If you’re approaching your Grade 5 exam, congratulations! Grade 5 truly is bordering the intermediate to advanced level of piano playing and reaching this level is a massive triumph so you should take a moment to congratulate yourself!
For those approaching their Grade 5 exams, whilst the structure of the exam is relatively similar to that of the other grades, things can seem a little overwhelming at first. With a few new bits of theory and a few small changes in what you are expected to understand, it can be tricky to know what to expect during your exam.
Thankfully however, following our guides to grade 1-4, we’ll be breaking down the rough structure of the exam, what you can expect and how to succeed!
Before we do get started however, it is also worth noting that it is around this grade level where nuance, subtlety and expression become far larger components in your play. For that reason, we would also ask the question if the instrument that you are practising on is still suitable for your level of play. If you’re having difficulty playing certain passages because of your instrument, here are a few signs your instrument is holding you back! If you’d like to learn more about upgrading your piano, consider speaking to our experts today!
About The Exam
As with every other grade that we’ve written about so far, the same applies to grade 5 in that...The examiners want to see you pass! Once you’ve got that belief firmly in your mind, it takes a great level of pressure out of the exam and allows you to instead focus on demonstrating your skills!
In terms of the content of the exam, Grade 5 is incredibly similar to that of the others and leads with a demonstration piece. Here is a great demonstration of each of the pieces available at Grade 5. Listen to them, learn them and see which ones resonate with you the most!
The first slight change to the exam is that of repeating a melody (also known as echo singing). During this part, the examiner will play a chord and a two-bar count in. You then have to listen and sing back a phrase, like an echo. This is no different from the other grades, however at Grade 5, the piece is a little longer than you faced during the initial grades and will add a little more difficulty in how much you need to remember than the phrase at Grade 4. If you often find yourself getting stressed or unnerved during singing exercises, we’d highly recommend doing them in front of others such as friends or family to begin with. This will help normalise singing (or humming) in front of others.
For those who would like further advice on performing in front of others, read our guide to overcoming stage fright here!
The next part of the exam involves singing from the score, this is no different from the same task done at Grade 4, however is still a rather new concept to many players. The key here is to take things incredibly slowly. There will be six notes and you will be given the key chord starting note (such as a C in a C major chord). The best way to think about this is that there are only a limited number of ways of arranging only six notes one after the other, so if you practice a lot you will start to remember the patterns.
In terms of the theory and practical changes to the grade 5 exam, there are a few new concepts that are worth mentioning:
The key chords that are likely to be introduced around this level are the E and A♭-Major chords and F# and C Minor chords, this may constitute both in the aural and practical exams as well.
Likewise, 4 part chords with 2 notes maximum in either hand are also a key part of this grade along with simple signs of syncopation, which is a rhythmic concept that involves playing off the beat in piano music. To understand syncopation, you have to know about downbeats and upbeats so if you are unsure on this, be sure to spend some time with your teacher understanding the concept.
The final and in our opinion most fun concept that is introduced around the Grade 5 level is that of Fortissimo! Fortissimo is a dynamic marking that indicates a VERY LOUD volume. You may have been introduced to the idea of forte, which means 'loud.' However this style of play allows for some real explosive expression within your pieces.
Since 'fortissimo' is a rather long word that clutters up written music, it is often abbreviated to ff when written down.
For those unfamiliar with dynamics, this video will help explain more
For the most part, the remainder of the exam remains the same in that you will be asked to listen to and discuss a musical concept from either the Romantic, Classical, Baroque or modern eras of classical music, discussing the theory behind the pieces and then will be asked to clap along and answer which beat the piece is in, 2, 3 or 4. Unsure on the different types of classical music? Explore our guide here!
So there you have it, a very brief overview of the kinds of things to expect in your ABRSM Grade 5 piano exam! Want to learn more? Why not read through our other guides for helpful tips and tricks!
Or if you are ready to upgrade your instrument, visit our showroom or contact our experts today!