Grading music (difficulty levels)

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Frank Nordberg
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Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Frank Nordberg » Wed Jan 16, 2019 3:29 pm

I'm finally done procrastinating and started work on publishing my works.

There's one problem though: we don't have formal grading by difficulty in Norway so I'm not familiar with that at all. Are there different systems for different nations or is it one international? And what are the criteria for the different levels?

Also, does anybody have info about grading systems for other instruments too?

Todd Tipton
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Todd Tipton » Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:38 pm

No one has yet replied, so I thought I would take a stab at at. I use the Royal Conservatory of Music Bridges, Guitar Repertoire extensively with my students. In addition to the separate books for each level, there is also a syllabus as well as a technique book.

Grading in general is somewhat subjective with each student having unique attributes. But overall, there is a great deal of objectivity and comparing your music with the material there should give you a very good idea.

I would also make sure you have the latest editions. The older editions certainly have a few great pieces not in the newer editions, but the work overall is an improvement. If one compares the older editions with the newest editions, it is clear to see that more difficult music has often been moved to higher levels and easier music has been added to the lowest levels. This pleases me very much. For 25 years, I've earned my living teaching frustrated students that have had music too difficult for them presented from other teachers. I see the latest editions as a serious improvement.

If I were in your shoes, I'd study those books. Use them as a guideline to grade your music.
Dr. Todd Tipton, Noda Guitar Studio
Charlotte, NC, USA (available via Skype)

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Julian Ward
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Julian Ward » Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:52 pm

You can't take music exams on musical instruments in Norway??
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:18 pm

There are several different grade systems in different parts of the world, in the UK the ABRSM and Trinity syllabuses get the main attention, Todd has mentioned the RCM, there is I think an Australian version too.

So there are no set, agreed, criteria and some of the systems have different numbers of grades. I would suggest you get all the syllabuses in PDF form and take note of the pieces therein that you know, that should give you a basic idea of where your pieces fall in the scheme of things. Be prepared for some surprising variance between syllabuses!

All the main exam offerings exist for the full range of instruments.

You could also post samples of your pieces and we could suggest the rough grades from that.

In the end I suspect for the purposes of publishing, working whether a piece or collection is 'elementary', 'intermediate', 'advanced' etc may be most of what you need.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:08 pm

Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

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Frank Nordberg
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Frank Nordberg » Fri Jan 18, 2019 11:14 pm

Thanks to everybody, a lot of help ehre and I think I got a fairly good idea now.
Julian Ward wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:52 pm
You can't take music exams on musical instruments in Norway??
We have formal high school and, of course, conservatory/university degrees in music. But nothing at lower levels than that.

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George Crocket
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by George Crocket » Sat Jan 19, 2019 8:41 am

Frank, don't forget the Delcamp Collection which is graded to support learning year on year from beginner to expert. :delcamp_ cool:
George
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Julian Ward
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Julian Ward » Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:07 am

Frank Nordberg wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 11:14 pm
Thanks to everybody, a lot of help ehre and I think I got a fairly good idea now.
Julian Ward wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:52 pm
You can't take music exams on musical instruments in Norway??
We have formal high school and, of course, conservatory/university degrees in music. But nothing at lower levels than that.
How strange? These gradings are not lower levels, they are designed to take a musician from beginner all the way up to the highest level. Past grade 8 you can take diplomas (UK). I find that remarkable that there is no grading system over there.
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Dirck Nagy
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Dirck Nagy » Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:22 pm

Julian Ward wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:07 am
How strange? These gradings are not lower levels, they are designed to take a musician from beginner all the way up to the highest level. Past grade 8 you can take diplomas (UK). I find that remarkable that there is no grading system over there.
Why strange? Some cultures value conformity more, some value individuality. There are obvious benefits and drawbacks to both. We don't have these "grades" in the US either.

