“River Flows in You” is a very popular piano piece among intermediate pianists and is the most well-known piece by Korean composer Yiruma. The piece was written in 2001 but grew in popularity in the early 2000s especially after it was associated with the Twilight franchise. It has been one of the most learned and played contemporary piano pieces in recent history and continues to be in demand by students requesting to play this piece with their teachers. In this article, we will go over what piano grade this song is considered and some advice for learning this piece.
What Grade is River Flows in You in Both ABRSM and TCL?
“River Flows in You” is not on a syllabus for ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) and TCL (Trinity College London) but it is approximately a grade 5 level piece. A comparable piece on the ABRSM grade 5 repertoire list is “Elegy for the Arctic” by Ludovico Einaudi. This song is also a contemporary piano piece that has a series of rolling eighth notes in the right hand and a steady, andante tempo. It is in the key of F minor and 2 and a half pages. A comparable song though perhaps slightly easier on the TCL syllabus for grade 5 is “Large Wave” by Pam Wedgewood. It is also a contemporary piano piece and is full of interesting harmonic content. It is written in common time and the key of C major but is full of accidentals changing the tone of the piece.
How Long Does It Take to Learn River Flows in You?
“River Flows in You” is not an overly difficult piece to play, but it will require good note-reading skills to learn, especially regarding rhythm. The left-hand rhythm consists almost exclusively of eighth notes and quarter notes, but it has some large intervals between notes throughout the piece. The right-hand rhythm is much more varied and includes several 16th notes, tied notes, and grade notes. The piece is written in common time in the key of A major and is three pages long. The main theme repeats several times throughout the piece, adding more notes in the second section where the notes were previously tied, making the passage sound slightly more urgent with more movement. In the second section, the left hand also plays only eighth notes and not quarter notes, contributing to the momentum.
One thing to note is that the left hand repeats the chord pattern Fm, Dsus2, A, E pretty consistently throughout the piece with varying inversions. If you look for this chord pattern in the left-hand notes, it will be easier to learn the bass part.
When notes are far apart, there can be a tendency to want to ‘hold on’ to notes after you have played them, creating unnecessary tension. This can be an indicator of not knowing the notes well and wanting to subconsciously remain where you have already played notes because you’re not sure where to go next, or simply bad technique. It is important to allow your left hand to let go of a note once you’ve played it to allow yourself to quickly move to the next note without tension.
The right-hand rhythm is slightly syncopated in the first main theme and can be tricky to get used to only reading the notes. Listening to the piece regularly will greatly help with learning the rhythm in the right hand. Understanding how the notes sound will help you piece together how that rhythm is written in the music. Listening to a recording will also help you hear the proper timing for the grace notes and ornaments.
There is also quite a bit of work for the fourth and fifth fingers in the right hand. The alternating between G-sharp and A in the main theme and between A and B in the section shown below are both done with the 4 and 5.
These are the weakest fingers and may require extra attention for a beginner or someone who hasn’t done focused technique work for these fingers. A good exercise to prepare your fingers for these passages is just playing a slow trill alternating between G-sharp and A, and A and B with 4 and 5.
With consistent practice, an early intermediate pianist could probably learn this piece in a month or less. If a beginner were to attempt this piece, it could take up to two months to learn the notes and develop the dexterity for the faster passages in the right hand. How long it takes will largely depend on how quickly you can learn the notes and build your right-hand technique.
Is River Flows in You a Good Piece for Beginners?
Whether or not a beginner will do well with this piece will depend on a few things. Absolute beginners will likely find this piece far too difficult. It also does have some wide intervals between notes in both hands, so it may be especially difficult for beginners who are children with small hands. However, if someone is perhaps an older beginner who is progressing quickly and they are very motivated, it may be possible for them to learn it. Because this piece is so popular and enjoyable for many people to listen to, there is a chance that beginners will be motivated to work hard and learn it even if it is outside their current skill level. If this is the case, a beginner with moderate piano experience may be able to learn this piece if they set their mind to it.
“River Flows in You” is a beautiful, simple piece that people have enjoyed all over the world in the past 20 years. Its harmonic structure is not complicated yet it is able to evoke a wide range of emotions. It is simple enough that an early intermediate pianist could play it, but interesting enough to hold the attention of a more mature pianist. If you really like this piece but aren’t sure if you are ready for it, look at it with a teacher if you are able. Listen to the recording and make an attempt to read through it. You may be surprised at how much progress you can make on a piece when you are motivated to learn.