Thoughts on composing, teaching and performing music, by Fergus Black

a picture of ears to illustrate listening to music and exam aural tests

Vocabulary for talking about music

ABRSM Aural Tests assess students' listening skills by requiring discussion of a piece of music which is played to the student on the piano. In my experience, students are sometimes disadvantaged by a lack of vocabulary in discussing the music.

J S Bach's Explication - a guide to baroque ornamentation in keyboard music


It seems to me that there are two problems with ornaments: technical and visual. The technicalIt is not just that students can't get their fingers around ornaments on the piano - although the speed and delicacy is often a problem; I think that many players are confused when they shouldn't play the note printed (e.g. in baroque trills, they have to start on the upper auxiliary - they see a C and have to play D first).

Mr Black with a class on the Music Theory Fast course

Music Theory Fast

I have been delivering a crash course in ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory this week, for some nice people in Stamford (UK). They called their course Music Theory Fast, and whilst I cavilled, of course, at the grammar, I liked the double meaning of "Fast": we did it quick, or rather quickly, and hopefully it will stick fast.

Proud children with exam certificates

Music exam boards go head-to-head

Which exam board should aspiring musicians follow? Which has the best syllabus? and which has the best structure? For years I have followed ABRSM: ABRSM is the gold standard, imho, against which other boards could and should compare themselves.

A 19th century painting of waltzing couples.

Dance Music

Students need help with their dancing. Being able to identify a waltz (oom-pah-pah), or a Sarabande (slow, in three, and 'sits down' on the second beat) from their distinctive rhythms and texture is useful in itself, but there is an added bonus.

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