Back to the original topic: Somebody, perhaps at a publishing house, has to decide whether a piece is included in a "Grade 4" collection or a "Grade 5". How does this happen? Are there criteria like publisher style sheets? Has anyone seen these criteria? Or is there a secret society which meets in the back room of The Eagle and Child in Oxford?

cheers!
dirck

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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by pogmoor » Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:34 pm

Dirck Nagy wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:22 pm
Are there criteria like publisher style sheets? Has anyone seen these criteria? Or is there a secret society which meets in the back room of The Eagle and Child in Oxford?
Known locally as the Bird and Baby :mrgreen:
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Yamaha (SLG 130NW silent classical guitar 2014).

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sat Jan 19, 2019 5:00 pm

Dirck Nagy wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:22 pm
...
Back to the original topic: Somebody, perhaps at a publishing house, has to decide whether a piece is included in a "Grade 4" collection or a "Grade 5". How does this happen? Are there criteria like publisher style sheets? Has anyone seen these criteria? ...
Not quite. Firstly, while its true the major exam boards, at least in UK (where grade exams were invented) are in fact quite major publishing houses (the ABRSM reputedly the largest in the country) they are first and foremost educational institutions which engage in publishing as part of that activity. Each is organised somewhat differently but essentially, each instrumental discipline has a specialist or specialists who draw up the lists. If there are any lists of criteria as such, which I rather doubt, these will not be made public. As far as one can tell its a matter of trying to improve on the old syllabus by maintaining some continuity while introducing some novelty. Occasionally, there will be a major overhaul of all kind of things, but most of the time its more a matter of tinkering. Its been happening for 4 or more decades for guitar, rather longer for other instruments, so I guess folks have some idea by now, not least those who have the overview and are in the position of giving the specialists some steerage.

When a publisher (non educational) decides to produce a series of books with some kind of grading continuity, similar things apply except that its not in their interest to describe the difficulty levels very fairly - which is a centuries old situation, hence all the 'very easy exercises' in e.g. Sor.

There may though be some downward pressure overall on exam levels given that the incidence of use of each piece on a syllabus is recorded and pieces that have little favour are likely to be dropped, and this may conceivably happen to more difficult pieces; but then there should be as little as possible variance in difficulty anyway.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

Dirck Nagy
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Dirck Nagy » Sat Jan 19, 2019 5:10 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 5:00 pm
...
Interesting history. Thanks!

cheers
dirck

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Larry McDonald
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Larry McDonald » Sat Jan 19, 2019 8:28 pm

Hi,
I've posted this before, but here it is again. I hope this helps.
This is my diagnostic review page, drawn mostly from the RCM guitar series. It helps me to define the students' level of development for the left hand, right-hand, rhythm, and musicianship.

It can also help you to refine your understanding of the difficulty of a tune; it can help identify the skills needed in each piece. But you should understand that a piece is almost always at multiple levels for each topic. For example, I would grade Sor's Op. 35 no.3 (study 10, pg. 17 in Noads' anthology) L-hand 4, R-hand 2, Rhythm 2, musicianship 4, [or 4, 2, 2, 4].

I resist averaging these scores (a "3" in this case) since the average score doesn't reflect the individual levels of difficulty. When I grade pieces I also include a value for tempo, in Op.35 no.3, the tempo =1.

All the best,
Lare

Diagnostic Review
Left Hand

Level
1 First Position, Pivots, Single-Fret Guides, Substitutions, "Just-in_Time" Fingering
2 Slurs, Easy Presentations, Simple Shifts, Extensions, Partial Barre, Melodic Arpeggios
3 Anticipations, Finger Exchanges, Multiple Shifts, Simple Barre, Nat. Harmonics, Contrary Motion, Hops
4 Grand Barre, Slurs w/pivots, 1 Beat Harmonic Rhythm
5 Mixed Presentations, Art. Harmonics, Scale Speed Bursts to mm=112 (16ths), 5 fret Reach
6 Shifts to Barres or New Presentations, Barre with Extensions, Hinge Barre, Double Slurs
7 Slurs w/Barre, Cross-Fingerings, Scale Speed Bursts >mm=120, 5 fret reach w/3 fingers, Weight Transfer
8 Extended Slurs with Barre, Harmonic Rhythm less than one beat, Continuous Anticipations
9 Continuous Presentations Through Changes, Cross-Fret Barres
10 Artistic Use, Editing

