Posts

a woman playing the piano with proper piano hand position

3 Piano Hand Position Exercises for Beginners

a woman playing the piano with proper piano hand position

One of the keys to successful piano playing is proper hand placement. Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares three fun exercises beginners can do to improve their piano hand position…

When trying to teach beginner students the proper piano hand position, I’ve often found that telling them to “move this finger in such and such a way” is a fairly challenging task.

This is especially true if they haven’t developed finger independence through other means. It very quickly becomes necessary to relate finger and hand shape to things that everyone can do.

The following exercises are just that – things that everyone, even new pianists or musicians, can easily do.

In fact, the knowledge of what proper piano hand position should look like is something that even non-pianists can master in a very short amount of time.

However, mastering the actual physicality of automatically having your hand take a certain shape can take some time.

Below are a few exercises that beginning piano students can use to establish great piano hand position.

When doing these exercises, always be aware of any tension in your hand, and remember that the first knuckle of each finger (closest to the finger tip) should be firm yet bent, not collapsed and straight.

1. Play Catch

Depending on the age of the student and his or her respective hand-sizes, this exercise will work best with a ping-pong ball or a tennis ball.

  • Have a friend lob the ball at you in an arch or simply bounce the ball off a wall yourself and then catch it.
  • Notice what your fingers do when you catch the ball – they should curve around the top portion of the ball, but not all the way around it.
  • Emulate this hand position when you play piano.

 2. Meet Someone New

This is a great exercise for a student of any age, but will work best with a partner.

  • Stick out your hand as though you were going to give someone a hand-shake (or give a real hand-shake if possible).
  • After grasping your partner’s hand and holding it for about a second, let go of it while maintaining the position held in your hand.
  • Flip your hand so your palm is down.
  • Voila! – The result should be a fairly solid hand position that features curved fingers, firm knuckles, and a “C” shape between the thumb and index finger.

3. Take A Drink of Water 

This exercise is very, very simple, as there is no partner necessary. Please note that glasses should be sized according to student’s age / hand size.

  • Simply have your student grab a glass of their favorite beverage.
  • Ask your student about the shape of their hand while they hold the glass. (Some students may lift their pinkies or other fingers, but ask them to experiment around with what feels most comfortable for their hand.)
  • Hold the glass from the opposite side, and instruct your student to let go of it but keep their hand in the same shape it was in.
  • Then have your student flip his or her hand so his or her palm is down and place it on the piano keys.
  • Similar to the “Meet Someone New” exercise, this should result in a piano hand position that’s pretty close to a proper one. Pay close attention to the curvature of the fingers as well as the distance between the thumb and index finger on this exercise.

As always with piano hand position exercises, remember that the goal is two parts. First and foremost, a lack of tension. The hand should never feel tense when doing closed-hand position shapes like we are doing.

Secondly, the knuckles closest to the finger-tips should be firm and bent, not floppy.

Thank you so much for reading this article! I hope that this will give you some practical ways to get started on your journey toward piano hand position mastery.

Photo via Brian Richardson

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

piano duets

10 Famous Piano Duets You Can Learn Today [Videos]

piano duets

Looking for some fun piano duets to play with your friends or family members? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares 10 of the most famous piano duets that are surprisingly easy to learn…

Playing the piano doesn’t always have to be a solo activity. If you’re looking to make piano more of a social activity and be challenged at the same time, try playing some piano duets.

Learning how to play piano duets can be complicated at first. With a little practice, however, you’ll get it down in no time. Before you get started, glance over some of the helpful tips below.

Quick Tips For Playing Piano Duets

  • Find the right partner: Find a partner that is near or about the same level of piano training as you, as it can be difficult to play with someone who’s less or more advanced than you.
  • Divide responsibilities: Make sure that you discuss who will be responsible for what. For example, determine who will count off or set the tempo, as well as who will turn the pages if necessary.
  • Practice on your own: Before you meet with your partner, make sure that you have your part down pat. This will ensure that there’s no confusion when it comes time to combine the individual parts.

10 Famous Piano Duets for Beginners

Now that you’ve gotten a refresher on how to play piano duets, check out this list of famous piano duets you can learn today.

1. Heart and Soul by Hoagy Carmichael


This simple piano duet from the 1930’s will leave you wanting to play more. With very distinctive melodies in both the left and the right hand, either hand is quite fun to learn. Check out the cute father and son piano duet above.

2. Chopsticks


The famous Chopsticks waltz is a great song for teaching kids how to play together. There are many easy piano duet versions out there. Watch the two students play the piano duet in the video above.

3. I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin


This piano swing tune is great for adults to learn. You can find an arrangement to a tune like this in the Hal Leonard Gershwin 2 piano book.

4. West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein

The music from “West Side Story” is absolutely gorgeous to play as a piano instrumental. Many of the songs can be performed as a duet. Check out the video above in which the musicians play a duet of the medley of the entire show.

5. Hungarian Dance No 2. by Franz Liszt


This easy piano duet is great for students to play around dynamics, tempos, and finger agility.

6. Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley


This upbeat rock ‘n’ roll tune from the 50’s is a ball to play. Great for students to dive in and explore this genre together, such as the young girls in the video above.

