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difficulty of different grade pieces


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#1 adultpianist

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 19:24

would it be true to say some particular grade pieces are harder than others.    Say for instance out of several grade 5 pieces, some are harder to learn?


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#2 Yet another muso

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 19:41

As there are many different elements that make up the difficulty of a piece of music, setting the grade levels of pieces is an inexact science. For example, how to grade a piece where it is easy to learn the notes and is in a simple key, but which takes control and maturity to voice the parts well and communicate the music. Since we all have natural strengths and weaknesses, the pieces we conceive to be harder will not always be the same as each other. 

 

While if you were to survey lots of candidates/teachers, you would find some agreement that certain pieces were considered generally slightly hard or easy for the grade, you would always have some people disagreeing with that view. For example, a piece that most people consider to be difficult for the grade might perfectly suit the strengths of some players and be the piece they can play best.

 

The inexact nature of grading is why a piece might be set on a syllabus on one grade, then reappear on a syllabus one grade higher or lower five years later, but if for example, a piece is set on grade 5 then reappears at grade 6 at a later date, the quality of the performance of that piece expected at grade 6 would be that much higher. This principle goes all the way up to diploma, where some repertoire which is technically only around grade 6-7 difficulty technically speaking makes its way onto diploma lists sometimes. If you played it to the standard you would usually hear in a grade 6 or 7 exam though you wouldn't pass!


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#3 jpiano

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 22:23

I completely agree with Yet another muso but would just add that for piano, in my view there have been some overly tricky pieces in the grade 1 and 2 lists recently. 


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#4 Aquarelle

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 12:20

I completely agree with Yet another muso but would just add that for piano, in my view there have been some overly tricky pieces in the grade 1 and 2 lists recently. 

 I also agree - and with jpiano too.


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#5 adultpianist

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 00:32

I completely agree with Yet another muso but would just add that for piano, in my view there have been some overly tricky pieces in the grade 1 and 2 lists recently. 

I think that depends what level you are at.  As you begin each grade, the grade seems hard until you master playing at that grade.


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#6 elemimele

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:24

I always think it must be quite tricky to pick good pieces for examination purposes. Not only will different people perceive a piece as hard or easy depending on whether their personal strengths coincide with the music's challenges, but also a piece has to be chosen so that it allows a wide range of candidates, with different levels of performance, to show what they can do.

 

If a piece is too difficult, it will degenerate into a test of whether the player can get to the end without tripping over too much; there won't be any opportunity to show musicality, interpretation, or understanding.

 

The whole concept of "merit" and "distinction" implies that it should be possible for a student with basic skills for the grade to play a piece with thoroughly decent competency (and therefore pass) - but the piece should still have a lot to give - a lot of extra room for improvement, accessible to someone who's just that bit more capable.

 

My revelation came with finding the largo from Ch├ędeville's 6th recorder sonata (attributed to Vivaldi) on a Trinity list, at about grade 2 I think; at the time I thought it a bit steep, but then realised that, played slowly (it's a largo!) and without any aspiration to doing anything too clever, it's not that hard at all. But the tune can also be shaped beautifully with careful articulation - it's not overly challenging to do this, but it makes all the difference. There are a couple of places where it's possible to introduce a little ornamentation, and there is a chance for some careful manipulation of tempo, so, within the capabilities that a typical amateur might muster, the piece can be played as anything between simple-series-of-notes-competently-reproduced, and a haunting lyrical melody showing all the beauty that the recorder has to offer. An inspired choice for an exam piece.


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#7 agricola

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 17:18

There will always be pieces which are 'just' Grade 5 and others which are nearly Grade 6 in the same Grade 5 syllabus but individual players won't all find the same pieces easy or difficult.  In the same way however hard examining bodies try to make the marking fair each examiner will have a slightly different opinion on a candidate's performance. 

 

I agree that Grade 1 piano seems to be getting harder -- or at least the 'just' Grade 1 pieces seem to have disappeared from the last two syllabuses.


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#8 Witzend

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 19:02

Must say that in the old exam books I've used, I've thought that some pieces were considerably harder than others. And that's even allowing for the fact that I know some people find some types of piece easier than others.

One that particularly springs to mind is Wesley's Vivace, in a grade 3 book. I always really liked it, but found it so much harder than other pieces in the same book. I went back to it a couple of years later, when I was more proficient, and still didn't find it at all easy.
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#9 linda.ff

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Posted 30 August 2017 - 16:39

There are "how" pieces and "what" pieces - "how" meaning that all the difficulty is in the expression, technique, timing, etc. while the notes are easy to get. "What" pieces have a lot of notes to learn but  you can hardly make a bad performance once you know them. Of course most pieces are somewhere along the spectrum between the two of these, but it does sort of explain why student A will find piece X easy and piece Z hard, whereas with student B it will be the other way around. 


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#10 EllieD

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 09:22

would it be true to say some particular grade pieces are harder than others.    Say for instance out of several grade 5 pieces, some are harder to learn?

 

I'm now finding the whole of this grading thing really confusing!!

 

I recently learned the Burgmuller Angelic Harmony (currently on the Grade 3 piano syllabus) and am now learning Scarlatti K323 (currently Grade 5). Yes, it is taking me a bit longer to learn the notes for the latter, but only because there are more of them. In terms of playability, I'm actually finding the Scarlatti easier than the Burgmuller since, as soon as I try to play the Burgmuller at a speed that's at all giving shape to the music, it is really hard to keep even as there is movement across both hands that needs to be coordinated. On the other hand the Scarlatti has nearly all the action in the RH and seems much easier from that point of view. So to me, the Scarlatti seems the easier piece, and yet it's set two grades harder!! Maybe that's just me and what I'm good / not good at, but it all does seem a bit strange!


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#11 fsharpminor

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 09:49

The worst case I know is the first movement of Mozarts F major K322 Sonata... LCM had it in grade 4 in the early 60's.  More recently its been in ABRSM Grade 8.


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#12 adultpianist

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Posted 16 September 2017 - 16:01

The worst case I know is the first movement of Mozarts F major K322 Sonata... LCM had it in grade 4 in the early 60's.  More recently its been in ABRSM Grade 8.

I bought the book of Bach Inventions the other day because I like the 13th invention.   I am going to try and learn to play it.   I was surprised that it is in the ABRSM Grade 6 exam book as a piece to play.   I did not think for one moment it was Grade 6 material.  At most I would have said it was Grade 5.    I am not a Grade 6 pianist and have never played anything at Grade 6.   However I am up for the challenge.


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#13 EllieD

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Posted 16 September 2017 - 20:29

I think the Bach inventions can be as hard as you want them to be ... try to get it up to a decent speed, and I can easily see why it would be Grade 6. I've only tried Invention 1 so far, and found it pretty hard to learn the notes as it's linear rather than based on chords - so that made it a bit harder for me in, but that might not be a problem for everyone. Good luck with it, challenges are how we improve!!


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#14 LearnerFlute

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 06:44

On the flute I definitely find some things harder than others. If a piece has to be played with a lot of emotion I have to work much harder at getting it to sound good but I get there in the end. If a piece has very fast passages then I never get there and end up having to slow down the piece ever so slightly to make it manageable.

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#15 Bang

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 08:24

Totally agree. The Merikanto Valse lente in Grade 6 is very easy. Any piece in Grade 7 represents a major jump from that piece.


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