All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (2023)

In today's video we are going to talk about the 3rd grade piano through the RCM and the ABRSM 3rd grade piano. These are two important grading, exam, and grade systems in the piano world.

We'll talk about the different categories of grade 3 piano exams: piece categories, the required technique, and hearing and sight tests. Below is a copy of the online syllabus which is free to use and contains all but more details.



Piano level 3 generally corresponds to the fifth year of piano as a child (often starting third year of piano as an adult, depending on how hard you work).

preparatory,1st classInNote 2Piano is all about the beginner level. You learn to read notes and rhythms with increasing complexity. Once you've completed this level, you should be familiar with most of the notes on the staff, be able to recognize intervals quickly, and have some understanding of the most common rhythms.

In 1st and 2nd grade, you begin to develop hand independence and hand style - such as the ability to recall loud and soft notes in soulful ways, or to play staccatos and accents.

Once that's done, we'll move onto 3rd grade, the first intermediate level. Grade 3 is considered 'early intermediate' and anything between grades 3 and 6 is considered intermediate. Once you reach 7th grade, move on.

In principle, in the third grade you should know all the basic skills. So instead of practicing rhythms and reading music, in 3rd grade piano we can spend more time on theory, history and interpretation.

3rd class piano: RCM en ABRSM

Level 3 RCM and Level 3 ABRSM are about the same difficulty, so I'm making a combined video of the two.

For RCM exams 3rd grade you have to prepare 5 pieces: 2 etudes (studies) and 3 repertoire pieces.
For group 3 ABRSM exams you have to prepare three repertoire pieces.

3rd class piano: List A

The RCM and ABRSM both have three categories for items at this level: List A, List B, and List C.

The pieces on list A in the RCM are baroque dances. There are a number of minuets, as well as other dance styles such as the gavotte, bourrée, and musette. Now is the perfect time to pick this upNotebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, as most plays start at the 3rd grade level and get progressively more challenging.

These dances are written in a contrapuntal style (primarily in two voices), which means they are great exercises for hand independence. Contrapuntal simply means that two independent melodic lines are played simultaneously.

List A combines both the Classical and Baroque periods in the ABRSM. There are some dances by Haydn, CPE Bach and Scarlatti, but you will also see a Sonatina by Clementi, which we will return to shortly.

I say this every time, but this is almost always the hardest category for students. Classical and baroque pieces are generally the oldest styles we learn on the piano and therefore the least known. They generally require the greatest dexterity and hand independence.

List B

Next is List B.

In the RCM this means classical and neoclassical repertoire. This is the first class in which the RCM separates Baroque and Classical into two separate categories.

There are a few different styles of pieces in this category, but it includes the main feature of the 3rd grade piano - the sonatina.

I think sonatinas are too hard to play for 3rd grade - they require a mix of really important skills and techniques, such as:

-scaled passages
-Cadence pattern
- Classic accompaniment styles such as Alberti bass

From the 3rd grade we can start studying Clementi's very famous opus. 36 sonatinas (namely the first). It's a big project, but it's really worth it.

When I was learning piano I was always frustrated with the challenges of classical music like sonatas and sonatinas. Those would be the pieces I put off. But once I could play them, I often liked them the most. They offer a lot of variety and are often very fast. They take a while to be perfect, but eventually they become great showpieces.

The ABRSM's list B choices are slightly different. Since List A included the BaroqueInClassical eras, list B is music from the romantic period (19th to 19th century).ECentury). Romantic music is generally very popular because of its eloquence and evocative titles (Hexentanz as opposed to the Sonatina in C).

List C

Finally we have list C's. They are quite similar between RCM and ABRSM - they focus on the modern 20'sEin 21stcentury pieces.

In this category you will find modern genres such as jazz and blues. You will find atmospheric pieces and character pieces. This is the category for Christopher Norton, Martha Mier and Mike Schoenmehl, some of my favorite modern composers.


RCM needs a fourthInfifth piece to be learned, called studies or etudes. These are songs designed according to a specific technical concept, such as light staccatos, works with fifths, chromatic scales, and the like. They can be old or new, sound whimsical, or sound more traditionally song-like.

You will encounter composers from Czerny to Bartok to modern composers such as Norton and Donkin.

pop music

The fifth and optional category in 2nd grade piano are pop pieces. I don't want to leave out this category! There is also a pop syllabus for the RCM that I will be usinglink here. In principle, it is possible to replace your studies with a pop song during an exam. You can play a pop song that corresponds to your grade or the next highest grade (i.e. 3rd or 4th grade).

You might think, oh, it's a pop song like "Let it Be," so it must be easier to play than these other songs. It depends, some of these pop songs actually have very complex rhythms and are almost always longer (2-3 sides instead of 1). But at the same time it is very fun to learn.

Basically, this includes any choice of repertoire for an exam. Now let's move on to the other major study categories!

Piano technique 3rd grade

Let's talk about the technique first. In the RCM, Grade 3 is the first grade where you have to play 2 octave scales with your hands simultaneously, which creates a bit of a learning curve.

Apart from new scales, triads and formula patterns in different keys, the only other significant additions to the RCM technique in group 3 are triads of 2 octaves (instead of 1 octave in classes 1 and 2).

In ABRSM you need to be able to play your scale hands togetherInseparately, same as grade 2. The only other change is that there are now arpeggios for some hands.


