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LCME Piano Syllabus: Grades 1, 2 & 3

Welcome to your essential resource for acing the London College of Music Exams (LCME) Piano Syllabus for Grades 1, 2, and 3. This blog offers invaluable insights into technical work, supporting tests, recommended repertoire, and alternative works in the syllabus to fully prepare piano students or teachers for the LCME Piano examination. From getting to grips with new techniques to selecting the perfect musical pieces, read on to find out more!

If you’d like to view another post in the blog series, click here!


By Katrina Fox, Amy Wakefield, Karen Marshall, and Murray McLachlan

Grade 1

LCME Piano Grade 1

Headlines for the level:

  • Scales and arpeggios are more extensive than the other major exam boards at this grade, although a study may be performed as an alternative.
  • The Discussion supporting test contains unusual elements which will need to be carefully prepared.
  • Some lovely, varied repertoire at a suitable level, with a few outliers which are either too difficult or too easy.
  • Plenty of excellent alternative repertoire can be chosen from the Anthology, much of which pupils might already own in other repertoire books.

Supporting Tests and technical work, some thoughts:

The range of scales required exceeds that of other major exam boards at this grade. Three scales are required, hands together. Illogically, A minor which was required hands together at Step 2 is here only required hands separately, albeit two octaves. The presentation of scales, arpeggios and broken chords is very clear and user-friendly. As an alternative to the scales etc from memory, the prescribed study feels like an easier and more musically satisfying option.

The Discussion supporting test contains some surprising elements. “Explain which is your favourite piece and why” could be open to subjectivity in marking. Naming the different parts of the instrument, including pedals, strings, tuning pins and hammers could be very difficult for pupils who learn on a digital instrument. Describing good posture (sitting position, height of piano bench, distance from keys, basic hand position) seems an odd topic for discussion in a grade 1 exam.

Sight-reading test parameters are appropriate to the grade, with four examples being given in the book. Aural tests are also straightforward with identifying the metre and clapping the beat, identifying higher/lower notes with singing restricted to just a couple of notes, which will come as a relief to many pupils.

Repertoire

Musically Nutritious

A: Dance Song by Johann Sigismund Sholze

B: Das Kind ist müder by Friedrich Baumfelder 

C: Yerevan Mourns by Elias DavidssonAdditional: Children at Play by Béla Bartók

Safe Choice

A: Andante by Charles Henry Wilton

B: My Shadow by Chee-Hwa Tan

C: Tricky Traffic by Louise GarrowAdditional: Fairy Tale by Alexander Grechaninov

Recital, festival, or Concert

A: Dance Song by Johann Sigismund Sholze

B: Song of the Dark Woods by Elie Siegmeister

C: Boogie Woogie Bear by Anne Crosby GaudetAdditional: Pluto by Pam Wedgwood

Dance Song by Johann Sigismund Sholze

A really useful piece and suitable for the grade, Dance Song offers opportunities for discussing chords and inversions, which will help with learning the melody. Detailed articulation is supported by suitable fingering. Drawing awareness to the choreography of hand movements will help with developing secure position shifts.

Andante by Charles Henry Wilton

This approachable piece seems fairly easy for the grade, with the left hand remaining in a five-finger position and the melody consisting of simple patterns. The alla breve time signature may not be fully grasped at this stage; walking the beat whilst clapping the rhythm could provide a useful way to help a pupil experience the difference between this and common time.

October Song by Diane Hidy

This is a beautiful piece but too hard for the grade. Rhythms within the compound duple time are not straightforward, including rests and ties which make the coordination between the hands more complex. The suggested speed is rather fast, making left hand position shifts tricky.

Song of the Dark Woods by Elie Siegmeister

A very atmospheric piece, Song of the Dark Woods would make an interesting choice for pupils of all ages. The melody itself is not complicated but attention should be paid to the shaping. Tapering the left-hand phrase ends would also be a nice touch. With a pliable wrist, the left hand part-playing should be manageable. The thirds in the left hand will need careful practice and strong fingers to ensure that the notes sound neatly at the same time and are kept legato.

