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HIGHER LEVEL #2947777 02/16/20 08:55 PM
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All, I'd like to pursue a piece that is 2 levels above my current level. I feel my skills are good now, but in looking the piece over there are a couple things that would be a significant challenge. My fear is that if I attempt it and cannot accomplish it, the discouragement would be such that it'd be a long time before I get over it and may affect other piano considerations. Would it be better to wait until I am adept at a piece or 2 that are only 1 level above my present abilities?
Thanks for your responses.

Last edited by MICHAEL122; 02/16/20 08:55 PM.
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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2947794 02/16/20 09:23 PM
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Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

But don't bite off more than you can chew.


"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: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: bennevis] #2947817 02/16/20 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

But don't bite off more than you can chew.


One the one hand ... and on the other ... smile


How can we possibly offer you much beyond platitudes ... no pain no gain ... unless we have more insight into what you want to accomplish, what your past experiences have been, and what your basic psychological attitudes about accomplishment and failure might be.

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2947831 02/16/20 11:51 PM
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Originally Posted by MICHAEL122
All, I'd like to pursue a piece that is 2 levels above my current level. I feel my skills are good now, but in looking the piece over there are a couple things that would be a significant challenge. My fear is that if I attempt it and cannot accomplish it, the discouragement would be such that it'd be a long time before I get over it and may affect other piano considerations. Would it be better to wait until I am adept at a piece or 2 that are only 1 level above my present abilities?
Thanks for your responses.


It sounds to me like fear of discouragement is a big obstacle to your progress. Why be so quick to try to "get over it"? Instead, what would happen if you made friends with it instead? Failure is a normal, useful part of learning.

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2947848 02/17/20 02:05 AM
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Go for it, you might surprise yourself.

If you can't do it don't beat yourself up over it. It is two levels above your current level after all.

Just revisited in a year and try again.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2947934 02/17/20 09:34 AM
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What I do in this scenario, is to start practicing the most difficult sections first. If I can master them, I am confident about the reminder. If I cannot, I know I need to wait a while for this piece


"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

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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2947970 02/17/20 11:16 AM
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I'd wait and enjoy my anticipation.


| Taa atu uka taa aatk tuku taka tuku |
Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2948057 02/17/20 02:05 PM
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Here we go again.....

What is this obsession with "levels"? When composers set out to write music, did they really tell themselves to go write a level-3 piece?

Music was never meant to be categorized into neatly defined levels. Thus, the question posed by the OP is completely ridiculous.


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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: AZNpiano] #2948087 02/17/20 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Here we go again.....

What is this obsession with "levels"? When composers set out to write music, did they really tell themselves to go write a level-3 piece?

Music was never meant to be categorized into neatly defined levels. Thus, the question posed by the OP is completely ridiculous.


You make an important point, which is rarely put forth.

That said: Isn't it the music teaching industry the one that puts out this idea? Systems like RCM, ABRSM, maybe the MTNA, method books, all put pieces into grade levels. When a transfer student, or one with interrupted lessons, starts with a new teacher, he may have to play for the teacher, and the teacher will say "Ah, he played a grade 4 piece - he's at a gr. 4 level." Or, "You shouldn't learn this piece yet. It's a 'grade 8 piece'."

There are a lot of implications to your question. It would be interesting to see this discussed among teachers here.

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: keystring] #2948109 02/17/20 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
That said: Isn't it the music teaching industry the one that puts out this idea? Systems like RCM, ABRSM, maybe the MTNA, method books, all put pieces into grade levels. When a transfer student, or one with interrupted lessons, starts with a new teacher, he may have to play for the teacher, and the teacher will say "Ah, he played a grade 4 piece - he's at a gr. 4 level." Or, "You shouldn't learn this piece yet. It's a 'grade 8 piece'."

The whole idea is to put together a tangible "curriculum" that a teacher can follow, with progressively more difficult repertoire that matches the skills to be learned at each level.

