Piano World Home Page
Posted By: Pilotryan Piano Grades - 09/12/20 01:46 PM
Hi

How long does it take to go through a piano grade level?

Here are my thoughts.
If you play about 10 hours a week you should be able to get though each grade in about 3-6 months?

Thanks
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 02:16 PM
I doubt it is this quick. I expect if you are rushing you are not playing pieces to high quality. I think as a child I did about 1 grade a year up until grade 5. I think I had a break to learn theory as there was a requirement to get grade 5 for ARBSM. Post grade 5 maybe nearer 2 years between the higher grades. I think post-grade 8 to reach ATCL maybe it'll be a larger gap but I have not played these exams. I think you are looking at 10 years if you want to get through all the grades properly and reach a diploma standard. Most of these 'progress videos' for someone with 10 plus years playing gives a very false sense of piano progress.
Posted By: dogperson Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 02:19 PM
3-6 months per grade is unrealistic. Piano is one avocation where slow and steady wins. Be sure you have absorbed the material at both the piece and the grade level. Rushing loses in the long-term. Assume one year per grade with the more advanced grades taking two years.
Posted By: BruceD Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 02:56 PM
I agree strongly with the others that "doing" a grade in three to six months is unrealistic. Moreover, that most likely means working only on the grade (exam?) pieces and only on the other minimum requirements for the grade.

It is quite possible that in the very early grades one can progress more quickly through the material because there is less of it, but as one moves to higher grades not only do the demands become more rigorous, the repertoire expands.

If we are talking here (and I am not sure that we are) about eventually preparing for an exam to say that we have "done" a grade, too many with this mind set work only on the minimum requirements to get through to the next level as soon as possible. In my view, students who do this do not show that they have reached the level that the grade designates. Rather, they have learned three or four pieces at that level and have little or no experience with the repertoire and all the variances that such repertoire can present.

As others have indicated, becoming proficient at playing the piano at whatever level takes time, time to develop the technical skills, time to develop an appreciation for the styles of different periods, and time to understand how to approach and interpret those different styles. Moreover, studying piano repertoire should be a joyous and satisfying journey of discovery where the emphasis is on the journey itself, not the goal of completing a grade.

Regards,
Posted By: Carey Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 03:03 PM
I've been playing selected pieces from the John Thompson Fifth Grade Book for over 62 years. Working on one right now. smile
Posted By: Carey Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 03:05 PM
Originally Posted by BruceD
I agree strongly with the others that "doing" a grade in three to six months is unrealistic. Moreover, that most likely means working only on the grade (exam?) pieces and only on the other minimum requirements for the grade.

It is quite possible that in the very early grades one can progress more quickly through the material because there is less of it, but as one moves to higher grades not only do the demands become more rigorous, the repertoire expands.

If we are talking here (and I am not sure that we are) about eventually preparing for an exam to say that we have "done" a grade, too many with this mind set work only on the minimum requirements to get through to the next level as soon as possible. In my view, students who do this do not show that they have reached the level that the grade designates. Rather, they have learned three or four pieces at that level and have little or no experience with the repertoire and all the variances that such repertoire can present.

As others have indicated, becoming proficient at playing the piano at whatever level takes time, time to develop the technical skills, time to develop an appreciation for the styles of different periods, and time to understand how to approach and interpret those different styles. Moreover, studying piano repertoire should be a joyous and satisfying journey of discovery where the emphasis is on the journey itself, not the goal of completing a grade.

Regards,
Excellent post. thumb thumb thumb
Posted By: rocket88 Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 03:06 PM
Learning to play the piano is a brain development process.

Practicing and playing creates new connections and pathways in the brain.

You cannot speed that process up very much, any more than you can take a 6 month old baby and change it into an adult in one year by force-feeding it food and information.
Posted By: Animisha Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 03:39 PM
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
If you play about 10 hours a week you should be able to get though each grade in about 3-6 months?

First of all, I fully agree with everybody here saying, that no, that is unrealistic.

