Piano Guidelines

Home - Graduation - Piano Guidelines



Fluent Memory

Rhythmic Integrity

Accurate Pitch



Beautiful Tone


Appropriate Dynamics

Criteria for Piano Graduation Tapes

Here are some specific things the Trainers are listening for in the graduation tapes:

For All Level Pieces: Correct notes, correct rhythms, reasonable temp (by the time a graduation recording is submitted, it should be close to the tempo of the Suzuki recordings), steady tempo, fluent performance (no stops, hesitations or tempo changes). Occasionally a student does a beautiful performance with a missed or wrong note. What we are looking for is evidence of a solid, musical and fluent performance which sounds like the piece is easy and comfortable to play and that the student knows it so well and has played long enough to make music and not just notes. I say this so that you will not think that absolute perfections is the only acceptable tape. However, the goal should be complete accuracy and we feel that since there are several months to prepare the tape, accuracy should be a high priority.

Assuming accuracy of notes and rhythm, and fluent musical temp, points for the levels are as follows:


Minuet 2—Bach :  quarter = 116 – 144

  • Clear, even arpeggios in each hand. Music going to high G in m 2.
  • Good sense of pulse throughout the piece without accenting the downbeats
  • Clear triplets, in time, with a lighter tone
  • Legato repeated notes in m. 25-27
  • Dynamics change p to f in m. 17-18 to m. 19-20 and p in m. 29-32


Clementi  Sonatina Op. 36 #3:  quarter = 100-120

  • Repeat only the first section
  • Clear, even tone on all scale passages
  • Quiet LH accompaniment
  • Strong sense of downbeat and also beat 3 (sound like it is in 2)
  • Clear dynamic changes and change in feeling to dolce without change of tempo
  • Clear articulation – very short staccato, connected legato and attention to how the hands fit together and accurate length of notes as in m. 5-6
  • Trills should be soft, clear and measured. Suggest trill is ab ab aba ga with each group going with one LH eighth (m. 20)

Level 3

Two Minuets and Gigue: Bach 

(The Minuets and Gigue may be recorded on one or two tracks. Please perform all repeats in both movements except for the repeats on the return of Minuet 1.) 

Minuet 1: quarter = 116-160

  • LH very steady and softer than RH with a pulse on the first beat of each 2 measure group (feeling of being in 6)
  • Very even RH  with attention to the ascending or descending melodic line as in m. 2, 4-6, 14, etc.
  • Clear, light sixteenth notes in m. 16,25 and 39 played in tempo

         Minuet 2:

  • Care in playing note values so that overlapping tones are done accurately
  • We should hear the phrases
  • Grace note on the beat.
  • Possible ornamentation on repeats should be clear and in tempo

Gigue quarter = 132-160

  • Even triplets throughout. This is the main point
  • Maintain even triplets, RH must always come in softly
  • Phrasing must follow the line of the music.  For example, the first 4 measures are one phrase
  • Quick temp. this should sound like what it is, the grand finale to a whole set of pieces, a partita



Haydn Sonata 1st movement OR Beethoven Sonatina in F Major, both movements (both movements must be recorded together, on the same track/video)

Haydn Sonata 1st movement: half note = 69-84

  • Even steady triplets in either hand played lightly
  • Clear voicing to the melody
  • Clear, even ornaments played lightly
  • Careful attention to articulation and rests
  • The opening motif, which appears throughout, should be phrased to the 4th beat (FZ) and then to the downbeat for a playful mood throughout. The three repeated notes (as in m. 1) should be a decrescendo whenever they appear
  • Lots of attention to dynamics
  • Really Allegro Con Brio! – a brisk and exciting tempo, but very steady

Beethoven Sonatina: Please repeat only the first section of the first movement.


Mozart K. 330, 1st movement OR Mozart K. 331, 3rd movement “Alla Turca”

Mozart K 330, 1st movement quarter = 54-60

This movement incorporates so many points from previous pieces, for example:

  • 2/4 meter
  • Very light, yet rhythmic LH
  • Clean, even scale passages and arpeggiated figures
  • Dotted eighth/sixteenth and 4-16th patterns against LH triplets
  • Dynamic changes

In addition, pay careful attention to three areas:

  • Solid, steady beat—maintain tempo through the rhythmic changes, e.g., m.25-26
  • Rhythmic accuracy—exact duration of rests, from 32nd to quarter
  • All ornaments begin on the beat, as characteristic of Classical style

Mozart K. 331, 3rd movement “Alla Turca”   quarter = 112-126

  • Very fast tempo throughout
  • Section A  (m1-8) Lean on the downbeat in LH. Repeated chords are very light RFH go do downbeats. Build to high C in m. 4. Detach LH a cadence (m 7-8)
  • Section B (m8-16) Detached LH octaves. Clear phrasing and dynamics
  • Section C  (m16-23) LH m 21-22 bring out moving line. Careful of subito piano at m. 20. Clear trill
  • Section D  (m24-32) LH arpeggio to the downbeat. Light repeated notes. RH go to downbeat. Clear even octaves
  • Section E. LH as in section A. RH very clear and sparkling. Dynamics follow the shape of the music.
  • Section F (m40-48) LH as in section A then at m 47-48 detach and bring out the LH. Clear sparkling RH. Follow the shape of the music. Possibly detach RH at m 47
  • Section G (m88-95) LH as in section D. RH voiced to thumb. Upper octave note softly
  • Coda –  Careful articulation. At m 109 observe p and change texture until  m 116


 Mozart K 331 either 1st movement OR a fast movement of a Beethoven Sonata such as: 

Op. 2, No. 1 in F Minor (1st or 4th movement)

Op. 13 in C Minor (“Pathétique”), 1st or 3rd movement

Mozart K 331 1st Movement    Let the listener know what edition you are using. The slurs and different in different editions.

  • Theme played with a really singing RH. Care phrasing. This is an aria and should sound like one. Attention to SF notes and articulation.
  • Clear articulation and phrasing. Contrast in each variation when the alla turca portion appears. Octaves have bass note pulse and upper notes lightly


  • Clear singable ornaments.
  • Contrast each variation whenever the alberti bass appears, the RH is 3x louder than the left
  • Clean sparkling passagework with softer accompaniment
  • Tempo should be consistent Theme through Var IV. Then Var 5 Adagio and Var 6 which is faster

Level 7 

Longer Romantic Work, such as the Fantasie Impromptu, or 2 shorter Romantic works such as:

“Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” Op. 65, No. 6 (Grieg)

“Puck” Op. 71, No. 3 (Grieg)

Many of the Songs Without Words (Mendelssohn)

“In the Hall of the Mountain King”  (Grieg) 

Sacro Monte (Turina)

  • Clear Voicing to the melody
  • LH or accompaniment soft and flowing. The notes should melt together
  • Lots of attention to phrasing and dynamics
  • Appropriate pedaling. The pedaling should mainly be used for tone color and not blur the melodic line
  • Careful use of rubato

Level 8 

    Italian Concerto 1st Movement   quarter note = 88=104

  • Change of texture between tuttis and solo sections
  • Very clear tone and absolutely steady tempo
  • Very rhythmic feel
  • Attention to rests
  • Clear voicing to lead the listener’s ear to the important voice in each section
  • Clear articulation
  • Clear ornaments
  • Dynamic contrasts