Rhythm, seasonal / holiday, Teaching Piano

Christmas Rhythm Learning Moments

As I’m sure is currently the case with many of you, my students are working on Christmas pieces along with their usual assignments.  As usual, a few of them have encountered rhythmic “simplifications” in their arrangements (Away in a Manger and Go Tell it on the Mountain come to mind).  After pointing it out the difference between what they played and what is on the page, together we made the executive decision to play the rhythm as it is normally heard.  We also took a moment to discover what is the actual rhythmic notation of the tune and then marked it in the score above the staff.  For a more complete discussion of this issue, check out this Forum Q&A post regarding rhythmic simplification in arrangements.

A few of my students in particular are really thriving on these Christmas pieces!  Once again, I am reminded of the value of learning familiar tunes.  I find that it gives students an extra boost in learning their pieces, since they can depend more on their ear for pitches/rhythms rather than their eyes.  This means they will learn the pieces quickly and more accurately.  I also find that playing familiar tunes is a huge motivator for students.  They love to be able to play tunes they know!

Hurrah for Christmas music!  🙂

For a listing of free Christmas music arrangements on the internet, check out this post

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks | CC 2.0

Questions, repertoire / methods, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

Q&A Forum | Rhythmic “Simplification” in Arrangements of Familiar Tunes

For last week’s Forum Q&A, I broached a few questions about memorization and many of you left comments regarding whether or not to require memorization for performances within your studio — but not many of you addressed my initial question about whether you consider the skill of memorization is essential to piano playing (i.e., do you think it is necessary/required for concert pianists to play by memory?  Why or why not?).  I discussed this topic further in yesterday’s post, which you can view here.  As always, it’s never too late to add your thoughts to this ongoing discussion.  =)

Today, however, marks the introduction of a new topic for discussion:

Many popular piano methods today include (as they should) arrangements of familiar tunes for students to learn.  This is great, because many students LOVE learning how to play tunes they are familiar with!  (Side note: click here to view a post regarding some thoughts on what makes a great piano method.)  However, these arrangements sometimes present a problem:

Oftentimes in arrangements, the rhythm of the tune is altered and “simplified” in order to accomodate the rhythmic values that the student has/hasn’t learned yet.  This is all fine and dandy, but as a teacher, what do you do when a student comes back the next week playing the rhythm “wrong”?

To give one example that frequently occurs with beginner students, I’ve heard many students return playing the rhythm of “Ode to Joy” with dotted-quarter-eighth rhythms instead of playing all quarter notes (despite the fact that we sightread it together with the rhythm as written).  How do you handle this situation: do you “fix” the student’s rhythm to match what is on the page even though it goes against their intuition, or do you “let it go?”

I’m sure many of us piano teachers have been in this situation before!  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Rick Harris | CC 2.0

repertoire / methods, Resources, seasonal / holiday

List of Free Christmas Music Arrangements on the Web

Christmas is on the way, whether you are ready or not!  My students are already starting to ask about Christmas music.

I have a lending library of Christmas books that I’ve built over the years (including used books I find at garage sales and thrift shops), and I also like for my students to own their own Christmas books. But sometimes, it’s helpful to be able to find simple arrangements for free, printed from online. Below, I’ll list a few places I’ve found free Christmas arrangement sheet music for piano.

By the way, I am a stickler about observing copyright especially when it comes to sheet music…and I encourage you to be the same! Composers and arrangers deserve every penny of their royalty fees, and I am proud to support my fellow artists. Let’s do our due diligence and be sure to use sheet music legally. If you are wondering whether a free arrangement you find online is legal for you to use, please confirm that (1) the tune being arranged is no longer under copyright and is therefore in the public domain (otherwise the arranger is breaking copyright by not paying royalty fees to the copyright holder), and (2) the copyright holder of the arrangement is the one providing the arrangement to you (otherwise the person providing the arrangement is breaking copyright by giving you something that is not theirs). If you’d like to read more about copyright when it comes to music, check out this article from the U.S. Copyright Office. Continue reading “List of Free Christmas Music Arrangements on the Web”

repertoire / methods, Resources

My Favs: Jim Brickman solo piano music

Picture 3In a post last week, I mentioned Jim Brickman — composer of new age solo piano music (as well as some pop music with vocals).  His music is great to play when you are stressed out and just want to play something relaxing that doesn’t require as much concentration as classical music.  =D  I thought I’d share some of my favorites among his compositions.

