For Back to School season, our staff writers HW and BP have rounded up the best graded piano music. Whether you’re looking to diversify your musical library, looking for supplementary repertoire or graded repertoire to suit your student needs, trying to keep your teaching fun and engaging, or trying to find material for how to learn piano on your own, our top recommendations for graded piano music cover a wide range of musical genres, and core musicianship skills. A link is included after each section to browse other arrangements in each series.
Grades 1–5: John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano
John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano is one of the world’s most popular piano methods. This modern course combines Thompson’s unrivalled clarity and pedagogical clout with a style and tone that will please learners of all ages. Designed specifically to engender musical thinking, this method includes helpful technical exercises, fundamental lessons in scales and music theory, and appropriately levelled compositions.
By following the first five books in the series, the student will discover sequenced technique and repertoire that covers Grade 1 to Grade 5, consolidating their journey towards graded learning targets. The books also come with exclusive access to demonstration and backing audio for all performance pieces, allowing for a speedier and more enjoyable playing experience.
PreTime to Big Time
The preferred piano course worldwide, Faber Piano Adventures‘ core mission is developing musical minds and hearts through a teaching philosophy and highly integrated curriculum that is built on five dynamics: pianistic music, deeper understanding, system with synergy, individualised learning, and choreography of piano technique.
Amongst Faber Piano Adventures‘ Library of methods and repertoire are the PreTime to BigTime books. Arranged at seven levels of difficulty, the series offers enjoyable arrangements of well-known pieces at precisely the right grade level. Musical genres include Disney, Hits, Popular, Favorites, Classics, Jazz & Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, Ragtime & Marches, Hymns, Kids’ Songs, Christmas, Jewish Favorites, Music from China, and the Faber Studio Collection.
Our top three recommendations
- For Scooby Doo and the Oompa Loompas tunes: Pre-Time Piano Popular
- You can’t go wrong with Disney!: Playtime Piano Disney Level 1
- A Little Sprinkle of Razzle Dazzle: ChordTime Piano Jazz & Blues Level 2B
Grades 1-5: Gradebusters for Piano
Gradebusters is the exclusive graded repertoire series from Hal Leonard. The series provides pianists with inspirational popular repertoire, expertly arranged to the grade criteria of the major examination boards. With free choice becoming an increasingly popular option for learners in their exam journey, Gradebusters provides pianists of grade 1–5 level with awesome music from artists such as Adele, Harry Styles, The Beatles, and Taylor Swift, as well as numbers from shows and films including Matilda, The Greatest Showman, Les Miserablés, Encanto, and Wicked.
Each piece is arranged to sensitively exploit the demands of the graded specifications to which it belongs. This ensures that students develop appropriate technical skills whilst remaining challenged and motivated. Each book also comes with practice tips for every work, plus online demonstration tracks for accessible learning. Continue to love music-making within your exam journey with Gradebusters!
Grades 2-5: Naoko Ikeda The Graded Collection
Naoko Ikeda: The Graded Collection includes 24 of her solo pianos works for elementary to intermediate players between Grades 2–5. Beginning with Shoukei (Willis Music, 2004), Ikeda has well over a dozen collections in print and individual pieces.
Hailing from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Ikeda grew up in a music-loving family. She began singing lessons at the age of four before taking up piano, developing her love for a wide range of music.
Naoko Ikeda performs Sakura from her Graded Collection
Grades 1-6: Graded Gillock
William Gillock remains one of the most renowned and respected educational composers for piano. Since the 1950s, tens of thousands of pianists have enjoyed learning via Gillock repertoire. The diverse and enjoyable musical style is imbued with ingenious pedagogical teaching.
Here, Willis Music presents an exclusive collection of William Gillock’s finest compositions, edited and matched to the grade criteria of the major examination boards by Andrew Eales. With fresh engravings and editorial practice notes, this inspiring folio collection will bring the joy of Gillock’s music to pianists of Grade 1–6 level.
Grades 1–5: Chester Graded Series for Piano
Chester Music’s Graded Series has been popular with teachers for their special arrangements matched to the grade criteria. A progressive course for the beginner player, the Graded Series allows students to learn a diverse range of Piano Solos from a great selection of genres. These have been carefully chosen with the specifications of the major exam boards in mind.
Included in the Chester Graded Series are two volumes of Ludovico Einaudi’s music: Graded Pieces For Piano – Preparatory To Grade 2 and Graded Pieces for Piano – Grades 3-5. Einaudi ’s pieces have been adapted to make them accessible to students, while retaining their unique beauty. Each piece is preceded by companion exercises which focus on specific techniques or musical ideas. Both books are further augmented by SoundCheck, a software accessible on any device, to enhance your practice. With a preface written by the composer, this inspirational collection brings the joy of playing Einaudi’s music to beginner pianists.