The Piano Framework© 2021 provides a comprehensive overview of the many different and often overlapping elements that learning to play the piano involves. It provides teachers, students and parents with a new, fresh approach to teaching and learning the piano. It has a concept and skills led approach at its heart.

Piano Framework

The 2021 edition of the Piano Framework© is the third major revision of the document. Starting life back in 2013 as a result of my PhD studies, it emerged as a result of unsatisfactory answers to the question:

‘What *is* Grade 1?’

Putting together a spreadsheet of pianistic and musical skills & concepts for this level proved fruitful. Eventually, I went on further, expanding into higher grades. The first edition of The Piano Framework© became available to members of The Curious Piano Teachers in 2015. This covered the pianistic skills and concepts needed for Beginners to Intermediate pianists. In 2017 the Advanced level was published in partnership with Graham Fitch, from the Practising the Piano, Online Academy. In 2021 the focus has been on expanding the Beginner, Elementary and Intermediate levels with the help of Ilga Pitkevica, tutor on the Piano Teachers’ Course.

Paid members of The Curious Piano Teachers can access it here THE PIANO FRAMEWORK©2021.


A framework is ‘a supporting structure around which something can be built‘. [1]

The Piano Framework©, there are nine levels:

Piano Framework


In practical use, teachers will find students straddle between two stages. This is particularly the case between the main levels, Beginner to Elementary for example. This overlap is represented on the diagram as a bridge. At these stages, students are likely to be spanning both levels at once. For example, a young pianist might be working primarily in the Beginner 2 level but already tackling a handful of Elementary 1 skills and concepts.


The overall progression path for students working through the Piano Framework© is more likely to be a zig-zag than a straight line. This is in contrast to the undeviating and linear route of the UK’s graded exam system.

Instead, The Piano Framework© is designed to help piano teachers, parents and students break free from the straight-jacket of the graded examination system. Consequently, the boundaries between each of the Piano Framework© levels are somewhat indistinct. However, the graded exam system broadly fits into the skills and concepts as follows:

Piano Framework


Each of the levels divides into four sections:

  • Musical Concepts – the underlying musical concepts that are common to learning any musical instrument.
  • Technical Skills – the nuts, bolts and physical aspects to playing the piano.
  • Pianistic Skills | Musical Concepts – the point where playing the piano is deeply rooted in musical understanding.
  • Style & Performance – matters of style, genre, interpretation and performance practice.

The four sections are used simultaneously.


In total there are forty sub-categories. Ranging from Pulse & Metre in Musical Concepts, through Fingering & Hand Position in Technical Skills, Cadences & Modulations in Pianistic Skills | Musical Concepts and Romantic stylistic features in Style & Performance.

As a student progresses through the different levels they will encounter the same sub-categories but with increasing degree of difficulty.


The Piano Framework© 2021 is very detailed and it can easily feel overwhelming. It’s important teachers use it according to their own needs and teaching experience. If you’re a newbie teacher you might find it interesting to compare the skills and concepts in the Beginner Levels of the Piano Framework© to your favourite tutor book. Simply tick off on the framework all the skills and concepts you find in the tutor book. Comparing the Piano Framework© with the contents side-by-side will help you discover the missing elements. Teachers with more experience might find it interesting to make a comparison with a repertoire piece.


The answer is ‘one bite at a time’ of course!

And that’s exactly the approach we recommend for all piano teachers approaching the Piano Framework© for the first time. Take just one small idea from it and see it through to completion. Most importantly, don’t fret or give yourself a hard time about all the things you think you should be doing (yes, we do all do that!). Just take that one small step at a time. It doesn’t matter what that step is; what matters is that you take it!

[1] Cambridge Dictionary  

This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart | co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers

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