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Can I Afford to Buy a Piano? | Tips for Financing & Purchasing

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Thinking about buying a piano or keyboard, but worried about the costs involved? Here, Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares her tips for keeping the price – and your stress level – down…

 

As a piano instructor, I meet many potential students and parents who are very interested in lessons for their family, but won’t sign up because they don’t have a piano or keyboard, or are concerned about piano prices. Don’t let this keep you from investing in music education! There are plenty of ways to get a great keyboard in your home.

1. Ask a trusted real estate agent.
This may sound strange, but real estate agents know a lot of people, close to where you live, who are moving and may be in desperate need of getting rid of a keyboard or a piano. The desperate need also often means opportunities to find lower piano prices!

2. Join www.Ebates.com, then shop online.
When you join Ebates and then shop online, you get cash back sent to your address in a quarterly check. Let’s say you find a great keyboard at Best Buy on sale for $300. The best idea is to go home, sign into Ebates.com, go to Best Buy’s website, and find that same keyboard online. If Ebates is offering 8% cash back that day, that means you’ll get $24 back!

3. Shop flea markets and antique shops.
My very first piano was given to me by my parents 20 years ago. They had found one at an old, but reputable antique store in a nearby town for $500. My parents were not certain that I’d stick with piano or keep it forever, but now, 20 years later, not only does the same piano sit in my parlor, but I’m teaching my daughter to play it as well. It’s still in great shape, even through several moves along the East coast.

4. Finance through a piano dealer.
If only a piano will do, then you’ll most likely have to finance one. Luckily, it’s not unlike financing a car. Check out piano shops in your area, as there are often in-house finance deals with pretty decent terms. You can expect a credit check and a 10% to 20% down payment with the piano serving as the collateral.

5. Finance through your bank or credit union.
Banks often offer the best finance terms and conditions. You could take out a home equity line of credit or a small personal loan. Rates will be fairly low for existing customers and will typically be fixed, so you won’t get any surprises like you might with a consumer credit card.

6. Inquire at a local music school.
Visit the front desk of your local performing arts center or small music store. Often, they’re given contact information from teachers and students who are ready to be piano- or keyboard-free. You could even try asking your kids’ school band, orchestra, or choir teacher!

If you’re in the market for a piano, then be sure to inspect the instrument inside and out, just as you would a car. Make sure there are no cracks or splits on the interior and that every key is easily played and sounds clear, not wobbly.

Most families need only a full-sized keyboard, without any of the bells and whistles, for their needs. Pianos are a beautiful investment, but one that is also made of expanding and contracting wood. This means annual or bi-annual tuning and regular maintenance. For some, like semi-professionals and advanced students, there is no substitute for one. But for most, especially those of us who perform and need to carry our keys around town, a keyboard is key!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star, Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

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10 Wedding Processionals You Can Play on Piano

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There are so many beautiful piano pieces that make the perfect choice for wedding processionals. Here, Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares a few to consider… 

 

Weddings are beautiful celebrations of a couple’s lifelong commitment to one another. They’re also a great performance opportunity for pianists out there. Though the organ, string quartets, and choirs are still used, piano is commonly the main instrument at a wedding ceremony for those who choose live music.

Music has always been a vastly important part of the wedding ceremony. “Processional” is a term that refers to the order in which the wedding party walks into the ceremony site, but it also refers to the piece that’s played as the bride walks in. Every wedding is unique in its style and mood, and the music that you play is a big part of that and should be matched to that. Here’s a list of 10 popular processional pieces that you can play on the piano for your wedding gigs.

1. Handel’s “Air” from the Water Music Suite
Calm, serene, and elegant, this is a quite traditional piece originally composed for an orchestra, but because of its popularity, it’s been long transcribed for piano.

2. Clarke’s “Trumpet Voluntary”
Also associated with formal and traditional ceremonies, this song’s bright, vibrant feeling is a big favorite. As the name suggests, it was originally performed with solo trumpet and orchestra, but it will sound just as triumphant on the ivory keys.

3. Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a beautiful suite in which each section beautifully expresses the season that it’s named after. “Spring” is a vivacious, lively, bright piece with lovely movement that’s appropriate for a wedding in any season.

