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Stages of Piano Learning
Many systems of piano study are organized with 10 levels or grades. When you have reached a certain level, you can expect to be able to master any piece at that level with just a few weeks of practice. It is possible to learn a piece a few levels higher than your current level, but it may takes months of practice. Not only that, there may be technical challenges in the piece that you are not fully prepared for. In general, piano students can reach Level 1 after a year of dedicated study, Level 2 after two years, and so forth, but this is only a rough guideline.
Before you’ve even had a single lesson, you can learn to play a few melodies. However, you’ll probably be limited to one hand at a time, one note at a time, with your hands in one position. Examples include songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Lean on Me.”
Elementary Level Prep A:
At this point, you’re starting to add simple two-note chords, and can play a wider range of melodies. If you’re learning with Hoffman Academy, you’ll play “The Wild Horses,” which uses both hands together. You’ll also be able to play the melody of some popular tunes like “Linus & Lucy.”
Elementary Level Prep B:
Both hands can play together with increasing complexity. You’ve learned a few chords, like I, IV, and V7, and can use them in more complex rhythms as you play songs like “Jingle Bells” or “The Imperial March.”
Now you can play faster songs, and are incorporating more dynamics and expression. You’ll learn your first simple classical pieces, like “Vivace” by Gurlitt. Also tackle a growing repertoire of simplified pop songs, like “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten.
You can play songs that require more hand shifting, and you’ve learned to cross over and under with your fingers. Many simplified versions of pop songs are within your ability, as you’ll find if you give our Katy Parry “Firework” tutorial a try. In the Hoffman Academy repertoire, you’ve reached “Canoe Song.”
Level 2: A & B
You can play one-octave scales in a few keys, stretch your fingers to handle skips, and use a variety of chords. In classical repertoire, you’ll learn songs like “Andante” by Johann Christian Bach. You can also learn easy arrangements of songs like “Hedwig’s Theme.”
Level 3: A & B
Now your hands are more independent, and you’ve continued to master the skills you learned in earlier years. You’re playing the famous “Minuet in G,” and more challenging arrangements of pop songs and movie themes like “Duel of the Fates” from Star Wars.
You can play songs that include an octave reach, arpeggios, and constant hand-shifting, such as the lyrical opening section of Beethoven’s “Für Elise” and “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Your artistic expression continues to develop. Your fingers are comfortable with frequent wider reaches, and you can play four-note chords. You can learn to play most popular music and movie themes, like the theme from “Mission Impossible,” as well as many classical pieces, like the full version of “Für Elise.”
More complex keys and harmonies are now open to you. You can play more challenging classical music, like the famous first movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”
Now you can play music with large chords at virtuoso speed. You can tackle impressive piano solos like Jon Schmidt’s “All of Me,” which is the music I play during the opening sequence of every lesson.
Now speed and large chords are combined with quick, wide-ranging hand shifts. You can play advanced pieces like “Maple Leaf Rag.”
With virtuosic speed on double octaves, arpeggios, large chords, and fast hand shifts, there’s not much outside of heavy-duty classical repertoire that you can’t handle. Pieces like Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” are now within your reach.
Great Teacher + Dedicated, Hardworking Student = Success
If you are serious about maximizing your rate of progress, I highly recommend that you invest in a quality teacher. A great teacher will know when to push you to the next level, and will show you how to get the most out of your practice minutes. In fact, having a great teacher is the only way to achieve your maximum rate of progress. Read more about finding an excellent teacher in your area. Even with the right teacher, a huge factor in your rate of progress is simply the amount of focused practice you put in, week after week, month after month. Read more about learning how to practice effectively.
Learning Piano is a Lifetime Journey
No one should get discouraged if it takes them longer to learn. The joy is in the journey! Try to see your piano study not as something you’re doing just to reach a certain level of skill, but as something that’s meant to provide you a lifetime of musical fulfillment and enjoyment. For me, there’s nothing quite like being able to sit down at the piano at the end of a hectic day and play a favorite piece. If you’ve been waiting your whole life to learn the piano, please start today! You can get started for free with our Hoffman Academy lessons. It may seem like a long road, but in five or ten years, you’ll look back and be so glad you started that journey!