I own two books of sheet music by Jim Brickman.  I enjoy playing his music at weddings and dinners.  It’s perfect for occasions when you need to play something more contemporary and less formal than classical music.   It also mixes well with hymn arrangements.

  • One of the books I own is: Jim Brickman / Piano Anthology.  This book is a great value for the money.  Some of his books of sheet music include pop songs that have vocal lines (such as the popular Christmas song, “The Gift” ).  If you want to avoid those and stick to mostly solo piano music, this book is a great option.  A couple great pieces included in this book are, “Angel Eyes” and “Rocket to the Moon.”
  • My favorite of the two books that I own is: The Songs of Jim Brickman for Easy Piano: Piano Solos.  These selections have been arranged by Dan Coates, and are a little touch easier to play — not to mention they are easier on the hands!  Jim Brickman must have large hands, because he likes to include lots of tenths in his LH accompaniment figures.  =)  So if you have small hands, this book is preferable over his original arrangements.  This includes my all-time favorite Jim Brickman tune, “Serenade.”

You can visit his site here, to get more information and hear some recordings.  I noticed on his site that he also has available a few books I’ve never seen before, but look very interesting:

repertoire / methods, Resources

Free piano arrangements of anime music

I recently received a new transfer adult student.  She’s an excellent sight-reader and a fun person to be around!  She has a great interest in anime (for those of you not familiar with anime [AH-nee-may], it is “a style of animation developed in Japan,” according to Answers.com).  Shehas been teaching me quite a bit about anime and video game music.  I think I am learning just as much from her as she is from me.  =)

Evidently, there is a wealth of free piano arrangements of anime music themes online.  The arrangements she has been working on (they are “just for fun” pieces, which accompany her classical repertoire, of course) basically sound like new age solo piano music (think Jim Brickman or George Winston).  Below, I’m passing on a few links she shared with me:

  • Check out this recording of “Sadame” for piano here, and then find the sheet music here (scroll down to the “Animes” section, and click the pdf icon for “Destiny – Sadame” ).
  • Other sites for finding free anime sheet music can be found herehere, and here.
  • It can seem overwhelming to browse through these anime sites, especially when you’re not sure what you are looking for.  For me, it’s a whole new world within the sheet music realm!  According to my student, anything from Final Fantasy, Naruto, and Inuyasha is good.

I hope you find this information helpful for any high-school or college-aged piano students you might have.  Happy browsing!

Printables, Sheet Music

Added: 4 New easy Christmas Arrangements

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/gtmcknight/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I know, I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I’m already talking about Christmas!  But since I’ve been updating my Printables page recently anyway, I went ahead and put up some easy Christmas piano arrangments too:

(See Printables > Sheet Music)  These arrangements are suitable for beginner students who are comfortable reading on the staff and playing in the key of C.

Printing Christmas sheet music off the internet is a great alternative to asking students to buy Christmas books — after all, they only get used for about a month or two out of the whole year.  Be sure to visit Susan Paradis’ site as well, if you are looking for more Christmas arrangements (click here for a listing of Holiday Music.)  Hers are much more attractive than mine, I must admit.  I need to learn how to do more with graphics.  =]

Have you found other sites where you’ve found Christmas arrangements for students?  Please share!

repertoire / methods, Resources

Free Sheet Music @ pianostreet.com

Picture 4Free sheet music is always a good thing, right?  :]

By signing up for a free Silver membership over at pianostreet.com, you’ll have access to free pdfs of classical music scores, including:

  • Bach – 15 Inventions
  • Beethoven – 32 Sonatas
  • Burgmuller – 3 pieces from 25 Easy and Progressive Studies
  • Schumann – Traumerei
  • Tchaikovsky – 2 pieces from Album for the Young
  • . . .and other random pieces by composers such as Mozart, Clementi, Listz, and Brahms — including an arrangements of Pachelbel’s Canon in D and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee.

