In today’s video, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite Grade 5 books. These books have pieces that are either in the RCM syllabus or ABRSM syllabus for grade 5 (and I’ll make note of which is which as we go).
There are so many great books at this level, and I don’t have anywhere close to all of them in my collection. Consider this discussion a starting point – music I’ve test-driven in my studio and have used for many years.
Let’s start by discussing the three collection books I have for this level. Collection books have a variety of pieces by a variety of different composers.
Here’s the RCM grade 5 repertoire book. It has three sections – list A, list B and list C. List A is music from the Baroque period, list B is music from the Classical period, and list C is Romantic and modern music. This is a good, foolproof book to pick up if you want a curated collection of pieces that are at a grade 5 level. It takes out all of the guesswork, and any of these pieces can be played for a grade 5 RCM exam.
The ABRSM also has a similar grade 5 book that you can check out (though I don’t personally own it).
Grade 5 books: Baroque
For specifically Baroque music (List A), I’m going to recommend the same books as I did in the grade 4 video.
First off is the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, which I consider a staple on any piano player’s shelf. This book has a wealth of pieces from grade 1 to 6, so it’s definitely a book that can grow with you. It’s also a necessary precursor to Bach’s other works, such as his Preludes, then Inventions, then Sinfonias. There’s one piece in here at a grade 5 level, but there are a handful of grade 4 and 6 level pieces, so don’t feel like you’re stuck with just that one.
The first Little Prelude of Bach’s shows up at level 5, so if you’re feeling like you want to get a head start, that might be one to check out. Most of the others are between a 6-8 level.
I also really like the Celebrate Scarlatti collection, mainly because I’m a big Scarlatti fan. Scarlatti was a Baroque composers whose brief sonatas have an oddly modern flavor, with more expression than what was typical of the era.
This collection leans in a more challenging direction. The bulk of this book is best played between level 5-7, with 3 selections at this level.
Grade 5 books: Classical
As far as Classical sonatinas go, Clementi’s op. 36 sonatinas are the gold standard. They progress in difficulty, and three movements from different sonatinas are at a grade 5 level. I always try to convince my students to play through this entire sonatina book over several years, since it’s such a great collection (and great finger exercises!).
There are also other sonatinas you can check out by guys like Kuhlau and Diabelli if you want to branch out – but this here is the main one to look at.
As a Classical alternative to sonatinas, you can always check out this book “Dances of Beethoven” – it’s got his 12 German dances (around a grade 4-5 level), among many other earlier-level Beethoven dances. Beethoven’s music tends to lean in a more challenging direction, so it’s nice to have a collection like this of some of his easier beginner and intermediate-level pieces.
Also, if you’re into Haydn, his sonatas are much easier overall than Beethoven and Mozart. They start around a grade 5 level – his 8th sonata is playable in all 4 movements at this level. This is another book that can grow with you for many years – the toughest ones tend to be around a grade 9 level.
Grade 5 books: Romantic
There are three Romantic-era collections that I consider very standard for intermediate students, all of which I recommended in the grade 4 video.
The first is Schumann’s Album for the Young, op. 68. The pieces in here range in difficulty from grade 3 to 8, so it’s definitely a book that you can grow with. And don’t be put off by the title – young and old alike can and do enjoy the pieces in this collection!
There are 4 RCM grade 5 pieces in here.
A very similar selection written some years later is Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young, op. 39. He was inspired by Schumann, especially because there wasn’t a lot of “easier” repertoire for piano students at the time.
It ranges in difficulty from grade 3-7, and there are 3 RCM grade 5 pieces. These are fun, colorful shorts and I really enjoy this collection for people of all ages.
Then we have Bartok’s For Children 1 and 2. Bartok’s style wasn’t Romantic – he leaned into more 20th century-style abstractions – but his style is so unique and playful that it’s worth exploring. It’s also important to note that some people absolutely loathe Bartok’s music, while others really love it. I’m definitely on the side of love, and I’ve played Bartok for almost all of my exams.
There are 9 pieces in the RCM syllabus at a grade 5 level, but the books themselves have over 2 dozen pieces in the syllabus between a grade 2 and 8 level. I consider this to be an important staple in an intermediate pianist’s collection.
There are also many, many good modern books at this level by composers like Nancy Telfer and Christopher Norton (who we’ll talk about in a moment) – definitely explore the RCM syllabus for more ideas and inspiration.
The “studies/etudes” category doesn’t exist in the ABRSM, but in the RCM it’s a short list of pieces that are meant to develop very specific techniques. Studies can be a lot of fun to learn because there’s usually some type of repetitive challenge involved, so they tend to be easier on the brain (but not easier on the fingers).
Your best bet for a good selection of etudes is the RCM’s grade 5 book of etudes. This book contains all of the etudes in the syllabus, so it gives you the most breadth.
I also have another book that has a grade 5 study in it – Kabalevsky’s 24 Pieces for Children, op. 39. This is a book I’ve been recommending since the grade 1 incarnation of these videos, since they range in difficulty from about grade 1 to 5. Tchaikovsky’s “In Church” from the collection mentioned earlier is an etude I almost always teach at this level since it’s so haunting, and is a great study in chords.
RCM pop selections
The RCM also has a “popular repertoire” category in their syllabus (it’s actually a separate syllabus), and there are many fun pop books to explore. This is a category that is largely based on personal taste (if you like jazz, pop, country, rock, etc), but here are three of my favorites.
First off, Christopher Norton Connections book 5. I love these books and recommend them all the time. I love that each book is “graded” by level, so it’s easy to tell which book goes with which grade. I also love that there’s a diverse mix of pop styles in each book – everything from jazz to blues to Latin to more lyrical pieces.
My students always love Cristopher Norton’s music – the tunes are, on the whole, very likeable and fun to learn.
Finally we have My First Jazz Standards Songbook. This one has 3 pieces at a grade 4 level – In the Mood is my favorite. If you’re into jazz, and you’re at an early intermediate level, this could be a good place to start because these pieces aren’t overwhelming.
I don’t have a lot of the pop books, so I urge to explore this category and see what you find – this is a very individualistic category, as we all have different tastes.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of my favorite grade 5 books – although this is only the beginning! By exploring the syllabus you’re sure to find some music you love, and you probably have different taste than I do. Consider these suggestions a mere starting point.