The Thompson's books are divided by grade (first grade, second grade, etc.). Aside from that, I have encountered a pianist who says that he is considered to be an X grade pianist. What is this grading system exactly?

  • 1
    Are you asking for a list of grading systems or are you asking what system grade X is a part of? Your title and body ask different questions. Commented May 2, 2011 at 15:37
  • I've seen trinity grades brochures rank their grades against some "levels". Unsure of if those "levels" are what you're asking for. Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 5:36

3 Answers 3


There are various grading systems used throughout the world. Grades are set by various music organizations and are designed to reflect the difficulty of playing a song, or the skill depth and breadth of a musician.

In Canada, I took lessons from teachers certified by the Royal Conservatory of Music and followed the RCM's grading system, complete with songbooks of graded songs and examinations. (I got my grade 8 piano before stopping lessons).

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    This sounds vaguely similar to the British system (no surprise) which is dictated by several bodies. The larger of which I believe is the Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music followed by Guildhall/Trinity (which have merged) which offer board set exams in theory and musicianship (performance) from level 1-8. 1-3 is beginner, 4-6 is intermediate and 7-8 is advanced (iirc there is nothing beyond 8).
    – andy
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 15:03
  • @andy the diplomas are above grade 8
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 10:15

A frequently referenced grading resource is

McGrath, Jane. Pianist's Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature. Alfred Music, 1995.

It is a fairly comprehensive list of piano (student) repertoire with each piece given a grade from 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the entry point to concert literature.


The music foundations in various countries where developed to standarise music education. There are in most countries a couple of competing foundations. None you could consider canon.

In the US there has been a great reluctance to standarise education at a national level. If it is not expressily mentioned in the US constitution that an industry should be managed on a federal level then it is pretty assured it will not happen.

The idea of these foundations is not completely absent in the US. The AP music theory program exists to prepare candidates for college music. The later theory grades in other foundations form a similar role.

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