But let me ask you Pilotryan: What is the hurry? Why would you want to speed it up?
Posted By: wszxbcl Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 04:12 PM
Some things take time, like braces for teeth. Took me a while to get enough stretch to play certain chords that require awkward hand shape. It is physically not possible to change your hands in a short amount of time without damage.
Posted By: dogperson Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 04:35 PM
You might find this post useful
http://forum.pianoworld.com//ubbthr...like-i-didnt-learn-much.html#Post3024194
Posted By: JackFi Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 04:39 PM
I strongly think that playing 5 years to reach grade 5 is reasonable goal if you are a child or not too motivated. I dont see any reason why you couldn't reach for example grade 4 in two years as an adult, but i think you need effective practice at least an hour a day. I am currently playing grade 3 material and i have been practicing about a year. I practice about 10 hours a week, but getting up a grade level in 3-4 months would be unrealistic in my opinion (you would need to practice A LOT) .
Posted By: Sebs Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 06:02 PM
How long should the exam pieces roughly take to learn? Such as you want to sit for Grade 1 or 2 and you select your 3 pieces for the exam. How much time do you think it should take to learn the exam pieces? I know it's very subjective but I imagine if you're spending way too long to learn them maybe it's too far of a reach at the moment?
Posted By: Animisha Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 06:21 PM
Originally Posted by Sebs
How long should the exam pieces roughly take to learn? Such as you want to sit for Grade 1 or 2 and you select your 3 pieces for the exam. How much time do you think it should take to learn the exam pieces? I know it's very subjective but I imagine if you're spending way too long to learn them maybe it's too far of a reach at the moment?
Sebs, the thing is, you can do just that, select three pieces for your grade 1 and grade 2 exam and learn them, and this should not take two years. But these pieces are supposed to reflect a general ability, and if you have only learned your exam pieces, just as Bruce talked about, then they are not representative of what you can do. And sooner or later, you find yourself in a grade that is too high for you, with pieces that are way too difficult, because you didn't do the basic work.
When I still studied within the RCM system, I got ten grade 1 pieces and studies "certified" before starting to learn grade 2 pieces. Not because I was obliged to, but in order to build my pianistic ability.
Posted By: Sebs Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 06:56 PM
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Sebs
How long should the exam pieces roughly take to learn? Such as you want to sit for Grade 1 or 2 and you select your 3 pieces for the exam. How much time do you think it should take to learn the exam pieces? I know it's very subjective but I imagine if you're spending way too long to learn them maybe it's too far of a reach at the moment?
Sebs, the thing is, you can do just that, select three pieces for your grade 1 and grade 2 exam and learn them, and this should not take two years. But these pieces are supposed to reflect a general ability, and if you have only learned your exam pieces, just as Bruce talked about, then they are not representative of what you can do. And sooner or later, you find yourself in a grade that is too high for you, with pieces that are way too difficult, because you didn't do the basic work.
When I still studied within the RCM system, I got ten grade 1 pieces and studies "certified" before starting to learn grade 2 pieces. Not because I was obliged to, but in order to build my pianistic ability.

Say you want to sit for grade 1. You pick your three pieces should it only take a couple months to have them exam ready?
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:37 PM
Originally Posted by Moo :)
I doubt it is this quick. I expect if you are rushing you are not playing pieces to high quality. I think as a child I did about 1 grade a year up until grade 5. I think I had a break to learn theory as there was a requirement to get grade 5 for ARBSM. Post grade 5 maybe nearer 2 years between the higher grades. I think post-grade 8 to reach ATCL maybe it'll be a larger gap but I have not played these exams. I think you are looking at 10 years if you want to get through all the grades properly and reach a diploma standard. Most of these 'progress videos' for someone with 10 plus years playing gives a very false sense of piano progress.

Thank you for your response.
When you mention playing at a high quality, is that playing it perfectly? If we were to look at a scale 1-10, 10 being perfect, where would you put high quality?
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:39 PM
Originally Posted by dogperson
3-6 months per grade is unrealistic. Piano is one avocation where slow and steady wins. Be sure you have absorbed the material at both the piece and the grade level. Rushing loses in the long-term. Assume one year per grade with the more advanced grades taking two years.

Thanks, yeah that's king of what I was thinking. First couple grades, maybe a year, then the more advanced ones takes a few years.
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:42 PM
Originally Posted by BruceD
I agree strongly with the others that "doing" a grade in three to six months is unrealistic. Moreover, that most likely means working only on the grade (exam?) pieces and only on the other minimum requirements for the grade.

It is quite possible that in the very early grades one can progress more quickly through the material because there is less of it, but as one moves to higher grades not only do the demands become more rigorous, the repertoire expands.

If we are talking here (and I am not sure that we are) about eventually preparing for an exam to say that we have "done" a grade, too many with this mind set work only on the minimum requirements to get through to the next level as soon as possible. In my view, students who do this do not show that they have reached the level that the grade designates. Rather, they have learned three or four pieces at that level and have little or no experience with the repertoire and all the variances that such repertoire can present.

