Advanced Arrangements of Sacred Music

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me over the last few years. 

 


Hi.

I have searched the internet for decades, always looking for sacred piano arrangements that are very very advanced level. I play all of Rudy Atwood’s and Harold DeCou’s piano arrangement solos, and have wanted new material.

The problem is that no matter what piano book or piano sheet music I look at on the internet, all of them are too easy, and bore me, since they are not a challenge to me at all. I am looking for titles of piano arrangement books of sacred music, whether classical or jazz style.

Do you know the names of some advanced enough music books, or the names of some Christian piano arrangers who still have this kind of music in print to where I could order it?

I hold concerts at times, and find that it’s hard to find new music that is advanced as I am looking for. It almost seems to me so far, that it was more in the 50’s-70’s when this type of music was published.

Nowdays the big name seems to be for instance, “Hal Leonard”, etc, and their music is way too easy for me. I love the hard stuff, where it takes me time to work it out, instead of material that I can play right on the spot with no challenge to it.

If you have any ideas of where I could find (for sure) material this advanced, would you please let me know? Please don’t send me to all these many many sites I have looked under for hours and hours, never to find.

Also, I am the type where I need to be able to view a sample of the music, so I know what I’m ordering, to make sure it’s not too easy, and a lot of them do not show samples.

If you have any ideas, would you please email me back? Thank you. I know I’m asking a lot.

-Sincerely Yours, M

 

Hi, M,

I do have some suggestions and am happy to help!

The first group is books that I have played over the years and enjoyed. Phillip Keveren and Mark Hayes have always been my go-to but I would say Mark Hayes verges on having more advanced arrangments that you are likely looking for.

I agree with you that it can be really frustrating to be looking for music and not be able to preview it – especially when we’re in 2020! To help you out, I did a little searching for each book I’ll list here and I will link to it ONLY if the location has a preview available. 🙂

I find JW Pepper and Alfred both do pretty good in some instances with offering previews. Sheet Music Plus sometimes as well, but not always.

  • Worship with a Touch of Jazz by Phillip Keveren (jazzy arrangements of more contemporary – but still older – worship songs)
  • Well-Tempered Jazz by Mark Hayes (wonderful jazzy arrangements of older hymns and gospel songs)
  • Well-Tempered Praise III by Mark Hayes (Simple Gifts / I Need Thee Every Hour, etc.)
  • Praise Classics by Mark Hayes (older choruses like Bind Us Together, As the Deer, etc.)
  • Open My Heart to Worship by Mark Hayes (more contemporary – but still older – worship songs like Above All  and Open the Eyes of My Heart)

The three books linked above are to JW Pepper’s website, but the last two books by Mark Hayes are also available for preview on Alfred’s website. It appears there is another book he has as well called “Gospel Classics” that also has a preview available on Alfred’s website.

This next group of books are ones that I’m familiar with but have not played from a lot myself. I think you may find these even closer to what you’re looking for here as they’re quite virtuosic!

  • Marilyn Hamm has some wonderful advanced arrangements. If you visit her page on the Alfred publishers website and click on each individual book, they do give you Sample Pages under the Product Description. In the past, I have played some from an older book of hers – “One Lord, One Faith”. You can preview that particular book on Sheet Music Plus and JW Pepper.
  • Dino Kartsonakis is an incredibly OLD arranger to name, so there aren’t a lot of purchase options out there except on eBay (I searched “Dino Kartsonakis Piano Sheet Music”). The book I grew up with and remember I managed to find here, but there is no preview. I can attest, however, that his music was incredibly virtuosic!!
  • Jesus Shall Reign by Victor Labenske (One of my adult students played out of this book and it was fairly virtuosic from what I remember but there is no preview online.)

I really hope you can find something that works well with what you’re looking for. Best of luck!

~Amy

 


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Favorite Intermediate-Level Sheet Music Piano Solos

This is the final of three posts highlighting some of my favorite sheet music piano solos for students.

These favorites lists are the result of a year-long focus in my studio, exploring the wide range of sheet music solos in publication. If you would like to read about the 9 things I learned from that project, check out this post.

Since I have quite a few to mention, I decided to divide the list into multiple posts by-level. Today I’ll be sharing favorite pieces at the Early Intermediate, Intermediate, and Late Intermediate levels including the reason I love it and a link where you can purchase.

