Trusty Christmas Favorites

Repertoire I Return to Year After Year

We all have our favorites. Our favorite Christmas songs, our favorite composers, our favorite arrangements. Each year when it comes time to pull out the Christmas books for students, while I try new ones each year, it seems I always return to the sturdy few.

Today I’m going to share with you my favorite Christmas books for students from beginner through late intermediate levels. The repertoire in this post to me is what I consider good solid arrangements. While several pieces I’ll highlight are jazzy, I’m not including any books that are specifically labeled with specific styles like “jazzy” or “Romantic Christmas” etc. (those are for another post another time).

Today is just about good old trusty Christmas music.

After so many years, you begin to see not only which books seem to appeal most to students, but which pieces within those books are the best. So, I’m also going to also highlight some of the arrangments I return to again and again.

I always ask my students if they have any requests for Christmas pieces, so hopefully seeing specific piece names within books will help you as you do your Christmas book shopping.

 

Faber Supplemental Christmas

I often give my students a Christmas book that is below their current method level, so if they’re playing in Faber 2B, I may choose to give them 2A Christmas. I want them just to be able to have fun playing Christmas music and to be able to play as many pieces as they can.

Level 4 is my favorite especially because of the jazzy arrangements of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Winder Wonderland that use lots of 7th chords.

Level 5’s medley “Celebration of Carols” is a fun seven-page mash-up of O Little Town of Bethlehem, We Three Kings, and Good Christian Men, Rejoice. My students always love this one, and it’s a great challenge piece that’s fun and flashy.

 

Piano Town Christmas

I really like the artwork in the Piano Town books The pictures are just so vibrant and colorful. I don’t have any specific pieces to highlight but they’re books you can count on.

Piano Town Christmas Level 1
Piano Town Christmas Level 2
Piano Town Christmas Level 3
Piano Town Christmas Level 4

Adult Christmas Books

Any of these books could be used for kids, not just adults. These are just books I tend to especially give to adults.

Adult Piano Adventures

Faber has an Adult Piano Adventures Christmas Book that includes a mixture of traditional, popular, and seasonal pieces. Like the Adult Piano Adventures series, they combine the original student books into a quicker-paced leveling.

I know a few teachers that use these books for all their students, including kids because they’re a good deal for what you get. With an average of 36 pieces in each book, they could use these for at least a couple of Christmas seasons.

Each book has three sections. Book 1, section 1 is marked as “beginning Christmas songs: easy arrangements with simple harmonies.” Section 2 has 13 pieces labeled as “Christmas songs in the key of C Major with I, IV and V7 chords) and Section 3 is the same but in the key of G Major.

Book 2 has pieces that “provide a variety of sophisticated sounds, yet with playable, pianistic arrangements.” The sections are arranged not by difficulty but by traditional, popular, and seasonal favorites.

 

Piano Fun Christmas Hits for Adult Beginners

Brenda Dillon’s Piano Fun for the Adult Beginners book is on my top list of methods for adults. The corresponding supplementary series is also great including the Christmas Hits book. It contains a dozen pieces varying from traditional to popular favorites.

The thing I like the most about all of Brenda Dillon’s supplementary books is that there are two versions of every piece: a lead sheet and a written arrangement. This allows for flexibility depending on what your student’s needs and desires are!

 

 Traditional Christmas Standards for Easy Tri-Chord Piano

OK, so please tell me I’m not the only one who has never heard someone call it a “Tri-chord”…

Traditional Christmas Standards is really a gem, I have to say. There’s nothing fancy about it at all, but that’s why I love it. The simple, basic arrangements are what sold me; right-hand melodies and very chordal LH accompaniments using three note chords (hence “tri-chord”)make it a perfect book to have in your library.

 

Helen Marlais “In Recital” Series

While I prefer the Faber Christmas books for younger students, I like books 5 and 6 of this series. There are some lovely pieces not only for my intermediate and late intermediate students, but I enjoy playing from these books myself each year!

There are two series:

  1. In Recital with Christmas Favorites (Books 1-6)
  2. In Recital with Popular Christmas Music (Books 1-6)

 

In Recital with Christmas Favorites Book 5 has an arrangement of Jingle Bells that I’m telling you, even if I liked no other pieces in the book, is worth purchasing the book for. It’s beautiful. The only other piece in this book that draws me is Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella. Three out of the eleven pieces are duets which, to me, is too high of a percentage of the book, but that’s just me! As I said, I would still buy it just for that arrangement of Jingle Bells.

In Recital with Christmas Favorites Book 6 has especially nice arrangments of What Child is This and O Come, Little Children (gorgeous!).

 

Favorite arrangements from In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 5 include A Holly Jolly Christmas, O Holy Night; O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song), and A Marshmallow World.

In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 6 is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE in the whole series with excellent arrangements of The First Noel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Let It Snow!, (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I never tire of these pieces!

 

Chord Town Christmas

Lastly, even though I only bought this series last year, Anne Crosby Gaudet’s PDF download Chord Town Christmas will no doubt become a staple.

Nine lead-sheet Christmas carols are accompanied by a variety of accompaniment patterns in various styles.

 

 

Melody Bober’s Christmas Memories

This is a series I haven’t been using for long but already know it will be with me for a long time. Melody Bober’s Christmas Memories books include overall really nice arrangements. They’re all so nice that I can’t point out any particular favorites!

There are 3 books in the series and then 3 books in the “Popular Christmas Memories” series ranging from Early Intermediate to Late Intermediate.

 

What are your favorite go-to basic Christmas books for students?

 

2 Comments

  • Music Moves for Piano Christmas Book is for those who want to build a Christmas repertoire from which they can improvise and arrange. Students learn the melodies along with a basic chord root accompaniment. The LH chord roots develop the ear for chord changes. When chord changes are secure, accompaniment styles can be created and harmonic variations can be made. Students learn the form of the melodies. With this form they can create variations above the underlying chord progression. Lots of opportunities for creativity that adds excitement to holiday practicing.

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