4. Gordon’s and Warren’s “At Last”
Most famously performed by Etta James and released in 1961, “At Last” is a perfect choice for those who’d like a less traditional sound. It’s deeply romantic and “bluesy,” the first words reading, “at last my love has come along/my lonely days are over and life is like a song.” Even if the ceremony doesn’t have a singer, the song is so well-written that it still evokes romance and devotion without having to hear any words.

5. Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me”
For a modern and contemporary ceremony, Jones’ song of romantic escape is intimate and elegant. Since it was composed originally for the piano, it will be quickly and utterly recognizable.

6. Neeman’s “Hana’ava Babanot”
Subtitled “A Love Song”, “Hana’ava Babanot” is an Israeli piece, perfect for a Jewish wedding. The translation follows:
most beautiful of maidens,
lift your face to me,
lift your face to me
come, beloved, for you are most fair,
and have delighted me.
give me your hand and embrace me –
strengthen me again and again

7. Charpentier’s “Prelude” from Te Deum
For a formal, Christian wedding ceremony, “Prelude” from Te Deum is beautifully grand and joyful.

8. Bach’s “Air on a G String”
Slow, subtle, and a little somber, “Air” was originally intended for strings to play, but it’s also lovely on the piano.

9. Pachebel’s “Canon in D”
Perhaps the most popular processional piano pieces of all time, Pachebel’s “Canon” has been arranged and rearranged by many, so you can find a level that’s easy for you to learn.

10. The Beatles’ “And I Love Her”
If your wedding client is a classic rock fan and plans a 60s themed or “flower child” wedding, then “And I Love Her” is just right. Being the quintessential rock-and-roll band of the era, the Beatles’ love songs are always be a hit.

As a wedding musician, get to know the brides and the planners that you work for in order to understand the stage that’s being set. A wedding is a sacred ceremony, but on another level, it’s a show. As a huge part of that show, it’s your job to help choose a processional that fits it!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star, Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

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Top 5 Piano Tutorial Videos on YouTube

Before the Internet, the library was the best resource when researching schoolwork, and tutorial books provided step-by-step instruction for budding instrumentalists. Now, you’re far more likely to switch on your computer and search for piano lessons online. With YouTube rapidly becoming the go-to place for tutorials in just about anything you can think of, these five short videos will form a useful starting point for piano lessons online.

Piano Lessons for Beginners – Lesson I

As this YouTuber says, this is a fun video taking the absolute beginner through the basics of piano; the beauty of this video is the assumption that the budding player has never even sat at a piano before, and therefore has no prior knowledge, so it’s a very simple introduction to the instrument.

Two Hands Together Practice – Part I

One thing that many beginners find very difficult is coordinating right and left hand together, and there are surprisingly few piano lessons online that address this. The simple exercises shown in the video below will give you some help. Your dominant hand – whether you are right- or left-handed – will always be a little in front of the other, and it’s worth incorporating exercises early on that help to even this out.

Finger Exercises For Piano That Really Helped Me

This video has the benefit of a clearly-written chart behind the keyboard, which is particularly useful if you’re still learning the notes on the piano. These exercises are aimed at finger strength as well as dexterity, which are essential elements in helping you to improve.

Music Theory – Bass Clef (Understanding and Identifying Notes)

Not strictly a piano tutorial as such, but it’s not uncommon for bass clef knowledge to lag far behind note recognition in the treble clef, which can hold you back as a beginner. Unless you have sung in a choir as a bass, you’re likely to be scrambling for unfamiliar notes in combination with your less-able hand (if you’re right-handed).

Tutorial: Sightreading at the Piano

Although this piano tutorial is aimed at slightly more advanced players, the principles addressed are extremely useful for beginner players, too. It’s helpful to learn how a more advanced and experienced pianist approaches music, as these are skills that you should develop early on. It’s interesting to note that he doesn’t advise learning the two hands separately, which he equates to learning to speak with only vowels first and adding consonants later. This video really addresses the importance of making your hands work together!

