Playing Christmas music is a great way to connect piano playing with what’s going on seasonally, to improve sight-reading, and also to just have fun playing tunes that everyone is familiar with; it makes piano lessons and playing relevant to real life.
If you have pupils using a particular tutor book scheme then there is usually a Christmas book that will match their level and enhance learning. The Piano Adventures series has a Christmas book for every level, starting with My First Piano Adventure Books A (pre-reading), B and C, and then one for every level of their tutor books series. The contents vary from traditional carols to contemporary songs and some original compositions, and they have theory and sight-reading activities in them too. The Hal Leonard Student Piano Library also has Christmas Piano Solos at every level of their series- beautifully presented and clearly laid out – and the Adult Piano Method isn’t forgotten either with Christmas Favorites Book 1 and 2 available. Piano Time Carols have 19 festive favourites arranged for beginners through to grade 2 standard, so the book can be used for more than one year. The duet accompaniments are, as always with this series, absolutely spot on.
Moving out of tutor book mode- and it is sometimes good to encounter a new technique or style via a known Christmas tune- the ones I come back to year after year and can be used whatever else you are playing: at an early level Hammond’s Cool Piano Duets for beginner to Prep test level- these all have great duet accompaniments and sound fab. Christmas Carols for Beginners, Blake and Capp, are at a similar level and have duet accompaniments too but each piece sounds convincing as a solo. Bastien Christmas Songs books are always good, and Carol Matz’s Famous and Fun series book 1-5 has the absolute best duet accompaniments ever, simply ravishing.
I like to choose Christmas pieces that my pupils will enjoy but ones where they will not have to work too hard in order to have them ready- Away in a Manger in January does not work- so we generally play pieces that are a level below their normal one. Jazzy pieces also provide a great incentive to practise, play and perform, and for my grade 3-6 pupils Christmas Jazzin’ About, Wedgwood,( solos and a couple of duets) and Christmas Jazz, Rags and Blues, books 1-4 Mier, make us all sound like jazz or cocktail pianists in a classy restaurant or hotel. Christmas with Style, Jerry Ray, does have the USA versions of Angels We Have Heard on High and Away in a Manger amongst its 10 gentle jazzy and contemporary arrangements, but they are so well done that you will not care. These are pitched at g5-7 level and are well worth learning. For me they mark the start of Christmas.
Written by Fiona Lau
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