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Grade 8 pieces
#3029800 09/28/20 07:09 AM
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Hi all,
I’m an adult who returned to piano lessons after learning some piano as a child.
I have been able to advance nicely since I started playing again, but I still practice mostly at evenings when I’m already (mentally) tired.
I usually take lessons with a teacher every 2-3 weeks (not during COVID19...).
I’m currently learning pieces that are ABRSM grade 8. My previous pieces were mostly around grade 7.

How much on average do you estimate it should take to learn a grade 8 piece ?

Of course it depends on the talent and hours of practice etc. and I also feel that some grade 8 pieces are significantly difficult than others.
Last thing - I’m not going to actually take the test , just play for fun, but my teacher is quite detailed oriented so we try to polish pieces before we declare them as “learnt”.

So under those conditions , is it reasonable to learn a grade 8 piece in 2-3 months (4 lessons)?

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Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029802 09/28/20 07:23 AM
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The most difficult piece I have learned in the last year is Schubert's Impromptu nos.4 in Aflat, D899. I don't know if this would be classed as grade 8 or perhaps above. It took at least six months and I needed many more lessons than 4. In the past I have learned part of the final movement of Beethoven's Moonlight sonata and this took about three months. I am currently learning Tchaikovski's October and this is now well developed after three weeks. It is reasonable to think that 2-3 months is sufficient time but I would need more lessons to work through the musicality of each piece.

Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029804 09/28/20 07:33 AM
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2-3 months is reasonable. But there are so many variables(time practicing the piece daily, skill of the pianist, length of the piece, skill of the teacher, range in difficulty of pieces in the same level, when a piece is "finished") that answering questions like this is difficult. Are you asking because you think you spend too much time or for some other reason?

Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029805 09/28/20 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by ZigZagStory
So under those conditions , is it reasonable to learn a grade 8 piece in 2-3 months (4 lessons)?
Yes - depending on how long the piece is and how much of your practise time you're spending on it, as well as your actual level at present.


"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: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029807 09/28/20 07:48 AM
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Thanks for the answers. The reason I’m asking is to understand if I’m talking a reasonable selection and have reasonable expectations from myself.
My teacher is an amazing pianist but without much experience in teaching. I like the lessons a lot and I think I learn a lot from my teacher. But without teaching experience it may be harder to decide on which pieces to focus on.
Actually I’m usually the one who suggest pieces I like to study and my teacher will tell me if they are too challenging or not for now.

Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029826 09/28/20 09:03 AM
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The pieces you should study are the ones that help you develop your weak points. It is not really a question of being challenging, of course you dont want to pick too easy or way too difficult ones, but whether they are usefull. It is good also to vary styles and tempo.

Re: Grade 8 pieces
Sidokar #3029839 09/28/20 09:49 AM
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Thanks for the comment, of course we discuss potential pieces together . But there is a huge selection and I believe that if one has a connection to the piece , he will probably practice more (more effectively?) and will achieve his goals faster.
We do try to vary styles and tempos of course.

I think that until now every piece I learnt helped me develop a different aspect (technique, “musicality” , touch etc). And if something is easy there is always another aspect in the piece that I can improve. At this level there are still a lot of weak points to improve.

Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029894 09/28/20 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by ZigZagStory
So under those conditions , is it reasonable to learn a grade 8 piece in 2-3 months (4 lessons)?

For a returning adult student, with a gap since childhood, I would expect grade 8 pieces to be tough and take quite a few months to complete. How many months, however, depends greatly on how you practice, how much you practice, your current skill level and of course your teacher's guidance and the piece itself. I, myself, can't imagine doing a grade 8 piece with a lesson only every 2-3 weeks or not at all. Getting the notes right is the first challenge but, for me anyway, getting speed & musicality is the greater challenge. And then there's all that stuff that we miss that only a good teacher can point out.

