2017 was our 20th year online!

Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2.9 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

Shop our online store for music lovers
SEARCH
Piano Forums & Piano World
(ad)
Petrof Pianos
Petrof Pianos
(ad)
Pianoteq
PianoTeq Karsten Collection
(ad)
Piano Life Saver - Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
Who's Online Now
26 members (20/20 Vision, David B, Calavera, Bett, CyberGene, AlphaBravoCharlie, David Lai, 6 invisible), 340 guests, and 392 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
(ad)
Estonia Pianos
Estonia Pianos
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Hop To
Page 1 of 2 1 2
Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
#2882151 08/21/19 05:47 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
A
achoo42 Offline OP
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
A
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
Hi, guys. I decided to undertake a somewhat controversial project—I created a fairly simple system to rate the difficulty of piano works and I am now in the process of assigning a difficulty number to as many piano works as possible, with the help of my peers (I know that many of you guys may already hate this, but hear me out).

No rating system concerning an artistic pursuit can ever be perfect. But the goal here is to help students/teachers figure out what they should try sight-reading next without having to ask all sorts of questions and reading through music they may or may not be ready for.

Using this system, a student or teacher can take a casual glance at a piece of their choosing and gauge whether or not it is within their level. People (as well as music societies such as Henle and ABRSM) already rank pieces often but ranking them only by order or level gives the reader no gauge on what particular points in a piece are difficult.

One more hope is that this kind of difficulty rating can help clear up the ever-present questions:
"What should I play next?"
"Am I ready for *insert work*"
"What pieces are the most difficult?"
"Rank *insert pieces* by difficulty."
Et alia.
If any such questions do still arise just redirect the discussion to this thread so they won't be a bother to anyone else.

The rating system works as follows:
Composer+name of piece: fingerwork rating - octave rating - jump rating - endurance rating - interpretation rating - total rating

e.g. Schumann Op.7 "Carnaval": 16-15-17-13-16-76

Individual rating guide:
0-1: Beginner
2-3: Novice
3-6: Intermediate
7-10: Early Advanced
11-14: Advanced
15-18: Very Advanced
19-22: Expert
23+: Master

Total rating guide:
0-10: Beginner
11-20: Novice
21-30: Intermediate
31-40: Early Advanced
41-60: Advanced
61-70: Very Advanced
71-90: Expert
91+: Transcendental

Let's say a student wants to play the entirety of Beethoven's Appassionata.

Beethoven Sonata No.23 "Appassionata": 17-9-7-14-17-64

Explanation of figures

Fingerwork: Difficulty of rapid passages such as scales, runs, and double notes. Fingerwork in the Appassionata is very advanced; it received a 17.

Octaves: Difficulty of octave passages throughout the piece. Octaves are present but not particularly difficult; having early advanced octave technique is adequate(10).

Jumps: Difficulty of leaps between notes. Leaps are not a difficult factor; it received a 7.

Endurance: The mental and physical strain on the performer. Performing the Appassionata in all 3 movements requires fairly high endurance (14).

Interpretation: Difficulty of performing in a musically cohesive manner. Includes rhythm, articulation, musicality, and coordination with ensemble (if applicable). A cohesive performance of the Appassionata requires very advanced understanding of the music (17).

Total: The previous rating total. Not a great relative indicator of difficulty but a good indicator of how many difficulties are present. Individual difficulties are the most important. Overall, the Appassionata is very advanced (64).

Further comments: Difficulties not discernible from the ratings such as the presence of specific techniques (3rds, double notes, octave glissandos, etc.)

Further examples:
Beethoven-Liszt 9th Symphony: 17-17-21-17-16-88
Schumann Symphonic Etudes:
17-15-15-16-16-79
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No.6: 12-17-14-17-9-69
Chopin Etude Op.10-2 "Chromatic": 22-0-10-17-7-59
Beethoven Sonata No.13 Pathetique: 9-4-5-10-15-43
Chopin Minute Waltz: 8-0-4-4-9-25
Satie Trois Gymnopodies: 2-0-3-2-10-17

In these examples, one can see which pieces are more "balanced" in terms of difficulty versus ones that specialize in a certain difficulty. For example, Schumann's Symphonic Etudes are fairly difficult throughout while Chopin's Op.10-2 is very difficult, but only in two areas—fingerwork and endurance. So despite being rated lower, a student could be at the level to play the Symphonic Etudes without having hands nimble/strong enough to play 10-2, which is exactly why I stress the importance of individual ratings. However, there is still no doubt that Schumann's work is a more difficult piece overall, which is why it is rated more difficult. Thus, when comparing the difficulty between two pieces, it is important to consider the highest individual difficulties as well as the total difficulty.


