Piano Levels: Quick Guide to Piano Difficulty Levels

Piano Levels

It’s interesting to see the different piano skill levels.

You can figure out where you’re at and where you want to be.

You’ve probably heard terms like beginner pianist,  intermediate pianist, advanced pianist, etc.

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But, what do those levels actually mean?

In this article, I’ll dive into the different piano levels and what they entail.

Level 1: Beginner

Piano Difficulty Levels

Many things dictate a beginner pianist. Most people at this level have only been playing for a short period of time. While this level has some specific criteria, there are several types of beginners. For example, a beginner might choose to teach themselves to play or take lessons. The outcome of your skill level depends on your initial choices. Here are some beginner level characteristics:

  • Little or no sheet music reading ability
  • Imperfect technique
  • Small number of songs in repertoire
  • Slow song-learning process
  • A basic knowledge of notes
  • Overuse of the sustain pedal

Being a beginner pianist is tough. You’ll see many excellent pianists on the internet playing the songs you wish you could play. It’s common for beginners to feel like they aren’t making any significant improvements. However, if you’re at this level, you should never give up. Learning the piano aligns perfectly with the quote, “Great things take time.”

Beginners can be overwhelmed by all of the things they have to remember while playing. Some of these things include fingering, technique, dynamics, and pedaling. Regarding technique, the most common pitfall is using straight fingers.

When you play the piano, it’s best to have a constant finger bend. Many beginners are unaware of this technical aspect and get used to a straight-finger style. On top of a novice technique, beginners give themselves away with their pedaling. Many of them hold down the sustain pedal constantly, creating a waterfall of sound. To their misfortune, the human ear is easily fooled. Have you ever listened to a voice recording of yourself and thought, “Wow, I sound weird.” If so, you’ve already experienced this concept. We aren’t always aware of how we sound until we hear a recording.

The same thing goes for musicians and their sound. This sustain pedal overuse issue spawns because of the device’s innate ability to fix mistakes. Holding down the sustain pedal can create a warm and smooth sound. However, keeping it down through different chord changes is a recipe for disaster. If you ever need to clear out a room of people, just play the piano without taking your foot off the pedal. This method works every time.

Level 2: Intermediate Pianist

Piano Difficulty Levels

There isn’t a specific moment where a pianist thinks, “I’m finally at the intermediate level.” Getting to this level merely happens after a fair amount of practice. Pianists at this level have a good grasp of reading sheet music. They also have basic music theory knowledge and can play major and minor chords. Here’s a list of intermediate characteristics:

  • Can sight-read beginner and intermediate sheet music
  • Some music theory knowledge
  • Over 10 songs in repertoire
  • Developing technique and fingering

If you’re an intermediate pianist, you’ve made it past the hump. However, things don’t get easier if you still want to improve. The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t. With an understanding of basic chords and sheet music, intermediate pianists can learn songs in several ways. Some of these ways include internet tutorials, chord sheets, sheet music, and learning by ear. Chord sheets and learning by ear go hand-in-hand.

At this level, pianists have enough ear training to learn simple songs by ear. This type of learning can be very beneficial for all musicians. Some people can only learn by ear or with sheet music, which isn’t ideal. It’s best to experiment with both types of learning if you want to be a well-rounded musician.

Fingering and technique are a significant improvement in the intermediate level. Pianists start to understand fingering techniques and the tucked thumb. When tucking the thumb underneath other fingers, it allows pianists to play upward or downward as much as they please. This movement doesn’t feel completely natural in the beginner stage.

Intermediates also have a decent amount of songs under their belt. The more songs you learn, the easier it gets to pick them up. Let’s say a beginner and intermediate pianist start learning a song at the same time. A beginner might need 3 weeks to learn it, while an intermediate pianist might only need a week. This improved learning ability comes with familiarity with the piano. However, if you want to keep improving, you can’t settle here.

Level 3: Advanced Pianist

Piano Difficulty Levels

An advanced pianist has worked to improve their skills for a long time. They are fluent with sheet music, have great technique, and have a broad knowledge of music theory. It can take several years for a beginner to reach this level. Here are some traits that define a level 3 pianist:

  • Excellent sheet music skills
  • Broad music theory knowledge
  • Large repertoire
  • Great technique
  • Advanced scale knowledge
  • Highly-expressive playing
  • Great phrasing

Advanced pianists have lots of skills to work with and enjoy. Reaching this level takes years of consistent practice and a love for the instrument. A song that would take a beginner 3 weeks to learn might only take 10 minutes for an advanced player.

Players in this realm also don’t focus purely on learning the notes. Instead, they strive to make those notes sound as best as they can. Getting the most out of the notes comes from expressiveness and phrasing. Advanced players are excellent at shaping songs’ structures. Rather than playing note for note, they think in passages and phrases. Not only does this help with phrasing, but it also makes it easier to memorize long pieces. Advanced players also have efficient practice routines. They can learn a lot of material in a short amount of time.

How To Get To The Next Level

Getting to the next level may not be as challenging as you think. You can do it with this 3-step formula: consistency, efficiency, and having a plan. To get to the next level, you should practice at least 4 times a week. These sessions don’t need to exceed an hour, as long as you’re efficient. It’s best if you create a plan for yourself.

Though it can be hard to follow a plan rigorously, it can still benefit you and help you stay on track. You should include practicing scales, songs, technique, pedaling, dexterity, and fingering in the plan. However, too much focus on the technical details can burn you out. Remember, the most important thing is that you’re enjoying it. The ability to play songs is a very satisfying skill to have. On top of the self-satisfaction, you can also entertain people around you.


As you were reading, you may have appointed yourself to one of these levels. If you want to improve your skills, there has never been a better time. In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in people wanting to learn this instrument. By following the 3-step formula of consistency, efficiency, and having a plan, you’re sure to reach your goals.

Don’t get caught in the mindset that you have to practice for hours a day to get better. This thought process makes the hurdle grander than it really is. If you’re a beginner, start working on the aspects that classify an intermediate pianist. Do the same thing with advanced pianist traits if you’re an intermediate player. Though the art of music can be competitive, it’s to be enjoyed, first and foremost.


I am intrigued by how music affects the brain. I created this site to share my fascination with music in general and piano keyboards in particular.

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