7. All I Ask of You by Andrew Lloyd Webber


This heart melting song from “Phantom of the Opera” is breathtaking as a piano duet. With both classical and Broadway elements, this song is perfect for any performance. It’s also a great song to practice glissandos, octave jumps, and dynamics.

8. Let It Be by The Beatles


The Beatles wrote several great songs that can easily be transferred to the piano as duets. Beatles songs are quite easy to play on the piano, as many of the songs repeat the same chords.

9. Piano Man by Billy Joel


Billy Joel often teams up with Elton John, another iconic piano and vocal legend, in playing this famous song. Notice in the video above that they use two separate pianos, but are still playing a duet together.

10. Sonata in D Major by Mozart


For the more advanced piano player, try placing two pianos facing each other if you have the capabilities of doing so, as this song requires a broad range, and quick hand movements.

Find another piano player and start learning some of these easy piano duets together. Audiences love seeing famous piano duets performed, and as a piano player it is tremendously satisfying to play a duet with a partner.

Photo by David Mulder

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

easy classical piano songs

15 Easy Classical Piano Songs for Beginners [Videos]

 

easy classical piano songs

Do you dream about becoming the next Mozart or Beethoven? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares 15 easy classical piano songs you can add to your existing repertoire… 

You’re never too young or too old to learn how to play classical music on the piano. While mastering the works of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven can be intimidating, there are a number of easy classical piano songs that you can learn.

If you’re interested in learning the classical piano style, I encourage you to practice this list of easy classical piano songs for beginners. Learning these easy beginner piano songs will give you a solid foundation for which you can work.

15 Easy Classical Piano Songs for Beginners

1. Bach’s “Prelude to the Well Tempered Clavichord”

This easy piano song uses two simple notes in the left hand, with arpeggio’s in the right hand. It’s not too long of a song, and it’s great to play around with dynamics too.

2. Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” 1st Movement


This orchestral piece can be easily transferred to solo piano. Check out this helpful tutorial, which breaks it down at a much slower pace.

3. Chopin “Prelude in E min, Opus 28, No 4”


This melancholy minor classical piece has a simple melody in the right hand, with basic chords on the left hand.

4. Edward MacDowell’s “To a Wild Rose”


This easy piano song is a very light, simplistic classical piece. It sounds easy and refreshing, with simple fingering.

5. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”

This is often the first classical piano song students learn how to play. That’s because the song has very simple rhythm, melody, and fingering.

6. Debussy’s “Claire du Lune”


Meaning “moonlight,” this easy piano song for beginners is pretty straightforward. You can find many simple arrangements to this classical song on the Internet.

7. Strauss’ “The Blue Danube”


This fun waltz might sound tricky, but it is actually not hard to play at all. Check out the slowed down version above.

8. Offenbach’s “Can-Can”


If you want a small challenge, this uptempo song is perfect. Try listening to the original orchestral version for some extra inspiration.

9. Schubert’s “Ave Maria”


This beautiful easy piano song is appropriate to play at many events, such as weddings and funerals. “Ave Maria” is a must for beginners learning how to play classical music.

10. Pachelbell’s “Cannon in D”


Originally performed with strings, this classical piano song can sound full on the piano with chords.

11. Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”


One of the most memorable melodies on the piano, beginners can easily pick up this melody in the right hand, and use simplified bass root notes in the left.

12. Bach’s “Minuet in G”


Another easy piece that sounds difficult, this minuet is a joy to play for all ages. Because it’s quite popular, it’s easy to find different arrangements.

13. Tchaikovsky’s Theme from “Swan Lake”


Everyone knows this romantic anthem, often played to accompany dancers. This legato piece has a strong melody, and a very easy rhythm.

14. Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy”


This iconic song from “The Nutcracker” is fun to learn. You can take it as fast or as slow as you want. It’s also a great song for practicing stacattos.

15. Lizt and Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”


There are many great themes from this work to which you can learn the melody and rhythm.

Give it a Try!

Don’t feel intimated or overwhelmed by classical music. Give it a try by starting with these easy classical piano songs for beginners.

If you’re feeling stuck, you can find simplified arrangements to all of these songs in piano books, such as Hal Leonard and Alfred’s course books. Or you can simply ask your piano teacher for help.

Photo by Carlos Gracia

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Wolfie piano app

Piano App Review: Tonara’s Wolfie

Wolfie piano app

Are you looking for a new piano app to help sharpen your skills? Below, piano teacher Ryan C. dishes all of the details on the teaching app Wolfie…

As a piano teacher, I’m always looking for new ways to inspire my students and help them learn faster.

I’ve spent an enormous amount of time making my own supplemental materials, writing pedagogical articles, and thinking of fun piano games to keep them engaged.

While all of this work has been very helpful for my own sake as a teacher, I’ve found that my younger students often need a more light-hearted and fun way to learn.

That’s where Wolfie comes along.

Wolfie, developed by Tonara, is a piano app for the iPad that features some incredibly powerful tools for students as well as teachers.

As a brief aside – I have worked with this piano app in the past and was impressed by its features, but it’s been significantly updated from when I first worked with it.

Below are some of my favorite features and benefits the app has offer.

Benefits for Piano Students

1. Great user-interface

The app features a fun, colorful user-interface with sorting of repertoire by grade-levels, which makes it easy for students to navigate and find pieces in their appropriate playing range.

It also has a surprisingly large amount of repertoire for most grade-levels, though much more for beginners than for advanced players.

2. Play along feature

This feature is probably the most useful. Wolfie will listen through your microphone (if you give it permission) and follow your playing.

It will also show you on the screen where you are, play accompaniment parts, and so on, in real time.

3. Multiple modes of practicing / listening

There are five different modes that students can access for each piece: Annotate, Practice, Listen, Evaluate, and Play Along.

The Annotate tool is probably more likely to be used by teachers, but all of the other modes are exceptionally useful to students.

For instance, the Evaluate mode will listen to your playing and give you a grade based on how well you did.

The Listen mode allows you to listen to YouTube recordings of professional pianists playing the pieces, and the Play Along tool plays alongside you with a midi recording that adapts to you in real time.

4. Cost-effective

Although the app itself is free, in order to access the music, Wolfie does require a paid monthly subscription. Just $5.00 a month unlocks a premium one-year subscription plan.

Paying a subscription for music may not sound incredibly appealing to many students/parents, but piano books are expensive. $5.00 a month is certainly less than spending $10.00 or so per book every few months.

Benefits for Piano Teachers

1. Easy collaboration

Teachers can ‘invite’ their students to a ‘studio’ in the app. This links students’ accounts to the teacher’s, who can then monitor their progress, see what pieces they’ve been playing (and how long they’ve been practicing them), and assess how well they’ve been playing them.

2. Hands-on teaching

Teachers can use the Annotate mode to write changes to the score directly onto the digital copy. This includes using a pen tool, making text boxes, highlighting, and so on.

3. Monitor student progress

If students are using the piano app correctly, teachers won’t have to worry about students not practicing or practicing incorrectly before lessons.

Thanks to the Evaluate mode mentioned earlier, teachers can see how well their students are doing prior to having their next piano lesson.

Check out this picture to see what the results of the Evaluate mode look like:

4. Fresh ideas

Thanks to the built-in features of the app, teachers no longer have to struggle to come up with new ways to motivate younger students to practice.

That means less time coming up with new lesson plans and more time interacting directly with the student.

5. Low-cost

Teachers get a year-long free subscription if two of their students sign up for the one-year subscription plan, making it a very low-cost solution!

Try it Yourself!

Wolfie provides some awesome benefits for both students and teachers to enjoy. I personally think that it’s a really powerful and useful app to add to any teacher’s tool-kit.

Photo via Wolfie

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

practice piano

5 Tips on How to Get Your Child to Practice Piano

practice piano

Are you having trouble getting your child to practice the piano in between lessons? Below, piano teacher Sally H. outlines five tips on how to encourage your child to practice piano more often…

You’ve signed your child up for piano lessons and her new instructor encourages you to have her practice piano every day at home.

Your child, however, is giving you a hard time whenever you ask her to practice piano.

Many parents face this same exact scenario. They pay for piano lessons, but can’t seem to get their child to practice the recommended amount of hours per week.

So, how can you increase the likelihood that your child will play daily and be prepared for his/her lesson every week?

Below are five tips for ensuring your child develops into a responsible piano student.

1. Use the Word Play

Rather than say “It’s time to practice piano,” change your wording and say “It’s time to play the piano.” The word “play” is a good word, as it activates all sorts of fun images in a child’s head.

Speaking of play, there are a ton of piano practice games you can play with your child; for example, musical jenga, lego chords, and bingo! For a complete list of 20+ piano practice games, click here.

2. Be Creative

Add creativity to your child’s assignments; for example, ask him or her to write you a short song. Even if it’s just a few notes of their own, your child will feel proud to express his or her personal creativity.

Join in on the fun and be an active and enthusiastic listener. Your child will learn that creating music generates good feelings, and practicing piano can actually be fun!

3. Find the Right Teacher

A concert pianist’s credentials may look good on paper, but he or she may not be the best teacher for your beginner student. The effectiveness of beginner piano lessons is all about a good match of personalities between child and instructor.

Watch your child leave the lesson. Is he or she smiling, skipping, laughing, dancing?  Or is he or she walking with his or her head down, looking bewildered,  frightened, or dare I say, crying?

Piano lessons should be an exercise in positive learning. Don’t settle for anything less.

4. Create a Pleasant Environment

Where is the piano located in your home? Is it in the cold, gloomy basement or in the family room near the television?

The piano should be placed in a room where there is a reasonable amount of privacy, but not in a place that makes the student feel secluded.

A piano in the dining room is a beautiful addition. A keyboard in a teenager’s bedroom creates some wonderful private moments.

Placement of the piano should be in a special area where the student is happy and comfortable.

5. There’s No Room for Criticism

Be an appreciative audience. Criticism is very difficult for a young artist to endure when they are learning.

As a parent, your responsibility is to notice the positive elements and reward learning efforts. For example, reward your child with a special treat every time he or she practices for 30 uninterrupted minutes.

Beginner piano lessons should be associated with the positive aspects of achievement. Happy memories create lifelong playing of a beloved instrument.

You play a big role in your child’s musical development and success. Help your child practice piano with the helpful tips and tricks above!

Post Author: Sally H.
Sally H. began her teaching career at Karnes Music in Schaumburg prior to opening her private All Age Piano Studio in Wauconda, which is located in Lake County, IL. Learn more about Sally here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

piano sight reading

9 Piano Sight Reading Exercises for Beginners

piano sight reading

The ability to sight read well is a skill that every pianist should have. Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares 9 piano sight reading exercises to help you master this important skill…

It’s the first day of rehearsals at your school’s choir. Everyone has been assigned new music that they haven’t seen or sung before. You can sing, but you definitely consider yourself more of a pianist.

Your teacher walks in and solemnly says: “Hi everyone, our pianist is sick today, so we’re going to have to work on voice parts one part at a time, because my sight-reading skills aren’t that great. Unless, of course, someone here can sight read all the parts?”

You waste no time in raising your hand and declaring “I can do it!”

What is Piano Sight Reading?

Sight reading is essentially what its’ name implies: the ability to look at a piece of music and play it with very little to no prior rehearsal time.

Sight reading is a skill in which every pianist needs to become familiar, even if it means that he or she is only able to sight read pieces that are at or below his or her level of repertoire-performance.

Sight reading not only involves reading notes, but also encompasses implied musicality. For instance, a pianist should be able to take musical queues and respond appropriately when paired with other instrumentalists or singers.

Overall phrase shape, texture, and mood should all be considered when sight reading a new piece. These concepts are often reinforced by the other people you’re playing with, who can help you interpret the way to play a new piece.

Why Piano Sight Reading is Important

As displayed in the introduction scenario, it’s easy to see why sight reading would be useful in a plethora of situations. For instance, a good sight reader will almost always have employment options available.

Options such as working as an accompanist, being a pianist for a choir, a studio musician, a church pianist, and multiple other options, are always in constant demand.

Additionally, a pianist who has strong piano sight reading abilities will often be able to learn music at a much faster rate than those who can’t read as well.

It’s essentially the difference between reading one letter at a time and reading one word at a time. Just imagine how long this article would take to read if you could only read one letter at a time.

It’s surprising to see how many new pianists unknowingly take the second, more difficult approach to reading.

With the 9 piano sight reading exercises below, I will give you some options to help speed up your reading and quickly get you to a higher level of piano sight reading ability.

But before we get into the piano sight reading exercises, take a quick look at this 5-minute video on the basics of sight reading from Pianist Magazine.

9 Piano Sight Reading Exercises for Beginners

Below are some helpful piano sight reading exercises. These will assume that you have at least a few minutes to look at a piece before you have to play it. Let’s get started!

1. Flashcards

Unfortunately, memorizing notes can seem really tedious at first; nonetheless, it’s an important step that everyone must take.

If you spend just 10 minutes a day working on it, you’ll have the majority of the notes that are within the lines (not on ledger lines) on both the Treble and Bass Clefs memorized within several weeks.

Using flashcards is a great way to memorize notes. Just throw them in your bag and review them whenever you have a few minutes; for example, while you’re on the bus or in between classes.

2. Always Think Musically

It’s very easy to get sucked into thinking that you have to play all of the notes perfectly and forget the innate musicality of what you’re playing.

Remember, this is music–it should be musical. When something becomes too “note-y” and ceases to sound musical, what’s the point of playing it?

Even in piano sight reading, therefore, think of the musicality that defines the piece and do your best to bring that out.

3. Think Contour, Not Note Name

After you have enough notes memorized to get the starting pitches on passagework, don’t try to read every note of a passage.

Rather, look at the contour (or direction) of the notes. Do they go up or down? By how much (whole-step or half-step)?

By taking this approach, you’ll be able to easily read passagework that would take significantly longer to read if you were trying to read every single note separately.

4. Remember Your Scales

In a particular passage, do you see a succession of notes that seem to be going way up or down the staff? Does it have any sharps or flats? What note does it start and end on? Does it skip any notes?

If you ask yourself questions like these throughout you’re playing, you’ll find that many of the scale-like passages within pieces use fingerings from scales that you probably already know.

5. Practice Easy Pieces Based on Closed Hand Positions

This is a great exercise for beginners to get their feet wet with piano sight-reading.

There are even some great piano sight-reading book series out there, specifically by Lin Ling-Ling and Boris Berlin, that utilize this idea.

In essence, students should practice pieces that use five-finger positions that don’t give them the note-names or finger numbers except for the ones at the beginning of a piece.

This forces students to look at the contour and internally distinguish what finger is playing each note.

Even if they don’t know the note names yet, this method of reading is highly effective and produces great results.

6. Read Ahead as Much as Possible

This is super, super important! When sight reading anything, you always need to be a few notes ahead of what you’re actually playing.

To paraphrase one of my faculty accompanist mentors at SDSU: “Read it, and move on!”

In essence, after you read something, you should already be reading notes ahead of what you’re playing.

