grade 1 violin

Grade 1 Violin

In this post we are going to hear all the Trinity Grade 1 Violin pieces for the 2020 syllabus. This syllabus will be in use until 2023. In order to use this resource, you must first purchase the Trinity Grade 1 syllabus, which you can get at the Trinity Store, or at your local music shop. For the exam, you will need to present three pieces out of the nine, but there’s no harm in learning more! To navigate this page, simply scroll to a piece, click on “Learn about the Piece” or “Watch the Video!” Once you do this, the section will open and you can view the material. You can view each of them as many times as you like!

For even more information and guidance on Grade 1 Violin, download my Udemy course. There you will find an extensive library including hours of lessons on technical aspects of each piece, along with over 30 downloadable resources and 10 quizzes to test your musical knowledge!

Studies and Technical

Before we get to the pieces, let’s look at the three studies. You have to prepare all of these for your exam. Your examiner will choose one of them. You will then choose another. So in the end, you will only end up playing two. However, you have no way of knowing which one the examiner will choose, so you must prepare all three. Their purpose is to show the examiner that you have mastered the techniques you need at grade 1 level. Here they are:

Introduction to the Studies
A Cheeky Hamster
The Limping Rabbit
At the Ranch

Grade 1 Violin: Jasmine Flower

We start off the grade 1 violin syllabus in China. This piece is all about serenity, magic, and jasmine. In the video and notes below I will show you how to play the piece, and give you some of the history and music theory behind it.

Learn about the Piece

Jasmine Flower

The first piece in the syllabus is a beautiful, lyrical ode to the jasmine flower. It’s based on a traditional Chinese tune that is often played on the erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument. The erhu has two strings and a small resonator that sits on the knee. The player holds the instrument upright on the knee, and moves the bow horizontally. The instrument has a haunting, somewhat unstable sound that is ideal for sliding.

Pentatonic Scale

Traditional Chinese music makes extensive use of pentatonic scales. This word comes from the Greek pente, meaning “five”. This gives the music its distinctively dreamy, meditative quality. You can make a pentatonic scale on a piano or keyboard by playing only the black notes, one after the other, and in order:

Musical Knowledge

The piece is in the key of D Major. We know this because there are two sharps written in the key signature, just after the treble clef. This tells us that every time we see an F or a C, we must play it sharp. This means that we must extend the second finger on the D string and the A string. The tempo indication is andante. This word means that we should play the piece at a moderate speed, not too fast and not too slow. Imagine a comfortable walking pace, as if you were taking a leisurely stroll through a meadow full of jasmine plants. We also have a number of instructions concerning dynamics. These include forte (loud) and piano (soft). Between the two, we see instructions like crescendo (get louder) and diminuendo (get softer). These are abbreviated to cresc. and dim. respectively.

When you are ready to try it out, you can download the backing track in the resources to play along.

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: Pavane

For this one, we are off the Renaissance Spain! We hear the nobles doing a courtly dance to the sound of lutes, fiddles and flutes. This is a tricky, technically impressive little piece that would make a great addition to your exam program.

Learn about the Piece

Pavane

This piece comes to us from the Renaissance. It was written in the mid-16th century by Luis de Milan. He was a Spanish composer who lived in Valencia. By all accounts he was a very accomplished musician. A Pavane is a courtly dance that originated in Italy but became popular in Spain.

Musical Knowledge

The key signature has one sharp, so we are in the key of G Major. We have a number of dynamic markings, such as forte (loud) and piano (soft). For Renaissance and Baroque music, we should create a strong contrast between these. In this piece we also see mordents, which appear at bars 7, 11, 15, 23 and 27. You don’t have to play these in the exam, but if you would like to learn them, this is what you do: play the note written, but tap the fourth finger, once, while you play. Intonation is very important in this piece and you must be able to distinguish between C natural and C sharp on the A string.

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: The Two Roses

Béla Viktor János Bartók was one of the great composers of the early 20th century. He is also a major figure in ethnomusicology, the study of different cultures and their musical traditions. We’ve spoken about him before. This piece is all about roses. It’s pretty, quirky and fun to play.

Learn about the Piece

The Two Roses

Bela Bartok is one of the great composers of the 20th century. He traveled around his native Hungary and neighbouring countries, collecting folk melodies and incorporating them into his compositions. His music is strong, full of vitality and rhythmic contrast. This piece is from his album “for children”, which he composed in 1908 AD.

