I’m not a huge fan of practical music exams generally, they have their place for piano pupils and role to play, for sure but they have to be treated with care.
The danger, it strikes me is that they can become THE reason to play a musical instrument and then the exam pieces become the only pieces that are learnt well. The piano repertoire is huge and learning the 24 pieces that one would need to get from grade 1 to 8 doesn’t cover enough of the repertoire to make a rounded musician, amateur or professional.
Having said that, I am aware that the exam boards do spend a huge amount of time and effort in getting together a balanced and interesting syllabus. Over the years each exam board has accumulated quite a large list of music they have used and it appears that the ABRSM has noticed this and published a series of books entitled Encore. They are really good.
They are billed as the official collection of the best-loved ABRSM piano exam pieces from grades 1 to 8, suitable for all ages and abilities. There’s a good mix of around 70 pieces from the last 20 or so years and with each piece there is a little background about the composer and things to watch out for to help with the practice.
The thinking behind this series of books is to help develop and introduce new skills and technique between grades, find music for a concert or repertoire away from the formal exam. Its aim is to help capture a sense of fun for younger students and adults returning to piano playing.
Whether you’re working through our exams, playing informally, or planning a performance, Encore is full of music you’ll want to play over and again. Have a look, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
All the best,