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Music Lesson Piano Lesson Piano Sheet Music For Beginners

Where To Find Easy Sheet Music Arrangements

Part 2 of 3 In A Series on Finding Sheet Music For Students

Part 1 – Top 11 Sites For Public Domain Free Sheet Music

“Can’t we play this song by Taylor Swift?”
“Well that’s a bit too hard right now.”
“But I LOVE her!”

Song Requests

I get requests for pop songs, Broadway shows, cartoon themes, film scores, and video game music almost on a weekly basis. Whatever is “hot,” I will surely hear about in a matter of weeks. I find out about a lot of new music through my students these days.

How to Handle Requests Like These?

I always honor song requests. It may be a huge reason why I retain most of  my students 4, 5, 6 years and more. I have found that matching the content of the lessons with student interest is the best way to ensure continued enthusiasm for music lessons. There’s never a big fight to practice when the student is self-motivated to learn their favorite song! I usually begin by searching for easy arrangements.

Finding Easy Arrangements

I search online for song arrangements that are in the easy category as they usually have been thought through from a beginner’s standpoint, but even then, sometimes they are just out of reach conceptually and technically for your passionate student.

Where To Buy Sheet Music?

You can buy sheet music online at several places. This is especially good when you have to find new music that is still on the charts.

Older Collections of Sheet Music

There’s always better value for money if you buy a song folio or collection of songs. There’s some great ones that cover the 1980s or Modern Broadway Show Hits or the greatest hits of…Taylor Swift.

  • Amazon
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Your local library – I am a huge fan of libraries in general and my local Brooklyn Public Library has a massive collection of scores that seems to be the best kept secret.
  • Your library network – did you know you can request books including sheet music from many area libraries?
  • Your alma mater library – depending on your college or University and your alumni (donation) status, you may have access to a treasure chest of goodies!

Free Sheet Music at Public Domain Libraries

There are many places to look for music in the public domain. This is going to be anything that is about one hundred years or older. My last post was about finding free sheet music.

Good Arrangers For Beginners

In my search, I’ve discovered a few arrangers better than others at simplifying piano songs for my students. There are several easy piano arrangements by Dan Coates, which work really well.  Nancy and Randall Faber (of Piano Adventures fame) have a bunch of great Funtime books as well as Popular Repertoire in their graded system. These are usually spot on.

Using Guitar Tabs

Many times, you can find chords to songs quicker and easier using “tab” sites. These are websites that offer chords and lyrics of popular songs, usually submitted by the users, and some offer tablature notation. Because the content is user generated, it is usually not 100% accurate. E-chords seems to have a consistently high level of quality. The chords and lyrics can be used for piano too.

Ukulele Sites

I have found that a few ukulele sites are surprisingly well done.  And you don’t have to just use it for ukulele. The chords are usable on other instruments like piano or guitar.

What if the Easy Arrangement is Still Too Hard?

If I can’t find the perfect arrangement for my student, I will usually purchase the easy arrangement and begin making modifications. If I can’t find one at all, I may just start transcribing my own notation (a lot of work!) or use guitar tabs or ukulele tabs as a starting point.

 

In my next post, I will give you 9 Simple Rules for Simplifying Music Arrangements.

 

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Lesson Plan Ideas Music Lesson Piano Lesson Teaching Methods

Why Is This Called The Icky Chord?

A funny piano lesson plan for kids

This story/idea came about when I noticed the fingering of the first inversion of the V7 chord.  In the key of G, this would be the D7 with the F sharp in the bass.

It looks like this on the staff:

Screenshot 2016-03-03 14.12.58

And the fingering looks like this:

Icky-chord

I mentioned that it’s like you are picking up an icky tissue.  My students never laugh so hard!

icky-tissue

So, it’s now become known as the icky chord.  Which is a lot easier to say than the V7 in the first inversion.

By the way, this can be used for any V7 chord in this inversion in any key.