However informative and high-quality these videos might be, keep in mind that they shouldn’t replace working with a piano teacher in an interactive, one-on-one setting. These videos can’t check your posture, or hear any mistakes you make that you might not notice. Nor will they be able to recommend further exercises that might help you, or which piano pieces to work on next! Unlike band instruments or being a choral singer, being a pianist can be a slightly isolating experience, and another function a good teacher can fulfill is to give you someone simply to “talk piano” with. Ready to get started? Find a piano teacher near you here!

 

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Dueling Piano Bars 101: Popular Songs for Piano to Request

Fun Piano Songs If you haven’t heard of dueling piano bars yet, you will soon! As audiences demand a renaissance of live entertainment on large stages, this has also trickled down to bar scenes; the result is a rise in not just karaoke clubs and open mic nights, but also jazz clubs, indie band clubs, and piano bars of every kind. The “dueling pianos” style of entertainment in particular (which traces back as far as the 1890s in the form of speed battles with ragtime piano songs) has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity in most American cities.

What started with Pat O’Brien’s Bar in the 1930s in New Orleans, dueling piano bars are typically characterized by having two grand or baby grand pianos placed opposite each other, and two talented musicians performing and accepting audience requests for songs. Most dueling piano songs are in the rock and roll, country, classic rock, and contemporary rock music genres. Generally, the performers are operating with the goal of encouraging audience participation, rather than directly battling one another like a more organized talent competition.

Former or hobbyist piano players might want to take note of this kind of show’s rise in popularity; if you enjoy performing live, covering popular music, and improvising, this is a great time to brush up with a few lessons and pick up a new gig!

Whether you’d rather go to a dueling piano bar to play or to party, it’s a good move to get familiar with the most popular songs for piano. Here are 36 song ideas to request:

All-Time Favorites

Some of the most requested popular songs for piano

  • “Joy to the World” – Three Dog Night

  • “Rocket Man” – Elton John

  • “Barracuda” – Heart

  • “Carry On, Wayward Son” – Kansas

  • “Rock and Roll All Nite” – KISS

  • “Piano Man” – Billy Joel

Push the Envelope

Well-loved, complex tunes, to challenge your favorite performers

  • “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Charlie Daniels Band

  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

  • “Layla” – Eric Clapton

  • “Sultans of Swing” – Dire Straits

  • “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” – AC/DC

  • “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” – George Thorogood

Make it Modern

Contemporary pop tunes that the whole bar secretly wants to hear one more time

  • “That’s What You Get” – Paramore

  • “Firework” – Katy Perry

  • “Someone Like You” – Adele

  • “Crazy in Love” – Beyonce feat. Jay-Z

  • “Every Morning” – Sugar Ray

  • “The Way” – Fastball

Stage and Screen

Everyone loves hits from movies and musicals

  • “Singin’ in the Rain” – Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain)

  • “Stayin’ Alive” – the Bee Gees (Saturday Night Fever)

  • “Hakuna Matata” – Nathan Lane and Co. (the Lion King)

  • “Summer Nights” – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (Grease)

  • “All That Jazz” – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger (Chicago, film version)

  • “Footloose” – Kenny Loggins (Footloose)

Play That Funky Music

Take it back with jazz, funk, soul, and reggae

  • “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” – Wild Cherry

  • “Mack the Knife” – Louis Armstrong

  • “Superfreak” – Rick James

  • “Sophisticated Lady” – Duke Ellington

  • “Stand by Me” – Ben E. King

  • “No Woman, No Cry” – Bob Marley

Keepin’ it Classic

More rock and roll hits, to stay true to the traditions

  • “Old Time Rock & Roll” – Bob Seger

  • “Take it Easy” – the Eagles

  • “Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top

  • “Born to Be Wild” – Steppenwolf

  • “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor

  • “Great Balls of Fire” – Jerry Lee Lewis

Spending an evening at a dueling piano bar is a great way to get some sing-along therapy, make some new friends, and discover new music! Try searching the web or your music library for these recommendations to get more confident singing along with the crowd’s favorite hits. We hope you have a great time requesting these popular songs for piano the next time you go out!

