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10 Secrets How To Make Simplified Sheet Music For Kids

Part 3 of 3 on Finding Music For Teaching Kids

See Part 1: The Top 11 Sites for Public Domain Free Sheet Music

See Part 2: Where To Find Easy Sheet Music Arrangements

I have always felt comfortable rearranging sheet music and stripping out elements that are not completely necessary to get the song across. As a composer/arranger, I have a comfort level that not every music teacher has, but I want to show you that it is not as hard as you think.

Guidelines

You can use these to simplify any piece of music. Whether you are writing out the notation by hand or using a software package, the same rules will apply. These guidelines are from my point of view in teaching children. Many of these can apply to teens and adults as well.

1. For piano, strip out octaves in the left hand. Most young children cannot stretch an octave!

2. Consider shifting the key of the song. Many songs are written in keys that are scary to read but when shifted, become rather simple. For example, a piano song like Ray Charles’ Hit The Road Jack was originally in Bb minor because of the horn section. But it is much easier to read in A minor. On guitar, the capo makes transposition so easy!

3. For piano, consider block chords in the left hand and a single note melody in the right hand. Many pop song arrangements divide the voicings of chords between left and right hands. This is pretty difficult for young learners.

4. Simplify the rhythm. I think rhythm is probably the biggest opportunity to simplify a song. You can see some pop songs where the singer is obviously adding inflections and improvisations that are then notated exactly in the melody line. This makes for a very complex rhythm notation! And it’s completely unnecessary. It’s similar to notating jazz with dotted eighth and sixteenth notes – it makes it overly difficult to read. Just indicate swing eighths!

5. Limit the range. My students want to sing and play along to many of the songs they want to learn. But because the range is so wide, it makes it impossible. You can judiciously choose alternate notes for the high notes or see if you can shift the whole key to better accommodate your student. Guitarists really have it made with the use of a capo! For some of my students who have digital pianos/keyboards, I will often suggest a transposition using the electronics of the keyboard. This enables them to play the song in the way they have learned it but then be able to reach the vocal notes.

6. Change the meter. Many pieces of music are written with speed inherent in their choice of meter. The use of sixteenth notes can be intimidating to a beginning music student. By changing this to an eighth note, it somehow makes it easier. For younger students, I’ve made eighth notes into quarter notes.

7. Format the page with natural breaks. If you have a song with 4 measure phrases, try to keep that all on one line. You can also help students understand structure by paginating the piece so that each page contains a full section: A A B A, etc.

8. Use a larger staff and note-heads. I use gigantic staves for my preschool students learning to read music. An 8 measure song can be on two full letter-sized pages. As my students get older and able to read more, the sizing diminishes.

9. Use English rather than Italian. For tempos and dynamics, you can decide where and when to introduce these terms. But if you’re creating your own arrangement, you can decide to use more naturalistic language like, “getting faster” or “getting quieter.”

10. Use notation software on a computer or tablet to make it easier to reuse and edit for corrections. It will also look cleaner and more legible unless you have beautiful hand notation skills! There are many modern notation software systems that range from super easy to complex but powerful. I will be writing a separate article on this in the near future.

I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to forward and share this article with your colleagues.

 

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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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Blog Piano Sheet Music For Beginners Resources

The Top 11 Sites for Public Domain Free Sheet Music

Part 1 of 3 in a Series on Finding Sheet Music for Students

Part 2 – Where To Find Easy Sheet Music Arrangements

As a music teacher, it sometimes feels like an endless struggle to find sheet music for your voracious roster of students! Obviously there are commercial online stores as well as the library, but there’s also an entire history of free written music available online. I’m talking about public domain music.

Public Domain Music

This is music where the copyright has expired. Bach? Beethoven? Mozart? These are all hundreds of years old and you can definitely find everything written by these composers online for free.

Modern Editions of Public Domain Music

You can find very nice editions of Bach’s inventions or Beethoven piano sonatas in every music store that are not copyright free as the publishers have added value by making editorial decisions to the work. It may not be note changes, but they may add tempo markings where there were none or dynamics, etc. For example, most music from the Baroque period was quite sparse in directional markings. Seeing a piece from the 1500’s by Palestrina with crescendos and other dynamics is most certainly the work of a modern editor. This can be useful or not. Does it add value? Or is it just an editor trying to impose his/her stylistic preferences?