If you missed the first two posts, here they are:

Favorite Sheet Music Piano Solos for Halloween,

Favorite Elementary-Level Sheet Music Piano Solos


Please note I am an affiliate in the Sheet Music Plus Easy Rebates program which simply means if you purchase any of these pieces using the links I provide, I will get a small percentage back without it costing you any extra.


 

Early Intermediate

A Melancholy Night by Naoko Ikeda

Why I love it: It uses a waltz accompaniment pattern, warmed with 7th chords, and features a portion with the melody in the left hand.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

An Enchanted Castle by Pat Boozer

Why I love it: The left hand is challenged using a single-note accompaniment pattern with a leap of a 10th.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Garden of Dreams by Naoko Ikeda

Why I love it: I would argue that this piece is more Intermediate level as the LH waltz accompaniment in the key of A major changes chord inversions frequently posing quite a challenge for an early intermediate student.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Midnight Express by Christopher Fisher

Why I love it: The Presto tempo and alternating 5th-octave accompaniment patterns make this a great challenge piece.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Moonlight by Lee Galloway

Why I love it: Written in 12/8 time, the left-hand broken chord pattern walks down by half steps and changes harmony each measure.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Nocturne by Paul Sheftel

Why I love it: Once again, the left-hand features an extended broken chord pattern that is great for students at this level.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Snowflakes in Spring by Naoko Ikeda

Why I love it: Various textures and an absolutely beautiful melody. Like many of the pieces by Naoko, I would counter that this piece is slightly more challenging than early intermediate.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Tarantella Viva! by Melody Bober

Why I love it: Vibrant triple-meter piece

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Continue reading

Favorite Elementary-Level Sheet Music Piano Solos

This is the second of three posts that will highlight some of my favorite sheet music piano solos for students.

These favorites lists are the result of a year-long focus in my studio, exploring the wide range of sheet music solos in publication. If you would like to read about the 9 things I learned from that project, check out this post.

Since I have quite a few to mention, I decided to divide the list into three posts. Today I’ll be sharing favorite pieces at the Early Elementary, Elementary, and Late Elementary levels including the reason I love it and a link where you can purchase.

The first post featured Halloween-themed music and the next one will introduce Early Intermediate, Intermediate, and Later Intermediate pieces.


Please note I am an affiliate in the Sheet Music Plus Easy Rebates program which simply means if you purchase any of these pieces using the links I provide, I will get a small percentage back without it costing you any extra.


 

Early Elementary

Dancing Drums by Joyce Grill

Why I love it: It’s in Aeolian (Natural Minor) tonality and has a really catchy beat.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

I Like Bananas by Julie Knerr

Why I love it: A fun and silly piece that helps beginning students explore the range of the piano.

Buy it at PianoSafari.com

 

I Love Coffee from Piano Safari

Why I love it: A rote solo piece, I Love Coffee is a theme with six variations. There is a multitude of fun ways to use this piece both as a student solo and even in a small group.

Buy it at PianoSafari.com

 

IN MY DREAMS BY JENNIFER LINN

Why I love it: It has a beautiful melody that seems to plays around the tonic to start then moves into a lovely contrasting B section.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

 

Start Your Engines by Kevin Olson

Why I love it: Most early elementary pieces are catered to young children, but this one appeals to older students. I even had a 14-year old boy who played and love this piece.

It includes a B section where the student works on slowly accelerating (like a car) until the final three measures where they play “as fast as they can” culminating in a note cluster “crash” of the car.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

Continue reading

Favorite Sheet Music Piano Solos for Halloween

This is the first of three posts highlighting some of my favorite sheet music piano solos for students.

These favorites lists are the result of a year-long focus in my studio, exploring the wide range of sheet music solos in publication. If you would like to read about the 9 things I learned from that project, check out this post.

Since I have quite a few to mention, I decided to divide the list into three posts. Today I’ll be sharing favorite Halloween-themed sheet music piano solos including the reason I love it and a link where you can purchase. I’m doing it first because Halloween will be here before we know it!

(Stay tuned for two more posts. The first will include favorite pieces at the Early Elementary, Elementary, and Late Elementary levels and the second post on Early Intermediate, Intermediate, and Later Intermediate pieces.)


