Analysis of Beginning Piano Literature Series Part Two:

Knowing how to sequence the materials and literature for a student ready to learn beginning standard piano literature can be difficult. As I talked about in Part 1 of this series, this question of how to sequence led me to begin analyzing beginning standard piano literature, using an analysis form. This post, Part Two in the Analysis of Beginning Piano Literature Series, goes into what each individual section means and in general, why I have included it in my analysis form.

Part 3 will cover how to set up a database with all the information from the analysis forms. This is a critical step to the process. After you analyze the pieces, filling in a database allows you to easily search for a specific concept (Ex: songs with parallel motion only). After a quick glance or search in your database, you know exactly which pieces will work. Even though analysis takes a long time in the beginning, it shortens the amount of time looking through music when you need to pick out new pieces.

The last post will also include the possible applications of the information gleaned from analysis.

For now, in this post, there is a lot of information so take your time and dig in.

Tonic Solfa

Before we can begin the analysis sheet, we must first break down the piece into only rhythm and solfege only. From this tonic solfa, we can then easily compare phrases. We can easily see patterns, both melodic and rhythmic, that are used in a piece.

To create a usable tonic solfa, there are very specific guidelines to follow. Here is an example of what a tonic solfa looks like when complete.


  1. NEAT & TIDY
    1. Use a full sheet of plain paper.
    2. A straight line as a guide keeps things neat and tidy. It makes everything look cleaner and easier to read.
  2. Figure out the phrases and mark down the measures. Vertically line up the measures of the phrases. This allows for an easy comparison of the phrases. If there are any anacrusis (pick ups), make sure that they go on the same line as the phrase.
  3. Write in the clefs, and time signature.
  4. Rhythms come next. Use stick rhythms. The beats need to be carefully lined up vertically among the phrases.
  5. Fill in solfege. Moveable do is utilized, with la based minor.
  6. Include repeats and other markings for form.

General Information

Of all the sections, this one is probably the most self-explanatory.

Composer: List composer by last name, first name. In my notebook, pieces will be organized by in alphabetical order by composer’s last name.

Title: Any title will be listed here, as many pieces go by several different title. If composer originally titled it in a different language, that needs to be listed as well.

Larger Work: If part of a collection, it would be listed here.

Origin: If the melody or piece comes from a specific country or area, then this is where it goes.

Source: Write in all the information for the book you found it in originally, following bibliography rules. If you know it is in any other books or compilations, mark it here so you know exactly which books you can find it in.

Piece Type: If the title doesn’t indicated the type of piece it is, then mark it here. (Ex: minuet, air, march, contradance). This helps with the interpretation.

Micro Form/Macro Form: Using the tonic solfa, analyze the form. Sometimes on the beginning pieces there is only one form. On the longer pieces, there will be a difference in the micro and macro form.

MacGrath/RCM/ABRSM/Other: MacGrath has many pieces graded. RCM has some pieces listed for each level of their tests as well. This is where you would write it in. I find it fascinating to see if the levels are consistent. If there are any other places that level music, you could write it in the OTHER section, including which system you are using for leveling.

Melodic Information

Key Signature & Range: Fill in which clef each hand is written in, and write it on the staff. Then write in the beginning and ending notes of the RANGE of notes. This allows you to see quickly which range of notes your student will be reading.

Melodic tone set: Write out the solfege notes of the melody, written from lowest to highest. Circle the ending note.

Harmonic tone set: Write out the solfege notes of the harmony, written from lowest to highest.

Complete tone set: Combine the notes of the melodic and harmonic tone set.

Hardest melodic element and Level: You must have a sequence in order to do this properly. You will use the sequence that you follow. You find the most difficult melodic element, according to your sequence and write it here. In the “Level” section, write it here as it correlates to your sequence. For example: If you have a song that is written in Bass C position rather than Middle C, and you are following the RCM syllabus, you would write Bass C position and Level I.

I am currently leaving this one blank because I do not have a melodic sequence designated for piano. The one I have is for the Kodaly method, which uses singing and has a very different approach to singing than piano literature does. Eventually, I would like to create a sequence of easy to hard melodic elements introduced in piano. 

Scale: Use the prefix of the number of notes and then if it is a -chord (notes are all stepwise up or down a scale) or -tone (there is at least one skip). Also include the solfege syllable of the final note. Example: do hexachord (d r m f s l), tritone (m  sl). Leave spaces where scale degrees would be if they are missing. You can also have a minor, major or incomplete major.

Melodic patterns: Each method book introduces patterns in a different order. Piano Safari introduces seconds first. If I wanted to supplement a student with a standard repertoire piece, I could look for a piece where all melodic patterns are seconds. Use solfege syllables, and write out the patterns in complete phrases. (Ex: drmfsfmr)

Harmonic patterns: Write out the same as melodic patterns, but only include patterns in the harmony. 

Melodic motion between hands: Mark all that apply. Do the hands move parallel the entire time? Or do they move contrary to each, or independently.

Each type of motion between hands requires a different set of coordination and preparation. Parallel motion is probably the easiest. Then contrary, then independently. The sequencing of pieces would reflect this progression. A mixture of the three would obviously be the most difficult.

Rhythmic Information

Time signature: Circle.

Rhythmic elements: List all rhythmic elements needed to play this piece. Include rests, and if there is an anacrusis. List in order of easy to hard. I am currently using Musical Progressions/RCM as a guideline for the order of rhythmic elements. The sequence we learned in Kodaly levels is dramatically different, but I am choosing to following a different sequence.

Hardest Rhythmic Element: Write the most difficult rhythmic element here. Include in which level of RCM/Musical Progressions this melodic element is required. You need to know this so you don’t assign a piece that contains a rhythmic element a student hasn’t learned yet.

% hands play together: Write how many beats hands are playing together. Then count how many beats there are total. Divide and find out the percentage.

Rhythmic interaction between hands: If the hands have exactly the same rhythm, mark exact. Otherwise mark if they are independent (not the same) or if one hand echoes the other.

Technique and Other Information

Technique needed: Here is where I would write anything technical that hasn’t been listed that might need careful preparation before giving the student music. Some examples might be: One octave scale run, Alberti bass, LH chords, LH melody, or LH staccato with RH legato.

Hand Shift: Hand shifts can be difficult, and many beginning piano literature does not have them. It is careful to note in the box below at which interval the shift will be (major second up), as well as how many times it shifts.

Primary Use: Some songs lend themselves to being used for specific concepts. This is where you write it in. Some examples:

  • Teach by rote in preparation for half notes.
  • Use to practice eighth notes.
  • Practice do-so, accompaniment in LH.

Other: There seems to always be something extra about a piece that doesn’t quite fit into the form. Write it here! If you know of a great recording of the piece, write down the performer or the here to the youtube link.