As others have indicated, becoming proficient at playing the piano at whatever level takes time, time to develop the technical skills, time to develop an appreciation for the styles of different periods, and time to understand how to approach and interpret those different styles. Moreover, studying piano repertoire should be a joyous and satisfying journey of discovery where the emphasis is on the journey itself, not the goal of completing a grade.

Regards,

Yes enjoying the process rather than the goal is important, and very hard to remember in stressful times. Ultimately Im having fun but it would be good to know that in "x" years of playing every day people will be like "wow, he plays well." :-)
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:45 PM
Originally Posted by rocket88
Learning to play the piano is a brain development process.

Practicing and playing creates new connections and pathways in the brain.

You cannot speed that process up very much, any more than you can take a 6 month old baby and change it into an adult in one year by force-feeding it food and information.

Yes I agree but I also think that there are some shortcuts to speeding up the brain development. For example, by learning one song by ear and another one by reading it, both build each other up and I believe you can learn either one faster than if you just played only by ear or reading.
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:50 PM
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
If you play about 10 hours a week you should be able to get though each grade in about 3-6 months?

First of all, I fully agree with everybody here saying, that no, that is unrealistic.

But let me ask you Pilotryan: What is the hurry? Why would you want to speed it up?

I don't want to necessarily speed it up but I just want to make sure my time is well spent. Im very detail orientated. My training program is 7am-9am everyday I play. 10minutes or previously learned song review, 10mins of scales, 10 sight reading, 10 study theory, 5 rhythm, 5 ear training, 10 learn something jazz related and apply it to an improv exercise, 30 practing a new song, then 10 just playing. Ultimately I just want a gague on my practicing. If it takes me 10 years to get past grade 1, Im probably doing something wrong. If it takes me a month to get though grade 1 (which it did) the maybe Im on the right track. I just need to know if Im doing whats right or if I should make some changes.
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:52 PM
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Some things take time, like braces for teeth. Took me a while to get enough stretch to play certain chords that require awkward hand shape. It is physically not possible to change your hands in a short amount of time without damage.

Agree, unfortunately I was victim of a plane crash (someone else's mistake) and my hands got burned pretty bad. Sucks not being able to fully stretch it out. No excuse right? :-)
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:52 PM
Originally Posted by JackFi
I strongly think that playing 5 years to reach grade 5 is reasonable goal if you are a child or not too motivated. I dont see any reason why you couldn't reach for example grade 4 in two years as an adult, but i think you need effective practice at least an hour a day. I am currently playing grade 3 material and i have been practicing about a year. I practice about 10 hours a week, but getting up a grade level in 3-4 months would be unrealistic in my opinion (you would need to practice A LOT) .

Thanks
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 07:55 PM
Originally Posted by Sebs
How long should the exam pieces roughly take to learn? Such as you want to sit for Grade 1 or 2 and you select your 3 pieces for the exam. How much time do you think it should take to learn the exam pieces? I know it's very subjective but I imagine if you're spending way too long to learn them maybe it's too far of a reach at the moment?

The grade 1 and 2 songs took a week or so to get down comfortably. I just stated a grade 3 piece yesterday. Seems tough as of now :-(. I would hope that any song at my appropriate skill level should only take 1 month at the most to get down if I play it everyday.
Posted By: WeakLeftHand Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 08:08 PM
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
Hi

How long does it take to go through a piano grade level?

Here are my thoughts.
If you play about 10 hours a week you should be able to get though each grade in about 3-6 months?

Thanks


Originally Posted by Pilotryan
I don't want to necessarily speed it up but I just want to make sure my time is well spent. Im very detail orientated. My training program is 7am-9am everyday I play. 10minutes or previously learned song review, 10mins of scales, 10 sight reading, 10 study theory, 5 rhythm, 5 ear training, 10 learn something jazz related and apply it to an improv exercise, 30 practing a new song, then 10 just playing. Ultimately I just want a gague on my practicing. If it takes me 10 years to get past grade 1, Im probably doing something wrong. If it takes me a month to get though grade 1 (which it did) the maybe Im on the right track. I just need to know if Im doing whats right or if I should make some changes.

I’m curious which exam curriculum are you following? RCM, ABRSM, Trinity, AMED, or other? And I’m also curious how do you determine that you’ve “gotten through” a level?
Posted By: JackFi Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 08:25 PM
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
The grade 1 and 2 songs took a week or so to get down comfortably. I just stated a grade 3 piece yesterday. Seems tough as of now :-(. I would hope that any song at my appropriate skill level should only take 1 month at the most to get down if I play it everyday.

