Lockdown and online piano lessons can be tough-going at times. A few weeks ago, we were discussing at Team Curious how to keep lessons light-hearted, and our students engaged. We picked out ten mood-lifting piano pieces our students love, and now we’d like to share them with you! Sally, Sharon, and I each chose three pieces at Beginner/Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced level that have been a particular hit with our students.
WEBINAR REPLAY: 10 MOOD-LIFTING PIANO PIECES YOUR STUDENTS WILL LOVE TO LEARN AND PLAY
Here’s the replay of the webinar, 10 Mood-Lifting Piano Pieces Your Students Will Love To Learn and Play, where we discuss all the pieces in more detail and share our teaching tips:
You can download the accompanying complete resource pdf, and all the repertoire suggestions and purchase links here.
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WHAT DO THESE PIECES HAVE IN COMMON?
One of the most interesting questions that came up whilst we were preparing this webinar, was “what makes a piano piece mood-lifting?” Between the three of us, and in the webinar chat, we identified some common characteristics:
1. FAMILIAR MELODIES
Well-known melodies, familiar to our students, have definitely been popular during lockdown. Students love the feeling of being able to play something they know. It is motivating for them, and it helps develop sight-reading skills; they can hear when they have decoded a piece correctly. Just the other day, as I was preparing to go online for the webinar, my six-year-old son bounced into the piano room, and said, “Do you know, Mummy, all the pieces I am playing at the moment are famous!” And he looked so pleased with himself! I know that feeling, having collected and played my way through piles of popular sheet music anthologies as a teenager, and into adulthood.There’s a definite thrill when you can play a piece that you have heard and enjoyed. It’s wonderful to see those “eureka” moments in the Zoom camera!
Pieces that sit well within the student’s current skill level are working well at the moment. So often, as piano teachers, we can feel pressure for our students to move on to more difficult repertoire all too quickly, especially if we are used to taking our students through the exam system. There are many digital music exams are now available, thanks to COVID-19, and for some students, they are providing an ideal focus in difficult times (we have plenty of webinars about these too, over on our YouTube channel). However, for some students, a complete change of tack is needed at the moment. Actually, there is no harm in letting our students explore more pieces at their current level, so that progress looks more horizontal than vertical for a while. They will become more confident musicians, and start to build a repertoire.
3. MUSICALLY SATISFYING
All the arrangements we have chosen are musically satisfying, both to play, and to listen to. Even at the beginner level, the simplest arrangements from the Faber Piano Adventures PreTime, PlayTime and ShowTime series, sound and feel good. They work as solos or duets – just as well at the moment, as duets can be so problematic online! Sharon’s beginner/elementary choice, “S” for Storm by June Armstrong, can easily be taught by rote. It sounds impressive, and is simple to teach and to learn, at the same time. The rote pieces from the Piano Safari method books are also providing really popular for the same reason. The advanced pieces we have selected are musically rich, with plenty of challenge and interesting sound worlds to enjoy.
4. STUDENT CHOICE
Our students love it, and it lifts their mood when they select their own repertoire. It is really motivating for them – check out this blog post by Sharon for more on this. Sometimes they will need our guidance to find a suitable arrangement. If it’s a piece we haven’t heard before, it can challenge our sight-reading, make our own teaching more interesting, and broaden our musical horizons. I love the sense of collaboration that comes out in these lessons, where the student brings their own-choice repertoire. Sally talks about this with her student Sasha, who researched and found Ben Crosland’s Songs on Rainbow Hill.
Anthologies are great for promoting student choice; they might start with one piece in the book, but then leaf through and find another that they would like to try. I experienced this with my student wanted to learn Hushabye Mountain from The Graded Piano Player series. She originally bought the book for an exam, but later discovered other pieces she liked.
We love this response, from one of our webinar participants, when we asked the question, “What makes a mood-lifting piano piece?”:
..for me anywhere [my students] can ‘escape’ to and/or describe a story in their own words…
We hope you and your students will enjoy these selections, and doubtless you will have plenty of ideas of your own. Why not share them in the comments? Let’s keep building a library of mood-lifting piano pieces our students will love!
With thanks to all of the publishers, and composers, who have kindly allowed us to play and screen-share excerpts of the scores of these pieces.
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This blog post was written by Hannah O’Toole, Community & Marketing Manager, The Curious Piano Teachers.