Here are some great references for anyone who is serious in learning more in depth about piano/keyboard music of the classical era:
CPE Bach’s treatise: Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments)
It’s available in German and French at IMSLP: http://imslp.org/wiki/Versuch_%C3%BCber_die_wahre_Art_das_Clavier_zu_spielen,_H.868,_870_(Bach,_Carl_Philipp_Emanuel)
For English translation: https://www.amazon.com/Essay-True-Playing-Keyboard-Instruments/dp/0393097161
Czerny’s Op. 500 Pianoforte-Schule
another historic treatise, in particular the second chapter concerning “the proper performance of Beethoven’s works”.
English translation: http://imslp.org/wiki/Pianoforte-Schule,_Op.500_(Czerny,_Carl)
Second chapter on it’s own here: http://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/356510
Rosenblum’s Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music
This is the go-to reference for all aspects of historically-informed performance at the piano Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Performance-Practices-Classic-Piano-Music/dp/0253206804
Brown’s Classic and Romantic Performing Practice: 1750 – 1900
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Classical-Romantic-Performing-Practice-1750-1900/dp/0195166655/ref=pd_sim_14_4?ie=UTF8&dpID=51zCN6Dra0L&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR105%2C160_&psc=1&refRID=MZ31B06KHX63PDSB2767 .
Malcolm Bilson’s DVDs on performance practice:
(If you don’t know who he is, go learn here )
And his recordings:
Special thanks to our guest teacher Mr Polanski for this note.
In the last post I wrote about how the application of force in striking the piano keys down would drastically affect our piano playing. And there are two ideas you must understand. The first idea is: “We apply different level of weights for different dynamics.” Which I have explained in the last post.
In this post I continue to discuss about the second idea, which is “We apply different level of weights for each key – even in the same dynamic level.”
Choosing a right programme for your piano diploma exam sets the right path for ultimate success.
How do you choose your programme then? And how do you know if the programme is right for you and the exam purpose?
1. READ THE SYLLABUS
Follow the guidelines strictly is the first and foremost key to success in your piano exam.
You must read the syllabus carefully.
If you are the teacher, read the syllabus!
If you are the candidate, read the syllabus too! Do not rely on your teacher to do the work. There are so many details in the syllabus that your teacher just cannot explain everything to you in your lessons (although of course the teacher is equally responsible here).
The details include the prerequisites to enter each diploma exam, the time limit and choices of the recital programme, the word count and format of the programme notes etc etc. Always refer to the syllabus for clarification. And you get get a physical copy from the board itself – they will mail it to you upon request.
2. CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATE RECITAL PROGRAMME
Some candidates may choose to play all of the pieces from all four different musical periods, while others three out of the four, depending on timing as well as one’s preference, musicality and technicality. So if the programme has three pieces, it is typically (but not confined to) Baroque- Classical-Romantic or Classical-Romantic- 20th-century.
You should bear in mind that it is not only the period that differentiates one piece from the other. It also depends on the genre and the style of the piece. Generally, you would want to include a bigger sonata piece as the centre piece of the programme (it is not compulsory but common choice). Then from there you think about how to balance it with pieces of other styles/periods/varieties.
3. CHOOSE THE PIECES ACCORDING TO YOUR ABILITY
In order to achieve the best result in the exam, you must choose the pieces that shows different spectrum and the best of your technicality and musicality.
Do not just choose some pieces because they are “easy” to handle so you can practice less, or “difficult” only to show how fast you can move your hands. The programme must show your best ability in delivering substance and variety of skills and understanding in the playing and music.
How do I choose for my students then?
I always like to choose for my students a lighter shorter piece to start the whole programme, something with separate sections/movements that stops in between, to gently ease themselves into the recital process. If the student is of higher level of technicality, I would choose a more technical and fun short piece at the end to show off their virtuosity. If the student is more musically expressive, I make sure s/he has a piece to showcase that side of playing ability as well.
The choice is limitless. But you must choose accordingly.
I welcome any questions regarding the piano diploma exams.
Are you always frustrated with constant practice but not enough improvement in your playing? Do you know you actually have so much more potential to grow and progress? Do you want to play so well that you surprise and surpass your old self (/old teacher) ?
Here is the ultimate solution to change the way you play, to pass the exam you want, and to reach your utmost potential.
(The same goes for your children).
(中文) Why do we need technical exercises and which exercises I recommend piano players to practice with.
Prior to the “big day” aka diploma exam day, I ask my students to do three steps in terms of viva voce preparation for me (assuming they have already done all other steps I have given them in the course of diploma exam preparation). And I would like to share with you these three important steps that would give any candidates feel much more prepared and confident to perform well in the coming exam.
The three steps to prepare for a successful viva voce session are:
THINK about what and how you are going to answer the questions the examiners pose during the exam. I always give my students a bunch of potential questions the examiners will ask. It is very important to prepare ahead. Don’t just think, “oh, I will know how to answer them during the exam.” No way! Even you have the information at hand/in your head, it is crucial that you think about how to put the information together in a clear, simple presentable speech. And that leads to the second step..