7. Practice Reading Hands Separately

Practice reading each hand separately, but preparing the other hand for its section well before it actually needs to play.

This piano sight reading exercise is actually way more important than it sounds. While I don’t think that students should stay for a long time in the hands-separate world, I do think that the method of preparing the opposite hand early is extremely important.

I’ve noticed that the biggest obstacle my students often face in piano sight-reading is the lack of preparation of the opposing hand.

They are often reading one hand perfectly, then the other hand starts a melody and the student has neither prepared it or looked far enough ahead to know what the starting pitch/hand position should be.

8. Play Through the Piece Without Stopping

Piano sight-reading is as much about reading notes as it is about supporting the other people you’re playing with.

In many cases, a sight-reading pianist is often playing in combination with an ensemble of some type. Therefore, you cannot stop playing.

Even if you can’t read all the music, always keep counting and play what you can, when you can.

Play at a manageable speed in which you can read as much music as possible and continue to play and count even when you make mistakes, no matter how severe they are.

Try not to repeat pieces you’ve already played, because then it’s no longer sight-reading, it’s just practice.

As an important side note, don’t use this method when practicing repertoire – always try to avoid learning incorrect notes.

9. Familiarize Yourself with Note Combinations

Chords and triads are the building blocks of harmony. Make a goal to learn all the major and minor chords that can be played on white keys, (C, D, E, F, G, A, B Major & Minor).

Now memorize the letter combinations that make up each chord. For instance, E Major = E, G#, B ; E Minor = E, G, B ; etc. Eventually, move onto the black key combinations, inversions, and seventh chords.

This step is incredibly important for students who are more on the intermediate side of piano sight reading. There will come a point in your reading in which you’re seeing things more as chords, and less as individual notes.

By having a solid foundation in the notes that make up chords, you’re saving yourself tons of time down the line. It’s much like the difference described earlier – reading entire words at one time compared to reading individual letters.

Now You’re Ready!

The ability to sight read well is a skill that every pianist should aspire to do, as it opens up career opportunities for a pianist.

For a student, this skill set will enable you to learn music faster, more accurately, and spend less time working on trying to read every note.

I hope that some of these tips will be helpful and give you some new insight into the world of piano sight reading!

Photo by Frédéric BISSON

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

thanksgiving songs for kids

10 Thanksgiving Piano Songs Kids Will Gobble Up

thanksgiving songs for kids

Are you looking for some Thanksgiving songs for kids? Below, piano teacher Alicia B. shares 10 yummy turkey tunes kids will love playing…

Whether it’s playing for friends and family around the table or at a school holiday party, Thanksgiving is an excellent time for beginner piano players to demonstrate their skills to a welcoming crowd.

Below are 10 Thanksgiving songs for kids. These piano songs vary by level and style, so there’s something for everyone.

1. Five Fat Turkeys Are We: Primer level

Veteran piano teacher and university professor, Gilbert De Benedetti compiles several arranged and original holiday-themed songs, including this primer-level piece, “Five Fat Turkeys Are We.”

It’s a great Thanksgiving song for kids, as it has kid-humor lyrics. For example, “Five fat turkeys are we, we slept all night in a tree, when the cook came round, we couldn’t be found, so that’s why we’re here you see!”

Find this and other free music at gmajormusictheory.org.

2. Hurray, Thanksgiving Day!: Pre-reading level

Educator, Susan Paradis wrote this Thanksgiving song for kids as part of her teaching resources blog, which focuses on the pre-reading level.

It’s a great easy piano piece your beginners can learn in a day. The song even has lyrics for the cousin choir. Find this free piano piece on susanparadis.com.

3. Simple Gifts: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Originally a Shaker hymn (other interpretations include it as a dance song), “Simple Gifts,” is an American folk tune written by Joseph Brackett.

The piano song’s tone of wistful Americana makes it ideal for this time of year.

Many classical fans have heard the song as part of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” and today it’s used for several movies and television holiday specials.

4. Turkey in the Straw: Beginner, Intermediate

The American folk song, “Turkey in the Straw” dates back to the early 1800s and is comprised of themes from other countries, such as Ireland.

Given its steady eighth-note feel, it was originally popularized as a fiddle tune, but is now enjoyed by all instrumentations.

Find a version of “Turkey in the Straw” for piano players on Makingmusicfun.net

5. We Gather Together: Intermediate, Beginner

This hymn was originally taken from a Dutch folk tune. Composer, Adrianus Valerius added lyrics to commemorate the victory over the Spanish in the Battle of Turnhout.

In current day, the piano song is often heard around the Thanksgiving holiday, as its title and lyrics suggest a time to join and reflect on the year’s blessings.

The 3/4 time signature and dotted quarter note pattern is a great warm up for “Silent Night,” which shares a similar structure.

You can find Andrew Fling’s arrangement of this tune on makingmusicfun.net

6. Thanksgiving Theme (A Charlie Brown Christmas): Advanced, Intermediate

Pianist and composer, Vince Guaraldi made an indelible mark on American culture when he composed a series of jazz-inspired pieces to accompany Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang for the 1965 television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Since that time, the laid-back jazzy tunes have become a staple of the holiday season, and “Thanksgiving Theme” is a wonderful example.