I always try to have 2-3 pieces under work simultaneously. I think it is more motivating (and efficient) as that way you complete a piece more often than every 3-4 weeks. I have now also started to practice with a metronome and practice a lot more by taking only small chunk at a time hands separated. Practicing that way feels less stressful and efficient because i can isolate the difficult parts.
Posted By: Pilotryan Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 08:38 PM
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
Hi

How long does it take to go through a piano grade level?

Here are my thoughts.
If you play about 10 hours a week you should be able to get though each grade in about 3-6 months?

Thanks


Originally Posted by Pilotryan
I don't want to necessarily speed it up but I just want to make sure my time is well spent. Im very detail orientated. My training program is 7am-9am everyday I play. 10minutes or previously learned song review, 10mins of scales, 10 sight reading, 10 study theory, 5 rhythm, 5 ear training, 10 learn something jazz related and apply it to an improv exercise, 30 practing a new song, then 10 just playing. Ultimately I just want a gague on my practicing. If it takes me 10 years to get past grade 1, Im probably doing something wrong. If it takes me a month to get though grade 1 (which it did) the maybe Im on the right track. I just need to know if Im doing whats right or if I should make some changes.

I’m curious which exam curriculum are you following? RCM, ABRSM, Trinity, AMED, or other? And I’m also curious how do you determine that you’ve “gotten through” a level?

I have tried those courses but I’m not too fond of classical music. Not against it but I would rather play something more familiar. I am currently using the Rock school syllabi. I hired an instructor to review all of the recorded videos of me playing the various songs and exercises. In a sense I’m recording myself taking a test and she is reviewing it. Once she feels comfortable with my abilities she recommends that I move on To the next grade.
Posted By: WeakLeftHand Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 08:48 PM
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
I have tried those courses but I’m not too fond of classical music. Not against it but I would rather play something more familiar. I am currently using the Rock school syllabi. I hired an instructor to review all of the recorded videos of me playing the various songs and exercises. In a sense I’m recording myself taking a test and she is reviewing it. Once she feels comfortable with my abilities she recommends that I move on To the next grade.

I see. Sorry for assuming you were doing one of the classical curricula. Thanks for clarifying.
Posted By: Carey Re: Piano Grades - 09/12/20 10:22 PM
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
I have tried those courses but I’m not too fond of classical music. Not against it but I would rather play something more familiar. I am currently using the Rock school syllabi. I hired an instructor to review all of the recorded videos of me playing the various songs and exercises. In a sense I’m recording myself taking a test and she is reviewing it. Once she feels comfortable with my abilities she recommends that I move on To the next grade.

I see. Sorry for assuming you were doing one of the classical curricula. Thanks for clarifying.
Yes, that's a completely different ball game. I believe everyone here was assuming the OP was following some type of classical piano course. Grade levels tend to be subjective anyway - even with the classical methods. The Rock School method may be completely different. Perhaps the better place to post this question would be on the Pianist Corner - Non Classical forum.
Posted By: Animisha Re: Piano Grades - 09/13/20 06:24 AM
Originally Posted by Sebs
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Sebs
How long should the exam pieces roughly take to learn? Such as you want to sit for Grade 1 or 2 and you select your 3 pieces for the exam. How much time do you think it should take to learn the exam pieces? I know it's very subjective but I imagine if you're spending way too long to learn them maybe it's too far of a reach at the moment?
Sebs, the thing is, you can do just that, select three pieces for your grade 1 and grade 2 exam and learn them, and this should not take two years. But these pieces are supposed to reflect a general ability, and if you have only learned your exam pieces, just as Bruce talked about, then they are not representative of what you can do. And sooner or later, you find yourself in a grade that is too high for you, with pieces that are way too difficult, because you didn't do the basic work.
When I still studied within the RCM system, I got ten grade 1 pieces and studies "certified" before starting to learn grade 2 pieces. Not because I was obliged to, but in order to build my pianistic ability.

Say you want to sit for grade 1. You pick your three pieces should it only take a couple months to have them exam ready?
I think that apart from those three pieces, you need to learn some scales as well. But yes, if that is what you want, you could do that.
Posted By: Qazsedcft Re: Piano Grades - 09/13/20 06:42 AM
The Rockschool syllabus pretty much mirrors ABRSM in terms of technical skills so what everyone said is still valid. You might progress fast through the first few grades but don't expect it to continue at the same pace throughout the whole syllabus. I will just add that if you have a teacher who reviews your playing and tells you when to move on then you should rely on her opinion.
Posted By: zrtf90 Re: Piano Grades - 09/13/20 09:50 AM
The time it takes to learn a piece is immaterial; it's how you play it when you've learnt it that matters.