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Piano Care | How to Clean a Piano

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Not sure how to clean your piano? Check out these tips from Olympia, WA teacher Tali H

 

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “A clean room gives way to a clear mind.” Although I’m not so sure this logic follows for the piano (“a clean piano gives ways to clear playing”), it’s still important to keep your playing area relatively clutter-free and your piano tidy. While caring for the piano is simple, there are a few things to watch out for and some easy steps you can take to make the maintenance minimal. Here are the do’s and don’ts of how to clean a piano:

1. The Do’s

There are two extremely easy ways to keep your piano clean. One, wash your hands before playing every time (just a good 30-second rub down with soap). Most of the dirt that gets on your piano comes from the fingers and hands of people who play it, so taking this preventative step is very important. Then, when you’re done playing, pull the piano lid down over the keys so they’re not exposed to dust, sunlight, or the occasional mishap with spilled drinks, food, etc.

Even with careful preventative care, it’s likely that grease, dirt, and dust will still build up on your piano from time to time. Remove the dust often (a quick once-over before you start playing) with a feather duster or a soft, slightly damp cloth (such as flannel or cheesecloth). I recommend white to avoid discoloration of the keys and using filtered water on the cloth. However, don’t get carried away with cleaning. Only wipe the outside of the piano – leave the inside (which can be more fragile) to the professionals.

2. The Don’ts

When dusting your piano, don’t use a rough or dry cloth (you want to avoid scratching the keys). No paper towels! Also, avoid using mineral water or any type of spray, perfume, polish or aerosol. These have the potential to alter the coloration of the piano or create unfavorable marks.

Avoid getting water in between the keys by wiping up and down one key at a time, rather than across the keys where water can seep into the cracks. Also, have a dry cloth on hand to quickly pat down the wet keys.

3. Whitening the Keys

After your piano is free of dust and dirt, there may still be discoloration. In this case, you’ll want to whiten the keys. The first step is determining what the piano keys are made of (generally plastic, ebony, or ivory). Ivory keys will have a fine split on each key, as they are molded together. Ebony keys have a matte texture and tend to feel more solid. For ivory keys, use milk and gently rub each key, taking caution that the milk doesn’t get inside the piano. This process can be time-consuming. For ebony keys, take a gentle toothpaste, and lightly polish the keys. Next, take a cloth dampened with milk and wash away the toothpaste residue. Pat dry immediately.

Remember the best action for a clean piano is preventative action. So wash your hands before you play and keep the keys hidden under the cover! Also, it helps to have your piano in a cool, dark place. Sun exposure leads to discoloration on the keys. These are some of the best strategies for how to clean a piano and will ensure years of quality music-making!

TaliHTali H. tutors and teaches piano in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 

 

 

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10 Most Popular Piano Pieces to Play

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When you’re learning how to play the piano, which songs are the go-to, must-learn pieces to add to your repertoire? Here, take a look at ten of the most popular piano pieces to play, as compiled by Brooklyn teacher Jennifer K

 

Most people begin to play the piano because of a song they have heard, that they want to play. Piano is the most popular instrument to study because it has the largest range and is one of the most accessible instruments. Many simply love the sound and movement of this beautiful instrument. So many of these beloved piano pieces are in our consciousness because they are also included in our popular culture, such as in cartoons, commercials, and our favorite movies.

Here is a list I have compiled of the top ten piano pieces worth adding to your repertoire:

10 – Moonlight Sonata – The opening theme of this piano sonata is a lovely, sad melody that is dramatic and emotional. Moonlight Sonata was actually written without a title. Beethoven’s publisher attached this programmatic title for marketing purposes! Talk about great advertising!

9 – Old MacDonald – From American folk music, this is a great piece to learn when you are just starting out because it is instantly recognizable. It’s great for sing-alongs as well.

8 – Clair de Lune – Ah, the French. Romance, rich food, and beautiful music. They are so good at it! Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is one of the most popular piano pieces to play, evoking themes of peaceful reflection and natural settings. It will take some focused practice to get these chords right, but pianists are rewarded for their labor when they perform this piece. It is a joy to play and a pleasure to listen to. Take this song anywhere and you will have a captive audience.

