This question is mostly for teachers. From your experiences, how long does it take on average to reach Grade 8 from Grade 1 using the Exam Board ABRSM? I have now been playing for five years, and am only on Grade 3. Is this good or bad?

One year on, I have achieved Grade 4 as well, and am now a 13 year old. I am now working towards my grade five.

  • How old are you? – Neil Meyer Feb 23 '17 at 16:36
  • How old do you think I am? – VortexYT Feb 23 '17 at 16:41
  • If you are 13 years old I would think your progress excellent – Neil Meyer Feb 23 '17 at 16:49
  • That's actually a fair question to base answers on. Being a student (your profile) narrows it down to 4-30. How does guessing help? – Tim Feb 23 '17 at 16:50
  • It gives me an idea of the progress somebody would have made at my age. I know it would be primarily based on experience, but in my opinion, it helps as well. – VortexYT Feb 23 '17 at 16:52

You have to be either (1) highly motivated or (2) have somebody really pushing you (parent, spouse, teacher, etc.) to get to grades 7 and 8. After more than 60 years playing and 50 years teaching, my "comfort level" is still about grade four or so and I have to really push myself to play grade 6 pieces. But then I don't consider myself primarily a performer-- more a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and theoretician. If I had devoted the time to skill aquirement that I did to those latter things I have no doubt I'd be at 7-8 long since.

I've had students reach grade 8 in three years, and others never reach it in twenty.

As to whether what you've attained in five years is "good" or "bad," the answer is "neither." Value judgements don't help.


Adding to L3B's answer, the more talented one is, the sooner it's all achieved. Obviously practice time, quality of teacher, finances, also feature strongly. As a guideline, I said one exam per year, depending on results, of course was fair, but it's only a vague guideline. Everyone has different amounts of talent, time, motivation, etc., etc. So, if it's a spur you need, it could be said that you're in need of some extra work, but I'm not here to judge you! As the other answer states, I've had players pass grade 8 after 4 or 5 years and others who never got there, all from the same starting point.

It will also depend on how frequent/long your lessons are, whether you are young with 'loads of spare time', a 'married with kids, working man', you probably get the picture! Matter of fact, there's no yardstick, it's rather like asking 'how old will I be when I reach 5'2" height?...

Possibly a better question might be 'am I allowed to procure enjoyment out of the exam system?' Now, there's a question...

  • I don't believe in talent. – Neil Meyer Feb 23 '17 at 17:19
  • @NeilMeyer - really can't believe you said that! Make it into some sort of question. The answers will make interesting reading. – Tim Feb 23 '17 at 17:25
  • Read the suzuki books to know my feelings on talent. – Neil Meyer Feb 23 '17 at 18:12

Context is everything. You could characterize ABRSM grade 8 as being about the "entry level standard" for starting a full-time music training course (at a conservatoire or music college) with the objective of becoming a professional performer. That pathway is irrelevant for many people - particularly in "popular" music genres, of course.

With that disclaimer, progress of about one grade per year would be about average for somebody who did want to follow that musical career path - i.e. from Grade 1 at about age 8 or 9, up to Grade 8 at age 17 or so.

Since performing music is very much a physical skill as well as a mental one, adult beginners may well make slower progress initially.

  • ...and adults often find taking exams more onerous than youngsters do - they're out of the almost daily routine. – Tim Feb 23 '17 at 16:49

5 year to Grade3 is good progress. After that, you need some talent. Without talent, you will miserably rely on your teacher to shape each note in each bar, then muscle memorized them. In music, talent is everything. If music is not such talent demanding, we would teach piano side by side with math and reading in school. Math and reading is not talent based, so that every kids can grasp math and reading with some hard works. Like prodigies, zero-music-talent kids are also rare. So go forward, until you hit the wall.


Remember the old adege of it takes 10 000 hours to truly master a skill. Can you do that in ten years? Yes, if you practice 3 hours a day for 333 days of the year. Can you do that in 5 years? Yes, if you practice 6 hours a day for 333 days of the year.

I personally hold to the idea that there is no such thing as talent. There is nothing stopping anyone from doing music except an unwillingles to learn and lazyness. Being tone-deaf is a myth. If anyone ever tells you cannot do music, ignore them and get a better teacher

The only difference between you and the teachers at Julliard is in fact 10 000 hours of practice and maybe some theory work.

  • I thank you so much for your comfort! I am twelve. And yes, I agree there is no such thing as talent, just pure hard work! – VortexYT Feb 23 '17 at 16:49
  • Sorry, but I'm opening a book on how much this gets downvoted. – Tim Feb 23 '17 at 18:24
  • What do you mean? – VortexYT Feb 23 '17 at 21:44
  • Why? there is a whole school of musical education that shares this view. – Neil Meyer Feb 24 '17 at 6:48

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