WRITE. THEM. DOWN. Seriously. This is the next step you must do especially when you worry a lot about how to say what you need to say in the real exam. I hear a lot of this or a variation of this, “oh, I will know how to answer them because I have the information in my head.” Really? I don’t think so. If you cannot write them down, you cannot answer them. It doesn’t have to be written in full paragraph/sentences (although it certainly helps), but at least in point form, using clear, simple sentence structure. And for those who are not native speakers: this is NOT an oral English exam, so don’t worry too much about the grammatical mistakes or trying to sound like a native speaker or Shakespeare! – actually they might not even understand you if you speak like the latter anyway. The easiest way is to speak clearly and slowly in simple sentence (just use present tense in all circumstances to make it easier for yourself when in doubt), so that you can present your ideas through effectively and get points for that! I do advise those who worry about their oral English ability to write out everything in full sentences first, not to memorize them, but to…
SAY IT OUT LOUD! It is very important for anyone to not only practice their speaking, but also practice talking about music. I have met so many musicians/candidates who might know a lot about music yet fail to deliver their ideas through speech. It is great you can perform well for the recital part, but you do also need to speak well in your viva voce too! Therefore, I always advise my students to TALK TO ME in our lessons, especially in the last few sessions prior to the exam. I ask them questions, and they give me answers in terms of the general repertoire, background of pieces, form and analysis, composer information, etc etc. I also check their programme notes and pose some questions based on what they wrote (and help with some editing- they do have to write their own notes first!). I encourage students to practice talking out loud at home for the viva voce practice and come back with the answers so I can help correct the content as well as sentence structure. That way students feel much more prepared and confident going to the real exam session.
I welcome any questions on the viva voce/programme notes/piano diploma exams in general.
A guided video to how to revise for your viva voce exam part:
Piano Clinic is a one-off consultation service provided by Miss Teresa Wong. This is a great opportunity for piano students who need extra help and guidance prior to any big major music events such as piano exams (graded or diplomas), auditions, competitions and performance. It is also a great time for piano teachers who needs some guidance on teaching their own students. Topics of consultation can range from exam preparation (pieces, viva voce, programme notes), technique problem, repertoire choice, to teaching issues. Contact us today to make an appointment with Miss Wong!
DipABRSM Piano Exam Viva Voce Preparation Chart
This is a TYPED version of the chart I drew in the video about preparation for viva voce in diploma exam
Teresa Wong School of Music is launching new exciting piano programs for the new academic year! Ranging from piano beginner to piano diplomas and piano teacher training, there is definitely one program for you!
What must we do differently when we progress to diploma performance level?
1. Independent thinking
It’s one thing you listen to your teacher’s advice and guidance (because that’s why you have the teacher at the first place, that you trust his or her ability to guide you and take you to the next level), but it’s another that you must have your own independent ideas on music interpretation, because after all, you are the one who is performing the pieces.
You, control, everything. You, make, the decision.
(Most suitable if you are a control freak like me)
Therefore, the traditional way of sitting there and waiting for the teacher to approve your playing is long gone now. You must at first give your own thoughts to shape an interpretation before you ask for your teacher’s comment. There must be an interactive way to learn, as music /piano playing is all about creativity. You might think it was only about following the scores and instructions, but making good music and playing beautifully requires so much more effort than that.
Which leads to the second criteria :
2.Understanding of the music in a deeper level
In order to give an outstanding and persuasive performance at any diploma level, the performer must have deeper musical knowledge in the piece, the historical background, the composer, the period, the style, the compositional technique and harmonic structure, the performance practice, the technical command and control as well as the emotional and bodily involvement and music expressions. All these must be experienced and explored by the performer him/herself first hand, with or without guidance of a knowledgable, experienced and understanding teacher, who can mentor and simply bring out the best in the student.
To be more specific, a student of diploma level must have the following:
A more solid understanding in structural analysis and musical expression
A greater command of piano technique
Better aural ability – to be able to identify the differences between nature of chords/tonalities, and more importantly subsequently, the various nuances brought about from the changes in such elements
Persistence and determination – to be able to be resilient when things get rough (getting stuck in practice or progress), get back off your feet (and hands) to carry on, even when no one is watching (remember, you are all alone on the stage/in the exam)
3. Practice intelligently and strategically
No more mindless practice, everything must be precise and in great detail.
Practice with a plan, practice with a direction, Practice with what you want to improve in the first place (instead of playing and playing and hoping one day the problem would magically fix itself – it won’t). Identify the problem prior to endless repetition (technical, analytical or expressive).
4. Explore new ways to practice and play, uniquely your own
Have fun and be creative with your practice. Create your own exercise and ways to practice and drill the difficult passages. No more one method = drill it correctly without doubting if it is the best way we can do until perfection. How do you know if a method is right unless you have explored many possibilities ? Explore and discover, and find out the beauty of possibilities that lie before our every eyes, ears and hands. Feel the music in your whole body, the parts that do not even touch the keys directly.
Be your own angel and demon/good cop and bad cop, remind yourself you have been doing well, at the same time be critical constructively about what there is to improve. Do the former otherwise you will become insane, do the latter because you want to get good.
More specific ideas and solutions as to how to prepare for your diploma exam in the upcoming posts,