Grade 6: S$263
Grade 7: S$302
Grade 8: S$357

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Music Qualifications & Careers

After some research, generally you can use the below as a rough estimation of the difficulty of music compared to what we normally understand:-

ABRSM Grade 6 Practical and ABRSM Grade 5 Theory
is equivalent to
GCE 'O' Level Music
ABRSM Grade 8 Practical and ABRSM Grade 8 Theory
is equivalent to
GCE 'A' Level Music

If you are interested to pursue a Music Teacher career with MOE:

If you are interested to further pursue Music in LaSalle College of the Arts:

If you are interested to further pursue Music in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Piano Teacher came my house...

Yesterday, my piano teacher came over to my house for Chinese New Year visit as a friend. And of coz, I asked her to try on my Hailun. Her sight-reading very powerful. Coz she was not prepared to play any pieces, so I gave her one of the J-Pop book which I have, and impressively, she played the whole piece, just by sight-reading and very smoothly!!! Haha, I wonder how long will it take me to reach her standard!

She is more of a classical piano teacher, who seldom listens to pop songs and accordingly to her, it has been a long time since she played pop songs. But well, having said that, she played very well.

My hubby was observing her when she played, her fingers were shivering when she was playing. I guess she was very stressed, as she didn't expect it. I don't mean to test her, but rather wanted her to test my piano. She commented that she feels very warm after playing the whole piece even when the aircon was on at 26°C, so we quickly bring down the temperature to 21°C for her.

Ok, so I asked her how is my Hailun HL125 piano, she commented:
1) She can hear that the piano is dry, which is good. Maybe coz I keep it in a room where the windows are always shut other than 5 hours a week on Saturday morning to allow air ventilation and to kill germs. And I put a "Thirsty Hippo" beside my piano to test the humidity of the room.

2) The keys are too heavy and that I should ask the technician to help me lighten the action.

3) The sustain pedal is a little hard to step on. But if is pedalling by ear, it should be fine.

4) The middle pedal is a mute pedal, which does not have the same feature as a Grand Piano and is different from her Yamaha YUS5, where the function should be to sustain the notes you want to sustain and not affecting the other notes.

5) The last pedal on the left should be meant to move the range slightly to the right in the case of a Grand Piano. But due to the constraint of an upright piano, the hammers are brought forward to make it closer to the strings to give a different tone colour, and in my case, it sounds the same. So, can ask the technician to help adjust.

6) The other 2 pedals (other than the sustain pedal) will need to be used in higher grades to create different tone colour.

7) The stool which I have is a professional one. Very good. And the piano looks good.

8) The piano is good enough to get me to about ABRSM Grade 7, and for my kids to get to about ABRSM Grade 6 or 7. When you no longer feel that the piano can give you the range and the feel you need, it is an indication that you need to change a piano.

9) ABRSM Grade 8 is equivalent to 'A' levels Music. Where both the theory and practical will be very demanding in that they require you to do composition for different instruments.

So verdict is, for the price I paid for this piano, it is good enough to use until you complete your Grade 8. But if you want to pursue music professionally like a degree, then need to go get a Grand Piano. But do not get the smallest baby grand, as it would be effectively the same as an upright. Get a bigger one, but no need a concert grand at home. So, hippy!! My Hailun HL125 pass my teacher's test!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Technique Book

My piano teacher bought me a new Technique Book yesterday...

"A Dozen A Day - Book One"
(Technical Exercises for the Piano to be done each day before practicing) Written by Edna-Mae Burnam. Instructional book for piano. 28 pages. Published by The Willis Music Company. (HL.413366)
ISBN 0877180318. With introductory text, illustrations, standard notation and fingerings. Technique. 9x12 inches.
Includes sixty exercises for the mid-elementary pianist.

The Dozen a Day books are universally recognized as one of the most remarkable technique series on the market for all ages! Each book in this series contains short warm-up exercises to be played at the beginning of each practice session, providing excellent day-to-day training for the student.

According to my piano teacher, Book One is for between Grade 2 to Grade 3. And the Mini Book is for kids who are still beginning. And the Preparatory Book is for Grade 1 to Grade 2. Tried the first few exercises, I think it is quite cute, with stick men and is a good workout for the fingers, and very focus on playing techniques.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How to Clean your Piano Keys?

