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Hi all,

I'm putting together a practice routine, scales, arpeggios, chords, different repertoires (classical, pop, jazz), etc... and was curious if a piece like Bach's Invention No.4 in D minor is considered beginner's (less than one year) level ?

Quick background...i've played and recorded professionally as a drummer for over 15 years and took a long break form music, 8 year ago, as i wanted a change of scene and lifestyle. Now , at 55, i'm slowly getting back into it. I started practicing piano off and on roughly 6-7 months ago.

I'm basically self taught and just subscribed to a couple of on line courses.

The piece mentioned above was rated late beginner/early intermediate by Hanle. I know ratings are subjective but for rough ball park reference, how many years are we talking about about when one refers to late beginner/early intermediate ?

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It definitely is not a beginner piece for someone less than a year. The Bach inventions start at around Grade 4-5 standard so you are talking about maybe 4-5 years to get there. Doable Bach material for someone new I would suggest something from his Anna Magdalena book. I remember this piece I remember from Grade 1 exam below which is quite a catchy one. I think there are many good options at this level from Bach.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBjjfUexPCA

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I would definitely not recommend any invention as a "beginner" piece. I practiced for just over 2 years before I tackled this piece last year (was grade 5 on the ABRSM at that point) and found it challenging still. More challenging than the 1st Invention, actually, although it is probably still amongst the easier inventions from what I read (I only played 1 and 4).

This is not to say that it cannot be done, just that I personally would wait for a while both to make it less frustrating to learn and to be able to play it to a better standard.

If curious, here's my recording. Not perfect, but it was as good as I could play it at the time
https://youtu.be/OMA9KnxuoSg

But then again, if you really LOVE this piece, ignore all I said and go for it by all means smile


I've been playing the piano since Jan '18.
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Inventions are very difficult for begginers. There are many dances in the french suites that are easier than the inventions. But even those may be to hard for only 7 months of practice. You can try some of the little preludes also.

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Originally Posted by Mishabou
The piece mentioned above was rated late beginner/early intermediate by Hanle. I know ratings are subjective but for rough ball park reference, how many years are we talking about about when one refers to late beginner/early intermediate ?
I recommend you don't use Henle to determine difficulty levels of pieces. It is highly inaccurate, as well as lumping a whole load of difficulty levels into one category.

Henle's "late beginner/early intermediate" encompasses everything from ABRSM grade 4 to 7 (RCM level 5 to 9), i.e. typically at least four years of lessons for the average student.

If you want to use grades/levels to check suitability of pieces, use ABRSM or RCM. The Invention you mention is Grade 5 ABRSM or RCM level 6/7.


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Give it a try and then come back and tell us what you think 😏


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Originally Posted by bennevis
I recommend you don't use Henle to determine difficulty levels of pieces. It is highly inaccurate, as well as lumping a whole load of difficulty levels into one category.

Henle's "late beginner/early intermediate" encompasses everything from ABRSM grade 4 to 7 (RCM level 5 to 9), i.e. typically at least four years of lessons for the average student.

To be fair, they don't have any "late beginner/early intermediate" level. The level descriptions are "easy" (1-3) "medium" (4-6) and "difficult" (7-9) because Henle's level system is designed for pianists that are already proficient. If you already have your diploma then whether a piece is ABRSM 4 or 7 doesn't make much difference. You will probably rather want to know whether it's something you could easily sight read and master in an afternoon or something insanely difficult that only virtuosos could play.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
The level descriptions are "easy" (1-3) "medium" (4-6) and "difficult" (7-9) because Henle's level system is designed for pianists that are already proficient.
This is what the blurb actually says:

"I am aware of how useful a guide like this can be, both from my own experience as well as that of many colleagues. In particular so as to be able to identify “appropriate” works. For example for music teachers, who teach at very different levels, from beginners to those preparing for music conservatories, but also for all those interested amateurs for whom this guide is intended."

