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kassiermusic Aural Crib Sheet ©2008 Leith Kassier Page 1 of 8

Musical Knowledge for ABRSM Aural,
GCSE and A levels

Each grade requires knowledge of all grades previous to it.

Grade 1

Dynamics refers to contrasts in quantity of tone

Italian term Abbreviation English translation
piano p soft
mezzo piano mp moderately soft (literally half soft)
pianissimo pp very soft
forte f loud
mezzo forte mf moderately loud
fortissimo ff very loud

Changes in quantity of tone are referred to as graduation of tone. These changes
can either be
sudden or gradual

Italian term Abbreviation English translation
crescendo cresc. gradually getting louder
decrescendo decresc. gradually getting softer
diminuendo dim. gradually getting softer

Articulation refers to how the notes are performed

Italian term Abbreviation English translation
legato leg. smoothly joined
staccato stacc. detached, not joined

Grade 2

Recognition of Tempo Changes

Italian term Abbreviation English translation
tempo the speed of the music

rallentando rall. gradually getting slower
ritenuto rit. gradually getting slower (literally “held back”)
accelerando accel. gradually getting faster

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Grade 3

Recognition of major or minor tonalities (from knowledge of scales, arpeggios,
keys.

Grade 4

General Perception of the Character of the piece played
eg: march-like, song-like, dance-like or happy, sad, serious, solemn, thoughtful
etc.

Grade 5

Terms used in previous grades such as dynamics, articulation, tempo changes,
major/minor tonality and character of the piece should be understood PLUS:

General Perception of Texture, Rhythm, Form, Style and Period

Texture

“lighter” textures are: one melody on its own (monody); two melodies
played together(two-part writing) or a melody together with a very simple
accompaniment (eg: two note chords; alberti bass type broken chords etc) .
Higher registers can also sound “light” in texture.

“thicker” textures could be: three parts or more played simultaneously or in
imitation of each other (contrapuntal or fugal or polyphonic textures) OR a
melody accompanied by three or four part chords OR more pianistic,
romantic type of accompaniments with arpeggios etc over a bigger range of
the piano. Thicker textures also include those when the melody and
accompaniment change registers eg: the melody in the bass or middle parts
with accompaniment above that OR melodies in the treble and bass parts
with accompaniment figures in the middle parts etc. Lower registers and
music across a wide range of registers also tend to thicken the effect of the
texture.

Rhythm

• recognition of duple and triple and quadruple simple and compound time
signatures.

• recognition of syncopation accents off the main beat (as in “jazzy”
rhythms).

• recognition of dotted rhythms (especially when repeated).

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Style and Character

march-like 2 or 4 beats, possible dotted rhythms
song-like sounds like a song and accompaniment (eg: a lullaby)
dance-like regular rhythm and phrasing especially if in 3 beats to a bar

Sarabande slow triple time with emphasis on the 2nd beat
Minuet moderate or fairly fast triple time - elegant, court dance
Waltz quick triple time

four beats
Gavotte elegant court dance with phrasing from the middle of

the bar e.g: 3 4 1 2 etc
Others

Scottish dance (dotted rhythms especially “scotch” snaps)
Polonaise polish dance with characteristic dotted rhythm or triplet

rhythm on the first beat of the bar
Gig fast and in compound rhythms like 6/8 or 12/8
Jazzy, Blues, Rag or Latin American type dances
Playful (fast, light, staccato or teasing pauses etc)
Imaginative ( sounds as if its telling a story or creating an
atmosphere - some idea extra to the music)
Dramatic (sounds as if its describing action on a stage - acting, opera
or ballet)

Form

Does any of the musical material get repeated?
Is the repeat EXACT? eg: the melody repeated without any change
Is the repeat VARIED? How is it varied? sometimes there are extra
notes(figuration)
or extra ornaments such as trills, mordents, grace notes)
Is there NEW material? eg: a new and contrasting melody to the first one

A B A is the first melody and B the new contrasting melody
A B A B Something contrasting and something repeated
A A B Something repeated and something new and contrasting
A B A A common form called Ternary Form.

