We all know what a beginner pianist is, and we can generally identify a pianist who is “advanced.” But what is the nebulous “intermediate” category? When does it start and finish? How will you know when you are indeed intermediate? The lines are often blurred, and truthfully, you should rely on a qualified teacher to help you understand your level and what repertoire you should be practicing. But this blog, which draws from Jane Magrath’s “Pianist’s Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature,” will help shed some light on the subject.
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Defining Intermediate Piano Music
Intermediate piano music is a bridge between basic, foundational skills and more advanced, complex pieces. You’ll see greater technical demands, more complex musical ideas, and a broader range of expressive capabilities compared to elementary piano music. This level typically encompasses grades 4 to 6 in standard piano grading systems.
Students at this stage encounter a wider variety of keys, including more frequent use of minor keys and an introduction to pieces with more modulations. Rhythmic complexity increases, with more syncopation, changes in time signatures, and varied tempos. Intermediate pieces also introduce more complex chord structures and patterns, demanding a deeper understanding of harmony. An intermediate pianist will be expected to know their scales and arpeggios and be able to apply them to pieces of piano music, and they will need to identify accidentals and other bits of notation. Dynamics and expressions are also par for the course.
Examples from Intermediate Categories
Magrath’s guide provides an extensive list of pieces suitable for intermediate piano students, spanning various styles and periods. Here are some examples:
Classical Period: Pieces like Clementi’s “Sonatina in C Major, Op. 36, No. 1” or Beethoven’s “Sonatina in G Major, Anh. 5, No. 1” are excellent representations of the Classical era. They introduce students to sonata form, with clear structures and balanced phrases.
Romantic Period: Works like Burgmüller’s “Arabesque, Op. 100, No. 2” or Tchaikovsky’s “The Sick Doll from Album for the Young, Op. 39” exemplify Romantic music’s expressiveness and emotional depth. These pieces require a sensitive touch and dynamic control.
20th Century and Contemporary: Pieces such as Kabalevsky’s “Sonatina in C Major, Op. 13, No. 1” and Bartók’s “Romanian Folk Dances” bring in the flavors of modern harmonies and rhythms. They challenge students to interpret more abstract musical ideas.
More About Intermediate Piano Music
Technical and Expressive Development
Intermediate piano music demands more from students in terms of technique and expression. For instance, legato and staccato articulations should be natural by this point, and students will be expected to use pedaling techniques to color the music further.
Voicing, the skill of bringing out the melody over accompaniment, becomes crucial at this level. It requires finger independence and control, as students must play some notes louder than others within a chord or passage.
Phrasing also becomes more complex. Students learn to shape musical lines, understanding where to crescendo or decrescendo to bring out the musical narrative of a piece.You will no longer be congratulated on simply playing the right notes – they will need to sound good as well.
Preparing for Advanced Repertoire
Intermediate pieces prepare students for the technical and musical challenges of advanced repertoire. This level introduces various compositional forms and structures, such as the sonatina, which is a simplified version of the sonata. Understanding these forms lays a foundation for tackling more complex pieces later.
Choosing the Right Pieces
Selecting the right intermediate pieces is key to a student’s growth. Magrath’s guide assists in this by categorizing pieces not only by difficulty level but also by style and composer. This categorization helps teachers select pieces that align with a student’s interests and areas needing development. If you are a pianist who is “stuck in a rut,” get in touch – we would be happy to enroll you in our program and help you choose the right music to unlock your next level.
In summary, it can be tricky to distill your skills into beginner, intermediate, and advanced categories. But it is still a helpful exercise. The intermediate category is all about learning to practice more challenging pieces, sight reading at a higher level, play with more expression, and learn tricky technical passages. For piano lessons in the Upper West Side, in your home, or elsewhere, please get in touch.