The only pianists likely to find gradings of musical pieces useful are those below advanced standard, yet Henle is practically useless in that regard, as well as being (often) far off the mark. I had a look at its guide when I started teaching, but even for more advanced works, I had to scratch my head as to how some pieces that were obviously much harder (technically) were graded lower by Henle than those that were easier.

To take one random example: Chopin's 'Military' Polonaise (full of rapid chords and octaves) is level 5, same as his easiest nocturne (C# minor, Op. posth), yet Brahms's Op.118/2 is level 6. Chopin's Waltz in C# minor, Op.64/2 - one of his easiest waltzes - is also level 6.

In other words, whatever your level, Henle's guide to levels is next to useless.


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Thank you all for your inputs.

I find the typical beginner repertoire suggested/found in books and conservatoire program boring and uninspiring.

Even though i only started playing piano only a few months ago, i think the Bach invention in D minor is very doable, i'll give it a try and report back in a few weeks.

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Hi Mishabou,

Of course...ratings are subjective. Interventions no.4 is intermediate indeed. Not easy, because you have to play the right phrasing etc. Difficulty also depends on your own experience; did you play a similar work or in same style, rythm, same key etc.?
Ubu says that there are more useful works in the French suites, I doubt it. Try also the little preludes of the Big Boss of baroque....By the way: is there easy music of Bach? Even the easiest Bach-works have to be played the right way....

You know...it’s trail and error, it’s try and fail en try again. Take some time to experiment, put also sometimes a composition back to the bookcase and say to yourself....this for better times grin

Good luck thumbkind regards,
Johan B


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Originally Posted by John305
Give it a try and then come back and tell us what you think 😏

A little easier, and with less chance of making you bang your head against a wall:

The 2-part Inventions have, essentially, the same music in each hand.

. . . Try playing _one hand_ (whichever is weakest).

If you find that's really hard, stop -- you're not ready, yet.

If you find that's easy, try two hands. Expect to play _very_ slowly, and mess up a lot of fingerings. "Two hands" is _much_ harder than "one hand".


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I'd say an average "from-scratch" beginner who's only played 7 months would find tackling a Bach invention difficult. I've been playing for 1.5 years and do intend to get to at least one invention in 2021. I've worked on several pieces from the Book for Ana Magdalena Bach. After a couple more marches and polonaises, my plan is to play some of Bach's Little Preludes first, and then try Invention 1 (which I believe is the easiest). However, given the OP has drumming experience, I believe he/she is already ahead of an average 7-month beginner in terms of having better hand independence and rhythm skills. Worth giving it a shot.


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Nevermind the difficulty rating.
Practice VERY small chunks and put them together.
If you want to cheat and play larger chunks, block your view with post-it notes.

Everyone is different.
If you want to work on this piece, go ahead and give it a shot. It won't hurt you! It may not be the most beautiful performance of the piece ever, but if you had wanted that, you would just have listened to a recording!


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
The level descriptions are "easy" (1-3) "medium" (4-6) and "difficult" (7-9) because Henle's level system is designed for pianists that are already proficient.
This is what the blurb actually says:

"I am aware of how useful a guide like this can be, both from my own experience as well as that of many colleagues. In particular so as to be able to identify “appropriate” works. For example for music teachers, who teach at very different levels, from beginners to those preparing for music conservatories, but also for all those interested amateurs for whom this guide is intended."

The only pianists likely to find gradings of musical pieces useful are those below advanced standard, yet Henle is practically useless in that regard, as well as being (often) far off the mark. I had a look at its guide when I started teaching, but even for more advanced works, I had to scratch my head as to how some pieces that were obviously much harder (technically) were graded lower by Henle than those that were easier.

To take one random example: Chopin's 'Military' Polonaise (full of rapid chords and octaves) is level 5, same as his easiest nocturne (C# minor, Op. posth), yet Brahms's Op.118/2 is level 6. Chopin's Waltz in C# minor, Op.64/2 - one of his easiest waltzes - is also level 6.

In other words, whatever your level, Henle's guide to levels is next to useless.