7 – Row, Row, Row Your Boat – This piece is awesome to play because most arrangements have the hands cross while playing, so the beginning pianist can look like a pro! Also, this can be played with a partner in a round or “canon.”

6 – Prelude 1 in C Major – J. S. Bach was the master. I like to think of Bach as the power breakfast of a training musician. He is chock-full of musical nutrients. The preludes and fugues are a must for any pianist wanting to learn proper technique and knowledge of all keys. This prelude introduces a repetitive figure with a beautiful resultant melody. I love the way the notes only change one or two at a time. Playing Bach in the morning is like going for a morning jog to get the metabolism going!

5 – Yankee Doodle – A great American folksong, “Yankee Doodle” is a fabulous beginner piece because it incorporates a more complex melody, but is still easy to learn because we already know the tune. This is one of the first pieces you can learn with two hands, and the folk rhythm also serves as a great timing exercise.

4 – Fur Elise – This is an instantly recognizable Beethoven composition that is beautiful and has your hands flowing all over the piano. This piece will take a little time for beginners to learn, but it is worth the practice! Little known fact: “Fur Elise” is the piece that inspired Alicia Keys’ piano intro to her first hit single, “Fallin’”.

3 – Minuet in G – Now we’re into some truly great classical music. This Bach minuet introduces an open hand position and opportunities to practice both legato (smoothly connected) and staccato (detached) notes. This piece is also a great way to experiment with a different dynamics on the piano.

2 – Ode to Joy – Beethoven’s third appearance on this list. Beethoven and Mozart are so popular here because they built upon simple melodies. They wrote the kind of music that gets stuck in our heads!

1 – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – Everyone knows and loves pieces like this, because they are part of our common culture, and will link a sense a familiarity to a new instrument. It is also great tool for teachers as it provides students an instant bond to their instrument.
Mozart wrote variations on this theme, which is from a French lullaby. Beginner students can play this song after just a few lessons at the piano.

Little known fact: Did you know that “Twinkle, Twinkle” is the same as the “ABC” song? Don’t believe me? Have a friend sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” while you sing the alphabet song. Yes, this is a tune from hundreds of years ago, embedded into our brains from infanthood. So every toddler who can sing his or her ABCs is sort of a Little Mozart!

JennKennedyJennifer K. teaches piano, guitar, songwriting, and tutors in various subjects in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Masters in Music from Purchase College. Learn more about Jennifer here! 

 

 

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Learn How to Play Piano: How Often Should I Practice?

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“I’d love to learn how to play piano, but I just don’t have the time.” Does that sound familiar? If you say you’re too busy to learn, think again! Check out this advice from Hyde Park, MA teacher Marie-france M

Many people are under the impression that there is no point in learning how to play piano unless you are able to practice a minimum of one hour a day – but nothing could be further from the truth. When you learn how to play piano, even at a rudimentary level, it’s a multi-faceted undertaking best accomplished in small steps. I have watched a great many people grow into fine musicians simply by making a commitment to practice a total of 25 minutes a week, dividing that 25 minutes into five, five-minute practice session. So, what can you do with that five-minute session?

Here is a typical five-point, five-minute beginner level practice list:

  • Finger Clenches

Finger clenches can be performed either as “Tennis Singles” (squeeze a tennis ball five times with each hand) or “Double Dutch” (partner with someone facing you with outstretched arms and clenched hands, and squeeze their clenched fists five times, both hands simultaneously).

  • Two-Hands, Five-Finger Exercises (CDEFG)

Play the first five degrees of the C Scale in ascending order, using the following fingering:

Right hand is thumb (1) on C, index finger (2) on D, middle finger (3) on E, ring finger (4) on F, and Pinky (5) on G.
Left hand fingering is the reverse 5 Pinky, 4 Ring, 3 Middle, 2 index, and 1 thumb.

Master each hand separately, then put both hands together. When that is mastered, increase your speed.

  • C Scale, Right Hand

Play the C scale with your right hand only Ascending use this fingering: 123,12345. Make sure your tone is even.

