Exploring the new ABRSM 2018 Flute Syllabus: Grade 5

Blog snapshot – my recommendations at a glance!

A question for you  – what makes a good grade 5 flute player?

It’s notoriously difficult to excel at this grade so it is perhaps an interesting exercise to think about which of the following your potential candidate might possess before matching them up with repertoire. :

  • The basics – a more developed sound with increased finger speed, and snappier tonguing
  • More stylistic awareness which results in the choice of a balanced programme
  • Confidence in their playing and the ability to take ownership of the performance

The ABRSM book for this grade is very strong and will challenge all these questions most  successfully. But even so there is plenty of variety and quality to be found elsewhere. There will come a time when  the examiners will be very happy to hear some new music!

List A              

This  is a classic list including the usual mix of Handel, Telemann and Beethoven, plus an arrangement of the Dvorak Humoresque. The  Allegro from the Sonata in G major by  Pietro Locatelli from 300 Years of Flute Music will also be very popular and used a great deal.

This compilation is also included at grades 4, 6, 7 and  8 – another great value purchase!

Drouet: Rondeau from Sonata in A minor (Three Little Sonatas)

If you didn’t include the Cantabile from this Sonata for grade 4, here is another chance to explore Drouet’s charming style. Easy on the eye, ears and technique, this is a good way to learn about structure as the movement uses repeats and da capos in a more intricate way than usual. You’ll love it!

Frederick the Great: Allegro assai from Sonata in A minor, Spitta No. 21

The music of the flute enthusiast Frederick the Great has been overshadowed by that of his teacher Quantz and is not often played. This Allegro, together with another one set for grade 7 are both really interesting.

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Mainly set in the middle register, the articulation is tricky but the small range of notes used helps to limit the technical demands. It’s rhythmically engaging and lovely to play. You can purchase this Sonata separately but if you have fallen head over heels for Frederick’s charms, this and the equally appealing Sonata No 76 set for grade 7 are available in one volume!

Giuseppe Rabboni: Sonata No 10 in D minor from Sonatas for Flute and Piano 

If these sonatas have passed you by, you are in for a real treat! Although the book appears expensive it is set for grades 6 and 7 too, and includes a demonstration and playalong CD. This is beautiful and worth the purchase price alone!

The great thing about all these Sonatas is that they are all so tuneful. You do need your wits about you for this one though. A great sound and musicality will help but poise and a sense of style are essential to bring this fabulous slow movement to life!

List B

There are more stunning tunes on this list which contains some little-known pieces which are soon to become famous!

Bock and Harnick: Sunrise, Sunset from Roll Over Bach arranged by Adam Gorb

One of the great songs from Fiddler on the Roof and the arrangement is lovely.There is a real duo feel here with the evocative sweeping melody passing between flute and piano in the opening section. The famous chorus doesn’t appear until bar 34, and even then it’s still split between the instruments. This is more akin to a fantasy than a straightforward transcription,  which if played beautifully, could be most effective.

Richard Lane: Caprice

This is a very appealing if rather quirky piece. The rhythms are relatively simple and the whole piece lies nicely in the middle of the flute so the principal task here is to learn the notes in the passage work and accomplish the main tonguing patterns.The partnership with the piano will deliver the interesting harmonic style and, best of all, it’s only a minute long!

 

Wilhelm Popp:  Spanish Dance from Romantic Miniatures Vol 1

This is yet another fantastic piece! It’s one of those gems that sounds more difficult than it actually is, so it’s  great fun to play! The straightforward rhythmic structure and technical challenges are simply presented to get you off to a flying start. It’s then possible to play it at the correct Bolero speed which is so evocative of Spain. All you need then is a pair of castanets!

List C:

There isn’t really a dud on this list – you can’t go wrong!

Bizet: Gypsies Dance from A Bizet Notebook arranged Simon Hunt

It’s such a treat to be able to play these good solo flute arrangements of Carmen for an exam. A treasure of a book, it’s very good value especially as it is set for grades 3, 6 and 7 as well. This famous dance is quite short so the detailed finger patterns will be the focus of attention here. Everyone knows this tune though and that always makes practising easier!

 

Helen Madden: Icing on the Cake  from 20 Fantastic Studies

I love this book of well-written original studies by Helen Madden, all of which have great titles. Each one has practice tips too. This one is technically demanding and the composer herself recommends slow practice. A clear incentive perhaps?  You also need really good control of dynamics to fully bring out the character which should be ‘stylistic and bold’. If you like real jazz you’ll love this.

 

Investing in music at this level is still difficult to encourage, but with this amount of choice the task of persuading parents to part with their money should be much more straightforward!

Find this exam music and more using the Just Flutes Exam Music Finder

Exploring the 2018 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 3 and 4

Wonderful music abounds at these two grades and the emphasis is on original music which is great for players at this level. There are also lovely tunes to enjoy, as well as a good helping of pieces in the jazz idiom.