Musical Knowledge

The piece is written in the key of A Major. We identify the key by looking at the key signature. Three sharps means that we are in the key of A Major. We have: F sharp, C sharp and G sharp. You will notice that some of the notes have a short horizontal line above or below. This is called tenuto, and its purpose is to tell us to give that note some emphasis and hold it for its entire length. At bar 25, we have a marking: “rit.”, which is short for “ritardando”. This Italian word tells us to begin to slow down. Shortly thereafter, we see “a tempo”, which means we must return to the original speed, before the ritardando.

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: Flash of Lightning

Watch out! Tricky bowing patterns and interesting little scale passages are what this piece is all about. It even includes harmonics, which are a wonderful skill to show off!

Learn about the Piece

Flash of Lightning

The performance indication at the top of the page sums this piece up very well: “strikingly”. This is a flashy, tricky piece that will show of your technique. It was written by Caroline Lumsden and Ben Attwood.

Musical Knowledge

The piece is in A Major, because there are three sharps in the key signature: F sharp, C sharp and G sharp. Right from the get-go, we have a challenge! We have to play harmonics on the A and E strings. These are special spots half way up the length of the string. We lightly touch the string with our fifth finger, without applying any pressure. Then we play with the bow. If you are in the right spot, you will hear a whistling sound, like someone blowing over the top of a bottle. We also have to be comfortable slurring notes and counting in 6/8 time throughout this piece. Not for the faint-hearted!

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: Up the Mountain

This one is a perky, jazzy number with syncopation and accents. It’s a good piece to include if you need something light and fun. Let’s go up the mountain!

Learn about the Piece

Up the Mountain

Let’s play some jazz! Christopher Norton’s “Up the Mountain” is short, punchy, and fun to play.

Musical Knowledge

The piece has three sharps: F sharp, C sharp and G sharp. This means that we are in the key of A Major. Watch out for the tied quavers at the end of bars: we have to feel the beat on 1, without actually playing a new note. This is what gives the piece a jazzy rhythm. We also have to be able to place our fourth finger on the A string for this piece, because we are asked to play the E with our fourth finger in bar 6.

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: Lights Out

Quiet, meditative, even a little sad…

Learn about the Piece

This piece sounds like someone who misses home, writing a letter to his loved ones. It has quite a sad tone in places. To play this piece well, you need to pay careful attention to the piano at all times.

Musical Knowledge

The piece is in the key of G. We know this because there is just one sharp in the key signature, F sharp. We have dotted crotchets, which we must count precisely. We also have long pauses where the piano takes over. You must count very carefully here to make sure that you enter at the right moment. At the end, we see “poco ritardando”, which is an instruction to slow down, bit by bit, to the end.

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: Hoe Down

YEEHAW!

Learn about the Piece

Hoedown

Yeehaw! We are off the American South to dance a hoedown. This is a traditional square dance associated with country and western music. To really play this piece convincingly, we need to bring a lot of energy to it. It’ll also show off some interesting techniques.

Musical Knowledge

The piece has two sharps: F sharp and C sharp, so we need to be very familiar with our D Major scale. We have to do quick quaver runs at various places, using the D Major scale. We also have to be able to separate C natural and C sharp, because we’ll need both. Finally, we have some syncopated rhythms, where we have to start the bar with a quaver. All in all, this is quite a rodeo!

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: Chase in the Dark

BOO!

Learn about the Piece

This piece has no piano accompaniment. instead, it’s a duet for two violins. You will play the top line, while your teacher will play the bottom line. it’s a menacing, rollicking ride – so much fun to play!

Musical Knowledge

The teacher part begins, and you come in at bar 3. Throughout this piece, you must have the time signature in mind: six quaver beats per bar. Some of the notes have accents, which are indicated by horizontal arrows on top of the notes. When you see this, you must lean into your bow and make an explosive sound at the beginning of the stroke. It’s also essential that you listen to your partner throughout, so that you start and finish together.

Watch the Video!

Grade 1 Violin: Jeremiah’s Waltz

This piece has no piano accompaniment, or duet part. This means that you’re on your own! That’s a challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity to show off your technique.

Learn about the Piece

A waltz is a dance with three beats in each bar. To play this piece, you need to be counting 1 – 2 – 3 throughout. There are plenty of interesting rhythmic variations and challenging bowing patterns. To tackle this piece, you should head over to Udemy and get started!

Watch the Video!

What Next?

This page is a whirlwind tour through the Trinity Grade 1 Violin exam. The videos contain a great deal of information that will help you to prepare for your exam. However, the materials are under strict copyright and you will have to purchase them from the Trinity store. If you really want to prepare thoroughly for the exam, head over to my online course, where you’ll get lifetime access to a huge library of resources, exercises, drills and tutorials. See you there!

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