  • C Scale Chords

Play the C scale chords in ascending order, speaking their names as you do so: C chord, D minor, E minor, F Chord, G Chord, A Minor, B Diminished, and C chord.

  • Michael Aaron Red Book Page 7, measures 1-4

For my students, I recommend this Michael Aaron Primer/Performance Book. The song is “Shoo Fly!” in 4/4 time, and it is a work in rhythm utilizing quarter and half notes in both treble and bass clef. The hands alternate in playing the melody and the lyrics are provided for singing along.

In these five minutes you’ll work on strengthening and stretching your hand muscles , fingering techniques, speed, dexterity, harmony, ear- training, sight reading, and more. And because the session only lasts five minutes, you will be ready, willing, and able to come back for a repeat session tomorrow.

Repetition is key for developing the fine motor control required for our five fingers to land on exactly the right notes at exactly the right time. The best way to ensure your success is to return to the keyboard and mindfully practice the same thing over and over again. And the easiest way to do that is to think of your practice in five-minute increments.

What if I want to keep practicing past the five-minute mark?

With the understanding that five-minute practice sessions require full concentration, when you feel ready, try increasing your practice time by additional five-minute intervals. Some students are fully capable of concentrated practice of an hour or more, but it is a thing best worked up to, like running a 10K.

While practice makes (almost) perfect, it is during free time at the keyboard where the magic happens, where the true musicians and composers emerge. To do this, make sure to balance your practice time with copious amounts of free time to explore your musical inclinations. Have fun!

Marie-franceMarie-france M. teaches piano, singing, acting, and songwriting in Hyde Park, MA. She draws on a wide range of materials in The Holistic Piano (and voice) method, which is especially effective with Autism-spectrum students. Learn more about Marie-france here!

 
 
 

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Top Five Piano Songs For Kids

2372172953_8da7d61e8e_bAre you a teacher or a parent looking for some great piano songs for kids? Check out these suggestions from Nutley, NJ teacher Christina C

As a piano teacher at several music schools in northern NJ, I’ve attended quite a few recitals. While listening to my colleagues’ students as well as my own, I’ve heard a variety of musical pieces performed, which got me thinking: What are the top five piano songs for kids to play?

Since there are many different songs and arrangements of songs to suit different levels of ability, I will stick to the top five songs that can be learned within the first year or two of taking piano lessons. The following five pieces are in order of easiest to most difficult, but assumes that other songs will be taught in between learning them.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

The first song I teach my students, after introducing them to the white keys of the piano in “C position” is “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. This song is easy, recognizable, and children can play its simple melody with their right hand alone. Kids love to play this because they are excited about playing a song that they already know, and can show to their family and friends, who will recognize it too.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Another song I have a lot of success with is “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. This song is great because the melody can be taught first using all five fingers of the right hand, and teaching the new concept of stretching your pinky finger over to the right to play the A key as well as the G key. This is a perfect piece to teach this new concept because the student can easily see that the hand should stay mainly in the C position, only moving the pinky to the right as necessary to play the A.

Another good thing about this song is that after the right hand melody part is taught, I help the student learn the underlying chords that go with the melody to play with their left hand. I explain how to find the “home note” and how to identify the key that the song is in by listening. Three very basic major chords are used (C, F, and G) and they happen to also be the I, IV, and V chords, respectively, which is also a very important concept to learn, as many songs use this very popular chord progression. After learning the melody and chords with each hand playing separately, when the student is ready, we put the hands together.

Happy Birthday

My third pick for top piano songs for kids to learn would have to be ”Happy Birthday.” This is a staple song in a pianist’s repertoire. The next time your child attends a birthday party for a family member or friend, encourage them to play the song on the piano while everyone else sings along! This is also a good song to teach kids because the melody can be split between both hands for an early beginner to learn, or arranged for the melody to be played with the right hand and the chords with the left for a more advanced student.

The next two pieces I have selected are classical and also more difficult, but can usually be incorporated into a student’s repertoire within the first year or two of study.

