Intermediate to advanced

May 15, 2023, 7:47 AM · At what level do you call someone an intermediate player and when advanced? And why does it take soooooo long to get out of that intermediate fase? It looks like years for the most of the players I know. And what can you do do to speed up the proces?

Replies (25)

May 15, 2023, 12:18 PM · The line between intermediate to advanced is quite subjective, but I usually hear people define advanced as being ready to learn the Bruch Violin Concerto or something slightly below it. I'm no expert, but I think it takes a while to get through the intermediate stage not only because it's such a wider ranging spectrum that encompasses several playing levels, but it there are a lot of skills learned in order to tackle more advanced repertoire.
May 15, 2023, 12:56 PM · Often the term "The Bruch Level" is used.
May 15, 2023, 1:19 PM · That's correct. I'm in Canada so I usually think in terms of the RCM levels, which are popular here. Bruch Concerto is a level 10 piece, with ARCT spanning everything from Mozart 5 and Mendelssohn to Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Sibelius concertos. I understand grading systems are not widely used in the US, which is why we tend to talk about levels in terms of what repertoire we play.
Edited: May 15, 2023, 2:34 PM · In addition to what Ella said, I also think it takes longer because other things such as school work or other extracurriculars start becoming more important as kids get older, and time becomes more divided. It has taken my daughter about 2 years. If she practiced more than 45 minutes a day, she may have advanced faster, but it’s important to have time to be a kid, too.
May 15, 2023, 2:20 PM · I totally agree with Sue. From your previous threads, I think your daughter progressed very quickly compared to other kids I know. I started violin when I was 7 (although I already had several years of piano lessons under my belt), finished Suzuki book 4 by my 10th birthday, and reached the level where I could play the Bruch concerto when I was 14 (didn't actually learn that concerto due to personal interests but that's another story), and I was already musically talented in some ways. I'm not a non music college student. From your previous threads, your daughter progressed in a similar fashion, if not a bit more quickly than me in the later years. It depends on so many things, including commitment, motivation, talent, and much more.
May 15, 2023, 4:51 PM · I think there are two answers to this.

Generally, anything Bruch and above is considered advanced in the overall repertoire, considering the early Twinkles all the way through the hardest concertos. I would consider intermediate Vivaldi a minor through Kabalevsky or DeBeriot roughly.

However, many people often refer to the concerto repertoire in another way. Beginning would be pieces like Vivaldi, Haydn, and all the way to Kabalevsky. Bruch, Lalo, Saint Saens, and even Vieuxtemps are intermediate. Any of the big warhorses (and modern concertos) like Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Sibelius, or Shostakovich are advanced.

May 15, 2023, 9:27 PM · I spent four years at the intermediate stage, and hated at least 80% of it. But those years were spent working on a lot of etudes and it built a solid foundation that allowed me to learn advanced repertoire quite rapidly.
May 16, 2023, 1:12 AM · How to get through intermediate fast? Etude, scales, arpeggios. The more you willing to practice unpleasant materials and get the attitude (discipline) right, the faster you'll go through the intermediate level.
Edited: May 16, 2023, 1:38 AM · You speed up anything by practising properly.

Those categories are market-force-driven and arbitrary to some extent (in language classes they will invent as many such categories as necessary to distribute the numerous applicants and their money among the teachers available), and if you think of yourself as being in such a category it's like making yourself think you are in a rut when you aren't. If you simply improve every month linearly you'll reach the heights without having to assign yourself to a self-condemning category. This is why the ABRSM can be useful - grades go "linearly" from 1-8 but you can regard associate diploma level as grade 9 (especially if you go up a grade a year, since the associate diploma seems to come about a year after grade 8) and then imagine a grade 10 above that. In fact some methods have grade 10 and above. Technically ABRSM rates something like grades 5-7 as intermediate and everything above as advanced, but I'd suggest that was irrelevant if it was getting you down.

(I often see this question asked in language/literature forums. I have a tongue-in-cheek definition I invented - you are a beginner if you spend most of your time asking, what's the author saying? You are advanced if you spend most of your time asking, why is the author saying it?)

Edited: May 16, 2023, 1:40 AM · The student repertoire was created as part of the Geneva Convention Against the Torture of Fine Concerti.

To Gordon's point, it's about how you play whatever you play, and that's something that can't really be disguised, even if I'm somewhat cynical about the credulity of most audiences.

Edited: May 16, 2023, 2:38 AM · It's much harder to advance "linearly" in the intermediate range than in the beginner range, though. At that point you're spending most of your time refining or extending techniques you already know the basics of, rather than learning completely new techniques, so making progress requires more attention to detail and the progress you make is harder to see in the short term.
May 16, 2023, 2:59 AM · "However, many people often refer to the concerto repertoire in another way. Beginning would be pieces like Vivaldi, Haydn, and all the way to Kabalevsky. Bruch, Lalo, Saint Saens, and even Vieuxtemps are intermediate. Any of the big warhorses (and modern concertos) like Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Sibelius, or Shostakovich are advanced."