Finding Free Sheet Music

Finding sheet music that is free and public domain can be tricky. Different countries have different laws regarding copyright especially in the length of term. If you are searching for something that is older than 100 years old, then you are generally safe to assume it’s copyright free. But I’m not your legal counsel. If you are using music for commercial use, you should definitely consult a lawyer. The music business is a lawyer’s playground!

In no particular order, here are 11 sites for public domain free sheet music:

  1. IMSLP
    The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), also known as the Petrucci Music Library after publisher Ottaviano Petrucci, is a subscription-based project for the creation of a virtual library of public domain music scores, based on the wiki principle.
  2. ChoralWiki
    CPDL was founded in December 1998, ported to ChoralWiki in August 2005, and incorporated in May 2010 as a U.S.A. 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. Here you will find free choral/vocal scores, texts, translations, and other useful information.
  3. Musopen
    Musopen is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on increasing access to music by creating free resources and educational materials. They provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions. Their mission is to set music free.
  4. Mutopia Project
    2,010 pieces of music – free to download, modify, print, copy, distribute, perform, and record – all in the Public Domain or under Creative Commons licenses, in PDF, MIDI, and editable LilyPond file formats.
  5. Musicalion
    A subscription-based online library offering over 27,000 compositions, including both public-domain and self-published works. Over 11,000 of the compositions are available in MusicXML format. Compositions are available in a mix of PDF, MusicXML, MIDI, and original source formats.
  6. Sheet Music Online
    Online since 1995: Now in their 21st year recommending the best sounding arrangements in print!
  7. Sheet Music Fox
    Download hundreds of thousands of free public domain sheet music titles here.
  8. Free Scores
    We offer contemporary, classical, and educational free sheet music for all instruments. Free-scores.com is a free and legal platform for composers, arrangers, and publishers. There may be restrictions on the use of the music so check that out on the license page.
  9. Public Domain Sherpa
    This page lists resources for free sheet music that’s either in the public domain or free for certain uses.
  10. University of Virginia Library
    This site lists many links to other great free libraries of sheet music.
  11. Indiana University
    Selected public domain opera and song literature scores, as well as some online sound recordings.

I hope you find these links useful. In a future post, I will explore where to find commercial sheet music, easy beginner arrangements, and how to simplify music yourself.

 

 

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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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Piano Sheet Music For Beginners

Music from Frozen – Easiest Piano Sheet Music

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

I can’t ever recall a time when I’ve had so many requests for the same music from virtually all of my students.  Disney’s film Frozen  and it’s incredibly catchy music has captivated every kid I know.  And especially since the songwriters live in my neighborhood!

I’ve taught Let it Go (you can see my easy arrangement here) so many times that I’ve had to try to restrict how many play it at the recital.  (Boy that would be tough to sit through!)

Here’s something that is perfect for a young 5 year old girl, Do You Want To Build A Snowman?  I’ve greatly simplified it for my student Stella, and now you can teach it to your kids.

I’ve used colored note-heads as per my color system.  For those of you who have gone through my 2 iPad piano books Play Piano For Kids Volume 1 and 2, you are ready to play this!  So congratulations on this bonus song.

If you prefer, just print it out in black and white for traditional notation.  It’s shortened and because eighth notes are scary to some little kids, I’ve doubled the note values for the most part.

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

For educational purposes only.  You can purchase the full official sheet music here.

 

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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.

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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 Sheet Music For Beginners Printables

Ode To Joy, easy piano notes with colors

This is a good piece for early beginning pianists and will most likely be featured in my upcoming Volume 3 of Play Piano For Kids.

The sheet music uses my color system which is basically a rainbow starting from C.  You should download Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1 as a PDF to see the color scheme and how it works.

Beethoven portrait

Most kids have heard of Beethoven and may have even been introduced to some of his music in their music class at school.  Ode To Joy is the famous melody that was part of his 9th Symphony and there have been many versions of English lyrics put to this music over the last two hundred years.

Ode To Joy Free piano sheet music

Download PDF here

And when you start teaching it to your child, you can have them listen to this version by a Philharmonic Chorus.


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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 Sheet Music For Beginners Printables

Happy Birthday, easy piano sheet music

How to play Happy Birthday on the piano. This is a popular perennial request and I’m posting here for educational purposes only.  Recently, the courts in the USA have declared this as public domain!  Woo hoo!

Enjoy!

Download the Happy Birthday song in PDF here.

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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.