Minuet in G (J.S. Bach)

There are two sections to this Minuet and most people will instantly recognize the first section. I usually play the whole piece for my student, and get them the music for both sections – but so they don’t feel overwhelmed, I tell them that we are only going to learn the first part and see how it goes. I slowly teach them the beginning of the first section- right hand separately, then left hand separately. They will practice it hands separately for a week in between lessons and then start putting the hands together. Before they know it, they are playing Bach and they are usually so excited they can’t wait to go on to the next section of the piece!

Fur Elise

Finally, this list would not be complete without “Fur Elise” by Ludwig van Beethoven. I can remember hearing it as a little girl and wanting to play it as soon as possible, which I did! It is fairly easy to play, and uses both major and minor chords. There are different arrangements with simpler left hand chords that also skip the middle sections of the piece, which are rather challenging to a beginner. These easier arrangements are really wonderful because they allow a beginner to play a well-known classical piece, which can really boost their student’s confidence.

These five pieces are highly recommended to learn if you are taking piano lessons. Each song has its own concepts to learn in addition to learning to play the song itself. If you are in your first year or two of piano lessons, see which of these you have played and which you have yet to learn. Ask your piano teacher about anything on this list that you have not yet learned, and I’m sure that he or she will be able to take it from there and teach you arrangements of these songs appropriate to your individual level. Above all, enjoy playing the piano!

ChristinaCChristina C. teaches piano, composition, songwriting, and more in Nutley, NJ. She majored in Piano Performance at Ithaca College, and has over 15 years of teaching experience in professional music studios in NJ. Learn more about Christina here! 

 

 

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Piano Guitar

5 Contemporary Songs for the Piano, Guitar, and Voice

Practicing any song on the piano can be fun at first, but after a while playing the same songs by yourself can be a bit boring. Why not find some songs for the piano, guitar, and voice? You can perform for others in a talent show or an open mic night, or just for yourselves and have a good jam session!

With any of the songs for the piano, guitar, and voice, your music teacher can help you with some pointers, and might even be able to teach you the chords by listening to the song. Be sure to ask your instructor before setting out to practice one of these songs by yourself, because there might be certain techniques that he or she wants you to focus on within the song. Here are a few ideas to get you started!

OneRepublic – “If I Lose Myself”

While this acoustic cover of OneRepublic’s song also features a violin part, you can easily do without it and still get the same feel. This might not be one of the newest songs for piano and guitar, but it’s still out on the radio now and then and you’ll have no problem getting into the groove of it.

Decide which parts each instrument will take, as the song has a few different riffs that happen simultaneously. The guitar player should be able to pick a fairly fast rate, as the riffs can get going pretty fast!

Miley Cyrus – “Wrecking Ball”

If your singer really likes to croon, this is the perfect song to try! With a melody that is fairly slow and methodical, you won’t have to worry about things picking up speed and getting left behind.

Both the piano player and guitar player should be prepared for powerful chords throughout the chorus, and lighter playing during the verse. You can mix it up and make this one of your own songs for the piano and guitar if you’d like though, by making a few simple changes here and there.

The YouTube video above does not feature any vocals, but that just means that the melody is picked up by the piano and guitar. In the long run, having someone sing along with the piano and guitar parts can make things easier, as they can concentrate on the harmony and rhythm of their own playing, and the singer can carry the melody!

Coldplay – “A Sky Full Of Stars”

The YouTube video for this song again has no vocal part, so the melody is covered by the piano and guitar. Both this Coldplay song and the Miley Cyrus song can be much easier songs for the piano and guitar if the vocal melody is actually sung instead of played!

The guitar part for this song is mostly chords above the 12th fret, so be sure you’ve got those polished up! The piano part has many staccato chords scattered throughout the song. The vocal part is picked up by the piano, so the right hand octaves the melody.

Adele – “Skyfall”

If you haven’t seen the latest Bond movie, the opening credits alone are definitely worth watching. Adele lends her signature sound to the James Bond saga, and definitely does it justice! If you’re looking for songs for the piano and guitar with soaring vocals, look no further than this tune.

This is another song that’s a little bit more contemplative and dramatic than just upbeat and fast-paced. While it might be easier to learn, be careful, as the slower pace of the song leaves more space between notes. And it’s easier to notice your mistakes with this pace, if you happen to make any!

