In today’s video, I’m going to show you my favorite grade 2 piano books, and the pieces in them (as per the RCM).
I also did a video very similar to this about grade 1 level books, so if that’s up your alley, definitely check it out.
You can also check out the post all about grade 2 (RCM and ABRSM) – what’s expected at that level, a breakdown of the categories, and so on.
Grade 2 piano books
I would be remiss if I didn’t begin by talking about the official Grade 2 piano books from the RCM – the repertoire and the study book. They’ve got everything you could need – list A piece, B an C, and a separate book of studies.
Getting these books is a nice all-in-one deal, and it’s cost effective too.
Personally, I like going outside of the RCM books, because there’s lots of great stuff that can be found elsewhere, and I think some of these other books are more valuable to a piano book collection. For example, some of them can be used for multiple grades, because the pieces aren’t just at a grade 2 level. And some are small books on a theme, which are really fun to return to – unlike the RCM books, which tend to get abandoned as soon as they’re completed.
They’re still great though, and make a fool-proof choice.
My Favorite Grade 2 Piano Books
Christopher Norton Connections 2
Just like with grade 1, one of my favorite grade 2 piano books is Christopher Norton Connections 2. Just like the RCM books, everything contained in this book is at a grade 2 level. The songs in here are in the “List B” category (some could be considered etudes and studies as well).
Christopher Norton is a Canadian dude and he’s really awesome – these books are full of really good songs. They’ve got spirit and character. They have a good range of styles, like pop, jazz, Latin, and so on – awesome for the student who says they “don’t like Classical music”.
Another thing I love about it is the book comes with a link where you can hear recordings of all the pieces. Not only that, but there are backing tracks to the pieces that you can play along with, sort of like being in a band – which, since piano can be a very solitary instrument, is a fun thing to simulate.
Some of the songs in the book are in the RCM syllabus, so you could technically use this book as a way to study for grade 2.
Anyway, it’s a solid book, I love it dearly and make it a required purchase for my grade 2 students.
Essential Keyboard Repertoire, book 1
My other favorite is a mammoth book, and it’s not particularly cheap. It’s the Essential Keyboard Repertoire, book 1. BUT it’s a great collection of pieces from a grade 1 level all the way to 5 or so, and a good deal of them are List A pieces. There aren’t a lot of good collections of List A’s (or Baroque) pieces that I’ve found for early grades – maybe that’s just me?
But this one is good – it even has at the beginning a list of the 10 easiest songs to get you going.
I mentioned this book in the grade 1 version of this video as well. There are about 9 songs in this book in the official RCM syllabus for grade 2 (but not every song in this book is in the syllabus, so there are technically many more at a grade 2 level).
What I like to do is use the syllabus, and then go and mark down which pieces are for which grades. Not every piece in this book is in the syllabus, but that’s okay – you can learn them anyway, or ignore them, it’s all up to you.
Now I want to take a moment and show you all my awesome little books. These books are cheap and fun, usually exploring a theme or topic kind of like an album. There’s some crossover here and with my grade 1 recommendations, but also some new ones as well.
Bela Bartok, for children 1 and 2
Not everyone is into Bela Bartok – he was a super famous Hungarian composer in the 20th Century, and he wrote a wide, diverse range of music – everything from beginner tunes (he was a teacher) to very difficult pieces.
Once you get into the grade 2 piano books, the doors to his “For Children 1 and 2” collection open. There are a few pieces here at a grade 2 level, but they get pretty difficult very quickly. The pieces in this book go all the way up to a grade 8 level.
Also you don’t have to be a child to play these songs, despite the title. They don’t really sound “little kid-dy”. They do sound like abstract, sometimes dissonant folk tunes. They aren’t for everyone, but I find them really unique.
Christine Donkin: Legends and Lore
Next is Legends and Lore by Christine Donkin. I talked about this one in the Grade 1 book video. This collection has pieces up to a grade 3 level, but you can learn them all right away – I won’t stop you, because they’re great songs. Some of these pieces are video game-like, which is a win for me – where others like “dream journey” have an almost ethereal sound.
Martha Mier: Jazz, Rags and Blues 1
Another favorite book of mine that I mentioned in the grade 1 video is Jazz, Rags and Blues 1. It’s got some list B and pop pieces, they’re fun to play, and they sound good. Matha Mier does a great job making music accessible and sound great at any level (which can be a challenge for beginner-ish music), and these songs are just a blast to play.
One note is that these songs used to be in the RCM syllabus, but aren’t in the 2015 syllabus – so unless you make a special request, you wouldn’t be able to use them for an exam. But if that doesn’t matter to you, then definitely check this out!
Janet Gieck – Sundae Soup 1
I’m always going to be just a tiny bit biased about Canadian composers. This spring I was really lucky because Janet Gieck was the adjudicator for our piano recital, and she brought some of her books for purchase. Otherwise they’re available for purchase on her website (but not major retailers like Sheet Music Plus.
Anyway, I had a blast playing through her Sundae Soup book, and a few of these songs are at a grade 2 level (one is in the RCM syllabus). Some of them are quite challenging as well, and they have a modern bent. Some of the songs are slow and mellow – Grandmother’s Tale is very sad – and others are more on the jazzy-fun side, like Mary Had a Little Lamb (it’s a Jazzy remix).
Linda Niamath – Watermelon and Friends
Most of these books I’m showing you would fall into the “List B” category – more modern kinds of pieces. What I haven’t shown you are any books of the “List C” variety, which are inventions. I talk about inventions a lot – basically, they’re hand independence pieces, where instead of a melody-chord setup, it’s more like imitation – maybe the right hand plays something, and the left hand plays something similar, overlapping.
It’s a very challenging style of piano playing, and a lot of intermediate and advanced pieces require hand independence like this, so I like getting into them from early levels, so you don’t just hit grade 7 and get smacked in the face by Bach.
Anyway, that’s a long prelude to this cute book – Watermelon and Friends. All the songs are fruit, and they’re inventions. Basically it’s the cutest way to learn a very difficult piano skill. I really like this book.
Pop Music Collections
And now we move into pop music collections, which are great fun as well.
The Best Songs Ever, Big Note
This is a huge collection of everything from pop songs to Disney. I know the big note thing isn’t for everyone, because it looks more like “kid” music, but the range of pieces in here makes it worth it to me. It’s also got a ton of pieces from level 1, 2, 3 and beyond, so you can get mileage out of this one.
The Disney Collection: Big Note Piano
If you’re into Disney, this is a great Disney book. This book isn’t quite as simple as The Best Songs Ever, in my opinion – it leans a little more difficult, so this is a good book to grow into. It also isn’t written in big-note format!
FunTime Piano: Kids’ Songs Level 3A-3B
I have to give a shout-out to the Faber books, because I use them a lot. They’re good for kids and adults alike, and they’re good about including modern songs that kids actually know, along with more Classic favorites.
And those, my friends, are my favorite grade 2 piano books. The grade 2 piano pieces I recommend to my students depend heavily on their personal preferences, but I almost always recommend to everyone the Christopher Norton Connections book, the Essential Keyboard Repertoire, and Watermelon and Friends.
There’s no reason for you to get all these books, but try to pick a few that cover a variety of song types – List A, List B, List C, and etudes/pop. As a piano player, it’s important to develop your skillset in all of these genres!
Happy piano playing to you, and take care!