Piano keys are not made from ivory anymore. These days you will find that most piano keys are made from either plastic or a cellulose mix.

It is possible to have your piano keys recovered with ivory tops. It is a difficult and time consuming job, because the piano technician has to remove all the old piano keys and refit them with ivory. The old piano keys are stuck down with glue and the technician has to be very careful not to take off any wood along with the old key tops.

Ivory is very difficult to get hold of these days. If you employ a piano technician to recover your piano keys in ivory, they will either have to have stock of the correct size key tops, or they will have to take the ivories off an old piano. Recovering piano keys with ivory is a very expensive job.

How can you tell if your piano keys are ivory?
- Piano keys with ivory tops are made in two parts. If you look carefully you will notice a join.
- Ipiano keys is the off-white colour. Generally, as ivory ages, it turns yellow.
- Ivory has a grain. Modern pianos have plastic keys which does not have any grain. Be careful not to mistake ivory keys with cellulose keys, cellulose also has a grain, but the cellulose grain is more even than ivory.

How to clean ivory piano keys?
Cleaning ivory piano keys is a very delicate job. It is best to ask a qualified piano technician to do this kind of work.

If you are attempting it yourself, first you need to asses what condition the ivories are in. Are they a little dirty? Is the dirt really deep inside the key top? Are they yellow? Are they stained?

1) If your ivory piano keys are just a little dirty, then this is an easy job. You will need the following: Damp cloth, dry soft cloth, and washing up liquid.
Here’s how you do it: Rinse your cloth under the tap and squeeze out all the water.Put a tiny amount of washing up liquid onto your damp cloth. Press down firmly onto the key top and rub until the dirt has been removed Polish the key with a soft, dry cloth.
There are several liquid key cleaning products on the market, but in my opinion, you needn’t spend your money on them – just use ‘old fashioned’ washing up liquid, it does the job just fine. Lemon juice or vinegar also does a good job of cleaning ivory piano keys.

2) If your ivory piano keys are really dirty then you will need to buy an ivory scraper or the finest gauge 000 wire wool. Please note: the ivory scraper is the right tool for the job. Wire wool will leave very fine scratches in the ivory that may be noticeable in certain lighting.
Break off a little wire wool Rub the key top very gently all over Wipe off the excess with a dry cloth
Best results are obtained by taking the keys out of your piano and placing them on a table. If you are not sure how to take out your piano’s keys, it is best to ask a trained piano technician to clean the keys for you.

3) If your ivory piano keys are yellow or stained, then you will certainly need to buy an ivory key scraper. There is no guarantee that you will be able to completely remove the stain from the key top though.

Can you whiten yellowy ivory keys?
Over time and with repeated cleaning, the yellow in your ivory keys can be significantly reduced. Vinegar on a soft cloth is probably the best method I know of. Whitening your ivory piano keys takes along time and a great deal of patience.

How to clean plastic or cellulose piano keys?
Cleaning plastic or cellulose key tops is easy. Just follow the steps in number 1) above. To give your plastic or cellulose keys a shine, try a little T-cut.

How to clean black piano keys?
Black piano keys are made from either ebony or plastic. Modern pianos use plastic and older pianos use ebony. You can usually tell a plastic key by the shiny finish. Ebony keys are usually mat and can discolour with age. If your black key top has come off the key, take a look underneath. Plastic keys are usually hollow, wooden, ebony keys are solid.
The black keys are best cleaned with just a damp cloth and a little washing up liquid. No other materials or liquids should be used.

Piano Owner's Survival Guide

General Principles of Piano Technique

Found something very useful to build good piano techniques. Good reading material:

Definition of a "Dead Piano"

I read the Larry Fine's piano book on how long a piano can last. Pg 174 if you have the book. And he mentioned:

"...A piano may finally be considered "dead" and be discarded when the space it takes up is needed for other things, when a student outgrows the piano's ability to adequately play more advanced music, or when the resources to buy a better instrument suddenly becomes available..."