Henle may consider musical difficulty as well as technical difficulty. The examples you quote to show the ratings are useless are not very convincing to me. The chords and octaves in the Military Polonaise are relatively easy as chords and octaves go, and the difficulty levels in Henle are much wider than in the other grading systems mentioned in this post. So I don't think it's unreasonable that the two could be in the same section. There are at least five Chopin Waltzes I'd rate easier than the C# minor. The Brahms Intermezzo you mention requires a fairly high degree of musical maturity.

I think a rating system has to have many examples where many people think the ratings of pieces are incorrect by TWO levels to be considered a poor rating system. There isn't any rating system I've seem where I am surprised at some of the ratings for pieces differing by one level.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Henle may consider musical difficulty as well as technical difficulty. The examples you quote to show the ratings are useless are not very convincing to me. The chords and octaves in the Military Polonaise are relatively easy as chords and octaves go, and the difficulty levels in Henle are much wider than in the other grading systems mentioned in this post.
If Henle wanted to stick to grading only advanced rep, that's their prerogative, but as the quote I mentioned stated clearly, they were targeting everyone, including beginners.

BTW, have you tried playing Op.40/1 at the correct speed for a polonaise, and think it's easier than Op.64/2? Or are you saying that Op.40/1 requires no "musical difficulty" and that Op.64/2 - a pretty straightforward waltz - requires a "high degree of musical maturity"?

This is how Henle purports to assess the difficulty level:
A number of parameters have been considered when assessing the level of difficulty. I have not just looked at the number of fast or slow notes to be played, or the chord sequences; of central importance are also the complexity of the piece’s composition, its rhythmic complexities, the difficulty of reading the text for the first time, and last but not least, how easy or difficult it is to understand its musical structure.


Is Brahms's Op.118/2 'musical structure' really that difficult to understand?

It took me all of one minute to find the examples I mentioned. There are many, many more examples of Henle's poor gradings of well-known pieces that I've noted in the past (which contradicts RCM's and ABRSM's own levels - which BTW are consistent with each other), which I can't be bothered to look up now.

Quote
I think a rating system has to have many examples where many people think the ratings of pieces are incorrect by TWO levels to be considered a poor rating system.
Henle's one level is equivalent to THREE levels in RCM.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Quote
I think a rating system has to have many examples where many people think the ratings of pieces are incorrect by TWO levels to be considered a poor rating system.
Henle's one level is equivalent to THREE levels in RCM.
My comment applies to a given rating system and is not related to how levels of two systems compare. That's how I would judge a given rating system, Henle or any other.

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I think the Henle system is very inconsistent level by level, especially in the low end. It gives an approximate range of difficulty but case by case, it could be quite inconsistent. For example their level 2 could be anything like RCM 3, 4 or even 5. They put Beethoven opus 49 as level 3 but Grieg opus 12,4 as level 4 and Mozart k545 as level 5. RCM puts Grieg as level 7 and both Beethoven and Mozart as level 8. That seems about right to me. Putting opus 49, especially if one is playing the entire sonata easier than Grieg opus 12,4 makes no sense. And the Mozart and Beethoven sonatas are very close in terms of difficulty. So saying that opus 49 is a level 3 seems like a pretty big stretch. There are similar cases for pieces rated 6 which are clearly easier than pieces at level 5. There may be some kind of rationale but so far i was not able to figure out what it can be.

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I would say the long trills in both hands are the most difficult bit of this invention. Not too bad apart from that.
None of them are beginner level though in my opinion.

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Alright, just spent the last couple of days going through this piece, indeed, a nice challenge, but definitely doable. I would say 2 to 3 weeks of regular practice. Thanks everyone for chiming in.

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Originally Posted by Mishabou
Alright, just spent the last couple of days going through this piece, indeed, a nice challenge, but definitely doable. I would say 2 to 3 weeks of regular practice. Thanks everyone for chiming in.
Mishabou, weren't you playing this invention already a year ago? http://forum.pianoworld.com//ubbthr...ce-exercises-suggestion.html#Post2928841


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