How Many Piano Grades Are There? All Levels Listed
Want to know how many piano grades there are? Well you’re in luck, as we’re about to give you all the details today.
Read on to learn about piano grades and how each level differs from the next.
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How Many Piano Grades Are There?
There are nine total piano grades under the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) system. This system includes many Royal schools of music throughout the UK.
However, you don't have to live or work in the UK to take these piano grades. They're becoming a popular system for teachers and students in the US as well.
Consider what each grade entails to determine where you fall. Then, you can start with the most suitable exam and work your way up.
The initial grade requires that you play a few scales and arpeggios and three pieces from a list of selected repertoire. You also must complete an aural skills test, which tests how well you can determine a pitch by ear.
Finally, there's a bit of sight-reading involved as well. This grade is the easiest and is a good starting point for beginning piano students. However, it can take a year or two of preparation to reach this level.
The exam has a maximum score of 150. You need to get at least 100 to pass, and you can pass with merit with 120 points or pass with distinction if you get 130 points.
Piano grade 1 has very similar requirements to the initial grade exam. Once again, you have to perform three pieces, one of which can be a duet with your teacher.
You also have to take an aural skills test and sight-read a piece of music. The scales and arpeggios are still pretty simple at this point and include C major, G major, A minor, and D minor, among others. However, you'll have to memorize the scales for the exam.
This level has the same scoring system as the previous grade. You have to get 100 points to pass and more if you want to pass with merit or distinction.
The next level is grade 2, and it's still a relatively basic level and perfect for beginners. However, it starts to include pieces from Mozart and Tchaikovsky as repertoire options.
Like with the prior levels, you need to sight-read a piece of music. You also need to play three solos that you prepare and a few scales and arpeggios. These scales start to have more sharps and flats, but you can play them hands separately.
However, you must play the scales and arpeggios slightly faster at each level. Of course, the same points scale applies.
When you reach grade 3, you start to see some slightly challenging pieces. This exam includes scales in contrary motion and similar motion, and they have more sharps and flats. Some of the scales are hands together while others are still hands separate.
You can choose pieces from composers such as Mozart, Prokofiev, and Joplin. There's also still a sight-reading requirement and an aural skills test. Once again, you must memorize all of the scales from the syllabus.
Grade 2 to grade 3 sees the first significant jump in the required tempo for scales. Be sure to practice those a lot before the exam.
Grade 4 is another intermediate level, and it has the same basic sections as the previous exams. For the prepared pieces, you can choose music from Beethoven, Liszt, and Bartok, so you're starting to get into serious piano repertoire.
You also need to prepare for a sight-reading portion and aural skills exam. This level also starts to incorporate more scales, such as chromatic scales. The exam requires that you play the scales at 100 beats per minute to the quarter note.
Of course, this piano grade uses the same scoring system as the earlier grades. For better or worse, it's also the first grade in which all of your pieces must be solos.
The next level, grade 5, is even more challenging. You start to see longer pieces from the standard piano repertoire, such as a Bach Invention. This level also includes staccato scales and multiple major and minor scales, all of which are two octaves.
Scales must be at 60 beats per minute to the half note. That sounds slow, but each beat must include four notes. You might also face a longer sight-reading exercise than before.
To pass, you must get at least 100 points out of 150. You can pass with merit or distinction if you get more points.
The grade 6 piano exam starts the more advanced section of ABRSM piano grades. Before you can take this exam, you must pass Grade 5 in Music Theory, Practical Musicianship, or a Practical Grades solo jazz instrument.
Of course, the available solos to choose from are trickier than they've ever been. You also have to memorize more scales and arpeggios. Except for the contrary motion scales, all scales and arpeggios must be four octaves.
You'll still have to do a sight-reading portion and an aural skills test. And to continue on, you have to pass this piano exam.
Grade 7 has the same prerequisite requirement as grade 6. You must also complete the four exam portions as all the other exam levels.
This level has many more options from the classical piano repertoire. It also starts to require scales in thirds, which is trickier than a basic scale. Those scales must be two octaves, and the others have to be four octaves.
You can play some of the scales hands separately and others together. Either way, the scales, and arpeggios must be faster than before, as fast as 80 beats to the half note.
After years of private lessons and plenty of individual practice, you can take the grade 8 piano exam. Like grades 6 and 7, this one requires that you pass a grade 5 exam in piano or music theory before this exam.
Many optional solos, such as Bach's Prelude and Fugue, are well-known. Of course, some of them are quite technical and require a lot of practice before the test.
There are even more scales than before, including the addition of whole tone scales. Depending on the type, you may need to play a scale as fast as 80 beats per minute to the half note.
How to Pass a Piano Exam
To reach the necessary score to pass, you should choose the right pieces for you. Every level offers multiple options, so take a look at the music. Consider what your skills are and if one solo might be better than another.
Then, you'll need to practice regularly before the exam to get all of the music and scales under your fingers. You should also take regular piano lessons to improve your aural and sight-reading skills.
Give yourself plenty of time to practice between now and the day of the exam. If you feel like you'd need to push yourself too much, choose a later exam date.
Why Take Piano Exams
You don't have to take the ABRSM-graded piano exams, but doing so offers many benefits. For one, it gives you something specific to work toward with your private teacher. That can help you or your teacher choose what music you should play for the exam.
Taking an exam can also help you showcase your skills at the piano. And if you or your child wants to go to music school, this graded system can help them prepare for that.
What Pieces Are Part of the Piano Grade Exams?
The pieces you can choose from depend on the grade. Some are easy and are mostly arrangements, while others are standards from the piano repertoire.
Also, the available pieces change every two years. Be sure to look at an updated syllabus to learn what pieces you can choose from based on when you intend to take an exam.
Generally, you can expect to see pieces by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, and other classical composers among the higher grades. The lower grades tend to have shorter pieces written specifically for the exam.
Do You Need a Private Teacher To Take a Piano Exam?
You don't have to have a private teacher to take an ABRSM piano exam. However, a teacher can help you prepare for the exam.
They can ensure you don't develop any bad habits, especially regarding your hand position. Also, a teacher can help you practice your aural skills and even play a duet with you for some of the lower-grade exams.
Can You Skip a Grade?
You can skip a grade up to grade 5. If you want to take the grade 6 exam or above, you'll need to pass grade 5 first.
However, skipping grades is not ideal if you can avoid it. Taking each exam in order can ensure you have the skills to help prepare you for the next level.
How Many Piano Grades Are There? Final Thoughts
If you've taken piano lessons, you may have wondered, how many piano grades are there? The ABRSM system has nine piano grades, from the initial grade to grade 8.
Be sure to consider the requirements for each graded exam. Then, you can choose which level to work on, and you can schedule your exam and start preparing for it.
P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!