Schumann is the mann.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882152 08/21/19 05:50 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
A
achoo42 Offline OP
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
A
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
Chopin's etudes as a gauging point:

Etudes Op.25/10 (as a set): 26-18-16-22-17-99
Etudes Op.25 (as a set): 26-18-10-20-17-91
Etude No.1 "Aeolian Harp": 11-0-7-9-10-37
Etude No.2: 12-0-4-6-12-34
Etude No.3: 17-0-5-12-10-44
Etude No.4: 2-10-17-6-10-44
Etude No.5: 12-5-6-5-12-40
Etude No.6 "Thirds": 26-4-6-18-9-(Double notes, thirds)-63
Etude No.7: 11-4-3-3-15-36
Etude No.8: 18-0-8-14-7-(Sixths)-47
Etude No.9 "Butterfly": 10-10-10-7-7-44
Etude No.10 "Octaves": 4-18-2-13-10-47
Etude No.11 "Winter Wind": 20-3-7-17-8-55
Etude No.12 "Ocean": 17-0-16-14-7-54

Etudes Op.10 (as a set): 22-9-9-25-17-86
Etude No.1: 17-2-16-16-5-(Arpeggios)-58
Etude No.2 "Chromatic": 22-0-10-17-7-59
Etude No.3 "Triste": 9-5-6-4-16-40
Etude No.4 "Torrent": 21-6-6-15-10-58
Etude No.5 "Black Keys": 15-9-7-9-4-44
Etude No.6: 6-3-0-3-17-28
Etude No.7:17-2-5-12-10-47
Etude No.8: 15-3-7-9-9-43
Etude No.9: 16-4-9-9-8-46
Etude No 10: 14-8-6-9-7-44
Etude No.11: 10-0-8-7-12-(Arpeggios)-37
Etude No.12 "Revolutionary": 14-7-4-8-9-42


Schumann is the mann.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882157 08/21/19 06:23 PM
Joined: Jul 2017
Posts: 1,663
M
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
M
Joined: Jul 2017
Posts: 1,663
? I don’t understand your system. Henle system is at least simple. The best system is to your teachers advice or to play and try.

Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882162 08/21/19 06:39 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 788
S
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
S
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 788
Seems to me way too complicated. If you are going to get into details like endurance or fingerwork, might as well simply write the comments and explanation about the piece. The numbers are confusing. It is simplier to directly give a level of difficulty 1 to 10, or 1 to 5. Then to a large extent the ratings are related. A piece that is intermediate would not have fingerwork at beginner level. And if a piece is at intermediate level, a beginner would not tackle it. It is actually more interesting to know what are the specific difficulties of a piece which would above the overall level of that piece.

Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
Sidokar #2882171 08/21/19 07:14 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
A
achoo42 Offline OP
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
A
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
Originally Posted by Sidokar
Seems to me way too complicated. If you are going to get into details like endurance or fingerwork, might as well simply write the comments and explanation about the piece. The numbers are confusing. It is simplier to directly give a level of difficulty 1 to 10, or 1 to 5. Then to a large extent the ratings are related. A piece that is intermediate would not have fingerwork at beginner level. And if a piece is at intermediate level, a beginner would not tackle it. It is actually more interesting to know what are the specific difficulties of a piece which would above the overall level of that piece.


That's incorrect. An intermediate piece could easily have beginner fingerwork. In fact, a very difficult piece could have no fingerwork at all, if it is a technical study like an octave etude. If I am good at octaves but my fingerwork is not advanced, then a single number doesn't tell me anything about whether or not I am good enough to play a piece.

Specific difficulties would be seen in the individual numbers. That's why I said the overall difficulty doesn't matter as much as individual difficulties.


Schumann is the mann.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882216 08/21/19 10:38 PM
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 2,838
2000 Post Club Member
Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 2,838
Interesting. In your system how would you rate the Tchaikovsky Meditation op. 72 no. 5?


"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
jazzyprof #2882239 08/22/19 12:34 AM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
A
achoo42 Offline OP
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
A
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
Originally Posted by jazzyprof
Interesting. In your system how would you rate the Tchaikovsky Meditation op. 72 no. 5?