If you upgrade to a Gold Membership, you’ll have access to even more music.  Personally, I am planning to stick with my free Silver membership.  I am thrilled to be able to print (for free!) these great classics for my students, particularly for the ones with little money to spare for piano lessons during these rough economic times.

Music Theory, Resources, Technology

Resources @ makingmusicfun.net

Have you seen makingmusicfun.net yet?  This site is full of free resources for both teachers and students.  All the materials available at Making Music Fun have super-cute graphics in an “under the sea” theme.

Picture 5

For teachers:

  • Sheet music (both arranged and unarranged, organized by level)
  • Composer worksheets
  • Music achievement certificates
  • Practice charts
  • Manuscript paper
  • Intervals worksheets
  • and more!

For kids:

  • Music theory arcade games
  • “Meet the composer” section
  • “Meet the orchestra” section
  • Children’s songs

There’s plenty to explore at the Making Music Fun website.  Let me know what you find!

Announcements, Composition, improving as a teacher, Resources, Technology

A Closer Look at MuseScore: FREE music notation software

Picture 5
Screenshot of my demo song in MuseScore. Click to enlarge.

Move over, Finale and Sibelius!  There’s somebody new in town.  MuseScore is a music notation software available FREE online for anyone to download.  After doing a brief test drive last spring (mentioned here), I decided to take a closer look now that it’s available for Mac users.

I’ve been a faithful Finale user since 2005, mainly because Finale is the software of choice at the colleges I’ve attended.  I use Finale to make worksheets for my students and to notate my original compositions and arrangements.  Buying Finale 2009 last September cost me an arm and a leg, so I was quite curious to see how MuseScore would compare.  Is it worth spending all that money on Finale when you can get MuseScore for free?   Continue reading “A Closer Look at MuseScore: FREE music notation software”

Composition, Resources

MuseScore: free music notation software

Have you heard about the new free music notation software called MuseScore?  I have heard nothing but favorable reviews about it thus far.  Personally, I do not currently have a great need for it, since I use Finale software at college.  But this may very well be a great resource for teachers who do not wish to invest in expensive music notation software (let me tell you, Finale costs an arm and a leg!) or, for students who have an interest in composition.  I was glad to hear about MuseScore.  Ever since Finale started charging ~$10 to download Finale Notepad (a simple, previously-free version of Finale), I have been on-the-lookout for something else to recommend to my students.

Mac users are unfortunately out of luck, because MuseScore is currently only available for PC’s. [Correction: MuseScore IS indeed now available for Macs.  Sorry for the misinformation!] I breifly tried out this software on my husband’s PC, and it seems to be fairly user-friendly.  If you are looking for an inexpensive alternative to Finale or Sibelius, MuseScore is worth a look!

[Now that MuseScore is available for Macs, I plan to download it and blog more about it soon. Check back soon!]


Free Easy Piano Arrangements for Students

Have you ever had a student who has a particular interest for learning familiar tunes?  The internet is becoming a wonderful resource for easy piano arrangements – which you can commonly download and print for free.  One site in particular that I have turned to frequently for my students is a site called G Music Theory by Gilbert DeBenedetti.  His arrangements were perfect for a student I once had who wanted to be able to play some of her favorite songs.  So I assigned a few of these “just for fun” pieces for her to learn on her own.  It was a big hit – she loved them. 

When you visit his site and click on Free Piano Music, you’ll find that he has a large amount of music sorted by difficulty (from Beginning to Intermediate) – including some duet music.  What a great resource for those adults or little ones who want to learn to play their favorite tunes! 

Be sure to check out the rest of the site – there are a number of music theory worksheets and other resources available as well.