But when uninformed people start associating pieces with certain "levels," it really bugs me. One of my best transfer students of all time--he played wonderfully--always just had to ask, "What level is this?" Then I just had to make up silly answers like "Level 47." Then I went into lecture mode and explained that composers did not set out to write "level 4" pieces. And even when you get a piece of paper that states you have passed level 8, it does not mean you can play ALL the music around that level. It just means you passed a test with certain minimal proficiency.


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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2948192 02/17/20 06:51 PM
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Level 47 ... [Linked Image]

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: AZNpiano] #2948198 02/17/20 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
But when uninformed people start associating pieces with certain "levels," it really bugs me. One of my best transfer students of all time--he played wonderfully--always just had to ask, "What level is this?" Then I just had to make up silly answers like "Level 47."....

But if the teaching community and industry at large are doing this "informing", then you can't blame students for being MISinformed (in this case I'd not say "un" but "mis"). I don't know how this can be turned around, because the whole industry would change its ways. Until then, it is individual teachers who will get the next transfer student, and the next, and will have to go "(sigh) level 47" as they go reteach it.

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: AZNpiano] #2948201 02/17/20 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Here we go again.....

What is this obsession with "levels"? When composers set out to write music, did they really tell themselves to go write a level-3 piece?

Music was never meant to be categorized into neatly defined levels. Thus, the question posed by the OP is completely ridiculous.


I'm with you. Didn't I get into a bruising battle over the level of Bach's C Major Prelude? I say a pox on the whole concept. I'm not counting levels and I'm not going to try to figure out which pieces are at what level. I'm just going to play what my teacher assigns to me. She knows the repertoire, she knows how I well I play, it's up to her to pick pieces that I can play.

Anyway, for anybody who knows The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, all pieces are at Level 42.

Last edited by LarryK; 02/17/20 07:31 PM.

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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2948204 02/17/20 07:36 PM
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I think often you'd find the "levels" not predicting your success or failure. It is important to understand exactly what are the "significant challenges". It's not enough to just say "I can't do it" the first time, because many things that you can't do initially, you can do after a week. If you understand what skill is needed there then you'd understand what you need to work on, then you can judge whether you can do it in a few months.

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2948208 02/17/20 07:44 PM
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AZN, I know you visit both places and you were aware of the project surrounding the Tchaikovsky "Sweet Dreams". The whole purpose was to get students to start thinking differently about music. The initiative was put forth by a teacher. The piece is categorized at I think gr. 3 or 4, but can be played at a higher level, with though put into any of the aspects in the piece.

When we looked at the "grade level", it had to do with attributes that were taught in the systems (whether ABRSM, RCM, method book etc.). Thus you have things like: "simple key signature, few if any key changes, small range of notes, not that fast, rhythm not too complicated". Is that what the piece is about? As a result, some of the more advanced students who took part, played it technically correctly, and would have passed an exam with top grades I imagine. But there was more to the piece, because it's music, and not just a grade X piece. In any case, this event made me look at "Why is this categorized as grade X?"

I saw that when I took RCM violin. You learned to play G and D major and minor scales and arpeggios, and the pieces you got at that grade level were in G and D minor. Pieces were pulled in that contained those things that were taught on the technique and theory side. I did not follow such a system in piano, so I have to refer to what I know.

At the same time, I've heard teachers lament that some lovely pieces get murdered as "low grade" pieces, are taught and played that way, simply because these pieces have the "low grade attributes" (simple key signature, slow, not complicated) --- - they sound boring and rather horrible played that way. But if it was a Minuet written by one of the masters, there is music hidden in there, which can be brought out with the deft touch and understanding of a master musician. To choose articulation, voicing, and other things, requires a high level of skill. Our "grade 2 piece" actually isn't.

--------
Adding to this, pieces can be played "at" different levels.

I think the whole thing is a mess.

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: keystring] #2948215 02/17/20 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
But if the teaching community and industry at large are doing this "informing", then you can't blame students for being MISinformed (in this case I'd not say "un" but "mis"). I don't know how this can be turned around, because the whole industry would change its ways. Until then, it is individual teachers who will get the next transfer student, and the next, and will have to go "(sigh) level 47" as they go reteach it.

