Every piano teacher I know loves teaching the piano at Christmas! I certainly do. That’s because students often get a huge burst of motivation that results in increased practice and enjoyment all round.

teaching the piano at Christmas


I first noticed The Christmas Carol Effect many years ago. Young students, who were practising rather reluctantly, suddenly started working their socks off to learn a Christmas carol or song.
Thinking about this yearly phenomena made me realise that certain conditions cause this to happen.

  • The student already knows the melody.
  • The songs are familiar to their peers and family,
  • Everyone enjoys listening to performances of the pieces.

The result? Pianists young and old feel good about playing as they know they are being appreciated. And feeling good leads the player repeating the activity!


It’s a win-win situation all round as, for teachers, the result is overwhelmingly positive. With motivation so high, big leaps in the learning overall often occur.

Ilga Pitkevica (a colleague on the PTC UK) suggests students will not mind going: ‘that little bit further if they can learn what they are desperate to play’. She suggests taking advantage of this and giving them the more challenging version of a Christmas piece that is going to really push their learning on.


So how am I taking advantage of the Christmas Carol Effect this year? Here’s a few thoughts:

  • With my intermediate students, I am focussing on developing their keyboard harmony skills and playing songs and carols from lead sheets.
  • At late-elementary level, several have been recently introduced to dotted crotchet and quaver patterns (dotted quarter notes and half notes). So, several carols, Silent Night, for example, are being learnt in which that rhythm features.
  • For early elementary students, this is a great opportunity to develop more advanced co-ordination skills between the hands. Additionally, note-reading can be consolidated.
  • And of course, all the students in these levels benefit from a Flashnote Derby Christmas Challenge, especially as it is reindeer racing season!

But what about beginners who might have only had a handful of lessons?


Well, this is also a time for them to push on in a significant way if you have the right tools for the job! One approach that has proved popular is the idea of sound stories.

These work a treat both with my young beginners and the students of members of the Curious Community. Basically, take a Christmas picture storybook and bring the story to life with as many sound effects and songs as you can. For example, any story that mentions a star provides the perfect opportunity for working how to play Twinkle, Twinkle by ear! And it is always a continuing source of joy to me just how excited this makes our young students.


This SPARKLY FRIDAY we are giving away one of our very special sound story workbooks for you to use in your piano lessons over the next few weeks. Just click on the picture below to receive your free workbook.

teaching the piano at Christmas

Do let us know in the comments if you have any Christmas Carol Effect stories.

Happy teaching!

This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers

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