If you’re not sure what solos you should learn, consult the NFA repertoire grading system. You can choose from hundreds of great works.
But if you don’t know how hard a piece is, you could choose the wrong piece to learn. Note that in this guide, I refer to the ranges using scientific pitch notation as I believe it’s less confusing for musicians.
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Absolute beginners will find themselves at home with pieces designated as Level A by the NFA repertoire grading system. This level features a range of G4 to A5.
Music at this level may use one or two flats or sharps. Rhythms include quarter, eighth, half, and whole notes in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time. You’ll need to know about single tonguing as well as slurs, legato, and staccato playing.
Example solos include pieces from the Easy Flute Solos collection and the first book from the Blocki Flute Method.
As you learn a bit more of the flute, you’ll be able to play Level B music. These pieces typically have a range of D4 to D6. You might see up to three flats and two sharps.
Some music might have the occasional accidental, and others might use accidentals instead of a key signature. This level may also introduce trills, grace notes, and similar concepts.
When you reach this level, you can play more of the music in the same collections as those that feature Level A pieces.
Once you reach Level C, you should be able to play from C4 to F6 or possibly even G6. You’ll need to learn how to read keys up to three flats or three sharps.
This is also the level where you start to encounter more complicated rhythms, such as the use of dotted notes. Ornamentation, such as trills and mordents, also become more common at this stage.
Pieces from this level include Berceuse by Isaac Albeniz and Quartre Pieces Faciles by Eugene Bozza.
Next in the NFA repertoire grading system is Level D, which requires you to play from C4 to G6 or A6. You’ll start to see more time signatures, such as 2/2 and 3/2 more often.
It’s also important to learn double tonguing and triple tonguing as well as flutter tonguing when you reach this level. Some works may also require the use of multiphonics, but they usually include the fingerings for those.
A variety of collections feature pieces at this level, so you may already have music that suits your playing needs.
By the time you reach Level E, you should know how to play from C4 to A6 or Bb6. You’ll also want to be able to read key signatures with up to five flats or sharps.
This level may feature simple, compound, and even mixed meters. Some pieces even change the meter part of the way through. Double and triple tonguing become more common.
Example pieces you can learn at this level include Serenade by Hue and Sonata in G Major by Loeillet.
When you reach Level F of the NFA repertoire grading system, you should be able to play from C4 to Bb6 or B6. Key signatures at this level may feature up to six flats or sharps.
You might need to switch between meters as well as between double and triple tonguing. Notes as short as thirty-second notes may appear, particularly in slower pieces.
This level is the perfect time to purchase 40 Little Pieces in Progressive Order by Louis Moyse.
Level G repertoire requires a range of C4 to B6 or even C7 in some cases. You should also be able to read key signatures with as many as seven flats or seven sharps.
This level also features more complex articulation patterns, combining single and double tonguing as well as other techniques. You might also find you have to count the rhythms more to help get them right.
Music at this level includes the Handel Sonatas in C and G as well as Aria by Bozza.
When you reach Level H, you should be able to confidently play from C4 to C7. You might also need to combine sharps with flats. This is rare, and it will most often occur with one or both as accidentals rather than in the key.
Some pieces at this level won’t have a time signature at all. It’s up to the player to feel the phrasing and go off of that. When it comes to rhythms, you shouldn’t encounter anything much harder than at some prior levels.
Some of the most popular Andersen etudes are at this level. Example solos include the Barber Canzone and the Bolling Suite.
Level I is the first level that may require you to have a B footjoint. The range goes from B3 to C7 or even D7. Some pieces might use more complex articulations and rhythms.
The use of these techniques starts to appear in faster movements. You’ll also find extended techniques to be a bit more common.
Example pieces at this level include the CPE Bach Sonata in A minor and some of JS Bach’s sonatas. If you like more modern music, you may enjoy the Liebermann Soliloquy.
Two more levels left to go in the NFA repertoire grading system. Level J requires a range of B3 or C4 to D7. You might encounter some weird key signatures and/or more chromatic scales.
Articulations can be more difficult than at the previous levels. Some pieces may require a bit of improvisation from the player.
When you can confidently play at Level J, you can learn pieces such as Bozza’s Image and the Martin Ballade.
The most difficult level in the NFA’s system is Level K. At this level, you’ll need to play as high as Eb7, so this is primarily for advanced college and graduate level students and professionals.
There aren’t many new features regarding rhythms or time signatures. But you should be confident with seven sharps or flats.
Well-known pieces at this level include the Boehm Grand Polonaise and the Copland Duo.
Why Does the NFA Repertoire Grading System Matter?
The NFA repertoire grading system matters because it helps composers, teachers, and performers categorize music well. You can use the grading system when commissioning music to make sure you or your students can play it.
And when looking for existing music, you can focus on the level of the player in question. Then, you can narrow your search for the perfect solo.
Are There Other Grading Systems?
The NFA system is one of many for grading repertoire. One of the most well-known systems is the ABRSM system. They use graded lists to help players choose music for the different level exams.
As a flute player, though, the NFA system is the most comprehensive. It’s a great resource to use when choosing music.
The NFA repertoire grading system is a useful tool whether you’re writing flute music or choosing something to play. Keep the different levels in mind so that you don’t select a solo that’s too easy or difficult for you.
And if you’re looking for new music for your current level, commission a flute specialist composer and arranger. I’d love to write music that suits your needs and that you’ll love to play.