Right Hand

1 Chorale, Simple moving lines, Auto-Mechanism, Full and Sequential Plants (preparations)
2 Simple Mixed Textures (Chords, Sales, Arpeggios), Rest-Stroke w/Accompaniment, Alberti Bass
3 Complex Mixed Textures, Cross-Fingerings, Rasq. Mixed Preparations, Golpe, Tamb., Interior/Bass Melody
4 Simultaneous Rest and Free-Stroke, R-Hand Harmonics, Arpeggios mm=92 (16ths),
5 Non-Standard Finger Spacing, Scale Speed Bursts to mm=112 (16ths), Identify Melody in Accompaniments
6 Baroque Figuration, Extensive Arpeggio Changes, Tremolo Bursts
7 Arpeggios (16ths) and Scales Above mm=120, Melodic Inner Voices in Chorale Texture
8 Continuous Tremolo, Campanella
9 Tapping, Thumb Slap, Extended Techniques
10 Artistic Use, Editing

Rhythm

1 Simple Meters, No Divisions
2 Divisions, Continuous Sub-Divisions, Simple Dotted Rhythms
3 Combined Divisions & Sub-Divisions, Compound Meters, Syncopation, Mixed Tempos
4 Dotted Divisions, Simple Mixed Meter
5 Mixed Dotted, and Double Dotted Rhythms
6 Mixed Sub-Divisions, Extensive Syncopations
7 Complex Meters, Dense/Mixed/Dotted Sub-Divisions, Non-measured
8 Irregular Sub-divisions
9 Mixed Meter, Hyper-Metric Awareness
10 Isorhythms, Mixed Simultaneous Divisions and Subdivisions

Musicianship

1 Simple Phrasing, Voice Separation, Stile Brise, Arp. Simple 2-Part Accompaniment
2 Harmonies of Multiple Durations in 2-Parts, Dynamics, Simple Articulations, Ritardando
3 Damping, Multiple Timbres, Voice Exchange, 3-Parts, Simple Ornaments, Grace Notes, Vib.
4 Legato, Chorales, Articulations, Alternate Tunings
5 Implied "Off the Page" Articulations, Phrase Elisions/Extensions
6 Period Interpretation, Period Ornaments, Irregular Phrasing
7 Two Voice Polyphony, Cross String Trills, Large Legato Shifts
8 Projecting Harmonic, Form Awareness, Compound Melodic Structures
9 3 Voice Polyphony
10 4 + Voice Polyphony, Composition, "Classical" Improvisation
[/quote]



(@Vonseggern & Larry ... format for "8" & "9"corrected by MOD)
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
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Royal Conservatory Advanced Guitar and Theory Instructor

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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by Vonseggern » Sat Jan 26, 2019 5:47 pm

Thanks, this is great!
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Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.

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guitarrista
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Re: Grading music (difficulty levels)

Post by guitarrista » Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:14 am

Larry McDonald wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 8:28 pm
Hi,
I've posted this before, but here it is again. I hope this helps.
This is my diagnostic review page, drawn mostly from the RCM guitar series. It helps me to define the students' level of development for the left hand, right-hand, rhythm, and musicianship.
[...]
Ah, wonderful, thank you Larry! As I was looking through it, I couldn't help but notice that Rhythm skips over #8 and Musicianship skips over #9. Could you clarify on these? Also, how would you rate Tempo? (i.e. how would you "bin" it?)

Thanks again!
Konstantin
--
1982 Anselmo Solar Gonzalez

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