How are repertoire assignments determined for piano lessons?

There are thousands of beautiful pieces of music that have been written for piano. Sometimes it seems that the choices for performance study are limitless.

For your piano lessons at UALR, your instructor consults several references in order to determine what repertoire is appropriate for your lessons. Traditionally, your lesson assignment includes a balance of music from different stylistic periods in music history (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, 20th-century, 21st-century), and popular contemporary music, but beyond stylistic considerations, your instructor is also considering technical and musical challenges as well.

Pianists may be categorized in terms of skill levels regardless of age: elementary, intermediate, and advanced are three general categories. In addition, references such as Jane Magrath's The Pianist’s Guide to Standard Teaching & Performance Literature assess student repertoire with a number indicating its level of difficulty, on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the most difficult. (Concert repertoire generally exceeds the difficulty of level 10.)

Magrath Book Cover

Your instructor will give you a choice of several pieces for each style period in music history. However, the choices will all be at approximately the same level of difficulty. Your piano study is intended to help you make progress in developing your piano technique and musicianship, and to expand your repertoire and the level of difficulty of what you can play.

In determining what music is suitable for a lesson assignment, the teacher must consider not only whether the piece is beautiful, but also whether the student has mastered the skills necessary to learn to play the piece yet. Some publishers produce editions of pieces specifically for study, in which all of the pieces within a volume are within a certain level of difficulty. Other publishers have volumes of music by a single composer, in which some pieces are very easy and some pieces are very difficult, and it may not be possible for the student to successfully learn every piece in the book until having mastered new technical skills.

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