Grade 3 Piano: Tutorials, Music Theory and Technique
This page is an ongoing collection of Grade 3 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 3 Piano Information and Resources
This video is a tour of what to expect at a grade 3 level, both through the RCM and the ABRSM (two major music schools). Whether or not you actually use these schools, this is helpful information for anyone self-studying piano, as it gives you an understanding of benchmarks for this level.
These are my favorite books for this level which I tend to recommend to my students. As with every level, it’s prudent to get 2-3 books that span a variety of genres – this is my minimum expectation. If you’re a music collector or just an enthusiastic learner, feel free to explore more books than these!
In this wordless piano video, I play short clips of some of my favorite pieces at this level. The pieces I play in this video can be found in the books mentioned in the previous video (and all the information is detailed in this blog post).
This video includes a play-through of all the technique required for this level, through the Royal Conservatory of Music. Even if you aren’t doing exams or taking formal lessons, it’s still a good idea to get a sense of the technical skills required for this level.
An alternative to the video above if you have more of a working relationship with the ABRSM.
Goals and Motivation
Regardless of whether or not it’s the New Year, I always recommend reevaluating your goals and plans when you move up the piano ladder. I like to do this anywhere from 1 to 4 times per year.
Now that you’ve been playing for a couple of years (or have been practicing very hard for less time), you might be reaching the point of burnout. These tips are a compilation of what I’ve found useful over the years as motivation waxes and wanes.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably an adult (or close to it). This video is worth a look for any student, especially those of you who are self-taught – I talk about some of the problems I see time and again in my students.
Going to music festivals is always a great way to find inspiration. The adjudicators often have a very different perspective from my own, and there’s always a ton to learn.
Though you’re probably not a piano teacher, these lessons from music festival apply to all musicians. These were the points the adjudicator brought up over and over again, and there are some great nuggets of advice here for all of us.
In this 1 hour live stream, I talk about some ideas for getting inspired, and answer some of your questions related to motivation and inspiration.
Before getting into more intermediate Baroque pieces, it’s important to understand how to read trills (and other ornaments). We’ll talk about the specific ornaments used in the tutorials below, but this primer is a good starting point.
This is one of the most famous minuets in music, and it’s a joy when students reach a level when they’re able to play it. As a Baroque piece by Bach, it isn’t an easy piece, but the tune is familiar and lovable which makes it fun to learn.
This piece isn’t as well known as it’s happier counterpart above, but the two were written to be played back-to-back, so I like teaching them together.
Baroque music can use tricky fingering patterns, so I use this piece as a forum for some fingering tips.
Sonatas, Sonatinas and Song Form
Once you get into grade 3 piano (an early intermediate level), you are officially initiated into the world of sonatinas. Most of us modern folk don’t know a lot about sonatinas or sonata form, so I consider this primer mandatory before you begin learning them.
This video is the second in the set of three – the final video, below, is a sonatina tutorial. This video will give even more specific information about sonatinas and the specific form they tend to use (sonata form). Since sonatinas tend to be long and complicated, it’s important to have an understanding of how they work.
This is the very first sonatina most students learn, and with good reason. It’s fun, it’s famous, and it’s got a lot of challenges and variations spread throughout the three sections. It’s also a longer piece when you put the three parts together, making it a more meaningful accomplishment in the end.
As your pieces start becoming longer, the theme and variations form is one you’re bound to come across. It’s a very common musical form, and is found all the way from the Baroque to the Modern period.
This video is an analysis of one particular piece in the theme and variations form, to help you understand it when you inevitably come across it in your music.
Once you start growing as a pianist, you’ll naturally be growing as a performer as well. In this series, I took a look at a handful of well-known and well-respected performers from all walks of life, and harvested any relevant quotes or tips they have on performance (and dealing with performance anxiety).
Many times when my students are learning a piece, we’ll learn it to about 80%. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. However, there are times when you’ll want to get a piece closer to 100% (like for an exam or performance), and that extra 20% can sometimes take quite a bit of time and effort. This video outlines my process of gaining the final 20% in those special pieces.
Grade 3 piano tutorials: Romantic
There aren’t a lot of Romantic-era pieces for early-level students, but Schumann is one composer who wrote great music for children (or in our case, adult students). This peaceful melody is beautiful but surprisingly difficult, requiring good hand coordination and the ability to play beautiful phrases.
Tchaikovsky is another great Romantic composer who wrote music for people of all skill levels. The easiest pieces in this collection, Album for the Young, start at around a grade 3 level, including this lovely and challenging chorale piece.
Creativity and Ear Training
Not everyone who gets into music has an interest in songwriting, but many do. This video explains some of the ways I’ve learned how to write music. The tips are quite practical and actionable, and they’re things you can do even if you’ve never considered writing music before.
The title about says it all. Some piano students tend to focus entirely on sight reading; others ignore sight reading in favor of learning everything by ear. I always advise a balance between the two. Interval training, something that’s required for RCM exams, is such a crucial stepping stone for being able to identify longer melodies and patterns by ear, and is well worth practicing.
Piano Study Tutorials
This famous study is so much fun to play – I haven’t come cross a student who doesn’t enjoy it. It’s got lots of energy and sass, and sounds quite impressive for its level (probably because it’s so fast). This study will help you with playing fast 5-finger patterns, and clean left hand chords.
Czerny has a huge amount of studies for all levels of piano players. This is a lovely study that focuses on expressive phrasing and Alberti bass (left hand pattern) at a moderate tempo.
More Tips and Advice
I’m often asked how I approach a brand new piece on the piano for the first time, and what some of the most effective ways of learning them are. This video outlines how I approach a piece – it’s very structured for the type-As out there.
This Q&A session looks at how to avoid hand, wrist and arm injuries at the piano, something all serious musicians have thought about at one point or another.