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LCME Piano Syllabus Overview and Teaching Tool Kit

Welcome to your essential resource for acing the London College of Music Exams (LCME) Piano Syllabus. This new blog series covers invaluable insights into technical work, supporting tests, and recommended repertoire to fully prepare piano students or teachers for the LCME Piano examination at every level. From getting to grips with new techniques to selecting the perfect musical pieces, read on to find out more and find a link to the right blog for you!

To read the correct blog in the series for you, please click the appropriate link below!

Pre-Preparatory, Step 1 and Step 2:

Grades 1, 2, and 3:

Grades 4 and 5:

Grades 6, 7, and 8:

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

General overview of the syllabus

There is much to commend within this syllabus regarding diversity and the selection of new, exciting repertoire not used in an examination syllabus before by any exam board. Arguably there has been a little too much of a move towards the less well-known in graded albums, but this is cancelled out when using the supplementary lists and the excellent Anthologies (four books covering two grades each from Grades 1 to 8) that were published several years and selected by senior examiner William Alexander. These books are highly recommended by the reviewers and provide some easier, less demanding choices for students if they are time poor due to pressure from public examinations. 

Given that the reviewers have had these books for some time, music has been tried and tested within our various practices which we hope will give a unique perspective for teachers. In particular, the panel has found that some music even though apparently accessible on the page was a little too musically sophisticated for students at the level set. Experienced teachers can wisely guide students to pieces well within their ability. The choice is vast, especially using the Anthologies. Overall, this is on balance a commendable syllabus that has much to offer. We hope the review will help teachers select a programme with students that maximises their opportunity to shine musically, technically, and expressively.

The following levels of examination are offered

Pre-Preparatory – At the level of approximately two thirds the way through a portrait first tutor book.

Step 1 – Suitable at the end of a portrait first tutor book and like ABRSM and Trinity’s Initial exams but with a different format (there are no aural tests).

Step 2 – This is a slightly more challenging examination than the other exam board’s Initial exams (again a different format). Grade 1 may not be required if this examination is taken.

Plus: Grades 1 to 8.

With 9 pieces offered in each A list but a whopping 16 pieces offered (occasionally 17) in all Grades 1 to 8 lists B and C, breadth of repertoire is not an issue.

Technical Work

There is still a substantial list of scales to play in the graded exams, meaning that after the ABRSM slimmed down their requirements in 2021 (like Trinity already had), students taking an LCM face-to-face examination will find the scale requirement the most extensive. A student can also choose to play a study instead of scales. However, students choosing to do a recorded graded examination, have lists significantly reduced (just like other boards) with the scales given in advance. Pre-Grade 1 examinations are structured differently with just exercises and then A and B pieces only. A small number of scales are given in Step 1 and Step 2.


The aural tests are like other examination boards tests with singing, marking pulse, recognising time signatures, identifying pitch relations and later grades cadences, styles of music etc. Interesting differences include identifying note values in a bar, singing notes in a triad and stating note names in a five finger pentachord. Later grade aural tests are very extensive, more challenging than Trinity but easier than ABRSM (in the panel’s opinion). The tests are the same as in the previous syllabus, but new sample tests are provided.

Sight Reading

There appears to have been a bit of an overview of this supporting test since the last syllabus with much clearer guidelines on the nature of the tests provided. Tests appear very accessible at all grades.

Viva (discussion)

A real strength of LCM is providing a viva element to all graded examinations and a Recital exam (if recorded) or if you pick that component face-to-face instead of a 5th piece or sight reading. This ensures that a student understands musical content of what they are playing as well as articulating what they feel about it, and how to tackle practising it. Comments about each grade’s viva are included in the specific reviews.

Types of exams

Face-to-Face Graded Music Exam: Scales or Study (two studies are required in Grades 6 to 8), and A, B and C piece (one from the handbook), aural, sight reading and a discussion (viva)

Face to Face Leisure Play Exam: Any 3 pieces from the grade repertoire list and or the leisure play pieces listed plus one own choice piece of the same level. There is no requirement for A, B or C or a piece from the handbook.

Face to Face Recital Exam: Four pieces from the graded syllabus A, B or C (no requirement to play one from each list). In addition, students can either do a discussion (viva), sight reading or an additional piece from the syllabus.

Recorded Graded Music Exam: A smaller selection of scales from the full graded list, an A, B or C piece from the syllabus or any other board. ‘Candidates are required to perform 3 pieces. All pieces must be selected from the set list from the relevant LCME grade or from the set list for the equivalent grade syllabus of another accredited exam board.’  Discussion (viva) – record answers to several questions provided about your favourite piece of music.

NB. All components are recorded separately and there is NO performance as a whole mark as with Trinity and ABRSM. The reviewers think this is a massive advantage to the candidate, as in the panel’s experience ‘performance as a whole’ marks can be incredibly subjective and variable. Also, recording in one take is incredibly challenging!

Recorded Leisure Play Examination: The same format as in the face-to-face exam.

Recorded Recital Exam: As in the face-to-face exam except only a 5th piece of a discussion is available (no sight reading). Discussion (viva) – record answers to several questions provided about your favourite piece of music.

Recorded Performance Exam: This is just 3 pieces from the syllabus however unlike the other examination this exam is accredited and doesn’t provide UCAS points.

Digital exams: these are also available for the different formats.


Katrina Fox

Currently running a thriving private practice of 50 students, Katrina teaches piano to students from 5 years to 70+. An experienced music educator, Katrina has worked as a primary music specialist and visiting music teacher in both primary and secondary schools. Katrina is a music theory enthusiast and currently enjoys teaching up to and including Grade 8 theory with students online from across the UK. She has recently launched the Play Piano South initiative which aims to provide non-competitive performance opportunities for amateur pianists of all ages.

Amy Wakefield

Amy grew up in Stockport and attended Chetham’s School of Music in 1999 where she studied the piano and violin. Amy received a scholarship to the Birmingham Conservatoire and now works as a freelance Pianist/Violinist and teacher. Amy has worked as a soloist and piano duettist in concert venues around the UK. She is a solo pianist Guest Entertainer on cruise ships, giving a series of classical concerts, and an accompanist for a variety of musicians/choirs. Amy has written book reviews for UK piano magazines and is currently studying towards her Master of Performance on the piano at the RNCM.

Karen Marshall

Karen is a private, peri and classroom music teacher working in York. Widely published with 26 titles to date (mainly for piano) including the Get Set! Piano Series with Collins Music, and Encore and titles in the Piano Star series with ABRSM publishing. Her award-winning Piano Trainer Series with Faber Music is now also published in China, and her 2022 release HerStory: The Piano Collection shines a light on 29 female composers and their accompanying stories. Devoted to teaching and to music, Karen is a passionate music educator with over three decades experience. A former pupil of the piano pedagogue Christine Brown, she is also special needs trained and on the British Dyslexia Association’s Music Committee.

Murray McLachlan

Born in Dundee and educated at Chetham’s school of Music and Cambridge University, Murray continues his busy career combining performing, recording, writing and teaching. He has made over forty commercial recordings and has performed on all five continents in a repertoire that includes over twenty-five recital programmes and nearly fifty concertos. He has written three books on technique for Faber Music, has written for International Piano for over twenty years, and has given numerous masterclasses as well as lectures and lecture-recitals. As Head of Keyboard at Chetham’s School of Music, visiting Professor at the University of St Andrews and tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music, Murray remains deeply committed to teaching students of all ages. He is founder and artistic director of the world famous Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival for Pianists.

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