My Shadow by Chee-Hwa Tan

This charming piece appears more difficult at a first glance than it really is. Familiarity with D major scale and arpeggio will help with identifying these patterns in the music. A “recce” of the score before learning the piece will highlight where the left hand copies the right, where there are clef changes etc. Broken down into small chunks, this piece becomes much more manageable.

Das Kind ist müder by Friedrich Baumfelder

This attractive piece will have broad appeal. Teachers should ensure that pupils with small hands can comfortably play the left hand pattern using lateral movement to maintain the legato. Maintaining a stretched hand position must be avoided, with a buoyant wrist ensuring that thumbs do not bump! Attention should be paid to the use of accents. Encouraging a narrative conception of the piece might help with bringing the musical details to life.

Boogie Woogie Bear by Anne Crosby Gaudet

This jazzy little piece will appeal to children and adults alike. Whilst reading both hands in the bass clef might initially be disconcerting, once the triad patterns with their “blue” notes have been spotted, most of the note-learning will be done. Left hand notes are mostly on ledger lines but within a small range and moving by step, so should be manageable and provide useful practice in reading low notes. The use of percussive sounds in the first and last eight bars can be problematic for some pupils to coordinate. Clicking with the tongue has proved to be the least problematic sound to make for my own pupils.

Yerevan Mourns by Elias Davidsson

Receiving a “marmite” response from my own pupils, I find this unusual-sounding piece rather captivating. Appearing more difficult on the page than it is to play, the accidentals and clef changes are quite manageable given the slow tempo. The pedal is used for colour towards the end but is not technically demanding. The notation for this could be clearer however– there is no indication of when to release the pedal from bar 20, and the layout in the last two lines is quite cluttered. Pupils will enjoy using the very lowest range of the piano.

Tricky Traffic by Louise Garrow

This piece is very easy for the grade – it is hard to see how this is deemed comparable in difficulty to October Song by Diane Hidy. A pupil working at this level would easily dispense with learning the notes, with the mixed articulation and counting required being of limited challenge also.

TOP PICKS FROM THE ANTHOLOGY

Children at Play by Béla Bartók

A very suitable choice at this level, Children at Play is packed with musical detail. The different articulation marks should be carefully defined for the pupils in terms of the sound and movement required. Working hands separately will be required to ensure no details are missed. Putting hands together slowly in small sections, coupled with careful listening, will ensure no details are lost. This is an excellent piece for developing independence of the hands.

Fairy Tale by Alexander Grechaninov

This delightful little piece is quite manageable at this grade. Attention to the anacrusic nature of the phrases is important in shaping them effectively. Singing the melody will help pupils to develop a nuanced sound. A narrative approach could be taken to aid interpretation and make the most of the dramatic moments in the piece.

Baby Bossa Nova by Louise Chamberlain

This bright and cheerful piece appeals to pupils of all ages and is great fun to play. Identifying familiar chord and scale patterns will enable pupils to make light work of the reading. Time spent slowly playing sections of the melody whilst tapping the beat will ensure the syncopated rhythms are accurately realised. Attention to accents will really help to define the character of the phrases.

Pluto by Pam Wedgwood

A firm favourite with pupils of all ages, Pluto makes effective use of melodic patterns that enable independent reading as well as providing a useful opportunity to teach dotted quaver-semiquaver rhythms. A strong sense of pulse, either through counting aloud or tapping the beat will ensure that crotchets and rests are not cut short.

Grade 2

LCME Piano Grade 2

Headlines for Grade 2:

  • Plenty of ‘off-beat’ work and focus on rhythm
  • Difficulty level- verging on challenging
  • Challenges in music theory- this could be quite advanced for the level!
  • A high expectation of detail, for example in ‘La Puce’
  • A high expectation of co-ordination between the hands for Grade 2
  • A good variety of known and lesser-known composers but also in different musical styles
  • There is a particularly appealing selection in the anthology which is well-worth exploring!

Supporting Tests and technical work, some thoughts:

The scale syllabus, in comparison to recent changes in other boards, is ambitious, with a conspicuous absence of hands-separate scale work. This is in my view a little strange for Grade 2, however the choice of keys make sense generally. It would be nice to see more of a correlation between technical work and pieces (noted later on that a C minor key is seen; however it is absent here!). It is useful and a relief to observe that broken chords are still included nevertheless. Burgmuller’s La Candeur is an apt choice of study and should facilitate technical skill appropriately for this grade.

