Playing the harpsichord – the perfect antidote to piano exams!

If you’re feeling a bit frazzled by all the intense preparation to get ready for your upcoming exam or recital performance, then take some time out to play some of your pieces on the harpsichord. Not only will it give you a feel for the original instrument that most A List ABRSM pieces are written for, but it will give you a break from the piano!

Many students at the SE22 Piano School are combining their piano exams with harpsichord exams from the Victoria College of Music. There is a fantastic exam called the Bronze Medal where you play 4 pieces and answer some general theory questions. There is also a very easy piece of sight-reading so nothing to get too stressed about!

The few general theory questions are taken from this list:

Note values
Musical Terms (Italian words)
Key Signatures
Time Signatures
Major/Minor keys
Intervals between notes (degrees of the scale)

If you are interested in this examination, then you can find some of the pieces in this excellent book by Maria Boxall. I have copies of the books for the other pieces that I can loan to you for the exam.

My favourite thing about the harpsichord is the scope for improvisation. Have a listen to the last Rameau piece. It’s a very simple tune but each section has a repeat and it is up to the performer to elaborate and ornament the repeat with their own interpretation. Classical music rarely never lets you do this kind of tinkering, but Baroque and Jazz music does let you improvise as you wish. Cool!

You can also try out all your pieces on various harpsichords at the next school trip on May 19th to Finchcocks Musical Museum.

Boxall Harpsichord Method, £15.99

Here are some Youtube clips of the pieces for the exam.

Lillibullero – Purcell

Funeral Music for Queen Mary:

Musette – Bach

Bourbonoise – Couperin

Handel – Impertinence

Rameau – Menuet in Am

Here’s Merlin with his Grade 2 Harpsichord certificate. It must be said that Victoria College have the best certificates! You even get a medal with this exam if you meet the required mark!

Merlin with his Victoria College of Music certificate for Grade 2 Harpsichord, 2012

Merlin with his Victoria College of Music certificate for Grade 2 Harpsichord, 2012


About Lorraine

Head Teacher at the SE22 Piano School, a private piano teaching practice in East Dulwich, South London. I work with a fantastic team of teachers offering piano, harpsichord & music theory lessons to adults and children from the age of 4.
This entry was posted in Early Music, Finchcocks Musical Museum, Harpsichord, Harpsichord, Harpsichord, Piano lessons, School trip, Spinet, Victoria College of Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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