The Intermediate Piano Checklist: What Level Are You?
At Cixi Music Studio, we’ve worked with hundreds of piano students, and we very often receive inquiries from hobbyists or young pianists who don’t know what level they are on. Are they beginners, intermediate pianists, or have they broken through to advanced levels of playing?
Very often there is no simple answer - you could have intermediate technique, advanced musicianship, and beginner-level sight reading skills. Contact us for piano lessons in Houston, voice lessons in Houston, violin lessons in Houston, and other instruments. We would love to work with you.
How Do You Know if You’re an Intermediate Pianist?
An intermediate pianist, generally speaking, should be able to play their scales confidently hands together, recognize all of the note values, play with dynamics, understand basic chord progressions and inversions, and sight read beginner piano music (a level below) confidently. This is an overgeneralization of course, and the gap between early intermediate and late intermediate pianists is vast.
Keep reading to learn more about intermediate piano benchmarks, and if you have any questions about taking piano lessons in Katy, TX, please get in touch!
What Technique is Appropriate For Intermediate Pianists?
Firstly, intermediate pianists should be able to play scales. You probably learned five finger patterns starting on C, F, and G when you were just starting piano lessons, so by now, you should be able to play full octave scales, at least on the white keys, with your hands together at a consistent tempo. By the time you reach the late intermediate stage, you should also be able to play scales like G flat major, D flat major, and other black note chords. That said, your teacher may disagree and think that you need to play every scale confidently before you can be considered an advanced pianist. That is perfectly fine!
You should also be able to play scales in the relative minor key of each item in the circle of fifths. For instance, the relative minor of C Major is A minor - if you’re an intermediate pianist, you probably know that.
Hands-together arpeggios also come into play for intermediate pianists. You should be able to play them confidently at a consistent tempo starting on different inversions.
What Music Theory Should Intermediate Pianists Know?
Intermediate pianists understand concepts like relative major and minor keys, the circle of fifths, whole steps vs. half steps, diminished and augmented chords (based on your knowledge of whole and half steps), and more. You should also be able to explain and play melodic, harmonic, and natural minor scales. Your teacher will also have discussed common chord progressions, seventh chords, and other common musical scenarios.
This is far from a complete explanation of intermediate music theory, but it will get you started.
Rhythm and Musical Interpretation For Intermediate Pianists
Intermediate pianists musc be able to count whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, and you should be able to subdivide with eighth notes and sixteenth notes as well (including dotted quarter and half notes).
Intermediate pianists should also be able to play a piece of music beautifully, with contrasts between loud and soft, artistic articulations, and more. That means you will need to identify musical markings like forte, piano, crescendos, slurs, staccato, and more.
Should Intermediate Pianists Learn to Sight Read?
Yes - intermediate pianists should already be practicing sight reading. Your teacher can show you exactly how to practice sight reading, but a general rule of thumb is to just get started! Pick up music that is much easier than your performance level, and try to play it slowly without stopping. You’ll want to read from the bass upwards, so you can identify chords and patterns as you go.
In short, if you’re an intermediate pianist, you should be able to sight read beginner or late beginner piano music with ease.
What is Intermediate Piano Repertoire?
There are lots of appropriate Mozart, Clementi and Kuhlau pieces that could be considered intermediate, if not late intermediate. These would certainly be challenging pieces for an intermediate pianist, but they include techniques you already know - lots of scales, arpeggios, inversions, and accessible key signatures.
Bartok also wrote a number of “graded” piano pieces appropriate for pianists with 2-3 years of experience, and the Faber method of course has lots of pieces you can learn in the later levels.