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#933889 - 12/10/03 01:13 PM What do grade levels really mean?
WynnBear Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/13/03
Posts: 698
Loc: Dallas, TX
Hi, I'm returning to piano after an absence of 30 years. I bought the Magrath book and find it fascinating reading, and a great source of suggestions for pieces to try out.

But some suggestions and help are needed, please.

The last pieces I was working on when I went to college and stopped playing are all listed by Magrath as level 10. I'm also a much better sight-reader than I used to be. I can do a credible job sight-reading level 8 pieces (the slower tempo ones that require skill with expression and voicing). I'm not saying I read at performance level, but certainly good enough to recognize the piece and hear its performance potential.

But I don't know what this really means. Does this equate to early advanced level? Late intermediate? ABRSM level? I see those mentioned a lot although I'd never heard of them until I found PW.

Also, I'm not completely comfortable with my recovering skills yet. I'm particularly unhappy with faster passages; just don't have dexterity back yet.

Any suggestions? More scales and arpeggios is all I can come up with. Any exercises that would help, e.g. Czerny, School of Velocity, etc?[/b]

I'm in a very time-demanding professional level job and participate in two choruses (I think this is what helped the sight-reading), so time is a very limited quantity for me, and I'm reluctant to try to add piano lessons and assignments to my already full schedule.

Thanks in advance,


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#933890 - 12/10/03 02:29 PM Re: What do grade levels really mean?
Archer1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/03
Posts: 41
Loc: texas
All the pieces in Magraths books labeled as level 10 are considered to be advanced pieces. She states throughout the book that certain works are not mentioned or suggested such as the Chopin Etudes becasuse the etudes "are masterworks in terms of musical substance and technical value. All, however, are beyond the range of this book in level of difficulty." She points this out in several places in her book. So if you can play level 10 (advanced) pieces with ease. Than why not venture "out of the book" and start persuing some of the great "masterworks" that goes beyond the advanced stage.


#933891 - 12/10/03 02:39 PM Re: What do grade levels really mean?
Archer1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/03
Posts: 41
Loc: texas
I forgot to mention, I belive the ABRSM goes to grade 8 which would be advanced and the RCM which uses the very nice Celebration series goes to grade 10 which is also advance. Neither one uses any material which would be considered as masterworks according to Magraths interpretation.
Three years ago I was at one of Magraths seminars and she gave handouts listing what she considered Masteworks. If I have time I'll hunt through my files and list the pieces she says goes beyond advanced. Also Magrath has her own 10 volume series of books - level 10 is advanced. Last I heard, Magrath is supposed to be working on levels 11 and 12 with her own masterwork selections. I recieved a note from Alfeds a year ago about levels 11 and 12 and they said they wouldn't be released for another year or two.


#933892 - 12/10/03 10:22 PM Re: What do grade levels really mean?
WynnBear Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/13/03
Posts: 698
Loc: Dallas, TX
It would be great if you could find that info in your files.

I started back to the piano in August as time allows.

Meanwhile, do you have any suggestions for recovering & improving speed and dexterity? [/b]

For example, I'd love to learn the Chopin waltz, Op. 64 No. 2, but find the rapid eighth note runs to much for me right now. Another example: one of the pieces I had almost performance-ready at one time was Mendelssohn's Andante and Rondo Capriccioso (Op. 14). I can do the beginning of the presto section if I'm very careful, but when the right hand goes into extended sixteenth-note arpeggios, I'm still stumbling all over myself.

Also I'm getting back my sense of hand position, but occasionally flub a thumb crossing.

Other than scales and arpeggios, any particular exercises and/or etudes that would help? Czerny?

By the way, my piano as a boy was a 1930 Wurlitzer studio with a cracked sound board. I just bought a Charles Walter console, and I'm really loving the music I can make. I just wish I was better at things that require rapid, clean finger-work.

Thanks for your help, Ruth. By the way, your e-mail is disabled, but I sent you a private message some time ago that you haven't read yet...


#933893 - 12/20/03 05:35 PM Re: What do grade levels really mean?
Pyano Teacher Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/02/03
Posts: 13
Loc: California

Have you tried to work on all those passages with rhythmical combinations of eighth or sixteenth notes?

There are many of them and their purpose is to experience all different (and difficult) rhythms and after that, when you go back to playing regular notes as they are written it seems so easy to play them.
You would practice, for instance, one group of four notes in different rhythms, such as punctuated notes (long-short combination and vice-versa), two long-two short notes (and opposite), one long note plus short triplet notes (and opposite) .. You apply this to entire passage, of course. There is much more in this and it is hard to explain details in words. Its much easier to do that with concrete notes.
If you are not familiar with this way of practicing and would be interested to try it, feel free to contact me by e-mail, and I will be happy to send you all the details.
I use this method with all my advanced students. At the beginning they are not very happy with any of those combinations, because it requires their full attention, but once they feel lightness in their fingers, they are pretty excited.
These rhythmical combinations will help you with improving both your tempo and dexterity. In a mean-time, just relax and dont panic if something doesnt work right away. Dealing with music requires a lot of patience.

#933894 - 02/05/04 05:43 AM Re: What do grade levels really mean?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4264
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi WynnBear,

Let's hope this submission doesn't prove old news. Nothing worse.

But why the passion for speed?

Your comment on the Chopin waltz, op. 64, no.2 tends to indicate that you don't need to pass any more boring grades. No wonder you get a bit breathless tackling the pio mosso in the Chopin waltz - but then so does Ashkinazy. Not only is the tempo immediately faster but speeds up to the point of recklessness.! Perhaps what you need is a little rest from this particular gem and as suggested by Archer1 to try another masterpiece to which you are attracted and provides just the sort of challenges you seek to regain your nimble fingering.

My one concern is the possible vain wish to beat back the years. Not possible.

In my book there is nothing quite like the carrot of a breathtaking piece of music to lure one on to greater heights, not necessarily settling for music that matches the hectic pace of earlier years. At all costs avoid the soul-destroying aridity of finger-studies by second-rate musicians.

Beethoven's Emperor Concerto does everything for me as does the Grieg, Schumann and Rach 4. How about Chopin? There must be some suitable undiscovered charmer amongst the wealth of Etudes, Waltzes, Preludes, Scherzos, Impromptus or Ballades - even the Nocturnes and Sonatas can really test the fingers. Well worth a visit.

#933895 - 02/23/04 05:42 PM Re: What do grade levels really mean?
WynnBear Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/13/03
Posts: 698
Loc: Dallas, TX
I decided to spend some time with the Mendelssohn Songs Without Words. These were all new to me and I'm finding them delightful.




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