The misinformation does not start with the teaching community. Rather, it is proliferated among the uneducated and uninformed (READ: the parents of students), who most likely have never taken piano lessons in their life. The obsession is indeed more severe when there is a culture of testing such as ABRSM and RCM. People extrapolate meaning from such levels and exam scores. When I heard the RCM representative who said that RCM scores actually mean something--as in they are so standardized, you can have point variance of just plus or minus two points among all examiners--I started laughing. Students can rattle off their scores and "distinctions" as if they mean something. Without a doubt, this problem is perpetuated by certain cultures that like to compare scores, and when certain scoring systems are as "standardized," it gives people the illusion that they can compare numbers and the numbers MEAN something.


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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: keystring] #2948234 02/17/20 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
At the same time, I've heard teachers lament that some lovely pieces get murdered as "low grade" pieces, are taught and played that way, simply because these pieces have the "low grade attributes" (simple key signature, slow, not complicated) --- - they sound boring and rather horrible played that way.

I don't find that problem at all.

If you get 10 piano experts in the room, they will most likely agree within a level or two what a piece ought to be. If the parameters are set out clearly, this is not the problem. Again, if these people are experts. And they are not doing this to make money or selling books. As a purely academic endeavor, such leveling can be done objectively.

But then you get the $$$ problem. If a certain program makes money by selling anthologies, they most likely would not be completely honest about the levels. Each book would contain some "difficult" pieces, to provide challenge for students without allowing them to skip a level. Each book would also contain some "easy" pieces, to provide a safety net for students who are just scraping by, year after year.

Teachers who know what they are doing see right through this!!

But what about the parents who know nothing about piano? They'll assume passing a level means that kiddo CAN play AT the said level. That everything in the book is AT the level. And passing the test means that kiddo CAN play everything in that book for that level.

It's all this assuming and extrapolating that's bugging me to no end.


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Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2948241 02/17/20 09:02 PM
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I think it is mainly adult students - especially those with no teachers - who obsess over "levels" because they look at things in black and white, and want to know where they 'stand' at any time. Presumably so that if they are practicing sight-reading, they will only use pieces that are two levels below where they stand (because their guide book - or some self-proclaimed guru in pianostreet - tells them they cannot possibly sight-read anything more difficult), and if they want to succeed with a new piece, they want to know beforehand that they will succeed. Presumably because they don't want to waste time trying to learn something they have no chance of succeeding (according to their guide book or pianostreet guru).

When I was a student, despite going through ABRSM exams grade by grade, my teachers never bothered with checking the 'grade' of whatever piece they gave me to learn. (I recall my second teacher giving me K545 to learn, when I was at Grade 3 - which is apparently three grades below K545's "grade"). And when I was looking for pieces to learn on my own (sight-reading through them first, of course), I had no idea what grades the pieces were. If I could play them, I played them. If they were too difficult, I put them on the back burner, to look at again in a few months' time. Or a year's time, if the piece really appealed to me. I was trying out - both sight-reading and then learning - diploma level pieces (Beethoven sonatas etc) even when I was only at Grade 5.

However, graded exams from exam boards are great in themselves - principally to prevent ignorant teachers from skipping essential technical or musical skills - like aural skills, sight-reading, scales & arpeggios, theory.......


"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: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: AZNpiano] #2948302 02/18/20 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano


If you get 10 piano experts in the room, they will most likely agree within a level or two what a piece ought to be.

Hold on a minute. You have just said that pieces were not written by composers to be at a grade level, and so they are not at a grade level. I agreed with this. If this is so, then nobody, "expert" or otherwise, can determine a thing that does not exist. wink It's like saying that only experts can determine what flavour of cheese the moon is made of.

Re: HIGHER LEVEL [Re: MICHAEL122] #2948488 02/18/20 11:46 AM
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Composers don't write music at specific grade levels. Educators attach artificial labels to pieces. We tackle a more difficult piece (even a small section), the next time we attempt the same piece would be easier.

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