Do your piano students celebrate Christmas? Will they have the opportunity to play for family or friends over the holidays? I thoroughly enjoy when my students are able to play for theirs, especially during the Christmas season. Starting around the month of October, my students have the option of learning any Christmas music they like that is within their reach. They have a lot of fun, and so do I! Here are a few of their – and my – favorite pieces for Christmas. Best of all, they find them easy to learn and easy to memorize.
Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells is a favorite of young and old alike. Its simple melody and easy chord structure make it manageable for even the newest pianists. You can teach the chorus by rote, or imitation, because of its repetitive form. Simplify this piece for beginners by teaching through simple finger numbers, or add a walking base line and additional chords for the more advanced. It’s a great piece to use to teach students to make this piece their own, transcribe the verses by ear, or improvise on the melody. You can find a beginner version at Making Music Fun.
Silent Night. Silent Night has a great story behind it, which you can read here. This song is better for the more advanced student. The large range in the melody means changing hand positions several times throughout the piece. You can download a free version for your advanced students.
Joy to the World. Joy to the Word is a beautiful song that proclaims the birth of the Messiah. This can be played fast or slow, but always with joy! This version is listed as ‘intermediate,’ but the arrangement is a quick learn. Joy to the World!
Angels We Have Heard on High. This Christmas carol is great for the budding music arranger! Have them play it in classical style, then have them try a little gospel flair by playing octave triplets in the left hand. This arrangement is a lead sheet, providing lots of flexibility for your composer. It’s definitely worth the effort!
We Wish You a Merry Christmas. This classic tune is well loved, making it a great song to memorize for beginners and advanced students. Learn it – and teach it -by rote on youtube.
To help students be successful with their Christmas pieces, start early! (Although it’s never too late). The closer to Christmas, however, the simpler the arrangement you should choose for them. Encourage them to memorize each piece, if possible, and teach them how to start with an introduction so they can lead some carol singing, and how to ‘breathe’ to show their singers when to begin.