Learning an instrument is different for everyone. All musicians gain knowledge at varying levels of speed and accuracy. The piano is a very popular instrument for people to learn, and they sometimes want to skip ahead in their lessons.
You can skip some grades in piano, depending on the speed at which you are learning. If your piano instructor thinks you are ready to skip ahead, then you should feel confident doing so. However, some grades are more natural to skip, while others have core concepts that are imperative to learn.
In this article, we will learn what piano grades are, which you can or cannot skip, what age is the best to learn piano, and how to become an expert piano player.
What Are the Piano Grades?
There are stages or grades that one must progress through when learning the piano. Each grade teaches different musical fundamentals and skills. They vary in difficulty, each grade level being more advanced than the previous ones.
An examination board assesses grades, and the largest examination board in the world is the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). Exams consist of scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests (source).
ABRSM provides assessments, resources, and services for teachers and students. They cater to students of all ages and are continually updating their resources to keep to the highest standards.
ABRSM has eight grades of assessment. Each grade takes between 12 and 24 months to pass. These grades help piano teachers structure their lessons and figure out how quickly their students are progressing.
Grade 1 exams consist of scales and broken chords, sight-reading, and aural skills. Grade 2 goes over scales, arpeggios and broken chords, sight-reading, and aural skills. Piano grades 3 to 8 exams all cover different skill levels of scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests.
What Grades Should or Shouldn’t You Skip?
Technically, you can skip any grade when learning the piano. Still, some grades have more pertinent information than others that you should not skip, especially those early lessons that cover the fundamentals.
The first couple of grades in any program help a new musician form a solid foundation of musical understanding. These grades are essential if you have no prior knowledge of music.
Keep in mind that piano classes are flexible. A teacher can individualize the lesson to the student. There is no right or wrong way to learn an instrument. Music is an art, and no two people learn the same way.
Even if you are skipping a grade, you should always review any lesson with musical theory. Music theory is the study of the practice of music, and basics such as rhythm and timing are essential aspects of music theory.
If you have a background in music, the first couple of grades would be easy to skip. They teach the fundamentals of music, helping create a foundation for beginners but spend a lot of time on things that a seasoned musician would already know.
When deciding which grades to skip, look ahead at what the grade teaches. Skip any grades you or your teacher feel you have mastered. There is no good reason to spend a year or two learning things that you already know.
Why Would You Want to Skip a Piano Grade?
It is entirely logical to skip ahead in your piano lessons if you are a quick learner. If you are breezing through learning the piano, skipping a grade or two is perfectly viable.
If you don’t feel comfortable skipping an entire grade, try skipping a few lessons.
If you have a background in music, there are many aspects of piano lessons that you might want to skip. Theory, sight-reading, and other basics might be something you have already learned along the way.
You might want to skip ahead if you are feeling stagnant in your lessons. Sometimes learning a new instrument can feel very repetitive, and moving on to something new will inspire your creativity.
What is the Best Age to Learn the Piano?
As with any language, learning music is easiest for children because they are sponges for information. The way that a child’s brain is developing makes them ideal students.
The proper age to start a child on piano varies depending on the teacher’s preference, but children can begin learning the instrument as early as the age of four (source). The younger a child starts, the more ingrained it becomes in their brains.
We have all heard of musical child prodigies such as Chopin and Mozart. These musicians were successful in adulthood but started as children who performed and composed music.
A prodigy is a person under the age of 10 who produces output at the level of an adult expert.
Not all children can be prodigies; they must have a predisposition for the instrument from the start. Children simply have a better chance of becoming successful if they start at a young age (source).
It is imperative to make sure that a child is ready to learn an instrument before forcing them into lessons.
We have all heard stories of friends and family that hated taking music lessons after their parents forced them into it. Make sure the child is ready and excited to start, then take it slowly.
Of course, an adult can learn to play the piano just as easily as any other instrument or language. Learning the piano will be easier for an adult that is already musically inclined and knows how to read music.
It is not impossible for someone without a musical background, but it will take more time and effort.
Do not let this discourage you if you are an adult interested in learning. There are so many resources to help you along the way. Find a piano teacher that will cater lessons to your abilities.
There is no wrong age to learn an instrument. Learning anything new stimulates your brain and helps form more neural pathways, allowing electrical impulses to travel faster.
Taking the time to learn things at any age will help you to improve your cognition consistently. Young or old, learning piano is worth the effort.
Becoming a Successful Pianist
Learning anything new requires practice and lots of it. Practice as much as possible. Set aside dedicated time every day to play. Then, when you have a bit of spare time, play the piano some more.
Everyone has heard the cliche, “practice makes perfect,” and that is the case when it comes to any musical instrument.
Having a set schedule will help keep you from making excuses. It is easy to fall out of a habit, so make sure to have your teacher or someone in your home checking up on you. Accountability is the key to learning anything new.
Because children and adults have very different attention spans, it is important to set practice time to that span of attention.
Small children should only practice between 10 to 30 minutes a day, or as long as they are able to pay attention happily. Older students can practice between 1 to 4 hours a day (source).
Everyone learns differently, so cater practice time to your own abilities. It might be most comfortable for you to practice an hour and a half all in one sitting, but it might be best for you to split that practice time into three separate sessions.
The more you push yourself to learn, the more successful you will become. When you find yourself getting comfortable with the music you are playing, make yourself learn more complicated pieces. Never stop learning, and always challenge yourself.
Believe in yourself and never give up. If you are having a bad day, or are struggling with a specific concept, don’t be too hard on yourself. You might struggle with one lesson but flourish in another. You’ve got this.
Play in front of others. An audience will spur you on to play the best that you can play. Even a group of friends and family will help you improve your skills, and playing in front of people will help you perfect pieces you struggle with.
Learning the piano is different for every student. Cater lessons to your own personality and attention span. Create a practice schedule that fits your temperament. It takes everyone varying amounts of time to pass each piano grade.
You can skip piano grades, but be careful not to skip the core concepts. Music theory, scales, and sight-reading are extremely important for any musician. Make sure you know these concepts from front to back before you decide to skip them.
You can learn the piano at any age, and you can work around any schedule. If you are an experienced musician, fast learner, or simply bored, you can undoubtedly skip piano grades.
If skipping an entire grade is too much for you, look into skipping specific lessons instead.