Hey friends,

I’m currently wrapping up a CPP-B class (and a new one is open for registration for a few more days), and in the process of finishing up and putting together a final exam, I’ve been reviewing my list of what you need to know before starting Grade 1 piano.

In today’s video, we’re going to

  • Talk about the preparatory level of piano and what it entails
  • When you know you’re finished the preparatory level and ready to move on
  • Discuss all the concepts and skills you need to be acquainted before you’re at a Grade 1 level

My hope is that this will help give you tools for self-study. In my CPP classes, I walk students through all of these concepts with weekly assignments, daily sight reading, pieces and technique to learn, checklists, and personal feedback+group accountability. But I wanted to make sure the ideas behind this is available to all.


What is the preparatory level of piano?

Just like with primary school, many students don’t jump right to “Grade 1”. Grade 1 implies that you have a foundation of basic skills and is not the square-one starting point. Most students spend 1-2 years at a preparatory level learning all of the basics.

I would recommend really digging into these basics for at least a year. There’s a temptation for students endowed with physical dexterity to fly through the beginner stages. Except for rare cases I don’t recommend this approach. You want to make sure that the foundation of your piano learning is strong enough to last a lifetime. It would be a pain to skip over the rudiments just to have to go back later and make corrections.

How do you know you’re ready to move on to Grade 1?

  • Are you able to learn a piece like Arietta by Clementi in a month or less? This is a more challenging Prep B-level piece and serves as a good gauge of your level.
  • Are you comfortable with all of the concepts listed in the PDF below/in the video? You should be competent with them, but you don’t need to be perfect at them. Some concepts, like “phrasing”, can take many years to develop to a highly-detailed degree.
  • Have you been practicing piano for 1-2 years?

Skills to build at a preparatory level

Here are the skills you want to get the hang of during the preparatory level of piano – available as a PDF download. See the video for more details.


I hope you find this list useful for your piano journey. Don’t forget to check out our CPP-B group class, intended for progressing beginners in their first 6 months – 1 year or so in their journey. It’ll be fun, as always! Stay tuned for an all-new Grade 1 class coming out in the next several months as well.