Music Grading System

Music is organized or ‘graded’ by difficulty level. Think in terms of skill set, not number of years playing.

Band String Orchestra
Grade .5 is music that your beginner student or elementary student would usually play through. It usually encompasses the first 5-6 notes a student learns on the instrument. Parts are simplified (quarter, half and whole notes and rests, doubling across multiple instruments).

Grade 1 is music usually played by more advanced elementary school students. May include the first full octave of notes on brass instruments, saxophone and flute. Advanced clarinets may play an entire octave. Some parts are doubled (i.e. bass line in the tuba and bass clarinet), but more parts are ‘split’ now (1st and 2nd clarinet, 1st and 2nd trumpet, etc…). Musicians are encouraged to be more independent. Concert Bb and Eb key signatures and their relative minor keys are the norm.

Grade 2 music is played by most middle school students and some younger/smaller high school bands. Parts begin to have more independence and less doubling (bass clarinet starts to become ‘another clarinet’ and not simply a substitute tuba line). The first octave and a half (or two octaves on some instruments) are played on all instruments. ¬†Add the keys of F and Ab and their relative minors.

Grade 3 music is what most high schools and some advanced middle schools are playing. Parts are ever more independent (little or no doubling) and all instruments are playing at least one and a half octaves (clarinets, flutes, trumpets play at least two full octaves or more). More complex rhythmic patterns happen as well as time signatures in 2, 4, 8 and sometimes 16. Add the keys of C, Db and G (and possibly others).

Grade 4 and above music is what most 10th-12th grade students and some further advanced middle school students are playing. Mature tone quality and intonation are required and there is virtually no doubling (all parts are independent). Extreme registers of the instrument (all instruments) are written into all parts. All key signatures may be used.

Grade .5 is usually your beginner or elementary student’s level of playing. It is usually the highest three strings and involves the first three fingers in first position.

Grade 1 music usually involves G and D major scales (1 octave) and will begin to introduce the 4th finger on the three highest strings. Bass and Cello are introduced to shifting. Viola parts will sometimes be doubled with 2nd violin.

Grade 2 music exposes students to more independence, as 1st Violin, 2nd Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass generally have independent parts. 3rd position is introduced in violin and viola as well as treble clef in some viola music. C, F and A are also introduced to the performer by this time.

Grade 3 music requires more musical independence from each performer, but may also demands full instrumentation from the ensemble (less and less Violin TC parts and more requests for an actual Viola!). In addition, different bowing techniques and vibrato are required for the student. Keys of G, D, C, F, Bb and A along with their relative minor keys are common. They also see many of the same rhythmic and time signature patterns their band counterparts encounter.

Grade 4 and above requires a mature sound, solid technique and control of the instrument for all players. All parts are independent. Players may be required to utilize specialized bow techniques and other effects on the instrument. All key signatures and time signatures may be used.

Grade .5 to Grade 1.5 Music