B is contrasting and the final A may be repeated exactly or
varied or shortened)

Periods

Early Period like Bach and Handel and Vivaldi (Baroque)
Classical Period like Mozart and Haydn and early Beethoven
Romantic Period like later Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Grieg,

Chopin,
Brahms, Mendelssohn or Burgmuller

Modern Period like Bartok or Christopher Norton or Kabalevsky

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kassiermusic Aural Crib Sheet ©2008 Leith Kassier Page 4 of 8

Grade 6

General Perception of Texture, Form, Style and Period in more detail as listed under
Grade 5 including use of Italian terms where appropriate PLUS

Recognition of Phrase Structure
regular 2 or 4 or bar phrasing grouped into bigger open and closed phrases
( as in dance music of the Baroque or music of the Classical period)

longer 8 bar or 16 bar arch-shaped phrases (as in Romantic music)or
extended phrases

irregular phrases (eg the typical Baroque “head motif” plus continuation
melody)

Recognition of Cadences
A cadence is a standard progression from one chord to another at the end
of a phrase.

Perfect Dominant Chord followed by the Tonic Chord (down a fifth or
up a fourth in the bass)

Imperfect Any chord followed by the Dominant therefore sounds
unfinished

Grade 7

Interrupted cadence - Dominant chord followed by Submediant chord (up a step
in the bass)

Grade 8

Baroque Classical Romantic Modern
Approx. Dates 1600 – 1750 1732 – 1820 1820 – 1910 1910 - 2004

Prominant
composer

J S Bach Mozart Schumann Bartok

Other
composers

Handel, Vivaldi,
Scarlatti, Purcell
Corelli, Telemann

Bach’s sons,
Haydn,
Beethoven
Clementi

Schubert,
Chopin
Mendelssohn,
Grieg, Brahms,
Liszt,

Debussy,
Prokovief
Shostokovich
Gershwin

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Baroque Classical Romantic Modern
HARMONIC
LANGUAGE

Development
towards Major and
Minor Tonality
(centred on Tonic)

Major key purest
(minor pieces can
even end with a
major chord)

Exception:
JS Bach can be very
chromatic.

MAJOR/MINOR
TONALITY
Chords not
usually
adventurous
Triads in root
pos. or 1st Inv. 2nd

Inv used
sparingly.
Dom 7th & Dim 7th

MODULATIONS
to closely related
Keys (Dom, Sub-
Dom and Relative
Minor or Major)

Basic Classical
Tonality but more
adventurous use of
- 7th chords
- chromatic chords

Modulation to more
distant keys

Extreme
chromaticism in later
Romantic period
(Scriabin)

Chords used
outside Tonal
relationships
(Debussy)

Chromaticism
leads to ATONAL
music and 12
tone & Serial
music
(Schoenberg)

Neo-Classic was
Return to Tonality
“spiced” up with
Dissonance
(Prokovief,
Shostokovich)

Other Scales used
Eg: pentatonic
Bitonality

DISSONANCE
TEXTURE
(including
accompanime
nts)

Complex with
many parts
(POLYPHONIC)

IMITATION and
FUGAL writing
between parts
common

“Thin” or “Light”
texture might be
one or two parts

“Thicker” or
“complex” textures
might be 3, 4, or
more parts

Dances such as the
Sarabande can be
more CHORDAL or
HOMOPHONIC
(melody +accomp)

“Light” textures
with “clarity” of
parts are
common

HOMOPHONIC
(melody plus a
simple chordal or
broken chord
accompaniment)

“light” textures
might be accomp
consisting of 2
note chords or
an
“alberti bass”
(broken chord
patterns)

middle register of
piano used most

Thicker more
complex textures
mostly homophonic
(melody plus
accompaniment)
but composers use
polyphonic elements
to thicken the
texture
(melody sometimes
in the middle part or
bass part as well as
in treble parts)