I'm probably wrong but for me the Beethoven concerto is much more playable than those of Saint Saens and Vieuxtemps.
We can of course say that it is more demanding in terms of "musicality". (even if many examples of recordings by very young violinists prove that musical genius does not wait for age..)

Edited: May 16, 2023, 2:11 PM · Alexandre, yes, the Beethoven is easier to play note-wise, but given its musicality demands as well as its breadth, I think it earns a place in the higher category. Technically, most of the Mozart concerti could easily be put in the beginning category, but I wouldn't put them there either for the same reason. You need a pretty mature sense of style and musicality to play Mozart and Beethoven well.
May 16, 2023, 6:53 AM · If you want a solidly Mozart-level-or-above piece to work on, and your teacher thinks you're not "mature" enough for Mozart, there are solid concertos by Viotti (No. 22, for instance) or Spohr (No. 2). Technically, Viotti 22 is harder than Mozart 3.
May 16, 2023, 7:05 AM · What Christian said.

How about we define (late) beginner, intermediate and advanced by how someone plays a piece common to all rather than by the technical difficulty of the piece? For example, listen to Itzhak Perlman (Concertos from my childhood) play the Andante from the Violin Concerto in B Minor, Op. 35.

IMO defining playing levels by concerto might be very useful to the teaching process - but it is not useful at all to the business end, and that is the listening one. I have heard virtuosically-technically brilliant violinists who could play the whole gamut that make me want to run screaming from the auditorium. And I have heard the opposite, ones that played simple songs and brought me to tears with subtle nuance and might-bending projection. Which one of these is 'advanced' and a 'beginner' in the ears of the audience - which we here too often forget is the actual purpose of playing an instrument.

Edited: May 16, 2023, 7:29 AM · In reply to Elise point, which I think is very sound.

For me this is what advanced is all about, beautiful playing that people want to listen to.

May 16, 2023, 8:42 AM · Ron - what a great example!
May 16, 2023, 8:55 AM · I was going to post this. It's ABRSM grade 5.
May 16, 2023, 9:17 AM · Ron Black writes, "beautiful playing that people want to listen to."

That suggests that the performance determines the stage. And here's the real kicker: if you want to reach the next level in your playing, make sure your teacher is performing at that stage.

May 16, 2023, 10:06 AM · To what Elise said, I do think that the ability to play more difficult pieces well, is what I think of, when I think of 'advanced'. I would consider someone who is technically competent to be advanced, whether I want to listen to them or not (which is somewhat subjective anyway). There are plenty of compositions that get on my last nerve, and I find unpleasant to listen to, but that doesn't take away from the technical merits of such compositions.
Edited: May 16, 2023, 1:09 PM · The distinction is arbitrary. Intermediate level could start at book 2 of any method series. To my mind, advanced means being able to perform a major concerto or win a pro orchestra audition. That makes me intermediate. There are lots of things I cannot do. Apocryphal (?) story; when Leopold Auer was asked by one of his lesser students "How am I doing", the answer was "there are 3 kinds of violinists; those that can play, those that play badly, and those that can't play at all. You have advanced to the second stage."
Edited: May 16, 2023, 1:55 PM · If I were to look at the website, and examine the maximum level of music that I could truly perform well, in such a way that other people would enjoy, my peak technical skill level would be about two levels above that. However, I would never choose to perform music at my peak skill level.

So how should we define this? Should we define your skill level to be the level that you could perform well, or your peak skill level. I think I have the ability to perform the Mozart 5th Concerto, quite well, in a way that others would enjoy. Am I advanced? I have no idea. Would you enjoy my performance of the Bruch violin Concerto? Probably not. However, I could work to the point where it was reasonably accurate.

And let's be honest with ourselves: if we are going to define our skill level as the level that we can perform well, then the majority of us would have to admit, we are simply intermediate.

Edited: May 17, 2023, 12:17 AM · They're just words! I don't think multifaceted human skills can or should ever be quantified so simplistically.
May 17, 2023, 4:53 PM · There is a very strong technical component to expressiveness, and there's also a quality of fluidity and ease that has its roots in technical fluency (and physical relaxation).

The use of "beginner", "intermediate" and "advanced" is almost always in the context of pedagogical reference. So it's kind of pointless to define "advanced" as equivalent to "professional". Professional is professional (although there are certainly pros that cannot play advanced-level repertoire, i.e. not capable of technically executing a listenable Bruch, much less a beautiful one).

Some students certainly "advance without improving" -- i.e. they play harder and harder repertoire without fundamentally improving their technical foundation. This can get players into a house-of-cards situation where they can theoretically read the notes of advanced-level works but the poor technical foundations are obvious.

(Some of you may remember a parent who posted their son's Bruch recording some time ago -- this was a clear example of advanced repertoire on a shaky foundation, and ultimately the parent took the advice of commenters, talked to the teacher, and the kid was put through a technical reboot.)

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine