Category Archives: Music Theory

Tunes to Develop Left Hand on the Piano

For some reason, piano pupils tend to pick up reading the treble clef more quickly and easily than the bass clef. Actually, I suspect there are two reasons. Firstly, as children, when schools introduce us to the world of music notation, they go with instruments that use the treble clef – the recorder, for example, or violin – and so we feel some familiarity with the treble clef as a result. The other is that the majority of us are right-handed, and the treble clef tends to be restricted to right-hand use, the left-hand taking on the bass clef.

Whatever the reasons, the left hand and the bass clef need a little extra focus to keep them up to speed with the right.

There are at least three tools that provide this focus. Firstly, we have flashcards. These show a note in the bass clef and you have to find/name it as quickly as possible and then check if you got it right. While you can buy physical flashcards, there are several mobile apps available that provide this service for free. Here’s a link to Music Flashcards to get you started.

The second tool is sight-reading. By sight-read, I mean being presented with a short piece of music you haven’t seen before, which you then play. The Improve Your Sight-Reading series by Paul Harris is one of the best books, though it covers treble and well as bass clef sight-reading. The best place to start would be the Grade 1 book. I would suggest looking through the passage of music to sight-read, then play it through three times, improving it each time as necessary.

The third tool is learning a piece of bass clef music. The piece of music in question shouldn’t be so easy that you can sight-read it. Rather it should present enough of a challenge that you can spend a few weeks turning it into a proper musical performance. To this end I have put together a sheet of tunes in the bass clef, which should be suitable for most piano pupils who have been playing for a few months.

You can download the PDF here: Bass_Clef_Tunes_for_the_Piano.pdf

ABRSM and RGT Exam Dates for 2017

Somehow it’s almost April already and the Spring terms is nearly at an end… and I’ve not yet posted the dates for the ABRSM and RGT exams. There are two dates you need to know if you’re looking to enter an exam.

The first is the closing date, which is – surprise, surprise! – the last date you can apply to enter an exam in the current term. The closing dates below are for online entries.

The second is the exams date range. This will let you know the window of dates when the exam is likely to be scheduled for. There are options to request specific weeks and these are usually taken into account.

ABRSM Exam Dates

Closing Date Exam Dates
Spring Term 20 January 6 March – 8 April
Summer Term 12 May 12 June – 15 July
Winter Term 29 September 6 Nov – 9 Dec

ABRSM Exam fees are here

RGT Exam Dates

Closing Date Exam Dates
Spring Term 1 February March / April
Summer Term 1 May June / July
Winter Term 1 October Nov / Dec

RGT Exam fees are here

Guitarist’s Guide to Sharps & Flats

guide-to-sharps-and-flats-for-guitarWhen you start learning the guitar, it’s not long before you come across the musical alphabet: A B C D E F G. Having played a few tunes using these notes, you’ll soon notice that some frets are missed out. Take the high-E string, for example. Fret 1 is F, then you skip the next fret on your way to G on fret 3.

What about those in-between notes?

Back in the mists of Western musical history, when notes were named, only the 7 notes A to G were used. Actually, that’s not entirely true, there was another note, H, but we don’t use that name anymore. The in-between notes weren’t used, so they didn’t get named.

Sometime around the 17th and 18th century, the twelve notes of the octave that we use today were set, but instead of give some handy letter names to the extra 5 notes, instead two symbols were added.

sharp-flat

The hashtag-looking symbol is a sharp sign and the odd-b-shaped symbol is a flat sign.

The sharp sign indicates the note one fret higher. The flat sign indicates the note one fret higher.

All the in-between notes can be described using either sign. For example, that second fret note on the high-E string could be called F-sharp (F#) or G-flat (Gb).

The link below is to a free single page PDF explanation of this for the guitar. Enjoy!

Guide to Sharps and Flats for Guitar.pdf