I hope you are not ignoring the wealth of music in lower grades (say, 4-6) - there is so much great music there that can help you develop your skills & technique, interpretation & repertoire. Have you tried any of these pieces - different eras, different techniques, different styles of interpretation -

Mozart Sonata in G Major, K 283 (grade 4/5)
Debussy La Fille aux Cheveaux de Lin, Preludes Book 1, No. 8 (grade 5)
Schumann Arabesque, Op. 18 (grade 6)
Mendelssohn Lieder Ohne Worte, Op. 102, No. 4 (grade 6)
Bach Prelude #6 in D minor, WTC Book #1, BWV 851 (grade 7)

Last edited by Pianosearcher; 09/28/20 12:59 PM.
Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029905 09/28/20 01:23 PM
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From a previous post, here are some common pieces as officially graded (ABRSM) for state school exams in the UK (here, years = grades):

Bach: Little Prelude in D minor, BWV 940 - 5 years
Bach: WTC, Bk.1: Prelude in C - 5 years
Beethoven: Für Elise - 5 years
Chopin: Prelude in E minor, Op.28/4 - 5 years
Grieg: Arietta & Popular Melody, Op.12/1 & 5 - 5 years
Schumann: Von fremden Ländern und Menschen - 5 years
MacDowell: To a Wild Rose - 5 years
Bach: Two-part Invention No.13 in A minor, BWV 784 - 6 years
CPE Bach: Solfeggietto in C minor - 6 years
Beethoven: 'Moonlight' Sonata (I) - 6 years
Mendelssohn: Songs without Words, Op.19/2, Op.30/3, Op.67/3 - 6 years
Mozart: Sonata in C, K545 (I) - 6 years
Mozart: Fantasia in D minor, K397 - 6 years
Albéniz: Tango Op.165 No.2 - 6 years
Einaudi: I Giorni, Le Onde - 6 years
Beethoven: 'Pathetique' Sonata (II) - 7 years
Chopin: Preludes, Op.28/6 & 15 - 7 years
Mendelssohn: Venetian Gondola Songs, Op.19/6, Op.30/6 - 7 years
Liszt: Consolation No.3 in D flat - 7 years
Satie: Gymnopédie No.1 - 7 years
Ginastera: Danza de la moza donosa - 7 years
Bartók: Merry Andrew (Mikrokosmos, Vol.5) - 7 years
Mozart: Rondo alla turca - 7 years
Joplin: The Entertainer & Magnetic Rag - 7 years
Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag - 8 years
Bach: Goldberg Variations - Aria & Var.1 - 8 years
Debussy: Arabesque No.1 - 8 years
Debussy: Clair de lune - 8 years
Tchaikovsky: The Seasons - January, March, June, October - 8 years

BTW, Schumann's Arabeske is at least Grade 8 ABRSM (Grade 10 RCM).


"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: Grade 8 pieces
Pianosearcher #3029960 09/28/20 03:56 PM
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Thank you.
I do try to balance my repertoire with grades as you suggested (I understand the reasoning for taking 1 easy , 1 medium and 1 challenging piece).

Regarding Debussy’s La Fille aux Cheveaux de Lin- I believe it is > grade 5, at least if you want to do it with proper voicing, separate the melody from the other voices and play each one with different touch/sound quality.

Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3029996 09/28/20 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ZigZagStory
Thank you.
I do try to balance my repertoire with grades as you suggested (I understand the reasoning for taking 1 easy , 1 medium and 1 challenging piece).

Regarding Debussy’s La Fille aux Cheveaux de Lin- I believe it is > grade 5, at least if you want to do it with proper voicing, separate the melody from the other voices and play each one with different touch/sound quality.

La fille aux cheveux de lin is rated rcm 9 which is about abrsm 7 or so. It is a difficult piece to play with musicality. The main challenge is to keep it flowing while adding the right amount of rubato so that it sounds natural.

I agree that for playing a piece that you like can be an additional booster. It is no my case but it is prefectly understandable. Anyway there is so much choice that it is not a big issue to find both the right piece and one that you like. Like others have said there is plenty of excellent and interesting music in lower grades as well. So choose wisely !

Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3030006 09/28/20 05:58 PM
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I think you have got some great advice. I found that if you wish to pick a hard piece then it can help to pick a short piece. Some etudes, for example, though hard are only 2 minutes long and could be learnt in a short time and can be great to learn certain skills.

