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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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Learning Piano: Keeping Young Students Excited About Music

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Is your child learning piano this summer? Check out these tips from Des Moines, IA teacher Mariana P. to help him or her stay on track and motivated…

Do you have a young child who just started taking piano lessons? The summer is a great time to start lessons, since children have more time and are able to practice a little more, which is essential to grasp the basics of music and piano technique. However, with more time also come fun vacations and camps.

So, how do you help your new piano player retain what he or she has just learned when you’re away? First of all, speak to your instructor and get their insight. The lesson before a trip or summer camp, meet for five to ten minutes at the end to discuss a plan. If you feel confident enough to guide your child through a few new pieces, exercises, or worksheets, have your instructor write down a detailed plan of what to do in between lessons.

For example:
Week 1 – Lesson book page X, theory book page X, technique book page X
Week 2 – Lesson book page Y, theory book page Y, technique book page Y

Please be aware that almost every lesson book page has a corresponding theory, technique, and performance page and you will be able to find those at the bottom of either the lesson book pages or the complementary book’s pages.

Supplementary Materials

If your child has a particular weak point, go ahead and explore some of the worksheets available for download or purchase at lesson plan marketplaces like Teachers Pay Teachers or Lesson Plan Pro.

I have a four year-old student who is just learning her finger numbers, so I suggested to her mom to visit The Plucky Pianista and download her Froggy Fingers worksheet. I’ve used it with my most recent students who are new to learning piano and have had a ton of success. If your child is more into games, Susan Paradis has a couple of them for learning finger numbers. My favorite ones are:

I’ve also created a set of flashcards to practice finger number recognition and placement on the keyboard. You can find it here.

Free iPad Apps
I own an iPad and and iPhone so I haven’t been able to try out the apps available for the Android platform, but here are my favorites for iOS users:

This is great for beginners to feel the beat internally when learning piano. Students have to wait for the count-off and tap the green button for the necessary duration. Each level has an accompaniment to make the exercises more interesting.

This app includes a few free songs and you can buy some more through the app. There are 15 “bots” and they each play a different pitch. When the player is ready to play the song, one bot will light up and raise its hand to let him know to touch it. It’s a fun version of a light-up keyboard. The app offers the option of having the bots sing the pitches on “la,” note names, or solfege syllables.

This is a bonus one. It’s a silly ear-training app to introduce tonal memory. There are three “blobs” and their “king blob.” The three blobs sing three different pitches and then the king blob will sing a pitch that matches one of the other blobs’; choose the correct one and move on to the next exercise.

Finally, the most important thing to keep your child excited about music is being excited about it yourself. Have fun during your practice sessions, be silly, and explore the instrument to ensure the joyous light of music remains lit in their hearts.

MarianaPMariana C. teaches piano, singing, and Spanish lessons in Des Moines, IA. She has a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Shenandoah Conservatory and a Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy at the Catholic University of America. Learn more about Mariana here! 

 

 

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5 Easy Piano Songs to Teach to Toddlers

Easy Piano Songs To Teach ToddlersWhether you have a grand piano in your living room or a small electronic keyboard, you can teach your toddler how to play simple songs even if you don’t know much about music. Your toddler will love learning these five easy piano songs listed below.

Before you start, though, you’ll need to learn the location of the notes. Start by locating C – it’s the white key directly to the left of the group of two black keys. Using only the white keys, the notes continue in alphabetical order up to G, then restart at A. You may wish to label the keys with letter stickers or colors to make it easier for your child to learn.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

This simple song is typically one of the first songs that children learn when they are learning how to play the piano. This song has additional verses about the adventures Mary had with her lamb to keep the fun going while you sing and play this song.

Mary had a little lamb
E D C D E E E
Little lamb, little lamb
D D D E G G
Mary had a little lamb
E D C D E E E
Its fleece was white as snow
E D D E D C

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Your toddler will love playing this children’s classic on their piano. One of the great things about this song is that almost every note is played twice in a row, meaning there are fewer notes for your child to locate.

Twinkle, twinkle little star
C C G G A A G
How I wonder what you are
F F E E D D C
Up above the world so high
G G F F E E D
Like a diamond in the sky
G G F F E E D
Twinkle, twinkle little star
C C G G A A G
How I wonder what you are
F F E E D D C

If You’re Happy and You Know It

This song gives your little musician the chance to clap and dance while playing. The only tricky part of this song is the inclusion of B flat. This note is the small black key located directly between the A and B keys. If you are using a toy piano or xylophone, you may not have this key and may need to leave it out.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
C C F F F F F F E F G
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
C C G G G G G G F G A
If you’re happy and you know it,
A A Bb Bb Bb Bb D D
Then your face will surely show it
Bb Bb A A A G F F
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
A A G G G F E E D E F

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Children love singing this song and it’s pretty simple to play, too. One fun idea to try is for you to play the song while your child does the motions, then switch roles.