Blog snapshot – my recommendations at a glance

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 3

List A

This list is crammed full of music by the greats. Bach and Mozart plus Handel, Grieg, Offenbach and Vivaldi– what more could you ask for! There is also scope for something a little different though:

Eisel: Paisanne from Classical Music for Children

This unusual gavotte-style dance in D minor has easy rhythms and a small note range so the emphasis can therefore be on playing the notes quickly. There are also no printed dynamics or articulation so you can be your own editor for the first time! Also set is the Andante by the same composer. This excellent book is a modern version of Flute Fancies – a mix of lovely pieces through the ages up to Satie. The book appears on the Grade 2 syllabus as well, making it financial as well as musical sense.

Shield: Old Towler arranged Emerson from An English Garland

This is a catchy number in 6/8 which will need to be played at a fast pace to be really successful. It’s completely different in mood to He Piped So Sweet (which is set for Grade 2), so the book is worth the outlay for the right student.

List B

You’re spoilt for choice here and there are three blockbuster tunes that everyone can sing along with!

  1. Gershwin: I Got Plenty of Nothin’ from Easy Gershwin
  2. You Only Live Twice from Hartbeat
  3. Hedwig’s Theme and Mr Longbottom Flies (Harry Potter) from Play HollywoodThis is a ‘must-have’ book with a ‘who’s who’ choice of 10 film themes. The playalong CD means hours of fun – exam or not!

But again if you’d like to be a little more adventurous:

Keith Bartlett: Happy Go Lucky from Just for Fun

The ‘No worries’ performance direction sums up this gem with its easy 6/8 tune in sunny C major – perfect!

Wedgwood: Scale-Learning Blues from Up-Grade Flute Book 2

This is another good value book with a variety of pieces that will really keep your student interested. Scale-Learning Blues is very good for teaching G minor with the swing making it all rather acceptable. There is also a D flat – there’s no time like now for learning that!

List C

Jazz-based studies are plentiful and these three are well worth a look. The books are set on other grades and very good in their own right – definitely worth the money!

  1. Of Mice and Keys or Search Engine from Jazz@Etudes
  2. Catch Up from 20 Fantastic Flute Studies. This book also contains pieces from the Grade 4 syllabus.
  3.  Yesterday’s Song or Waltzer from Flute Salad

My personal favourite, however, is something altogether different:

James Rae: Distant Shores from 42 More Modern Studies

This has such a beautiful melody!  A good sound and decent breath control will enable your student to make the most of the expressive intervals and meandering sequences that evoke the title so skilfully. A winner!

Grade 4: The Singing Grade

You can sing your way through a large part of this syllabus with anything from Bach to the Mexican Hat Dance!

List A

Drouet: Cantabile from Sonata in A minor from Three Little Sonatas

There is this a really appealing alternative piece should you need a change. It’s a great example of Classical elegance needing good breath control to sustain the melody and make the most of the phrasing. The other two movements of this Sonata are set for Grades 5 and 6 and the other two sonatas in the book are lovely too. This is a wise investment!

Another good compilation book to consider:

First Repertoire Pieces arranged by Peter Wastall

This is an old-fashioned type of book and if you consider yourself a traditional teacher you’ll love it! The two set pieces are the famous Vivace by JB Loeillet and an equally well-known piece by Wilhelm Popp – but you probably know them already!

Mendelssohn: The Shepherd’s Song

This is a wonderful and valuable piece of Romantic music which is at the top end of difficulty for the grade. Once mastered, however, it can be used for concerts, festivals, encores – in fact everything!

What makes it challenging? Rhythm, key, breath control, leaps, dynamics, and intonation – it even ends on a pianissimo top G. It is so worth it though, and if your student is good enough to play it they will forever love you for suggesting it!

List B

Michael Regan: Harmattan from Desert Winds

This has a lovely gentle jazz style which is held together by a rhythmic unity. You need good finger and lip control for this and as it’s quite a substantial piece stamina will be an issue for some. It has an approachable piano part too – hooray!

Arranged Ledbury:  A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square from Big Chillers

This is a great book to have if your student likes playing to their grandparents – it’s full of classic tunes like this! This one is irresistible and has been very well voiced for this level of flute player. The key is D major but there is an A major section in the middle. It’s relatively low though so it doesn’t have meltdown potential! There is also an element of performance skill required as the piece ends with the piano – hold that flute up until the end!

List C

These two options are sure to please:

Mark Nightingale Hard Drive or Scart Stomp from Jazz@Etudes

This is a great little book which is fun and contemporary with computer-speak titles. Both of these have a small note range to help concentrate the emphasis on the rhythm. Students will love them!

 

Phillip Sparke: Party Piece from Skilful Studies

This is a traditional skills piece in a modern guise but when played well it takes us straight to a knees-up! Simple rhythms and an easy key range are balanced out by higher notes and a mix of tonguing patterns which will should convey all the ebullience of the title. If you are prepared to put in the practice this will be such fun to play!

Taking these two grades should be fun and with this amount of variety in the listings everyone should be happy!

Find this exam music and more using the Just Flutes Exam Music Finder