The time it takes to practise for a grade is roughly ten minutes, per day, per level. Around ten minutes a day for Grade 1 up to 80 minutes a day for Grade 8. Ballpark.

Practising more won't speed up the process because it's not about learning the syllabus material but growing as a pianist. It's about playing the material, or any material, like a Grade x student.

Listen to Pletnev, for example, playing Tchaikovsky's Album for the Young, mostly Grades 1 to 3 material. You wouldn't expect a Grade three pianist to sound anything like that but you'd expect a Grade 6 pianist to sound much more advanced.

Ten hours a week at Grade 1 is overkill and is more likely to engrain mechanical playing into the technique instead of natural movement and musical understanding.

Practise a short passage once or twice and sleep will find a more efficient way of playing it and make it more musical little by little. Practise twenty times with an untrained technique and you force an untrained mechanism to resort to artificial means to reach efficiency and musicality. Eventually your technique consists of the accumulation of artificial mechanical means that have been driven into motor memory instead of a natural and efficient technique developed without effort or consciousness.

Your idea of breaking up your practise session into a bundle of different things for five or ten minutes each is much better. two minutes may be enough for some of them at lower grades. It's doing them every day, five to six days a week,that does the job.
Playing from the score, from memory, from the imagination or by ear (from aural memory), are all useful techniques. Memorising small snippets, finger drills, aural drills, understanding notation and its conventions, the rudiments of harmony and the history of Western music all help but you can't do everything every day.

We don't necessarily learn classical music because it's better or because we prefer it. In truth we generally don't know much of it when we start but grow to love it because it has more depth than modern music. But we learn it because, apart from being out of copyright and cheap to acquire, it makes better music for learning.

Bach is fundamental to all keyboard technique whether you're learning piano, organ or synthesizer. He pretty much established modern fingering technique and no other composer does as much for developing independence of hands and fingers, or of hearing two or more different lines in their head at one time.

Classical music introduces greater rhythmic material and develops it tonally. It's the tonality of high classical music that defined the structure of a piece instead of repeat bars and da capo instructions. Where Bach took a snippet and played it forwards and backwards, harmonised it upside down, lengthened it, shortened it and so on, the classicists made variations on it using its melody, its harmony or its rhythm and changed the keys we heard it in, using tonality to give it greater emotional movement and significance.

The Romantic composers introduced greater rhythmic variety, greater harmonic variation and greater personal emotion. They reverted from the longer classical movements to shorter and more varied structural compositions, more intimate expression and more chromaticism.

We learn different things from different composers and different genres. It gives us something we can't readily get from more modern composition as these compositional techniques aren't used much anymore. That's why we use classical music.

I started piano lessons to move from guitar to keyboards in a rock band. I thought classical music was for orchestras but I came away a classical pianist.
Posted By: earlofmar Re: Piano Grades - 09/13/20 10:41 AM
Originally Posted by Pilotryan
Yes I agree but I also think that there are some shortcuts to speeding up the brain development...........

Originally Posted by Pilotryan
The grade 1 and 2 songs took a week or so to get down comfortably. I just stated a grade 3 piece yesterday. Seems tough as of now :-(. I would hope that any song at my appropriate skill level should only take 1 month at the most to get down if I play it everyday.

everyone would like to believe there are shortcuts, and it is not for the want of trying that many beginners have tried to find some. A secondary issue is the rapid progress one can make in the early years, this can be so deceiving. Add to this, if you pick your own pieces and get a few success's, you can talk yourself into believing you are grade 5 (or higher) by the end of the first year. But here is the rub, grades are meaningless whether you have sat formal exams, or just believe you are at a certain level. All that really matters is what you have gained through experience and there is no shortcut for that.

Since the OP wanted to know if they were going about learning piano in the right way, I would say yes from the description given, but only for now. As difficult as the first couple of years are, in hindsight they will one day seem like the easy years. Grade 5 and above (if you are taking formal exams) are increasingly difficult and this is why so many people drop out or just stop taking exams past a certain point.

Originally Posted by Pilotryan
If you play about 10 hours a week you should be able to get though each grade in about 3-6 months?

Ok for the first four grades I would say, perhaps even grade 5 (but not my experience). I currently aim for 21 hours a week, rarely make it, and still feel that is insufficient. There is just no comparison to learning an early grade piece when you can get the notes under the fingers in a week and a grade 8 piece that can take anything up to a year to reach a similar comfort level.
© Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums