Are 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.
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!
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!
Christina 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!
Photo by flickrized