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Piano Lesson Piano Sheet Music For Beginners

Let It Go – Easiest Beginner Piano Version

For the past few weeks, I received a lot of requests for an easy/beginner piano version of the phenomenal song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen.  Truth be told, this piece is a little difficult for the reason that it is an advanced song which includes big jumps in hand positions. However, I’ve decided to work on it bit by bit as my own private students are asking for it too!

Today, let me show you the beginnings of the song.  I just did the intro so far.

Let It Go Free Sheet Music

You can download this sheet music as part of our Musicolor Method™ Training Course.

Official Sheet music for Let It Go 

Also see my arrangement of Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

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About The Method Lesson Plan Ideas Piano Lesson

Teaching Kids To Play Piano With All 10 Fingers Right Away

“Okay so you see this is a note.  This one is middle C and then this one over here is on a space and this is called F.”

“What?  I don’t get it.”

“Okay pay attention, this one is middle C and it’s got a line through it and then you play it with this finger– No not that finger!  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell, come back here!  Wait!  You said you wanted a piano lesson!  Argh!  Why are you crying?  I’m sorry I didn’t mean to yell!”

This was the beginning of my first few lessons trying to teach my then 4 year old son piano. He had been asking for me to teach him for a few weeks and I found an old method book at the public library and tried to start there.  It was awful. Yes, my son is a bright kid, and I was a trained music teacher (I went to NYU for Music Education but finished in Music Business) but the materials I was finding, even those aimed at beginners, was just too much!  I started to seek other books and still could not find anything appropriate.

I had a past life as an information and web designer and began to realize that the way these method books were designed was way too much information.  There were notes to the teacher/parent, words for the kids and drawings all over the place. From an information design point of view, they were a mess.

But the main problem was that most of the early music method books were trying to start at a level that was conceptually already too high. They required you to have all the knowledge of an average 13 year old before even starting to touch the piano.  And yet, I’ve seen young kids play instruments extremely well. Usually, they are mentored by a parent who has incredible patience and basically spoon feeds them. Wait, that was it!  I realized if I could break down the information into tiny baby-sized bites, then my son, and any beginning student could learn to play the piano regardless of parental musical training.

As I started researching and reading every music education book I could find, I started creating my own materials. One of the big insights I had was that the graphic presentation of the material greatly affects the ability for young minds to comprehend. This varies tremendously between a 4 year old, a 4 1/2 year old and a 5 year old and also varies between the individual children’s development.

So flash forward, and my son is now an amazing piano player and musician and I have a full roster of piano, guitar, ukulele and general music students.

Here are some insights on how to start your first students.

TECHNICAL EXERCISES DISGUISED AS SONGS

In my beginning piano lessons, I get them going with technical exercises which are disguised as songs. If it has a funny lyric so much the better.  The very first lesson is always aimed at building a facility with all 5 fingers as quickly as possible. To do this, I put color labels on the 5 keys C through G at middle C and the octave below.

Colored keys give immediate results
Colored keys give immediate results

Then I trace their hands and label the drawing with numbers and the corresponding colors.  I tell them that each finger has its own key for now and we need to always play that key with the right finger.

Marienne's Mom painted her nails with real nail polish!
Marienne’s Mom painted her nails with real nail polish!

With the youngest kids, I even color their fingernails with washable markers that have fruity scents.  They love this – even the boys!

PERSONALIZATION

Then I ask them if they like Peanut Butter?  If they do, then I say this song is called Peanut Butter Sandwich. If not, or they have a nut allergy – which is quite common these days, I switch to what flavor ice cream do you like?   Or do you like Pizza?  The basic idea is to try and customize a song to them and trying to get in six syllables.  The basic rhythm that I’m having them play is 4 sixteenth notes followed by 2 eighths.  It’s bouncy and fun.  I’ll usually clap it for them and ask them to clap it back or sing it back or even stomp it back.  Whatever I can do to get it in their body first before sitting at the piano.  We’ve also done it on a drum.