Can't really say- as a general rule, I play a piece thoroughly before giving it a rating. But just from listening only, the piece has a sizable amount of octaves and arpeggios in the middle. It would place at least in the 40s if not low 50s; decidedly advanced.

Beautiful piece, by the way. I haven't heard of it until you mentioned it.


Schumann is the mann.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882241 08/22/19 12:52 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 23,874
Gold Subscriber
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Gold Subscriber
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 23,874
Who is going to go through all - or at least a goodly portion of - the piano repertoire considering all these factors and rate repertoire on each of these criteria? Moreover, subjectivity may well take over in some cases: one person's octave stumbling block is in another person's relative comfort zone.

I can't see the practicality of such a complex grading system. In that respect, trial and error may be even more efficient. Two minutes with a piece will tell me if it's too difficult for me while it might take considerably more time to consult the table of ratings and assign a number to each technical/artistic element.

Regards,


BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882256 08/22/19 02:56 AM
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,771
1000 Post Club Member
Online Content
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,771
Food for thought:

1. You've described a very complicated system to solve a minor problem. Is it worth all the effort?

2. The benefits of your rating system are theoretical and based on a lot of assumptions. Do you have proof of concept that your rating system is significantly better than what's already out there or is it only marginally better?

3. As others pointed out, you are ignoring major complexities in the problem you're trying to solve. Do most people actually pick pieces this way or do they pick pieces some other way? How do you account for the fact that many of the supposed problems are based on the wide variance in the skills of piano players, rather than the availability of a repertoire rating system?


... as an old mentor once told me, "make sure you've defined the problem accurately or you'll be solving the wrong problem".


We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882261 08/22/19 03:35 AM
Joined: Jan 2016
Posts: 308
E
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
E
Joined: Jan 2016
Posts: 308
John Cage's One5 would be a beginner's piece in this system.

Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882306 08/22/19 07:44 AM
Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 486
R
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
R
Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 486
It turns music into something like gymnastics. We can get so caught up in ooohing and ahhhing over technical demands and prowess that music itself gets lost in the judging. Not for me.

Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882323 08/22/19 08:49 AM
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 6,021
Silver Subscriber
6000 Post Club Member
Offline
Silver Subscriber
6000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 6,021
Not for me. I can generally read through a score to determine difficulty but use Henle and my teacher as adjuncts
Please note that my teacher has said ‘that section is more difficult than it seems’. That is something that would be missed if I did my own involved scoring.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882331 08/22/19 09:14 AM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 788
S
500 Post Club Member
Offline
500 Post Club Member
S
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 788
Originally Posted by achoo42


That's incorrect. An intermediate piece could easily have beginner fingerwork. In fact, a very difficult piece could have no fingerwork at all, if it is a technical study like an octave etude. If I am good at octaves but my fingerwork is not advanced, then a single number doesn't tell me anything about whether or not I am good enough to play a piece.

Specific difficulties would be seen in the individual numbers. That's why I said the overall difficulty doesn't matter as much as individual difficulties.


Not having fingerwork and having easy fingerwork are 2 different situations. Of course if there are no arpeggios in a piece, they are easy. What's the point ? I am not disputing that it is interesting to have a differentiated level by some broad categories of technical difficulties. My main point is that students are assumed to progress different areas in parallel. They may be more profficient in some, but if an assumed intermediate student is a beginner in fingerwork then he is not at an intermediate level. The interesting part in an average rating is that it gives people a broad indication of the piece difficulty. What is interesting in a more detailled rating of the piece is to highlight what are the specific technical components present in the piece and which one are more difficult than the level assumed in the piece. If i start a piece in level henle 5 i would not expect to encounter arpeggios that would require a level 7 but they may be more difficult than what most pieces in level 5 would have.

Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882340 08/22/19 10:02 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 27,229
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 27,229
1.There is already a 1200 page book that rates the difficulty of most pieces in the standard piano literature and also has a written discussion of the difficulties of each piece.

https://www.amazon.com/Pianists-Rep...=1566439936&s=books&sr=1-1-spell

2. I don't think either individual category rankings or total rankings should be two digit numbers. How can one justify rating the fingerwork in one piece a 20 and the fingerwork in another piece a 21?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/22/19 10:06 AM.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882358 08/22/19 11:16 AM
Joined: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,852
3000 Post Club Member
Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Joined: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,852
The problem here is that a piece that's 9/10 in every category will get a higher score than one that has low scores in all areas but one, but which is on the verge of unplayable.

Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882457 08/22/19 03:37 PM
Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 486
R
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
R
Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 486
Another thing is, why are Chopin's etudes as sets at a "transcendental" rating, but yet not one single etude is? It seems to me you'd have to average all the individual "total rating" numbers. Sorry, it's just so subjective as to be unworkable.

Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
rmns2bseen #2882535 08/22/19 08:14 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
A
achoo42 Offline OP
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
A
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Another thing is, why are Chopin's etudes as sets at a "transcendental" rating, but yet not one single etude is? It seems to me you'd have to average all the individual "total rating" numbers. Sorry, it's just so subjective as to be unworkable.


Each set when played as a whole combines the most difficult attribute found in whichever etude; for example Op.10's most difficult etude in terms of fingerwork is rated 22 so 22 is the overall fingerwork difficulty rating for the set; that is the level one should theoretically be at to play the entire set. The figures for endurance and interpretation are then increased based on the time and effort required for the entire set to be played cohesively. Yes, it's very subjective but if the figures seem accurate to a general consensus then the subjectively doesn't matter so much.

My intention was not to turn music into gymnastics; it is more of a studying tool for students finding prospective pieces. There are definitely problems even on that regard, as I am now aware. Thanks for the feedback.


Schumann is the mann.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
johnstaf #2882536 08/22/19 08:18 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
A
achoo42 Offline OP
Full Member
OP Offline
Full Member
A
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 159
Originally Posted by johnstaf
The problem here is that a piece that's 9/10 in every category will get a higher score than one that has low scores in all areas but one, but which is on the verge of unplayable.


That's right, which is why I added that individual difficulty is much more important than overall difficulty. This can be seen in etudes which test particular skills which is why some of the Chopin etudes are rated lower than the Schumann repertory despite being technically more difficult. Although I would be hard-pressed to find somebody who thinks that any Chopin etude is actually more difficult than, say, Kriesleriana...


Schumann is the mann.
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882541 08/22/19 08:36 PM
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 13,210
B
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
B
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 13,210
Originally Posted by achoo42
Although I would be hard-pressed to find somebody who thinks that any Chopin etude is actually more difficult than, say, Kriesleriana...

I've played the complete Kriesleriana and some of the Chopin études, and I'd say that I can't play a few of the latter satisfactorily, but have no problems with the Schumann.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Method of determining difficulty: useful or bogus?
achoo42 #2882545 08/22/19 08:54 PM
Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 471
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 471
This kind of thing is just way too subjective. There is more than one way to play the piano, and if you play a piece the wrong way, it will seem far more difficult than it needs to be. This also greatly affects "endurance".

Regarding "interpretation", I would say that whether something is a "cohesive performance" is more in the mind of the listener.

Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  Brendan, Kreisler 

Link Copied to Clipboard
Hand Sanitizer for Musicians
Hand Sanitizer for Musicians
Musician's Hand Sanitizer available in our online store (and our Maple Street Music shop in Cornish Maine). Antibacterial, 62% ethyl alcohol. Hand Sanitizer for Musicians
Tons more music related products in our online store!
What's Hot!!
News from the Piano World
Where Did The Buttons Go?!
----------------------
Our April 2020 Newsletter Available Online Now...
The Piano World During the Pandemic!
----------------------
Posting Pictures on the Forums
-------------------
Forums RULES & HELP
-------------------
ADVERTISE on Piano World
(ad)
Best of Piano Buyer
 Best of Piano Buyer
(ad)
Faust Harrison Pianos
Faust Harrison 100+ Steinway pianos
Download Sheet Music
Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Tool Backpack
by TimM_980 - 05/28/20 12:47 AM
Looking for a piano
by ThePenist - 05/28/20 12:25 AM
Emotional Response - Don't Have One?
by IntermedPianist - 05/27/20 07:30 PM
Forum Statistics
Forums41
Topics199,223
Posts2,963,001
Members97,209
Most Online15,252
Mar 21st, 2010
Please Support Our Advertisers


Faust Harrison 100+ Steinways

Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver

 Best of Piano Buyer

PianoTeq Bechstein
Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads



 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
| Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter |


copyright 1997 - 2020 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.4