Yes, music exams can be stressful. But with enough right practice - and the right pieces to play - they don’t have to be.
Before making our beginner brass instruments like pBone and pTrumpet, we established Warwick Music Publishing in 1994. Our catalogue of music covers a range of styles, instruments, and abilities - so we know a thing or two about selecting the right pieces for your big brass moment.
Fast-forward to 2023 and Warwick Music Publishing has 60 - yes, SIXTY - publications on the new ABRSM syllabus, giving students at all levels plenty of choice for their performances. And here’s one less thing to worry about: you can save 10% off digital downloads from these publications on the ABRSM syllabus by using the code ‘EXAM10’ at checkout. Music to your ears!
But where do brass players start with all of this sheet music? Along with heading to our ABRSM Syllabus page, we’ve picked out five of our favourites to get you started. And who better to hear about music, learning, and the syllabus than the composers themselves! Read on to find out more about some of the music that makes the grade.
‘Easy Jazzy ‘Tudes’ is a collection from Mark Nightingale of 28 fun etudes for young players. Along with this trumpet/cornet version, Mark's popular etudes are available for F horn, Eb horn, tuba, trombone, and euphonium. There are even flute, clarinet and saxophone collections too!
All of the editions of ‘Easy Jazzy ‘Tudes’ come with professionally-recorded backing tracks to make practice sound like a jam session! And with song names like ‘Ready Aim Fire’ and ‘Fiesta Siesta’, you know those first steps in jazz phrasing are going to be fun.
“The fact that students seem to really enjoy my music and find it fun to play is so very rewarding,” says Mark.
“On my travels as a trombonist, I meet teachers, young players and ex-students from all over the world who are full of positive feedback, which makes the solitary process of composition worth all the effort and more.”
Paul Douglas calls the pieces contained in this collection “a brass player's rite of passage.” And with good reason. As Paul says, these pieces are not only vital for their heritage. They also develop a number of important skills for players.
“It seems easy at a glance,” he says, “but the breath and tonal control required to play it smoothly and expressively is considerable, and hugely beneficial to the technical development of the player."
There are a number of different versions of Paul’s ‘Famous Hymns and Marches’. Along with this edition for bass clef brass with backing tracks, you can also find sheet music for French horn, treble clef brass instruments in both Eb and Bb, and bass clef tuba. All have the option of either backing tracks or a piano accompaniment.
‘Famous Hymns and Marches’ is as crucial for brass players as it is comprehensive. “Nowhere else can you find such a collection of classic brass repertoire,” says Paul, “especially arranged for duet and/or piano accompaniment for every brass instrument. I am delighted that ABRSM has acknowledged the heritage and continuing value of these pieces.”
‘Cooking Up a Classic’ is a collection from Fiona Pritchard, that includes pieces by the likes of Chopin and Bach for French horn. Fiona says that “French horn is a unique instrument with a huge range and players don't always encounter the low register until they are in an orchestra or band.”
This ties in with her ambition for learners “to develop rhythmic confidence or awareness of genre.”
Along with Cooking Up a Classic, Fiona has two more brilliant collections in the ABRSM syllabus. There’s ‘Jazz Cocktails’, which she says was “written to give horn players some cool original pieces with backing tracks.” And then there is ‘Getting Down to Business’, a French horn collection that she calls “a set of very playable studies in various styles that aim to make the challenge of low playing fun!”
With three publications in this year’s syllabus, Fiona’s work will inspire the next generation of French horn players. And as a female composer in the traditionally male-dominate brass arena, she says “it feels great to fly the flag for females working in the brass section!”
John Frith has two new publications in this year’s syllabus: ‘A Fantasy’ and ‘Andante Espressivo’. It is fitting that his work has been selected, as the ABRSM examinations have had a profound effect on his own musical career.
When John played flugelhorn in his school band he “aspired to success at ABRSM practical and theory examinations initially, because it was the accepted means of gaining an audition at a music college.” Later, he transferred to the French horn and took both the horn and clarinet to ABRSM grade 8 standard.
John says that in this moment “I began to realise what an enormous impact these various exam pieces were having on my appreciation of 'art music' and my musical education in general.”
The ABRSM syllabus introduced John to a host of pieces by the likes of Brahms, Finzi, Beethoven and Mozart; works that inspired him and opened up a “myriad of possibilities.” Now his work is doing just that in this year’s syllabus!
“I feel a personal debt of gratitude to the ABRSM,” says John, “for allowing me the privilege of influencing the next generation of musicians through my own publications and for doing so much to open my young eyes and ears to the glorious world of music.”
For younger trombonists who are beginning to work through the ABRSM syllabus, Adrian Taylor has composed these tuneful studies. With this audience in mind, Adrian has thoughtfully omitted any notes in the tricky 7th position as well as any awkward slide shifts. The studies are also designed to develop a student’s skills, such as slide technique and legato tonguing. This makes ‘Simple Studies on Trombone Technique’ a great choice for those working through Grade One to Grade Three.
As Adrian himself says: “I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that, as a consequence of some of my compositions being included on the ABRSM syllabus, there are many more trombone students from all over the world playing my music.”
Along with this publication, Adrian has another collection on this year’s syllabus. ‘Melodic Studies on Trombone Technique’ is the next step for trombonists working towards Grade Four through to Grade Eight, and is available in both bass and treble clefs. Adrian’s pieces can guide trombonists from brass beginners to musical maestros!
“Nothing pleases me more,” he says, “to learn that trombonists of all ages are enjoying working on my music and developing their knowledge and skills through it.”
There are lots more publications on this year’s syllabus from a whole host of wonderful composers.
Click here to take a look, and remember that you can save 10% on digital downloads with the code ‘EXAM10’.