Once we’ve done that, I demonstrate the song customized for them one finger first and have them repeat after me. They are thrilled they can play a real song within 3 minutes!  I got this idea from reading Dr. Suzuki’s book where he described a first lesson and a song he called Mississippi Hot Dog.

VARIATIONS ON NAMING & SYLLABLES

I’ve had kids call it Peanut Butter Sandwich, Peanut Butter Jelly, I Like Chocolate Ice Cream, Pepperoni Pizza, I Like Bacon Ice Cream, and then with some kids I couldn’t quite get to six syllables so we left it as Strawberry Ice Cream or Creme Brulée Ice Cream.  I didn’t even know they had that!

And the last part of the song, I have them do a descending scale, one note per finger, from G to C. The lyric for this, is dependent on how they answer the question, “What would you like to drink with that?”

My usual is “And some ap-ple juice.”  Another common one was “And some water too,” or “And a glass of milk.”

The kids go home and practice this one song all week one hand at a time. Usually, within a week, I have kids using 10 fingers and having a ball singing along and playing the piano.

By limiting what they can focus on, I am guaranteeing they have nothing else to play and will master this before anything else. I do give a “bonus” song which I don’t even show them, but say, I bet you can figure this out after you’ve done the other one. It’s Hot Cross Buns, and most of my 5 and up kids can do it.  Some of my 4 year olds may take another week.

What’s great about this is that we get the whole technical issue of using all 10 fingers out the way quickly and give them something fun and personal for them to play. Also, being in the first lesson, I usually have great compliance with practice routines and attention from the parents.

After they can do it one hand at a time, then I ask them to practice 2 hands together. As we go along, we eventually get them doing it 2 hands together with eyes closed.

VIDEO

Here’s a video of the lesson that I usually send in after-lesson notes so they have extra guidance.

Using the colors allows me to bypass all the technical issues of finding the right notes to play and get moving quickly. This allows them to gain confidence and actually have fun right away.  It also allows me to teach pre-literate children and to kids of parents who don’t even know what  C or a G is.

FLAT FINGERS

I don’t worry about flat finger for the first 3 to 5 weeks. As long as they are playing using their whole arms to produce the sound and all 10 fingers, we then gradually have them become aware of how it would be better to make a relaxed C curl.  If I draw to much attention at the start, it actually impedes their progress.

MINIMAL GRAPHICS

I try to have each piece of music big and bold and with minimal distraction. As kids get older, we move into some other method books that I’ve found are pretty good.  I’ll do a future post about my favorite method books and why.

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

Good luck and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

DOWNLOAD

You can download these first songs by subscribing in the box below.


 

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Lesson Plan Ideas Piano Lesson

The Proper Height For Sitting At The Piano

There is a proper way to sit at the piano.  By being mindful of this from the start, you can ensure good habits for life.

I used to suffer greatly from carpal tunnel syndrome from typing on the computer with poor hand positioning.   Once I became conscious and aware of this, I have cured myself.  Well, it did take some massive reconditioning and even occupational therapy along with a cortisone shot to start changing my habit!  So, you see, habits can be tough to break.

Height of the seat at the piano is important as the arms need to be flat and level with the floor.  There should be no tension or bending at the wrists as it will cause friction and that is the cause of all the pain.  For my youngest students, I have to constantly remind them not to rest their palms or wrists on the edge of the piano or else the crocodiles that live under the piano will come bite them!

Another important note is how far from the piano should you sit.

Sometimes what looks like a low sitting position causing the wrists to “break” backwards is only because they are sitting too close to the piano.  Some of my young students sit with their belly almost up to the keyboard.  I always tell them that you can’t play like a Tyrannosaurus Rex! (they had short little arms.)

I’ve taught my son piano from an early age which can be a challenge as being father and teacher.  When he was 10, I sent him to another teacher, and the first thing he says when comes home was, “Suzan says that I need to sit further back from the piano.”