The vocal part is played by the guitar in this particular cover (above), but doubling the vocals and guitar is a great way to add some depth if your guitar player also sings (otherwise any late or early notes on the guitar would sound well out of place). You could also make this song a duet for piano and either guitar or voice, if you’d like.

Maroon 5 – “Payphone”

This final song is a great closing number. It can really rock, and most people know the words, so it’s good for a crowd sing-along at the end of a set. In the video, the piano plays chords and doubles the vocal melody, and the guitar doubles the chords played on the piano.

While this isn’t one of the most complicated songs for the piano, guitar, and voice, it is a crowd favorite. If you’re playing an open mic or talent show, sometimes that’s the best way to leave things, with a familiar tune that everyone can enjoy and hum or sing to even after the show is over!

 

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Songwriter

6 Beautiful Songs for Piano and Voice

Sometimes, it’s good to take your singing practice back to the basics, and just sing with a small ensemble. Most satisfying of all is working only with a good pianist – the level of detail just you and one other musician can achieve when working on material for piano and voice is very valuable to your development as a singer, no matter what stage you’re at.

If you’re stuck for ideas of what to work on, the following six songs – one religious, two modern pop classics, one German-language lied, one jazz standard, and one music theater number – may give you some ideas. They won’t all be suitable for your voice type, nor will they all be suitable for your current level of ability, but these six songs for piano and voice can give you an idea of which composers or artists to start your search with.

Schubert – “Ave Maria”

Perhaps the most beautiful and appropriate setting of the Latin text for this combination, “Ave Maria” is the perfect addition to any singer’s repertoire of songs for piano and voice. Suitable for singers at an intermediate level and up, it demands great purity of line, good breath control, and a moderate level of vocal flexibility. When working on this song, concentrate on evenness of tone, and experiment with dynamic contrast.

Adele – “Someone Like You”

British sensation Adele supplies a variety of modern classics for the female singer. This breakthrough hit requires considerable vocal control, however, and a solid technique. Make sure that you aren’t changing the shape or sound of the vowel as you change pitch on it, and practice exercises of arpeggios through the fifth on “ah” and “ooh” vowels before you sing this song to help you master this.

The Fray – “How to Save a Life”

Lyrics-driven pop songs for piano and voice are an excellent addition to your vocal repertoire, as they make you pay close attention to text, and how to color it. For this song in particular, the vocal line itself isn’t that difficult, and a beginner to intermediate singer should be able to master it quite quickly. However, bland and colorless words can be a problem for a beginner singer, so rather than preparing for this song with vocal exercises, practice speaking the text aloud, and pay special attention to your diction.

Schubert – “An die Musik”

We make no apologies for including a second Schubert song in this list of songs for piano and voice; the undisputed king of song repertoire, Schubert’s beautiful “An die Musik” is an ideal first foreign-language song for a beginner singer, as it covers many of the singing basics that you will cover in your first few lessons, including sustaining a lyric line, mastering vocal leaps, and managing dynamic contrasts.

George Gershwin – “The Man I Love”

Gershwin’s great jazz and big band standard is the ideal starting point for a female singer at an intermediate stage of vocal development to learn how to develop flexibility within a rhythmic pulse, and how to improvise around an existing written vocal line. Classical singers have been experimenting with similar vocal embellishments – called cadenzas – for hundreds of years, and it’s a great way to add some excitement to your singing.

Lerner & Loewe – “On the Street Where You Live” (My Fair Lady)

Sung by the hapless Freddy Eynsford-Hill, this is a perfect addition to the music theater and concert repertoire of a young male singer. Ideal for learning purity of vowels, it will also help for work with high notes and working toward a big climax at the end of the song. Aim for breathless, enthusiastic innocence and don’t be afraid to use your full voice.

For every song you discover by a composer that you like, try to find at least one more, as this is an excellent way to build repertoire and to explore music that you might not already know. Finally, although exploring repertoire can be fun on your own, make sure that you’re also working with a good teacher, who can help you find songs that are appropriate for your specific development and abilities. Have fun!

 

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