Can ABRSM bounce back from their last syllabus I was highly critical of?
Listen to this episode for a comprehensive review of the new set of books, including audio clips of many of the new pieces.
I also discuss some of the recent controversial issues regarding their operational and business challenges


A brief bulletpoint summary of my review:

  • Blown away, superb selection of pieces this time around
  • Good balance between pedagogical rigour, and being fun to play
  • Interesting creative & diverse choice of pieces
  • However, there is the wider issue of current levels of trust in ABRSM’s operations & standards
  • Listen to the episode for a breakdown of each grade with audio clips (starts at 42:52)

Improvements from last syllabus:

  • A return to form- less feeling of pieces being made easier & dumbing down this time round. Rigorous standard on the whole (but benchmarking a little wide for my taste with a few much easier options as well as challenging & ambitious pieces in each grade)
  • Excellent representation of BIPOC & women. Many non-white and women composers featured in the books themselves this time as well as in the alternative lists. Not virtue-signalling- but normalising
  • Very welcome to see more authentic jazz at the higher grades rather than just the usual Christopher Norton et al
  • Much improved engraving with no issues for me this time around
  • Teaching notes book much better this time- more authoritative & trustworthy with their opinions
  • Audio digital downloads excellent on the whole
  • Even bigger choice of alternative pieces

Criticisms of the syllabus:

  • Grade 8 book still has only 9 pieces like the last syllabus
  • I’ve never been a fan of ABRSM fingerings
  • I’ve never liked ABRSM ornamentation suggestions at the higher grades
  • All the alternative pieces from the last syllabus are still exactly the same here in the new syllabus-
    but this may be positive for teachers who don’t need to go out & buy a whole load of new books!
  • List A/B/C changed in last syllabus for the worse- no change this year.
    Differences between categories now so blurred I don’t understand the point

Notes:

My previous review of the ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2021-2022:
https://heartofthepiano.com/e17-why-im-moving-my-students-from-abrsm-to-trinity-reviews-of-their-new-2021-piano-syllabuses/

I’ve made performance videos of some of the pieces here:
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0sZ0MK31wvICriKIqjYfMEGtTpQgK2bw
with tutorial videos here:
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0sZ0MK31wvL51bH1Wvk_UbYNnu5zg4Sy

Just one of the many social media posts to do with the online booking problems at the beginning of May 2022:
https://www.facebook.com/abrsmmusic/posts/10159802952370210

The leaked internal email from ABRSM examiners to the chief executive:
https://slippedisc.com/2022/05/examiners-declare-no-confidence-in-abrsm-systems

An update on the situation at ABRSM after the leaked email:
https://slippedisc.com/2022/05/chaos-keeps-on-spreading-at-abrsm/

Financial details for ABRSM 2020-2021:
https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-search/-/charity-details/292182

About the on-demand Performance Grade exams:
https://gb.abrsm.org/en/about-us/news/articles/?abrsm[newsId]=93074

The YouTube video with a performance of J. P. Johnson playing Over the Bars:
https://youtu.be/I1kw2JjkxzM

See my YouTube tutorial on the Tempo di minuetto by Martínez in Grade 7 to see examples of ABRSM ornamentation suggestions that I disagree with:
https://youtu.be/sQHrnb3sHds

In the piece Billie’s Song by Valerie Capers (grade 4):
bar 7c in the right hand needs the flat to apply to the D, not the E, so the first chord of the right hand should be Db, E and A, spelling out a C13b9 chord
I listened to several existing versions to confirm this

Absolutely not a fan of this way of writing swing rhythms in David Blackwell- Railroad Blues (grade 2):

All audio clips are from ABRSM apart from where I indicated J. P. Johnson’s original recording

The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s