I couldn’t believe it!  I’ve been only saying that for the last 6 years!

Proper Sitting At The Piano
From Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1
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Piano Lesson Piano Sheet Music For Beginners

Easy Scottish Folk Song For Piano

This is a piece of music that just about everyone who is Scottish knows.  It actually is a jingle for candy, called Coulter’s Candy.  You know how clever jingles can be?  They get in your head and stay there for the whole day!  Some people call them ear-worms!

This song is very basic and simple and I’ve made an easy piano arrangement for my students.  I’ve also taken the liberty to change some of the words to more modern English as the Scottish brogue doesn’t make sense to most 5 years olds (at least in Brooklyn, NYC!).  It is also known as “Ally Bally Bee” as that’s the beginning of the lyric.

I came across this song because I’m working on a soundtrack for the Los Angeles theater company Son Of Semele Ensemble who are working on a production that calls for variations on Coulter’s Candy.  You can hear my work in progress here.

Here’s the PDF of the sheet music for Coulter’s Candy.  It uses my color system which you can read more about here.

[convertkit form=4854727]

In the USA, one of the most famous jingles is the Mister Softee ice cream song.
You can actually go and download the sheet music for that one directly from the company.

 

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Piano Lesson Piano Sheet Music For Beginners Printables

Let It Be, easy piano sheet music for intermediate players

Let it be for piano - intermediate musicolor method

The Beatles changed the world with their catchy pop melodies, excellent song structures and beautiful harmonies.  This song is long a favorite for pianists, but playing it in the original key of C is quite difficult for most young singers who have the heart of their range from middle C (C4) to the one above (C5).

Here’s a quick and easy version that you can use to remedy that situation in the Key of F major.  You can easily find the lyrics anywhere on the internet.

For educational purposes only. Download PDF.

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Piano Lesson Piano Sheet Music For Beginners

French Childrens Song, Petit Papa, sheet music for beginners

This is an old French folk song called Petit Papá.  I created my own English translation for the lyrics to help my students who need something to sing as they play.

Here it is with colored note heads as per my color system.

You can download this sheet music as part of our Musicolor Method™ Training Course.

Here’s one of my students performing this piece at a recital.

 

 

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Piano Lesson Practice Tips

Why Daily Practice For Piano Is So Important And Some Tips

Download this free practice chart for piano

When learning any new skill or endeavor, creating a rhythm of daily practice is the most important.  Why?  By having the same pattern everyday, you create a habit and that’s hard to break – even when you don’t feel like it.  Think about brushing your teeth.  Because you started this routine every morning since you were little, you now have this habit – a good one – that you don’t even have to think about it.  It’s the same with learning piano.

If you just find a time of day when you can practice even just 5 to 10 minutes, then this routine becomes a habit.  My son, who is now 10, started this routine with me when he was 5.  He’s always been an early riser and so mornings are the best for him to practice.  We did make one request, which was more for our neighbors – to please only begin at 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends.  So now, we hardly ever have to remind him to practice on a daily basis.  It just happens.

Think about the best time for your child.  Is it right before dinner?  Or after?  Or right after school?  Or perhaps it’s first thing in the morning with headphones?

By keeping your practice routines at the same time of day, you are making it so much easier to create a daily rhythm, a routine.  And 5 minutes per day is far better than one day at 3 hours!  Why?  Because it’s the building up of finger patterns, muscle memory and conceptual understanding.  Plus, if you make practice time fun, then it’s also great bonding time for you and your child.  More on this in a future post.

Another little tip to get kids to practice:  sticker charts.  Kids love stickers and if you give them a chart to fill up with beautiful stickers – one per session – they’ll always want to practice.   Here’s a practice chart you can download and print at home.

And here’s a video of my son Alejandro practicing Octopuses Garden at 7.

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Piano Lesson

How To Play Dinah -piano lesson for beginners

Another easy fun piece for beginning piano players.