grade 1 piano

Trinity Grade 1 Piano

In this post we will explore all the pieces in the Trinity Grade 1 Piano syllabus for 2021 – 2023. This anthology of pieces is fresh and full of contrast. As usual, it begins with classical pieces and then moves to more contemporary works. To take the exam, you must prepare:

  • 3 pieces (in contrasting style)
  • 3 studies (you will only end up playing 2 in the exam)
  • all the scales and arpeggios

Where can I find Grade 1 Piano Sheet Music?

You can buy it here. The book contains all the pieces and studies, and the scale list is at the back. To take the exam, you will need to show that you have purchased the book. The examiner will not look kindly on photocopies!

King William’s March

The grade 1 piano syllabus starts with a bang! This is a march that Jeremiah Clark wrote for the King of England. It’s a great piece to choose if you want to show off technique and style.

Learn about the Piece

In 1689, William of Orange became the king of England. Jeremiah Clarke composed this march to celebrate this event. Think of a trumpet as you play – big, bold, impressive. The piece is in a sunny D major. This means, of course, that F and C are both sharp. There is a great deal of contrast in the articulation, sometimes staccato, sometimes legato. You must bring all of this out in order to play the piece convincingly. Click below to watch a demonstration:

Watch the Video!

Passepied in C Major

Elegance, poise and balance. That’s what this passepied brings to the grade 1 piano syllabus. Read more below:

Learn about the Piece

Passepied is the name of a type of dance that comes from Brittany, in the northwest of France. It usually has three beats in a bar, like a waltz or minuet. You’ll notice that this one starts with an upbeat; the first bar is not a true bar, because it’s not complete. We only have a note on the third beat, so you can count “1, 2” silently before commencing on “3”. There is plenty of interesting articulation throughout: smooth slurs for the most part, with some staccato notes towards the end. The piece is in C major, which means we never leave the white keys. Follow the suggested finger patterns, because they are actually the easiest way to get the job done.

The composer, Georg Frederic Handel, is one of the most famous in all music history. His music features in many other exam syllabi that you can go and listen to.

Watch the Video!

Arioso

The third piece in the Grade 1 piano syllabus is Arioso. This one has a romantic, singing quality that calls for sensitive playing.

Learn about the Piece

This piece is lyrical and dreamy. An Arioso is a piece for a solo voice, usually in an opera. As its name suggests, the arioso should sound airy, free and open. To play it effectively, you should imagine you are singing about something or someone that you love. The slurs are important. Where the composer links two notes with a slur, you must make sure that you move very smoothly between them, as if they are syllables of the same word.

Watch the Video!

Donkey Trot

When a horse trots, it’s a very graceful sight. When donkeys trot…it’s something else entirely.

Learn about the Piece

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Walking Together

This piece is a real challenge: hands together throughout, using a wide range. Most difficult of all: it must sound effortless!

Learn about the Piece

The piece is in the key of G major. This means that we must play an F sharp throughout, but there are times where the composer indicates an F natural. Remember, this only applies to the bar it’s in. In the next bar, F is sharp again. Counting in 6 is essential; the time signature tells us that each bar has six quaver beats. Tempo is another challenge: we need to slow down for the ritardando and then return to the original speed at a tempo.

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Last Waltz

No grade 1 piano syllabus would be complete without a duet. Even better, in this one, it’s a waltz.

Learn about the Piece
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Stealth Mode

One of the skills you must develop for grade 1 piano is articulation. This piece is full of choppy, cheeky staccato notes that alternate with smoother chords.

Learn about the Piece
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Pirate Stomp

Shiver me Timbers! This one is as fun as it sounds. It’s full of attitude and contrast.

Learn about the Piece
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The Croc That Swallowed a Clock

As far as I know, crocodiles don’t eat clocks. But this is grade 1 piano, and we are allowed to be a bit silly. This piece is a good one to include if you want something quirky, fun and weird.

Learn about the Piece

The composer asks us to be snappy about this. And he’s made it easy for us to do so: long, sustained semibreves with choppy staccato chords. The chords are dissonant, which means they don’t sound very pretty. Don’t be discouraged – imagine a clock ticking in a crocodile’s belly. At the end, there’s a cluster chord, which is really just an excuse to make a big noise.

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Space Walk Rag

Of all the pieces in the grade 1 piano book, this one is the most challenging from the point of view of rhythm. There is syncopation throughout, and each of the hands must work independently.

Learn about the Piece

Ragtime music comes from the United States of America. One of the most famous ragtime tunes is Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”. For grade 1 piano, we have the “Space Walk Rag”. There are a number of things that make this piece challenging to play:

  • rhythm: we often have to play off the beat, or tie two quavers over the beat. You can count this at first, but eventually you must feel it
  • chords: there are plenty of strange and dissonant chords in the left hand
  • articulation: precise staccatos, lazy legatos
Watch the Video!

The Very Vicious Velociraptor

Vivacious, varied, vivid – three words that describe this exciting piece. Choose this one if you want to be impressive.

Learn about the Piece

The piece is in E minor, which means F is always sharp. It opens with an e natural minor five-finger scale, followed immediately by terse, abrupt staccato chords. From there, the piece flows rapidly and with finesse. There’s a continuous contrast between legato in the right hand and staccato in the left. Then, we reach a rapid scale passage that takes us through three octaves on the way down. Always toying with our expectations, the piece ends with very soft staccato crotchets.

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Viking Village

This piece is both happy and sad, brooding and hopeful. It would make a very good closing piece for almost any exam program.

Learn about the Piece

The opening of the piece sounds like a distant viking longship, a lone sailor sounding a horn. Is it menacing, or hopeful? You decide. Next, drums enter, with a steady pulse in the left hand. Then the horn returns, but the sound is a little darker now, with flats and sharps, reminiscent of a harmonic minor scale. There’s a repeated section in the middle, where we alternate between G minor and F major. Then it’s back to drums, and finally another eerie horn passage. I must say, this is one of my favourite pieces in the book. Amazingly, the composer is only ten years old!

Watch the Video!

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