I posted this thread in the forum and got many replies from them like the ones below:-

"I am sure that "dead" means many things to many people. First of all you have to determine what your threshold for financial pain is and is it worth investing heavily in a particular instrument, if you can buy another similar or better for the same or less money.If there is NO emotional attachment, this is an easier proposition. For myself, I would consider a piano "dead" if it was an inferior brand/design and needed for instance a new soundboard. Generally, a cracked plate is the kiss of death, but I have had them repaired as well by competent welders. This would be worthwhile once again in a quality instrument, otherwise it would not be worth the risk. Many folks make a big deal about hammer replacement, but changing hammers to me anyway is akin to replacing the tires on your car. When they are worn beyond their safety limits you replace them. When hammers are filled with ruts from strings and have been shaped once, it is time for new hammers. Likewise if there is side to side motion in the keys they need to be rebushed and likely the action will need some refurb as well. This is routine maintenance stuff. Generally bass strings are good for 25 years, but many will go twice that length of time before they become tubby. During that timespan though the sound will be undergoing change and not a change for the good. This is gradual. The general decline of our instruments is indeed gradual. Depending on your skill level and your demand for a particular sound,this will determine when you can no longer stand playing a piano in a given condition. Then, you are back to the cost/benefit analysis. I own a collection of older instruments, all of which had gone beyond their useful lives, and have now been given a new lease on life. In truth, you can keep most quality instruments going indefinitely, but not without expense. Larry Fine lists his recommendations for what used brands are generally worth investing in remediation. It is not necessarily a conclusive list, but it definitely will get you on the right track. "

"Are you familiar with the "Ship of Theseus" thought-experiment? If so, you may recall that Aristotle posed a question about the perdurance of identity through change in terms of a ship whose parts were replaced with other parts, made of a different material, until one has on one hand a pile of broken "original" parts and on the other a ship comprised entirely of "new" parts. The question becomes, where is the original ship? I mention this analogy because when you asked, Steven, if a piano has to die, I started thinking that at some point (who knows when?) in the serial replacement of the materials of the piano, it becomes questionable whether one has the "same" piano that lives on or whether it is now a different piano, the initial piano being now "dead" (and in what sense so?). "

"When I was in college we had old pianos in many of the various lounges/common areas in my dormitory. Rather than throw away an old decrepit piano, some people would donate them to us. Most of these pianos would have been considered by many dead when we got them, but after a year or two of heavy pounding they would be in really bad shape -- most keys would not play, keys missing, pedals missing or broken, major damage to the case, etc. Now, rather than pay or do the work of hauling these hulks away it became traditional to throw them off the roof. The event would be advertised and the landing zone duly cordoned off. There would usually be a sizable crowd gathered to witness a piano impacting the ground and breaking into lots of little pieces. At this point I think it would be safe to say that the piano was truly dead. And, as most of the crowd would pick up a piece as a souvenir, there was really no problem with cleaning up the mess."

"Nice thread idea. Here are some more thoughts:
- An absolute like "dead" is hard to define in this case. A dead person cannot be reliably revived and restored to life (as a rule), but a piano can.
- If the piano has been burned or run through a grinding machine, it is effectively dead.
- It is dead to the owner doesn't want it any longer. People are sometimes, sadly, in this category as well - so this less absolute meaning of the word "Dead" must be considered.
- Some pianos are not worth spending the money on to completely restore, but people feel attached to them and have it done anyway. One person would look at the old heap and say it's dead, but the person who feels the attachment will not think so.
- Some old heaps are considered worthless to some, but to a person who has nothing, it will at least allow them to play! No matter how horrible and unplayable it might seem to us, someone, somewhere might feel blessed to have the piano and make use of it.
- Some pianos have the intrinsic value in the market place, and can always be brought back to life with time and fine craftsmanship. Someone, though, needs to make the decision to spend the time and money on the instrument.

As for the "Ship of Theseus" paradox, I would vote that once a new board is added to the ship, that board becomes a part of that ship. It has changed the ship's identity slightly, but we still call it "Theseus' Ship" because it's inconvenient to be so precise as to give it a new name each time it is repaired. So there is the "original" ship as it was, and the "new" ship. Both are valid and still exist, but now have different entities. Same is true for a rebuilt piano - there was the original as it shipped from the factory, which is forever gone and not absolutely recoverable. Then there is the rebuilt or restored piano, which could possible be a "better" piano than the original was!"