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout
G C C C D E E E D C D E C
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
E E F G G F E F G E
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
C C D E E D C D E C
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again
G G C C C D E E E D C D E C

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

This is another classic children’s song that your toddler will love playing over and over again to sing about every animal on the farm.

Old MacDonald had a farm
G G G D E E D
E I E I O
B B A A G
And on that farm he had a cow
D G G G D E E D
E I E I O
B B A A G
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there
D D G G G D D G G G
Here a moo, there a moo
G G G G G G
Everywhere a moo moo
G G G G G G
Old MacDonald had a farm
G G G D E E D
E I E I O
B B A A G

If your child enjoys learning and playing these songs, consider signing them up for private piano lessons when they’re ready! The one-on-one guidance will take them far in their studies, and keep them motivated to learn and play even more songs!

 

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5 Games for Teaching Kids Piano

Games That Make Piano Learning For Kids FunPiano is considered an umbrella instrument, meaning, teaching kids to play piano helps them understand music more thoroughly, no matter what instrument they want to play later on. Even most singers first learn the basics of music theory and notation on the piano. Piano lessons at an early age lay out the basics of music-making in black and white (quite literally!). The great news is that you don’t need to know anything about playing piano to inspire your children to want to learn. Below are a handful of fun and easy games you can try out today to get them moving in the right direction. Using these homemade toys and games, you can make playing piano even more fun than sitting in front of a video game!

1. Mood Music

Kids instinctively know how to tell a story. When teaching kids piano, access this part of their young minds by asking them to think of a song to go with the mood of their favorite story. They can start by humming or singing melodies, or go straight to the piano and explore the keys! This will build their confidence in playing simple tunes and composing their own music.

2. Animals on the Keys

Most young kids enjoy learning the names of animals and the sounds they make. From the site Let’s Play Music comes a great suggestion that turns playing piano into playing with animal friends. On the octave starting with middle C, attach animal cartoons that begin with the letter corresponding to each note: Cat, Dog, Elephant, Frog, Giraffe, Ant, Bear. This makes it easier to remember which note is which. Now your child, like their elephant friend, will never forget!

3. Flash Memories

Have some fun with flashcards! For this piano game, create a set of cards covering an octave, with one piano key per card. Just write the name of the note on the back, and sketch out a visual representation of where the note is on the front. You can also make flashcards with notations, like clefs, key signatures, or tempo markings (like “andante”) for more advanced students.

4. A Keyboard for Little Feet

In the movie “Big”, Tom Hanks has to show adults how to have fun with a giant piano keyboard that he jumps on from note to note. Make your own keyboard rug out of construction paper or draw keys on an old white sheet, so they can “play” a tune with their whole bodies. Teaching kids piano concepts using physical play and allowing them to let out some steam helps them sit still later on during more concentrated lessons.

5. From A to G and Back Again

For kids who learn the alphabet through song, going backwards through a scale – G F E D C B A – can be confusing at first. But understanding these piano notes in a variety of orders is one of the main skills they will need to master for playing piano. To help them learn, use magnets or cut letters out of felt and help them rearrange the letters visually. You can also use these movable letters to lay out the notes for simple songs, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

 

As kids progress through these games, you will learn what motivates them, as well as what areas need extra attention. In order for your child to truly excel, you may want to consider hiring a piano teacher at some point. For now, your  goal should be getting them get comfortable and eager to learn more. Teaching kids piano can be the most fun you have together as a family with these simple games that make music fun from the very beginning!

 

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Piano Lesson Books

Getting Started: 5 Wonderful Piano Books for Kids

Getting Started: 5 Wonderful Piano Books for KidsWhen a child begins playing piano, the first few months must be entertaining enough to keep them engaged, but educational enough that they feel they are making progress. There are many piano books for kids available, but a few provide the right mix of familiarity and challenges likely to keep your child’s attention. The majority of beginning piano books for kids include nursery rhymes and children’s songs, so finding a book that they can enjoy is easy. However, it is balancing this with less familiar music and new concepts that can prove to be the biggest challenge.

A Dozen A Day

Of all the piano books for kids, “A Dozen A Day” is going to be one of the most important. It is a series that will push your child’s knowledge a little further. The first book in the series introduces your child to all of the basics and puts it on a level that nearly anyone can understand. From the beginning of the first book, your child will learn how to hold their hands comfortably as they play the short pieces and scales. As your child progresses, you can purchase the next book in the series to keep them learning. The books are specifically designed as a way to warm up every day, and they really are a great help for all levels of players. Of all the piano books for kids, this is one that can progress with them for a while.

As your child reaches the more advanced books, they will get to play faster-paced songs. While the exercises can sometimes feel like a chore, with regular practice, your child will start seeing the progress they’ve made. A few minutes every time your child sits down at the piano can makes a huge difference in both their learning and comfort at the piano.

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library: Lesson Book Level 1A

This book is geared toward a child’s thought process, making it very useful when your child first starts playing. As the name suggests, it is for the absolute beginner. Because smaller hands often have trouble reaching complex fingerings, the book begins with simple rhythms. As your child gets comfortable stretching over the keys with one hand, they will progress into intervallic reading. The entire book is broken up into steps so that it is easy to determine when your child understands a concept and is ready to move to the next one. They will learn the layout of the keyboard and how the black and white keys are related. Finally, everything is pulled together into the grand staff. By the end of the book your child will be playing with multiple fingers on each hand, which can help give them a sense of accomplishment early in their playing.

Scales Bootcamp

Scales are part of the foundation for learning any instrument, but it’s especially true for piano. You may find that your child is resistant to spending time playing scales because they can feel more like work than play. When you think of the best musicians, you aren’t going to think of them playing scales – but every musician has learned them, and the best can actually make scales sound fun! “Scales Bootcamp” breaks down scales into easy-to-learn chunks, as three- and four-note blocks. This is actually one of the main advantages of learning piano; when you learn scales you generally learn to play multiple notes at a time, making it easier to remember which scales have which sharps and flats. The other focus of the book is making scales more fun. Whether playing with a different rhythm or adding another kind of twist, the book makes scales fun and memorable.

Bastien Piano Basics Primer Level – Piano

This book is entirely geared toward teaching children. From the graphics to the vocabulary, the book will help engage your child from the start. As such, it may not be recommended with a teenager or adult, because it may seem too childish. The book provides piano notation and a graphic of what key is being learned on the piano, alongside big print.

The book is divided into four levels with three keys in each level, so your child will understand the different keys by the end of the book. Like most beginner books, your child will learn one hand and clef at a time before diving into the grand staff.

Piano Adventures Lesson Book – Primer Level

This book is geared toward learning how to correlate notes to fingering, starting with middle C. Unlike a lot of beginner books, the pedal is incorporated into learning so that your child will understand early on how the pedal affects the sound. It also works to teach your child proper body posture, which is essential for playing the full length of the piano. After the child learns a few skills, there is a review to make sure they can put it all together. Of all the piano books for kids, this one is perhaps the most physically comprehensive, because it teaches about the entire body, not just the hands. By the end of the book, you child will know how to read basic sheet music in relation to the keyboard.

Maximizing Your Child’s Learning

While piano books for kids are great tools from day one, without private piano lessons, learning how to play is much more difficult. It can be overwhelming to think about handling both the harmony and melody of a song at the same time; a teacher can break everything down into manageable chunks, help your child focus on one or two key concepts, and direct them to the corresponding pages in their books to make practicing feel more like a game than a chore. An instructor will also give praise and guidance that is absolutely essential for keeping your child interested in playing.

With a great instructor and these piano books for kids, your child will be primed for success! Encourage your youngster to go far, and have fun!

 

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How Piano Can Help Kids

How Piano Lessons for Kids Can Help with Creativity, Coordination, and More

How Piano Lessons for Kids Can Help with Creativity, Coordination, and MoreFor a child, learning to play an instrument is often its own reward. Did you realize, however, that there are numerous other benefits to learning to play music as a child? Aside from the obvious benefits of learning music, piano lessons for kids also have benefits in terms of academic achievement, confidence, and overall focus.

When you find a great music teacher for your child, the benefits are exponentially expanded! Check out these amazing benefits of piano lessons for kids:

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Teaching Kids To Play Piano

How to Teach Piano to Kids: 12 Ways to Support Your Little Mozart

Teaching Kids To Play PianoStudies show, time after time, that music lessons in early childhood are essential for creating neural pathways for brain development.  They also give children a head start on creativity and self-expression.  Music was likely our first language as human beings, and it still provokes a very primal response in us – anybody from anywhere in the world can listen to a song and know what emotion it is trying to convey.

If you ask an adult if they took piano lessons as a child, many will say yes.  Then, if you ask them if they “stuck with it,” or, at least, enjoyed their time while learning, you are bound to get mixed results.  ”Music lessons enriched my life…”  ”I hated it…”  ”I still love to play sometimes…”  ”I will never put my kids through it…”  Clearly, there are right ways and wrong ways for how to teach piano to kids, and only some parents and teachers get it right.

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