Classical music encourages good health and exercises the brain. It is also relatively easy to learn and offers career opportunities with salaries as high as a politician’s. As a variety of experts have revealed, playing or listening to classical music has been linked to effective brain development. Unsurprisingly, the news has pushed pregnant women around the world into a Mozart craze, often tending to their daily chores with walkmans attached. But Solomon is not particularly concerned about the positive effects of this musical genre on the brain, although he is well aware of the widely publicized findings of psychologists.
ABRSM 2009 PIANO SYLLABUS
The revisions to the 2009 piano syllabus are very much a refinement of the existing syllabus rather than a change of approach. Our research showed that a number of small changes will be welcomed by piano teachers and will enhance the experience for candidates. As a result, teachers using the current scales and specimen sight-reading with their pupils will find that the new materials to be published in July 2008 are very much along familiar lines. Given this minimal revision, candidates will certainly find that they can learn whatever changes there may be to their grade with relative ease.
New Scale Requirements
Similar-motion scales stay the same at all grades, except for Grade 2 where E major is deleted and B minor is replaced by G minor, and Grade 6 where there are fewer staccato scales. The current progression of arpeggios and broken chords at the early stages has been adjusted very slightly so broken chords occur at each of the first two grades, with arpeggios now being introduced at Grade 2. This encourages a flexibility of hand position at the early stages and provides a logical and progressive approach to the learning of the extensions to the five-finger position. At Grade 2 there is a reduction of arpeggio requirements to counterbalance the incorporation of broken chords, and the keys have been carefully distributed between arpeggios and broken chords so that no key is covered by both.
Some small changes have been made at Grades 3 and 4, but the important and longstanding benchmark of all major and minor keys being covered by Grade 5 has been retained. The range of the arpeggios at this grade has been increased to three octaves to match the similar-motion scale range, as in all other grades. Some minor adjustments have been made to the higher grades, but the only significant addition is a single whole-tone scale at Grade 8.
New Sight-Reading Tests
The new sight-reading tests are in attractive and recognizable styles and will not present greater challenges than the current materials. The step between the first three grades has been ironed out so that at Grade 2 the tests are with hands together, but staying within a five-finger position. At the lower grades the tests will be shorter to allow candidates to focus more on the musical details and achieve greater musical results in the exam. At Grades 1 and 2, for example, all the tests will be only four to six bars long. Titles have been added from Grade 6 so that they appear as real pieces of music. This will also help candidates get a feeling for the mood and style of the music..