Broken chords and
arpeggios used over
a bigger range to
create a bigger
sound

Typical thicker
texture would be the
melody in treble part
, a more melodic
bass part and 4 part
chords in the middle
parts (split between
the two hands in
piano music)

VARIED

Chromatic pieces
tend to be
“thicker” textured
and Neo-Classic
pieces “lighter”
textured

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Baroque Classical Romantic Modern
MELODY Typical fugue subject

has a distinctive “head
motive” which is easy to
imitate, followed by a
“continuation” which is
not so distinctive and
can be varied easily and
a “cadential” ending.
This makes phrases of
irregular lengths.

Dance pieces such as
the Gavotte and Minuet
are melodically more
regular eg: 4 bar
phrases

Baroque melodies are
often ORNAMENTED
with trills, mordents,
turns etc.

Regular 2 or 4
bar phrases that
form
regular 8 or 16
bar “sentences”
with “open” and
“closed”
phrases.

Phrases are often
contrasting with
each other.

Short phrases
and “motives”
lend
themselves to
development

Long, arching
melodies of 8
bars or 16 bars
are common –
tend to be
complete in
themselves and
do not lead to
“development”
so the composer
will introduce a
completely
different melody
as a contrast
(eg: an A B A
form if the first
melody is
repeated after
the second one)

VARIED

Folk songs are a
common feature
of nationalistic
styles

Sometimes the
“melody” is
almost non-
existant and the
rhythm or
chords
dominant.

RHYTHM "moto perpetuo”
rhythms (strict,
metronomic rhythms)

Sarabande – a dance in
slow triple time with
emphasis on 2nd beat

Minuet – a moderately
fast triple time – an
elegant court dance

Gavotte – another court
dance this time in 4
beats with phrasing
from the 3rd beat thus:
3 4 1 2

Regular rhythms
but syncopation
can be used for
variety

Beethoven loved
to include
accents on the
off beats to
offset the
regular rhythms

Minuet – elegant
Allegretto in
triple time
Beethoven
speeded up the
Minuet and
called it the
Scherzo (more
playful)

Regular rhythms
are made more
complex with
- 2 against 3
- syncopations
- cross

rhythms

Tempo Rubato
very common to
give expression
and emotional
content

Rhythms can be
very complex

eg: irregular
3 + 3 + 2
in a bar

or
5 in a bar
7 in a bar

influenced by
slavonic music,
jazz styles etc.

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Baroque Classical Romantic Modern
FORM

Depends on
- repetition
- varied
repetition
- introduction
of contrasting
themes
- return of
previously
heard
material

BINARY
A: B
Not a lot of contrast – explores one
main idea
A starts in the tonic key and
modulates to a closely related key
B starts from the closely related
key to return to the tonic key at
the end

TERNARY
A;B:A form in late Baroque (B is
contrasting)

FUGUE
All parts enter in turn with the
same melody then there is a
cadence
Middle part – explores the material
presented
Final part -reintroduces the original
subject
- sophistications such as
overlapping entries, augmentation
(doubling) of the theme or
diminution of the theme (smaller
note values) may occur.

Pedal point may occur before the
final cadence

VARIATION form is very common
- most variations are figural (based
on breaking the melody down into
smaller and smaller note values)
- occasionally a variation in a
change of key and tempo will give
a character variation
- sometimes the variations are even
based on the chord progression or
bass line (eg:chaconne or
passacaglia)

SONATA-FORM

Developed from
Binary Form (similar
key scheme) but
extended.
Contrasting themes
an important aspect
as is the
development of
motives especially in
the middle section
after the double bar.
Third section is a
complete repeat of
the First but remains
in the Tonic key to
the end.

Not likely to come
into the Gr 8 Aural
because of the
length of the Form

TERNARY form
Minuet and Trio

TERNARY

A B A suits
the smaller
Romantic
pieces the
best

Ternary
likely

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