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Are there any rating schemes for sheet music or music players?

There are a bunch of reasons why I'd like to know this:

  • Playing several inetruments at various skilled levels, I'd like to get a rough idea of how difficult a piece is before I buy sheet music
  • When having learned a piece I'd like to know which level I have reached playing that piece of music
  • When looking for a music partner we should be able to say how skilled we are before having played together to avoid disappointments for either side when starting to play

There are a lot of ratings in sports (as for tennis players, climbing routes,...) but are there rating for sheet music or musicians, too?

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For piano, a wonderful rating system is used by the G. Henle Verlag publishers. For example, Chopin's Ballade in F Major is said to have a difficulty rating of 8. If you follow the link, and then click "A note about the levels of difficulty" you can read more about GHV's difficulty ratings. I find this system very helpful when choosing new pieces.

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I'm a guitar tutor and will offer an answer from that specific perspective. Others may contribute regarding other instruments.

I'm not aware of any global rating for guitar sheet music. So if your question is, "I am considering purchasing the sheet music for Composition A by writer B. Can I have it rated?" then the answer is no. There is no one place where you can obtain a rating in advance for each and every piece of guitar sheet music.

On the other hand, if your question is "Where do I go to get sheet music at a certain rating level?" there are options. To take just one example, Trinity School of music has a set curriculum which lists the technical requirements for each grade and a selection of performance pieces to match. You can see the information here (Click the "Download the 2016-2019 guitar syllabus" link). And this is only one example of graded resources that are available.

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With regard to players: one of the benchmarks is the set of graded examinations set by the ABRSM. Other similar organisations, such as Trinity College, also do the same thing. By taking and passing one of these you are able to nominate a standard giving an indication of what level of accomplishment you have got. Its not cut and dried - someone with only grade 3 might be an excellent player who just hasn't bothered. Someone with grade 8 might have not bothered practising for the last 5 years and really lost their touch. But these will probably be the exceptions. If someone tells you that they are grade 8 on the violin then that gives you have an idea of what they can do. You can look at the pieces that they played for their exam and also the exercises and scales etc.

When talking about pieces then you can to some extent apply the same benchmark. Some outlets will mention the approximate grade you would need to able to play at when buying a piece of sheet music. Again not cut-and-dried but at least an indication.

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Most piano-music publishers who sell in the US give an overall level of difficulty for the books of 'collections' that they put out. If the book has the term 'progressive' in its title or subtitle that means the first pieces in the book are at the easy end of the whatever scale they are including and the pieces get harder as you go through the book. So if the book is labeled, 'Moderately Easy to Fairly Difficult," or "For Grades 2 through 4" you have a pretty good idea what you're getting into.

I've seen a few pieces of individual sheet music that give the same kind of info, but this is by no means common in my experience. If there's no info there, you need to look at the actual piece and try to judge whether your fingers are up to it or not.

All of this is only regarding piano. I don't know if the same sort of system is in place for other instruments or not.

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The various grading systems in place in some countries will give a fair idea of 'difficulty'. It's in inverts because the word doesn't absolutely define music. ABRSM, Trinity, LCM in UK (and around the world) has lists of pieces. Not that every piece ever written will be included! Only pieces that have been chosen for grading. Look through present and past syllabi, and there's going to be good guidelines.

Merely looking at a piece as a player should give a good idea as to its 'difficulty'. Asking teacher is another obvious.

Your second point is questionable. O.k., you can play a particular piece. But how well? I've sent students into exams and been surprised by the results - both ways! Maybe it was 'on the day', but you will have different criteria from another, so ...

Third point. In over 50 yrs playing with others, I've never been asked the question, or asked it. O.k., someone may have passed grade VIII, whatever, ( did), but it's only a tiny bit of the picture. I've played with people far better than myself, who couldn't pass grade III, mainly as it involves playing from music, amongst other things. There are also so many other factors that go with playing with others, not enough room in this answer!

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Found some rating schemes for music pieces:

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