Its driving 3/4 time signature and cascading triplets beautifully juxtapose the busyness of the season and the beauty of falling snow.

This piece is available for purchase in many Charlie Brown songbook collections.

7. Teacher’s Pet  (School of Rock, The Musical): Intermediate

Now coming to Broadway, School of Rock (originally a 2005 movie starring Jack Black) inspired a generation of kids to get involved in music education through high-energy classic rock and soul music.

The upcoming Broadway cast is performing at the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which should inspire and invigorate your young pianists, as the cast is comprised of actual child musicians – and even features a rockin’ keyboard solo!

8. Autumn Leaves: Intermediate, Advanced

Well-known jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves” began as the 1945 French song, “Les feuilles mortes” (The Dead Leaves) by Joseph Kosma.

It was only after American songwriter Johnny Mercer added English lyrics in 1947, did it gain popularity as a pop and jazz standard.

It’s now often used as a teaching tool for beginner jazz pianists, as it illustrates a ii-V-i (2-5-1) chord progression pattern, a pivotal concept in many jazz standards and improvisation.

9. Largo and Scherzo from Dvorak’s New World Symphony: Intermediate, Beginner

Highly celebrated Bohemian (now Czech Republic) composer, Antonin Dvorak had always been influenced by his geographic surroundings.

It is of no surprise, therefore, that when he moved to the U.S. in 1892 he wrote his impressions in his 9th symphony, commonly known as the “New World” Symphony.

The Largo movement is a solemn march that takes direct influence from African American spirituals and Native American intervals and rhythms in the Scherzo.

Find a version of the Largo movement on makingmusicfun.net.

10. Mashed Potatoes U.S.A.: Beginner, Intermediate

This early James Brown classic is basically a rhythm and blues jam in which Brown lists every one of his favorite cities.

The song’s driving groove is perfect for the cooking mood and it’s a great way to practice some blues improvisation. Encourage your guests to chime in with the city in which they’re visiting, while giving shout-outs to their favorite side dish.

You can find a recording of this song, and many blues backing tracks to practice with on YouTube.

These Thanksgiving piano songs for kids will keep your pumpkin pi(e)anists practicing until Black Friday! Happy Thanksgiving and have a musically merry holiday season!

Untitled design 66Post Author: Alicia B.
Alicia B. teaches piano, violin, music performance, and more. She is a graduate of Miami’s Public Arts Programs, including Coral Reef Senior High and the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. Alicia has over 15+ years of musical experience. Learn more about Alicia here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

piano solos

15 Easy Piano Solos That Sound Hard

piano solos

Do you want to impress your friends and family with your new piano skills? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares 15 piano solos that sound hard, but are actually fairly easy to learn…

Are you a beginner piano player looking for some new and fun piano solos to learn? If you answered “yes,” then you’ve come to the right place.

Chances are you’re eager to show off your skills with some popular piano songs. The good news is there are tons of easy piano solos out there that sound hard, but are actually pretty easy to play.

From piano pop songs to old classics, below are 15 of the best piano solos you can play if you want to impress your audience.

15 Easy Piano Solos That Sound Impressive

While these piano solos might not sound like beginner songs, they are fairly easy to master with some practice.

Browse through these 15 best piano solos and choose a few that grab your attention. Watching the videos is a great way to get a feel for each song.

1. All I Ask of You: Phantom of the Opera


This gorgeous theme song from the musical “Phantom of the Opera” composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber is a classic love song that will surely wow your audience. This great piano solo can be performed with or without vocalists.

2. Piano Man: Billy Joel


If you’re a pianist and a singer, this is a great song to practice both your piano skills and your vocals. Your audience will be impressed with how you can channel your inner Billy Joel with this classic piano pop song.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen


Looking for a rock solo to add to your repertoire? This piano solo is great if you want to practice slow and fast tempos, and the use of dynamics. You can make this song as easy or as hard as you want.

4. Heart and Soul: Hoagy Carmichael


Whether you decide to play this song solo or as a duet, you’re sure to have a blast! It has a very fun, simple piano rhythm in the left hand, with a fun melody in the right hand.

5. Fur Elise: Beethoven


If you’re looking for a classical hit to wow your audience, try this piano solo. It’s great for practicing arpeggios and showing off your classical technique.

6. The Entertainer: Scott Joplin


A classic ragtime piece, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” is a great piano solo that will show off your fancy finger work. There are many modified piano versions out there, so find one that fits your skill set.

7. Cannon in D: Pachelbel


A beautiful classical piece, this piano solo is perfect for weddings or any other formal celebration. It’s also a great solo to practice easy chords, and a simple bass line.

8. Ave Maria: Schubert


This simple, but impressive ballad is great for practicing arpeggios and chords. Because the song pretty much keeps the same pattern throughout, you should be able to learn it in no time!

9. Prelude to the Well Tempered Clavichord: Bach


This is one of my personal favorites to play on the piano because it sounds difficult but is very easy to play. It’s also great for practicing dynamics.

10. All that Jazz: Chicago


This piano solo is a fun jazz piece that sounds fancy, but is easy to play. The bridge and ending will make your audience think that you can bring the house down.

11. Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Wizard of Oz


Audience members will surely shed a tear during your performance of this famous song. It’s the perfect piano solo to milk out long legato phrases, and sounds pretty in any key.

12. Tale as Old as Time: Beauty and the Beast


One of Disney’s most sensational piano pieces, this piano solo is an easy piece to embellish the melody, add trills, and chord inversions if you feel like making the song extra special.

13. My Heart Will Go On: Titanic


This Grammy award-winning song will captivate your audience’s heart. In this ballad, you can really capture emotion with just a few chords, and repeating melodic phrase.

14. New York, New York: Frank Sinatra


Frank Sinatra’s hit, New York, New York is a crowd favorite. You can really build up the chorus section, which the audience will go nuts over because they will want to sing along.

15. What a Wonderful World: Louis Armstrong


This piano solo will melt your audience to pieces. This is a great song if you want to work on conveying emotion through different peaks and climaxes, especially in the bridge section.

These are all great piano solos you can start practicing today. I recommend starting with the piano book, “More Popular Piano Solos – Levels 1-4: Hal Leonard Student Piano Library,” to help guide you.

If you need more expertise on performing these popular piano solos, work closely with your piano teacher.

Photo by Kevin Ohlin

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

piano styles

Ultimate Guide to the 5 Most Popular Piano Styles

piano styles

Don’t know what piano style you want to learn? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares the five most popular piano styles to give you a better idea of what suits you…

Having the ability to play a number of different piano styles will help you become a better overall piano player.

What’s more, knowing the important composers, performers, and pieces of each piano style will assist you in your musical studies.

Below, I’ve listed the five most important piano styles, which include classical, jazz, musical theater, pop/rock, and liturgical.

Read through the various piano styles to see which one jumps out at you most.

After browsing, if you’re still not sure what piano style fits you, take the quiz at the end of the article to help you determine.

1. Classical Piano

Throughout 1750-1820, classical piano was performed for royalty and the upper class in Europe. There were three main composers who paved the way for classical piano composition: Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.

As the years progressed and classical music transformed from renaissance to baroque and romantic, other great pianists emerged, including Haydn, Chopin, Handel, Wagner, Debussy, and Tchaikovsky.

Classical piano is often what students study first because it forces them to have a very strong technique and knowledge of music theory.

Without having an understanding of the classical piano technique, it’s very hard to learn and pick up other piano styles. That’s because most music has stemmed from the classical style.

Famous Classical Piano Composers

Just because classical music was popular many years ago, doesn’t mean it’s not thriving today.

There are many classical piano composers who are still performing music from the greats as well as creating their own classical compositions, such as the following:

Van Cliburn: Cliburn was one of the greatest American piano players of our century. Each year, thousands of piano players audition to compete in the “Annual Van Cliburn Piano Competition.”

Phillip Glass: Glass had an extensive career in writing, recording, and orchestrating classical music ranging from symphonic orchestras to the big screen.

Eric Whitacare: A regular chart-topper, Whitacare often writes for choirs, and has released several classical music albums that have won Grammys.

Classical Piano Books

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are crucial composers to know as a classical pianist. I recommend having these books around when you to start learning this piano style:

      • Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics “First Lessons in Bach, Complete Books I and II for Piano”
      • Alfred Series “Mozart: 21 of His Most Popular Pieces for Piano”
      • Dover Music “A First Book of Beethoven: 24 Arrangements for the Beginning Pianist with Downloadable Mp3’s”

2. Jazz Piano

1918 marked the big start of American jazz. Pianists such as Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fats Waller are piano players influential in building the jazz scene around New York, Chicago, and New Orleans.

At the time, jazz piano was a rebellious type of music, as it deviated from the classic rhythms, harmony, and technique.

Jazz music incorporates swing, improvisation, ragtime, boogie woogie, and bee bop to create captivating melodies and rhythmic patterns.

People turned to jazz music during “The Great Depression” as well as in times of celebration.

It also became an important mark in history where African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Europeans were able to come together to create music in America.

Famous Jazz Piano Players

While Joplin, Morton, and Waller paved the way for jazz piano, today’s contemporary jazz players are keeping it alive.

I suggest listening to some of today’s most well-known contemporary jazz players, including the following:

Herbie Hancock: Hancock is an innovative American pianist and keyboardist. Popular albums include “Head Hunters,” “Maiden Voyages,” and “Possibilities.”

Michel Camilo: Camilo is a Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer from the Dominican Republic who specializes in jazz, Latin, and classical work.

Kenny Barron: An American jazz piano player, Barron is one of the most influential mainstream jazz pianists of the bebop area, currently on faculty at Juilliard School.

Essential Jazz Piano Books:

If you want to learn more about jazz piano style, then I suggest you check out these helpful books:

      • “The Jazz Theory Book,” by Mark Levine (Comprehensive guide to jazz music theory)
      • “Aebersold Play-a-longs” (Volumes with popular jazz standards with lead sheet notation, and CD play alongs to practice with.)
      • “The Real Books,” Hal Leonard (Volumes with 100+ jazz lead sheets, perfect for any gig or jam)

3. Musical Theater Piano

Piano plays a big role in musical theater. In fact, piano players are crucial for the development and success of musical theater.