I think having very infrequent lessons may make it longer to learn the piece so it may be quicker if you had weekly lessons sometimes. I think its better to stick at pieces until they are ready now so I think 3 months is fine and a few occasions may need longer. It is a problem however if the piece is so hard and you the same after such a long time.

I had a long time without lessons during covid and found could teach myself easier pieces but grade 8 not so much. I had a go before I returned to lessons and learnt a few wrong notes and we have to change fingerings so it may be wise not to self learn hard music if you are out of lessons.

It is very interesting that someone found Schubert A flat impromptu so hard. I would have thought from the score that the last movement of Moonlight Sonata would be much more complex but very interesting was learnt in half the time. I struggled epically with Schubert G flat impromptu and it was the longest I have ever spent on a piece. It is very long and it seems like 6 months !

Last edited by Moo :); 09/28/20 06:02 PM.
Re: Grade 8 pieces
bennevis #3030076 09/28/20 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
From a previous post, here are some common pieces as officially graded (ABRSM) for state school exams in the UK (here, years = grades):

Bach: Little Prelude in D minor, BWV 940 - 5 years
Bach: WTC, Bk.1: Prelude in C - 5 years
Beethoven: Für Elise - 5 years
Chopin: Prelude in E minor, Op.28/4 - 5 years
Grieg: Arietta & Popular Melody, Op.12/1 & 5 - 5 years
Schumann: Von fremden Ländern und Menschen - 5 years
MacDowell: To a Wild Rose - 5 years
Bach: Two-part Invention No.13 in A minor, BWV 784 - 6 years
CPE Bach: Solfeggietto in C minor - 6 years
Beethoven: 'Moonlight' Sonata (I) - 6 years
Mendelssohn: Songs without Words, Op.19/2, Op.30/3, Op.67/3 - 6 years
Mozart: Sonata in C, K545 (I) - 6 years
Mozart: Fantasia in D minor, K397 - 6 years
Albéniz: Tango Op.165 No.2 - 6 years
Einaudi: I Giorni, Le Onde - 6 years
Beethoven: 'Pathetique' Sonata (II) - 7 years
Chopin: Preludes, Op.28/6 & 15 - 7 years
Mendelssohn: Venetian Gondola Songs, Op.19/6, Op.30/6 - 7 years
Liszt: Consolation No.3 in D flat - 7 years
Satie: Gymnopédie No.1 - 7 years
Ginastera: Danza de la moza donosa - 7 years
Bartók: Merry Andrew (Mikrokosmos, Vol.5) - 7 years
Mozart: Rondo alla turca - 7 years
Joplin: The Entertainer & Magnetic Rag - 7 years
Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag - 8 years
Bach: Goldberg Variations - Aria & Var.1 - 8 years
Debussy: Arabesque No.1 - 8 years
Debussy: Clair de lune - 8 years
Tchaikovsky: The Seasons - January, March, June, October - 8 years

BTW, Schumann's Arabeske is at least Grade 8 ABRSM (Grade 10 RCM).

That’s a nice intermediate level list. Like it! Get through these and you’ll have some seriously beautiful repertoire under your belt.


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Re: Grade 8 pieces
ZigZagStory #3030148 09/29/20 06:16 AM
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I actually worked on a few from this list.
Although I have no plans to take the Abrsm exam I found their lists a nice source of worthy pieces to choose from.

Re: Grade 8 pieces
Moo :) #3031086 10/01/20 07:34 PM
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Moo: "I struggled epically with Schubert G flat impromptu and it was the longest I have ever spent on a piece. It is very long and it seems like 6 months !"

Have patience. Some pieces you can continue learning your entire life. I'm totally against the so many pieces in a year club. There is nothing to be upset about for having studied something for 6 months! I've played Chopin's Ballad No 4 in a recital and still continue to learn it but mostly learn from it. It took me a year to be able to play through it and 2 years to become more proficient at it. The least concerning part of studying piano for me is how long it takes to learn a piece because there are so many other important things to pay attention to then how long it takes. As in the past when commenting on your comments, I don't expect a response because I've never received one from you before.

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 10/01/20 07:36 PM.

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