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Graded Repertoire for Students

This is the introduction to a series of posts on graded repertoire, to assist in selecting suitable pieces for students. I’ll be using the Australian Music Examinations Board Manual of Syllabuses as a reference point, however if you use a different examination board or live in another part of the world, these posts can still be relevant, as they will give you an idea of the level of difficulty of very well-known and loved teaching repertoire.

One of the things I enjoy about preparing students for Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) exams is the wide variety of repertoire to choose from at each grade level. I appreciate the flexibility that this gives me to choose tailor-made programs for each of my students. No matter how many students I have at the one grade level, or how many members of one family are studying with me, I can ensure that they are all able to study a wide range of exam repertoire -- and they only have to play the same pieces as their siblings if they choose to do so.

Of course, there are some standard repertoire pieces that I like all or most students to learn, because they have significant pedagogical value – at the intermediate level I’m thinking of works like Burgmüller’s Etudes Op 100 and Op 109, Heller Etudes from Op 45-47, and Kuhlau and Clementi Sonatinas, all collections of pieces which can be used across a number of grade levels. Some of these can then be used for exam purposes and there are so many of them in the syllabus that I can pick and choose pieces to suit each student and to give me lots of variety in my teaching.

The AMEB syllabus divides each grade into Lists of music. In the lower grades, there are three lists. In general, List A consists of etudes or etude-style pieces; List B features sonatinas, and List C includes Romantic and later literature. From Grade 5 there are four Lists: Lists A and B are the same as previously (with sonatas gradually replacing sonatinas), List C focusses on Romantic literature and List D features post-Romantic literature.

The AMEB Grade Book collections contain a wide range of repertoire and provide an economical and convenient way to obtain a variety of pieces. Often transfer students come to me with one of these publications, with the mistaken belief that they must play all of their pieces (including their extra lists) from that one book. I’m also likely to hear comments or concerns in this context that the student loves some of the pieces that they are working on, but doesn’t enjoy any of the pieces for one particular List and so will just have to ‘put up with’ working on a piece they don’t like.

Thankfully this doesn’t have to be the case - the syllabus is extremely flexible, enabling students to choose pieces from any of the works in the graded collections and/or in the Manual List. The so-called Extra List pieces, required from Grade Two upwards, should be of equivalent educational value to the pieces in the Grade Books and Manual Lists, but do not need to be taken from these lists, which gives even greater flexibility.

With all of this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to begin a series of posts looking at some of the repertoire collections I use in my studio and noting the Grade and List of any exam pieces that are included in the syllabus, especially in the Manual Lists. Repertoire collections represent value for money because the same book can be used year after year as the student progresses through the grades.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the AMEB Syllabus, the Manual List is the list of all the additional pieces that students may choose from for an exam, but which are not in the AMEB Grade Books. The excerpt at right is taken from the Grade Two syllabus. At the top you can see the list of pieces in each of the three grade books that may currently be used, as well as just a portion of the Manual List for List B. Each List has a similarly large number of pieces!

These posts will not present the repertoire in any particular order, but once I have completed a few posts, I will collate them into an index to make the information as easily accessible as possible for you. The information in these posts is taken from the 2017 AMEB Manual of Syllabuses. Please always check your copy of the Syllabus in case I have made any errors (and if so, please let me know in the comments below).

Previous post: Polyrhythms: Not Ve-ry Hard!

Next post in this series: Graded Repertoire for Students – Sonatinas