This post is brought to you by Darren Day of Darren Day Piano.
Darren is a skilled musician and teacher from Belfast. Alongside a busy teaching career, Darren composes and performs his own music. Drawing on Modern, Popular, Classical, and Fold influencers, he writes music to motivate and educate for all abilities.
It is a favourite time of year for me, I won’t lie about it. I love Christmas! As a musician I am usually up to my eyes, playing, singing or arranging Christmas concerts, along with the busyness of teaching but I still love seeing my students getting enthused about the opportunities to play Christmas tunes. But what to play?
I have always enjoyed ‘Piano Time Carols’ by Pauline Hall and ‘Christmas Jazzin’ About’ by Pam Wedgwood. The first is full of simplified arrangements perfect for Beginners and the latter is so funky and cool for Intermediate students even though it has been around for years now! For some of my Elementary students, we love seeing how many of Pauline Hall’s ‘Piano Time Carols’ we can play in one lesson, then try to beat that at the next lesson. It is also fun to see if students are able to play some of them from memory or give me a mini recital of their favourites at a lesson.
I also find this is a great time to explore aural and harmony skills. Without using a book, ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ (even just parts of the songs) are great tunes to try and play by ear. The step patterns in ‘Deck the Halls’ and the repeating notes in ‘Jingle Bells’ make both very accessible to even the youngest student. You can explore simple chords for the LH and even play along to some of the cool drum kit apps available. ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ is another ideal ear trainer, where sequential patterns provide a great teachable moment.
Transposing a Christmas song even in the RH only is also a great way to increase understanding of key signatures and improve your versatility as a musician.
It can be so rewarding to learn a more challenging piece for a Christmas recital, (check out my arrangement of ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ and my solo ‘Christmas Fantasia’ in TopMusicMarketPlace), but I also find it is great to give students Christmas pieces that are little easier as many enjoy the opportunity to play lots of festive music and really get into the spirit of the music.
Following on from my love of the season, I decided it was time to release a new Christmas book of arrangements and original pieces that I hope teachers and students alike will love to visit and revisit every year. I am delighted to present 'Countdown to Christmas'.
This book features 25 solos (one for each day in December?!) for Pianists from Elementary to early Intermediate level (UK Grades 1-3). It’s packed with new and interesting arrangements of well known Carols and songs along with 4 brand new solos composed especially for the book.
There are a variety of styles and moods with most pieces in keys of no more than one sharp or flat making it easier to learn lots of these arrangements in the build up to Christmas.
An added bonus are 25 play along, backing tracks for every piece accessed via QR codes. Not only is it great fun to play along with these tracks, students can improve their listening and musical skills, building a strong rhythmic feel and enjoy playing in their own Christmas band!
You can browse samples and get a single user license or a studio license from TopMusicMarketPlace. I hope you enjoy using these with your students in the build up to what I hope is a wonderful and safe Christmas for us all.