So, often piano pieces are graded by difficulty.

Like, for example here: http://www.henle.com/us/detail/index.html?Title=Two+Part+Inventions+BWV+772-786_169

The editor has to say:

While assessing the pieces, it became clear that the medium level of difficulty (4–6) is the trickiest. Now and again this means that a piece is judged as a "3/4", even if it only deserved a "3" as far as piano technique is concerned. An example of such a "borderline" case (easy/medium) is Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood" op. 15 Von fremden Ländern und Menschen or at the other end "6/7" part of Bach's "English Suites". And of course within a main category there are also "from-to" evaluations (e.g. 7/8).

Okay, but how much time is factored in the evaluation? How much time is reasonable?

How much time are you supposed to spend on a piece approximately at your difficulty level?

Are you supposed to sight read a piece to say it's "at your difficulty level"?

Is it customary to spend a couple of hours on a piece or a couple of weeks? Months?

Let me be clearer with an example (and please take it as such): the Two Part Inventions are graded as "level 3".

It's a subjective grade in a scale the series editor came up with, fine.

I've recently started playing piano again, and I picked up the Two Part Variations myself.

In two evenings of practice (say 4+4 hours?) I managed to play tolerably the first half of the first variation - I'll tackle the second half tonight.

Does it mean the difficulty is appropriate for me or that I picked one that's too difficult and would be better served by something that I can play with 1-2 hours of work?

Thank you

  • It will help to know which country's exam system you refer to. Being a good sight-reader will mean any given piece will be quicker to play well.
    – Tim
    Mar 7, 2015 at 11:41
  • I don't refer to any specific exam system in particular. I'm just wondering how many practice a piece of a given, arbitrary, difficulty usually is supposed to need. Mar 7, 2015 at 11:43
  • IOW: if I can do a "grade 234767" piece in a gazillion hours, does it mean I am awesome because I can do a grade 234767 piece or that I suck because it took me a gazillion hours? How much time is appropriate and expected? Mar 7, 2015 at 11:47
  • Sorry, this question is way too subjective.
    – Tim
    Mar 7, 2015 at 11:54
  • @Tim: my question is related to the order of magnitude in terms of time spent on a piece that is customary and expected by players, students and teachers, in general. I've reworded it to downplay the specific example :) Mar 7, 2015 at 12:39

1 Answer 1


You build relationships with you pieces. You can compare it to having a girlfriend. If you only spend three weeks with one and then go on to the next one you are going to have some unhappy women on your hands. I would say that you should not expect a grade 4 - 6 exam to take anything else than 3 - 6 months to prepare for.

  • 5
    Interesting to know your average turn-around time for relationships. XD Mar 7, 2015 at 13:44

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