So we talked about the repertoire and the technique. This will make up the bulk of your learning and practice - but there are two other important categories that we shouldn't overlook:

sight reading and ear training.

When reading sight, a song fragment is spontaneously read on the piano. The RCM crosshair reading for this level is a lot simpler than the ABRSM - it's just a four bar passage and in simple and familiar keys like C and G major.

In the ABRSM, the notes can be up to eight measures long and in slightly more unusual keys such as B-flat and E-flat major.

With RCM, you have an additional hurdle in sight reading: you read/clap a rhythm while hitting a fixed rhythm with your hand or foot.

Then we do the hearing tests. With RCM, you have to listen to the examiner play something, flip back the rhythm, and identify interval distances. You'll need to recognize the difference between major and minor chords, while also identifying specific notes in the chord, such as the root, third, and fifth. And finally, you have to "play" a short tune that the examiner plays (they are short and can be operated with one hand).

For the ABRSM, in addition to a "sing-back," you must clap back a tune, repeating the tune played by the examiner. She also plays something twice that has a slight change in pitch the second time, and you have to pinpoint exactly where that change in pitch happened. You should also be able to do a listening analysis where she plays a short piece and asks you questions about things like dynamics.

Sheet music piano 3rd grade

Finally, let's talk about percentages, starting with RCM.

Pieces (list A, B, C): 56%
- List B is worth the most at 18% while the other numbers are worth 16%
-Additional 6% is allocated for memory (2% per song)
Technique (scaling, etc., but also learning): 24%
-All techniques are worth 12% and the two studies are worth 12% (6% each).
Hearing tests: 10%
Visibility measurement: 10%
Files: 60 %

Now let's look at the percentages for ABRSM.

Pieces (list A, B, C): 30 points each (total 90 or 60%)
- each piece is worth 20% of the total grade
Technique: 21 points (14%)
Visibility measurement: 21 points (14%)
Hearing tests: 18 points (12%)
Total score: 150
It takes 100 points to pass (66%).


In the syllabus, in each category (List A, List B, etc.) there is a big list of songs with all the songs you can play at level 3. Be sure to check this out - if you want, you can play 3rd grade RCM/ Buy ABRSM books as they have a good diverse collection of the parts and there's no guesswork involved - you know the parts will all be good.

Another way is to get books that contain these third grade songs - these books often contain songs from different levels, not just third grade songs. This is a good way to go if you want a more interesting collection of piano books, or if you want more variety than the pieces found in the 3rd grade books.


In the near future I'll be talking about my favorite 3rd grade books and why, so stay tuned.

Hopefully this has given you some general information about 3rd grade piano through the RCM and ABRSM - in the videos below we also discuss what to expect from an exam if you choose to go this route, as well as good books to read that I mentioned above.

If you have any questions about the 3rd grade piano or things I'd like to cover in a video, leave a comment below! I always appreciate your feedback and want to help you the best I can.


3rd grade RCM books

All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (9)
Celebration Series: Piano Repertoire 3
Edition 2015. Composed by the Music Development Program of the Royal Conservatoire. This edition: 2015 edition. Celebration series. Baroque, classical, romantic, 20th and 21st century. Method book and online audio. 40 pages. Published by The Frederick Harris Music Company (FH.C5R03).
All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (10)
Celebration-serie: Piano Etudes 3
Edition 2015. Composed by the Music Development Program of the Royal Conservatoire. This edition: 2015 edition. Celebration series. Method book and online audio. 20 pages. Published by The Frederick Harris Music Company (FH.C5S03).
All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (11)
Technical Requirements for Piano Level 3
Edition 2015. Composed by the Music Development Program of the Royal Conservatoire. This edition: Edition 2015. Technology. Technical requirements for piano. A book. 15 pages. Published by The Frederick Harris Music Company (FH.TRP03).
All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (12)
Four-star sight reading and hearing tests level 3
Composed by Boris Berlin and Andrew Markov. Edited by Laura Beauchamp-Williamson. This edition: 2015 edition. Ear training. Four-star vision reading and hearing tests. Book and online audio. 48 pages. Published by The Frederick Harris Music Company (FH.4S03).

ABRSM 3rd grade books

All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (13)
Exam pieces piano 2017 and 2018, class 3
Selected from the 2017 and 2018 curriculum. Composed by Richard Jones. ABRSM samples. Book only. 12 pages. Published by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) (PE.9781848498754).
All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (14)
Piano Ladders and Arpeggios, Grade 3
Studies, ABRSM exams. ABRSM scales and arpeggios. Education. method book. 8 pages. Published by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) (PE.9781860969157).
All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (15)
Piano practice sight reading, grade 3
Studies, ABRSM exams. ABRSM Sight Game. Education. Collection. 16 pages. Published by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) (PE.9781860969072).
All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (16)
Mock Listening Testing, Grades 1-3
New edition from 2011. Test listening tests (ABRSM). Education. method book. 44 pages. Published by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) (PE.9781848492516).
All about 3rd grade piano (RCM and ABRSM) - (17)
Example hearing tests, grade 1-3 with 2 CDs
New edition from 2011. Collection. Test listening tests (ABRSM). Education. Book and 2 CDs. 44 pages. Published by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) (PE.9781848492561).


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