After a long wait, LCM have published a brand new piano syllabus- which covers exams from Pre-Preparatory level to Grade 8. Find out how it compares to ABRSM, Trinity, and Rockschool Classical’s recent new syllabuses.

A written summary of this review is available here:

Show Notes

  • Who are LCM/ London College of Music? [0:50]
  • The previous 2018-2020 LCM Piano Syllabus [2:15]
  • Some general impressions of the new syllabus: [5:15]
    • Longer larger-scale pieces, longer exams than other examination boards
    • Bold extrovert pieces often with many character and mood shifts within a piece
    • Excellent finds of relatively obscure high quality music
    • New List A,B & C categories similar to ABRSM’s new lists but often unclear logic to the categorisation
  • Who is this new syllabus for? [11:45]
    • Difficulty level on the high side- could be rigorous path for traditional classical music (defining contemporary classical within the tradition)
    • Rigorous & comprehensive scales (or studies)
    • Concern- weak benchmarking- big difference in difficulty levels within each grade. But also a concern about being harder to pass than other boards- not only scales/studies, but also that most pieces are much longer, therefore the longer exam needs more focus and stamina
    • Huge emphasis on women composers, therefore of particular interest to female students
  • The different exam options available with LCM [19:50]
    • Grades, Recital Grades, Leisure Play and Performance Awards, with Covid-friendly online options available for the first three as well.
  • Huge alternative list for pieces [25:30]
    • but many unlikely to be used as obscure & hard to listen to, or to check out the sheet music
  • Would like to see more variety of styles in some grade books [28:00]
  • Problematic editing and typesetting [30:00]
    • Editing too minimal, would like to see at least some suggestions & notes. No courtesy accidentals where desperately needed
    • Some very unhelpful visual distribution of rhythms
  • Pre, Step 1 & Step 2 comes across as a ‘Melanie Spanswick and Friends’ method book [33:35]
    • I’d personally prefer to use a different method book
  • The problem of lack of non ‘white European/American’ composers in the books, especially given LCM’s strong mission to represent more women composers as role models [37:10]
    • Also tone-deafness to race issues when they do come up in the books- ie the use of ‘gypsy’ and issues with representation of Jewish identity
  • Conclusion [50:45]
    • For most students, I prefer Trinity: value for money, variety of pieces, rigorous enough, good benchmarking, motivational
    • LCM has edge for ‘serious’ traditional (including contemporary) classical music (serious doesn’t mean boring! Pieces are full of emotional expression and colour). Talented classical disciplined students will really benefit from this syllabus
    • Final comparision between the different boards: ABRSM, Trinity, Rockschool Classical, and LCM


  • When I was quoting the figure of only 2 non-white Europeans represented in the Grades 5-8 books, I meant to say non-white Europeans or Americans
  • Oops, I think I was mis-remembering this article when I said Gershwin married a Jewish woman- the article says he actually never married because he apparently wanted a Jewish wife-
  • The old LCM syllabus is valid until the end of the Summer 2022 exam session


LCM’s piano syllabus website:

The Heart of the Piano review of the 2021 ABRSM and Trinity syllabuses:

The Heart of the Piano review of the 2021 Rockschool Classical syllabus:

The Heart of the Piano review of the 2019 Rockschool Contemporary (Rock/Pop) syllabus:

The article written in 2018 by David Duncan, Publications Officer for LCM- using his own standards that he applies to other examination boards, the representation in the new LCM syllabus of non ‘white European/Americans’ is woeful-
David Duncan left LCM before the publication of the latest syllabus, so this is not a personal attack on him in any way(!), more a general criticism of the new syllabus.

An article about why it’s problematic to use the word ‘gypsy’-

Just one webpage looking at the cultural history of the farucca- not one page I looked up mentioned anything to do with ‘gypsies’. Part of the problematic use of this word in this instance might be to ‘other’ and stereotype something that seems unfamiliar, colourful and exotic-

Some biographical information about Ligeti- while his racial and National self-identity is obviously complicated, it’s clear he does strongly identify as Jewish-