Sight-reading looks at a suitable level overall, however it would be useful to include some dotted rhythms as this is expected in the Schumann, so again more thought regarding correlation between extra tests and pieces would be useful to the learner.

An overall picture of this grade would be – plenty of pedagogical opportunity for teachers to work on with their pupils and a plethora of styles and techniques; however at times, it may verge on being ‘over-expectant’ for the Grade 2 level. Caution must be used from a teaching perspective, but as long as a careful teaching approach is taken, this grade will present much interest and ‘bring the pupil on’ significantly.

Repertoire

Musically Nutritious

Minuet in C minor from Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook BWV App 121 by Johann Sebastian Bach

Soldatenmarsch from Album for the Young Op.68 by Robert Schumann

Chagrin d’Enfant from Sketches of Childhood Op.27 by Flor Peeters

The Shepherd’s Song from ‘Les Chants et les Jeux’

Safe Choice

The Cheshire Cat from Piano Tales for Alice by Nikki Iles

Playful Plesiosaurs by Pauline Hall & Paul Drayton

Sweet Dreams by Kevin Woodin

Recital, festival, or Concert

La Puce from Album pour les Tout-Petits Op. 103 by Mel Bonis

Scherzo in F from Sonata [Divertimento] in F Hob. XVI 9 by Joseph Haydn

Zingaro Dance by Wynn-Anne Rossi

Minuet in C minor from Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook BWV App 121 by Johann Sebastian Bach

A classic work by Bach begins this varied selection in Grade 2. A tricky key for Grade 2 (worth noting that the C minor key is not covered in the technical section of the syllabus so may need addressing before you visit this!). However, many pedagogical opportunities for example work on the Chromatic scale towards the end, plenty of challenges in coordination with contrary motion movement and counterpoint. Certainly, this is an opportunity for learning!

La Puce from Album pour les Tout-Petits Op. 103 by Mel Bonis

An amusing title here in ‘The Flea’ which may present creative ideas in relating movement to music. Lots of attention to articulation (‘The devil is in the detail!’) will certainly aid this and crisp staccato will facilitate a ‘flea-like’ character. The middle, quaver section will no-doubt present its difficulties and perhaps drawing attention to intervals and analysing the pattern will help the student learn this with greater ease. An imaginative choice!

Scherzo in F from Sonata [Divertimento] in F Hob. XVI 9 by Joseph Haydn

Here lies a technical challenge (not for the ‘weak-hearted’ Grade 2 pianist! In fact, previously used in the LCM Piano 2006-2012 at Grade 3 level)! Semi-quaver passages require neat and even finger work, definitely needed from a particularly ‘nimble-fingered’ pupil. Nevertheless, a wonderful piece it is, full of fun, vitality and youthfulness. Undoubtedly, this will bring on the technique, especially the articulation skills of any pianist, at any age.

Chagrin d’Enfant from Sketches of Childhood Op.27 by Flor Peeters

A pretty piece in Ternary form as the first ‘B list’ choice. This presents an opportunity to analyse a 3-part texture and perhaps to create a different sound for each musical line. Maybe the pupil could imagine a different orchestral instrument for each one? It could be tricky to accent the off-beat at first, so perhaps practising without these initially would assist the learning process. Additionally, clapping the ‘on-beat’ and ‘off-beat’ in listening exercises could be useful as preparation. 

Soldatenmarsch from Album for the Young Op.68 by Robert Schumann

This is a quality-choice for the B section, however it is deceptively difficult for the level. It is an excellent chance to work on dotted rhythms, which often appear in Grade 2 sight-reading (mentioned above). A student will need a good, strong, sense-of-pulse to really achieve the march-like style. Perhaps marching in time around the room would help the younger learner or listening to ‘March of the Toys’ from the Nutcracker Ballet, while some conducting skills would complement the experience of learning this piece.