Musical theater accompanists must be very good sight readers and versatile, as every musical theater production is different.

Musical theater pianists can find work performing in the pit bands of shows, and can serve as accompanist alongside singers at auditions.

Listen to some of the old Broadway composers and lyricists for inspiration, such as Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, and Gershwin.

There are also many popular Broadway composers today–such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Steven Sondheim, and Steven Schwartz–who have used piano primarily in their writing for musical theater.

Well-known Musical Theater Piano Players

Below are some of my favorite pianists  who’ve made a strong impact writing and performing musical theater:

Jason Robert Brown: Known for his works “Songs for a New World” and “The Last 5 Years,”  Brown uses incredible chords and harmonies. He has a knack for knowing how to capture both piano and voice together.

Marvin Hamlish: This legendary pianist served as the composer of one of Broadway’s longest running musicals, “A Chorus Line.” Hamlish was very skilled at capturing dancers and the sound of the piano together.

Seth Rudetsky: An accompanist and radio talk show host, Rudetsky really knows how to work with singers whether it be for a cabaret performance, audition, or cruise ship!

Best Musical Theater Piano Books:

If you wish to be a part of the Broadway scene, take a look at these essential books:

      • “The Big Book of Broadway-4th Edition,” Hal Leonard
      • “The Singers Musical Theater Anthology Series,” Hal Leonard
      • “Kids Musical Theater Collection (Volumes 1, 2),” Hal Leonard

4. Pop/Rock Piano

Starting in the ’50s, the piano was incorporated in many popular pop and rock songs. In the ’70s, the keyboard was heavily introduced because of it’s cool electric sounds.

Being a contemporary rock/pop piano player and composer is no easy task, but is one of the most rewarding piano gigs around.

As a pop/rock piano player you will probably find the most paid work, ranging from cover bands, wedding gigs, session recordings, and touring performances.

With this piano style, you’re free to explore new sounds, as the charts are always changing. What’s more, having the ability to both sing and play the piano looks and sounds great in performance.

Famous Pop/Rock Piano Players

Here’s a sample of some of piano pop and rock players who’ve made a huge impact on the genre. Listen to these folks to get inspired and maybe pick up a few performance tricks.

Elton John and Billy Joel: Both of these music veterans hit the top of their careers in the ’70s and ’80s. However, they still continue to perform to sold out stadiums today.

Alicia Keys: At the tender age of 16, Keys was already signed and recording her own original music. Her piano chords and melodies are in sync with her original vocals and lyrics.

Carole King: One of the most powerful women in songwriting, King is a singer/pianist from New York who’s written and recorded some of the most influential pop music of our time.

Essential Pop/Rock Piano Books:

There are tons of really great piano pop/rock books available. Below are just a few helpful piano books that will guide you:

      • “Let it Go, Happy, and More Hot Pop Singles 2014,” by Hal Leonard
      • “Piano Styles of 23 Pop Masters,” by Mark Harrison
      • “The Piano Songbook: Contemporary Songs Book 2,” by Faber Music

5. Liturgical Piano

Liturgical music originated as a part of religious ceremonies ranging from Catholic to Protestant to Jewish.

Almost every religion has their own unique sounding liturgical music that plays an important and meaningful role in its culture.

Liturgical music has been passed on from generation to generation, and today musicians are still performing and composing new music for religious services, performances, and recordings.

The piano is able to serve in all the various types of religious music. Many pianists start out by playing religious services professionally to make their living as a musician.

Notable Liturgical Piano Players

The composers and pianists below are influential in the liturgical music genre.

David Haas: An influential pianist and composer of the modern day liturgies in the Christian community.

Hector Olivera: An internationally acclaimed organist, watch his technique and how he brings the organ to life.

Jason White: White is a leading musical director and performer. He plays primarily gospel music on the piano, keyboards, and organ.

Liturgical Piano Books for Beginners

If you want to learn how to play this piano style, then check out these helpful books for beginners:

      • “Big Book of Hymns,” Hal Leonard
      • “Gospel Keyboard Styles: A Complete Guide to Harmony, Rhythm and Melody,” Mark Harrison
      • “The Practical Organist: 50 Short Works for Church Services,” Dover Music

I hope this guide to the five most popular piano styles will help determine what style you want to learn. Talk with your piano teacher on ways you can practice whatever piano style you choose.

If you’re still unsure which piano style to choose, take this fun quiz to find out!

Photo by André P. Meyer-Vitali

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

[Quiz] What Piano Style Are You?

Whether you’ve just started taking piano lessons or you’re simply thinking about it, chances are you’re curious about the different piano styles out there.

From jazz to classical to pop, there are tons of different piano styles that you can learn. It all depends on what music you’re particularly drawn to.

You’re bubbly personality, for example, might be best suited for pop piano. Or perhaps you’re an old soul who’s more into jazz.

Whatever your personality, there’s a piano style out there that’s perfect for you. To help you determine what piano style is best for you, take the fun quiz below.

What piano style did you get? Get started on mastering your piano style by working with an experience piano teacher.

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up