Is it OK to tackle a piano piece at level 4, 5 or even 6 when a person is at ease with level 3? 

26 March 2019
By Melanie Spanswick
Melanie Spanswick answers your questions every Tuesday.

Welcome to Q&A Tuesday with Melanie Spanswick! This is a brand-new series in which pianist, author, teacher and composer Melanie will tackle all your burning questions every Tuesday.

Our first question comes from Twitter. @triciagarcia31 asks:

Is it OK to tackle a piano piece at level 4, 5 or even 6 when a person is at ease with level 3? 

This is a common question amongst piano students. The answer: it depends on what you want to achieve. If you have a desire to improve your technique, then it might be a good idea to stretch yourself. Selecting a piece which is quite clearly too advanced for your current level of playing could be beneficial purely to work at various technical or musical elements. However, this must be done very carefully, and with the help of a good teacher, because otherwise tension can easily manifest, which may possibly lead to repetitive strain injury or tendonitis. 

I always encourage students to improve their technique by working at studies or scales. Sometimes practice time is an issue and students simply can't work at studies due to time constraints, therefore we work at improving technique using certain repertoire. But we probably wouldn't perform this repertoire in public, at least not for a long time or until the difficulties have been surmounted. 

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If the goal, when learning a more advanced piece than your current level, is to perform it in public, then I would suggest tackling something simpler. A tricky piece might be studied, played and enjoyed in private, but when presenting any work, you need to have thoroughly mastered both technical and musical elements. This is particularly true when taking an exam or playing at a competition. If you perform a work which is well within your capabilities, then the experience will be a less stressful, more enjoyable one; you will feel confident and will therefore hopefully offer a technically sound, musically committed reading. 

Join us next Tuesday for question 2.

Have you got a question you’d like to ask? Contact Ellie at [email protected].