About Musical Grades/Levels

Whenever someone says something like, “I have my grade 6 in piano”, they’re likely referring to one of two music schools:

 

 

 

 

The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM)

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)

Linked above are full videos and blog posts detailing these two music schools.

Basically, these schools divide piano music (or whatever instrument you’re learning) into difficulty levels ranging from preparatory (RCM) or grade 1 (ABRSM) up to grade 10 (grade 8 for ABRSM). Beyond that point are the diploma levels.

These schools not only give a list of music appropriate for each level, they also have an examination system in place so that you can test your skills and get certificates.

I encourage my students to take exams, but even if they choose not to, I still use these systems as a way to gauge what level a student is at, and what music is appropriate for them to learn at their level.

How I use grades on the website

On this website, you’ll find all of the lessons organized by level:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginner/Preparatory

Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

These are organized loosely through the RCM system, though each grade has some info about ABRSM exams and pieces as well.

Having a sense of the grades and the skills required for each gives my teaching trajectory some structure, and also helps with lesson planning for my students as well. If you’re self-taught, it’s a great way to see where you’re at and what you should be learning.

Other Systems

Though the RCM and ABRSM are the main music schools, with examination centers around the globe, there are other schools and other level systems as well.

One of my favorite alternate level systems is this one:

 

 

 

 

All about the Henle level system

The Henle level system goes from level 1 to 9, and the level 9 pieces are so difficult that they are well beyond anything ranked in the RCM or ABRSM. This makes the Henle system especially useful for difficult pieces, and deciding which ones to learn.

As an example, a grade 10 RCM piece might correspond with a level 6 on the Henle scale.

This system only ranks music written between the 17th and early 20th centuries, so it’s narrowly focused on the broad genre of “Classical Music”. The RCM school, on the other hand, also categorizes a good amount of contemporary and pop music.