Summer Song by Pam Wedgwood

Pam Wedgewood presents an easy-going choice which will be enjoyable to learn and may be a good introduction to compound time (though tackled in haste, this may be theoretically advanced for the ability of this level?). A lovely chance to work on the analysis of triads and the balance of a melody and broken-chord accompaniment. There are plenty of tied notes and off-beat rhythms and to aid this, you might suggest playing the tied notes so to help feel the dotted crotchet beat and only when feeling this securely, adding these back in.

The Cheshire Cat from Piano Tales for Alice by Nikki Iles

A piece here with an opportunity for the creative pupil to ‘tell a story’. The music compliments this storyline nicely with plenty of pedagogical gems to explore. Again, work on accenting the ‘off-beat’, explored earlier on in the syllabus. It is nicely distributed between the hands, presenting co-ordination challenges and interest in both parts. Practise with the metronome and lots of listening to ‘swing’ in advance will be important to grasp the ‘Jazzy’ and fun style.

Das Wurstchen from Cat Songs by Vera Mohrs

Another amusing title in ‘The Sausage’, which may ‘strike-up’ interesting conversations about food (usually a ‘favoured’ topic in lessons with hungry boys!). It is important here for the student to pay attention to the different lines. The meat of the piece, so to speak, entails holding the dotted crotchets so not to break the flow in the melody line and attempting to ‘hide’ less important notes. Slow practise will certainly assist in achieving this difference. The introduction of ‘staccato’ in scales may help support the final flourish which ends the piece.

Zingaro Dance by Wynn-Anne Rossi

A challenging metre is presented in this rather humorous little dance. Counting the five-in-a-bar in groups of two and three will hopefully help the younger learner grasp a new concept of an irregular time signature- perhaps, adding some lyrics could be added to help with this process! Clear finger work will be advantageous in creating a ‘swirling’ effect and a very gradual increase of speed to assist with achieving the fast metronome marking. Undoubtedly, this would need to be followed cautiously otherwise losing the overall ‘dance effect’ could be a possibility.

Top picks from Piano Anthology 2013- Grades 1 & 2

LCME Piano Anthology Grades 1 and 2

List B:

The Shepherd’s Song from ‘Les Chants et les Jeux’

This is a beautiful little piece which is enjoyed by many, also used in ABRSM syllabus 2021-22. It has a charming melody and is accessible with plenty of appropriate challenges for the level. This is a good introduction to semi-quavers and understanding their value alongside other durations and a good opportunity to work on phrasing (for example taking time during the ‘commas’). It has nice co-ordination challenges as it is evenly distributed between the hands.

Sweet Dreams by Kevin Wooding

A loveable little piece here from the author of the infamous ‘Egyptian Level’. I have no doubt that this would entertain and enthuse pianists, beginning with a chromatic descent in the left hand and continuing with lullaby ‘calypso’ rhythms. Without a doubt, a good sense of pulse will be advantageous here, alongside a warm tone and careful balancing of the hands. Definitely a piece worth visiting, exam or not!

Playful Plesiosaurs by Pauline Hall & Paul Drayton

This is a fun and imaginative piece from Pauline Hall’s ‘Prehistoric Piano Time 2’. It is certainly designed to get a young pupil’s imagination going. It is not a difficult choice for the level, however theoretically one could argue that its 6/8 would give the level of understanding that a pupil needs. If they were to fully understanding the ‘2 in a bar’ feeling and also achieve the speed, this could offer challenge but with plenty of enjoyment!

Tango II (Habanera) by Matyas Seiber

This piece looks ambitious with its ‘two-page spread’; however it is reportedly much enjoyed amongst piano performers of this level. The tango rhythm in the left hand has repetition and therefore after some careful rhythm work is memorable and achievable whilst creating a well-projected right-hand melody. Lots of tapping, metronome and possible even using words to help achieve a reliable sense of rhythm will help to learn this piece with guidance from the teacher.

