Grade 2 Piano: Tutorials, Music Theory and Technique
This page is an ongoing collection of Grade 2 piano tutorials and theory concepts. When I refer to grades, I’m talking about the RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music), not the ABRSM (though there is some overlap).
Whether or not you follow a particular system or school, and whether or not you take exams, I find a Grade level approach to music is a good way to learn step-by-step, instead of randomly. This is how I teach in my studio, regardless of whether my students do exams or not.
Grade 2 Piano Resources
If you want to know more about how the grade system works, as well as the associated exams, this is the place to start.
It’s a good idea to at least have a couple of books on the go, because they’re more meaningful to have than just random sheet music. Here are some of my favorites for this level.
In this short talk-free video, I play short clips of some of my favorite grade 2 pieces, ones that I consistently recommend to my students. All of the details can be found in the blog post (linked above).
Grade 2 Piano Theory
Grade 2 piano is a time of exploration – different genres, different styles, different rhythms – it’s all about variety. Pentatonic scales are fun because they open doors to jamming, and also Eastern and Folk styles of music.
In this tutorial, I walk you through my process of writing a simple-ish piano song using the pentatonic scale (above). You can download the music that I wrote to practice pentatonic scales, and/or use this as a launching point for your own composition.
Grade 2 Piano Technique
Yes, it seems like going backwards to talk about pentascales when we’ve already been working on 2-octave scales. But it’s useful to know these in each and every key, and they are a good warm-up for all of your fingers, including the poor, neglected pinkie.
There are new techniques to master at a grade 2 level, such as the confusing-at-first, but very fun formula pattern.
Another new technique at the grade 2 level is a melodic minor scale, a slightly more complicated variation on the natural minor scale.
A complete play-through of all the technical requirements at an RCM Grade 2 piano level. The blog post includes a list of all the scales and triads as well.
Grade 2 Technical Requirements (ABRSM)
The ABRSM has its own set of technical requirements for piano. These lists are specifically for exams, but even if you’re not testing, they can be good to know. My preference is to pick one system and stick to it.
Improving your piano skills
Metronomes are challenging at first. They tick relentlessly, and can be very distracting. But they’re also a really useful tool to have in your piano toolbelt, and is worth learning how to use properly.
A challenging and abstract concept is how to put emotion into music. In this video, we explore different ways you can accomplish this, with the understanding that everyone is a little different.
You can apply your metronome skills, and your musical emotion skills, into this Grade 2 piano tutorial. I arranged it myself, and simplified and shortened it – there are very complex versions of Canon in D out there.
Grade 2 Piano Chords
I assume that by this point, you’re pretty comfortable with some of the basic chords, like C and G. In this video, I challenge you to expand your knowledge of basic chords to include all 12 major chords – one for each and every key on the piano.
The Entertainer is a famous Ragtime piece that I’ve simplified for Grade 2 piano. It’s a good way to apply your knowledge of chords, and explore a new genre (ragtime).
At this level, you’re starting to get a little more serious at the piano (and a little more competent, too!). That’s why I think it’s a great time to consider your long-term and short-term goals, and renew your reasons for playing piano in the first place.
I like to revise and revisit my goals every three months or so.
It’s all well and good to set goals, but what’s the point of even setting goals in the first place? Why does it matter? Why learn piano? We tackle the big questions and get a little philosophical in this video.
Grade 2 Piano Theory and Exercises
In Grade 2, the left hand in particular begins to get more challenging. As piano players, one of our greatest hurdles is to be able to make both of our hands do different things – because they have a tendency to copy each other.
These are some exercises I use in my studio to address this problem. They’re easy to learn, but a bit more challenging to execute.
Here’s a handy reference of different types of “touches” on the piano – some you’re probably familiar with, and others might be new.
This piece is extremely difficult – it’s the highest level you can get in the RCM. Fortunately, I’ve simplified it quite a bit for this tutorial, though it is still quite challenging (I had a hell of a time recording it).
It’s a neat tune though, involving lots of fast playing, jumps, and very unusual chord combinations.
Yes, I’m being dramatic with this title. But as you get further along your piano journey, you’re expected to know more and more keys. When I was doing exams, this simple trick saved me many hours and helped me identify various key signatures quickly (until I memorized the key signatures later on).
Canons and Hand Independence
Canons are truly musical broccoli. They’re so wildly good for you – building hand independence, coordination and control – but they’re difficult for some to swallow. This video gives you a bit of backstory behind the musical canon, and why I think they’re so important to learn.
This is a collection by Kunz, and it’s exactly what it sounds like – a collection of 200 short canons. They start at a beginner level and progress to about a grade 2 level. If you feel like you’re really struggling to move your hands independently of each other, this is a great book to check out.
Ear Training and Pop Music
Playing by ear is just as important of a skill to develop as playing by sight. One handy skill that I’ve learned over the years is how to listen to a song (something on the radio, perhaps), and then recreate the tune on the piano – with no music at all.
This skill takes years for most to develop it, but it’s a very rewarding one to have in your musical tool belt.
Just like it’s useful to know how to recreate a melody, it’s good to have an idea of how chords work as well. If you have any intention of being in a band or playing with others, this skill is especially useful.
More on Rhythm
For people who struggle with rhythm, adding phrases and sounds to various rhythmic patterns can be a big help. Yes, this video is a little silly, but it might be worth checking out if you want to brush up on your rhythm skills.
As you’re progressing along in your piano journey, you’ve probably come across some stranger time signatures, like 5/4 or 9/8. This video explains how those time signatures work – it’s not too complicated. The important thing to know is that every time signature has a pattern of strong beats and weak beats, which help us “feel” the rhythm.
This is the easiest composition from Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young. It’s a great album full of diverse pieces for the beginner and intermediate student. This particular piece is very moody and dark. It also makes a great chord study, which is the focus of this tutorial.