Piano Music Difficulty Levels

This guide shares background information on how we determine piano difficulty levels as well as walk you through each level in the database.

Though we have a total of eight levels planned for the database, currently we have only have information for the first four levels, up to Early Intermediate.
You can help us complete our leveling system by becoming a sponsor.
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How We Determine Difficulty Levels for Piano Music

All works in the database are assigned a range of elements with varying difficulty levels. Elements are pedagogical concepts (technical, theoretical or musical challenges) contained within each piece of piano music. Classifying each works’ elements allows us to identify exactly what is present in a piece of music. This clarity helps teachers and students who search for piano music on PMD know if a piece is actually a good fit for their needs. After we’ve assigned all of the elements for a work, we then calculate its final level by taking the average of all element levels. We occasionally make final editorial choices on the level, but only when works fall halfway between two levels.

We believe this system is effective because it gives much more detailed information about why each work is placed into its level. The emphasis of this system is not on the level, but on a work’s underlying parts. Getting the clearest picture possible of a work’s components also helps with the search process. It allows you to more accurately find works that meet specific needs.

Continue reading below to get more detailed information about each level including the works and elements that best represent each level’s difficulty and range of styles.


Level 1 | Primary

The Primary level contains works are the easiest and simplest in the repertoire. Most primary level works are pedagogical in nature and feature unique notational systems to help students more easily grasp the basics of piano playing. Every element type in this level is foundational and introduced as its most basic and simple form.


Level 2 | Early Elementary

The Early Elementary level introduces students to playing and reading standard grand staff notation, using hands together and several expressive elements, while reinforcing the use of the five finger scales and simple rhythmic patterns learned in level 1.


Level 3 | Late Elementary

The Late Elementary level introduces students to playing chords, intervals larger than 5ths, accompaniment patterns and various techniques related to moving around the keyboard with fluency. Many of the most fundamental elements needed to understand piano music are introduced by the end this level.


Level 4 | Early Intermediate

Early Intermediate level works build upon the elements introduced in the elementary levels by using more difficult, fast-paced or nuanced versions of accompaniment patterns, rhythms, hand position shifts, melodies or expressive elements learned in the elementary levels.


Levels 5 – 8 | In Development

We are still working on building the framework for levels 5 – 8. You can help us finish these levels by making and voting on proposals. Learn More!