Grade 3

LCME Piano Grade 3

Headlines for Grade 3:

  • Beautiful melodies and ‘catchy’ tunes are used throughout! A lovely variety of music is to be explored here
  • Benchmarking is varied however it is suitable on the whole for the level
  • Technical requirements are significantly higher than other boards!
  • A high expectation of musicianship and expression will be needed in many of the pieces

Supporting Tests and technical work, some thoughts:

Another ambitious scale syllabus is expected for Grade 3, though similar to past years in other exam boards, whereas others have ‘moved on’ to reduce the number of scales. LCM have ‘stuck to their guns’ and kept in their syllabus a number of different keys and included 3 broken chords in each hand. Alternatively, one could choose the Czerny study, which doesn’t offer an ‘easy way out’! Quite the contrary, it includes a number of ornaments which will test the coordination of the performer when fitting this together with the broken-chord left hand.  

Aural tests look pretty-much, standard and include intervals which are tricky, but valuable to the learner. Intervals will also be reinforced in the discussion part of the exam but only ‘numeric’ examples will be expected.

So, thoughts overall for Grade 3? There are some very appealing musical choices and the learner will not have any struggle finding pieces they like in the exam book or anthology. The teacher will again need to take care to ensure the benchmarking will fit the individual; however with planning, this should be relatively straight forward. The technical expectations are high and a large proportion of practise time for this will need to be allocated in-between lessons!

Repertoire

Musically Nutritious

Canzonetta from Five Serenades for the Young Op. 183 by Carl Reinecke

Fallende Blatter (Falling Leaves) by Edmond Parlow

Easy Walkin’ by Eugenie Rocherolle

Zephyr from ‘Four Country Dances’ by Walter Carroll

Safe Choice

Tres Vite from Fantasia in E minor TWV XXXIII 21 by Georg Philipp Telemann

Dog Hungary by Sonny Chua

Rondo by James HookCha-cha-cha from ‘Melodie en Rhythme’ by Gerard Hengevald

Recital, festival, or Concert

The Song of Twilight from Japanese Festival by Yoshinao Nakada

La Gracieuse from 25 Easy and Progressive Studies Op. 100 by Friedrich Burgmuller

Highland Fling by William Christopherson

La Gracieuse from 25 Easy and Progressive Studies Op. 100 by Friedrich Burgmuller

The Grade 3 selection begins with another choice from the op.100 Burgmuller, this time used as a piece rather than as a study (as in Grade 2- technical). The ‘turns’ will require good technical facility of the fingers to create as leggiero feel whilst gaining a ‘security’ in the left hand when moving from one chord to another. It is a charming little study and lots of attention to detail, articulation and shaping will bring your pupil on to a great extent.

Playful Kitten by Ahmed Adnan Saygun

This ‘white note’ piece is an interesting choice, straying from the more expected ‘earlier A section works’ into the twentieth century. Pupils will need to take care over the difficult hand position changes in the accompanying left hand quavers. Articulation is scarcely mentioned and therefore one could experiment with different touches, firstly to enhance the ‘Playful Kitten’ character and also to help with the left-hand moves. Leger lines are used and also, both hands in the treble clef, so a challenge to the reader.

Tres Vite from Fantasia in E minor TWV XXXIII 21 by Georg Philipp Telemann

A catchy melody is found here, in this classic piece. This was previously used in ABRSM Piano Grade 2- 2013-2014 and could easily be thought of as Grade 2 level, however in this case, I am inclined to agree with its inclusion. Played well and with suitable finger work/attention to detail this could certainly be heard from a Grade 3 pianist and would be an excellent choice too. No articulation is included, therefore there is opportunity for teacher/pupil to decide on stylistic articulation, thinking about the keyboard instruments of this time.

The Song of Twilight from Japanese Festival by Yoshinao Nakada

A gorgeous piece indeed! This has a sumptuous right-hand melody with plenty of opportunity for the ‘musical player’ to show-off their expressive qualities and to explore different colours on the keyboard using pedalling and delicate balance between the hands. A feeling of space will need to be created whilst maintaining a steady pulse throughout. This is a wonderful choice and will be a sure winner to captivate your pupils!

Canzonetta from Five Serenades for the Young Op. 183 by Carl Reinecke

Yet another stunning melody here in the Reinecke! Many aspects of musicianship required previously will also be needed here! Lots of expression and a singing right hand is used to create this. Perhaps, there is a further challenge with the added arpeggiated element in the left hand chords. Certainly, Franke’s suggestion to practise these as block chords first would be advisable for the learner. Another great choice!

Fallende Blatter (Falling Leaves) by Edmond Parlow

A contrast to the previous B pieces and may suit a different type of pianist/pupil (a staccato enthusiast?). However, this still explores expression in its own way, whilst needing a very steady pulse in the right hand. Very light chords are needed here, and the balance is key to achieving the effect. Maybe comparing the left-hand entry to pizzicato-strings will help the student create a suitable sound and gain the ‘plucking’ movement. Pedalling is quite specific and will just need some extra attention.

The Eternal Vow by Tan Dun

It is good to see a more well-known choice here on the syllabus and though there is variety and plenty of imaginative choices, pupils may welcome a little more of this across the board! It is deceptively hard to create a legato line and a careful approach to fingering will be needed to as not to ‘break’ this. I would certainly encourage some practise without the pedal to gain connection using the fingers first. A feeling of ‘space’ and rubato to create some freedom would be effective.

Easy Walkin’ by Eugenie Rocherolle

This immediately ‘stands out’ as a more challenging choice for the Grade 3 pianist. The ‘swing’ style and off-beat rhythms will need plenty of prior listening work to understand this genre. Textures are also thicker and may benefit from some separate part-practise to help the learning process. It will be a tempting choice for the listener with its catchy melody, however they may feel daunted by its visual presence. Nonetheless there is plenty here to be used for pedagogical purposes!

Dog Hungary by Sonny Chua

This is a ‘funky’ piece with a bass-guitar-like riff in the accompaniment. As in any band, the bass is key here to gaining rhythmic security, especially with its irregular 5/4 metre. Lots of tapping, clapping exercises will be useful, and this will also help when the initial pattern moves into the right-hand (which could pose some coordination challenges!). As this is repetitive, much of the character is gained from the gradual crescendo at the beginning and sudden accents, so being very particular about these will really benefit the performer.

Top picks from Piano Anthology- Grades 3 & 4

LCME Piano Anthology Grades 3 and 4

List B:

Zephyr from ‘Four Country Dances’ by Walter Carroll

One of Carroll’s ‘jewels’ which never fail to inspire! A ‘Zephyr’ is a light wind named after the Greek god ‘Zephyrus’. There are many opportunities to explore harmony here through broken triads. It might be useful to identify the chords and practise these when learning the piece, as block triads. The ‘buoyant’ character will be achieved through feeling two-in-a-bar, perhaps using imagery of the pendulum from a ticking clock will help or even a conducting activity during the lesson!

Rondo by James Hook

A highly popular composer, James Hook is very appealing to the majority of piano pupils! His pieces have technical challenge, e.g., the Alberti bass section towards the end of the second page and achieving a good amount of clarity in left hand articulation/rests. This piece is excellent for ‘bringing on’ a student’s technique and plenty of preparation with scalic work is sure to help achieve the light, finger work needed to create the style needed.

List C:

Cha-cha-cha from ‘Melodie en Rhythme’ by Gerard Hengevald

A great piece for exploring ‘cha-cha-cha- and syncopated rhythms. It is lively and fun for the learner and certainly highly accessible. It is not a difficult choice for Grade 3 and might be a good ‘confidence-builder’ for pupils who might struggle with the more intricate pieces however they will definitely need to keep a strong sense of pulse through, therefore plenty of work on this (maybe lots of clapping?) could be beneficial.

Highland Fling by William Christopherson

Here could be a contrast to some of the other ‘Jazzier’ pieces in the set. It is fast and requires neat finger work. Co-ordination in each hand is tested, eventually coming together for rather a tricky section to negotiate with quavers in both hands! It may help to play the left hand as chords at first when adding the right before playing these all as individual quavers. The accompanying hand creates a ‘drone’ or bagpipe effect with a light appoggiatura to start each one.

By Katrina Fox, Amy Wakefield, Karen Marshall, and Murray McLachlan


If you’d like to view another post in the LCME Piano Syllabus blog series, click here!

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