Please note I am an affiliate in the Sheet Music Plus Easy Rebates program which simply means if you purchase any of these pieces using the links I provide, I will get a small percentage back without it costing you any extra.


P.S. I just saw that if you’re a member of MTNA, you can get an additional 10% off your order at Sheet Music Plus on top of their 8% Easy Rebates program!


 

Early Elementary

Halloween Costumes by Tom Gerou

Why I love it: The piece includes both the leading tone and subtonic in Am (G and G#) giving it a little more interesting flair.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus  

 

Zoom, Zoom, Witch’s Broom by Nancy Faber

Why I love it: Its fast-moving tempo is a nice challenge for students. The piece also gives them a chance to experience the fermata, pedal, octave leaps.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

Continue reading

Sheet Music Piano Solos:

9 lessons-learned from a 1-year project

This year marks the start of my 10th year of full-time piano teaching. While I’ve been teaching for 20 years, the first 10 were part-time (alongside other careers) with generally no more than 6-10 students at a time.

Ever since I started teaching full time, I’ve found myself focusing on one or two major things each year (not always intentionally, but quite recognizably in hind-sight).

Examples include learning to use a new program, improving my teaching in a particular way or area, trying a new method with as many students as possible at once, and so forth.


Last year I suddenly felt inspired to explore and become better acquainted with the gamut of sheet music solos.


 

Clueless and Curious

If you ever attend an MTNA National Conference or NCKP (The Piano Conference, you know that these single sheets (priced at $2-$3) are often handed out in exchange for submitting “coupons” with contact information in the exhibit halls.

Like many teachers, I’ve never used them continuously with students. Not only are they more expensive than a book, but their intent is more to supplement than supply a student’s repertoire.


Even though I’ve been teaching for 20 years, infrequent use of sheet music solos meant I was feeling a little clueless as to what was really out there and what my favorites were.


So, last year I vowed to use them more frequently. Basically, (almost) every student had one sheet music solo in progress at all times (almost). 🙂

In future posts, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorites but first, I want to share with you 9 things I learned from this project along the way.

Continue reading

Teaching Syncopation with Rocket Man

On the assignment sheet I’m currently using with students there is a practice reflection that also includes a space for students to write down a piece they would like to learn.

“What piece would you like to learn?” is one of my favorite questions on the practice diary. Not only is it an opportunity for the student to communicate their musical interests with me, but it’s opened my eyes to new music. It’s amazing to see how many students push themselves to learn to play repertoire much harder than their “level” – especially when it’s a song they really want to play.

Giving students some autonomy and choice in music is also important for retention. For more on that, check out the post: A Picture Number is Worth a Thousand Words: Studio Retention-Rate Marketing.

One of my students who plays around the late-intermediate level recently wanted to play Rocket Man. Musicnotes.com is my go-to place for all individual song requests. The arrangement I found for her has proven to be an excellent study in syncopation and is challenging her rhythm skills.

Perhaps you have a student who may enjoy it as well?

Here is the arrangement of Rocketman on Musicnotes.com.

Just for fun, here’s the Offical Music Video for Rocket Man.

 

Christmas Collaborations

Recommended Piano Ensemble Music

Perhaps more than any other time of year, Christmas is a time when we, as a society, make music together the most. Whether it’s caroling, singing Christmas music in church, or as a family in the car while you drive to grandma’s house, there’s just something about Christmas music that encourages music-making together.

So if with our voices, why not also with our instruments? Each year, the week before Christmas we have group classes in my studio. These classes are the perfect opportunity for ensemble playing.

In this post, I will share a few go-to resources I use in my piano studio so my students can make music as a group. The books and music mentioned in this post do not include duet repertoire, or piano trio’s (such as piano, cello, violin), only piano ensembles of three or more.

I’m lucky enough to have four keyboards in my studio we can use which is, of course, ideal but not always realistic. If you don’t have four keyboards, don’t despair – there are options here for you and ways you can equip your students to make music together!

Speaking of Christmas piano ensembles…perhaps one of the most watched on YouTube (with currently 18,950,525 views), is the Piano Guys’ version of Angels We Have Heard on High with 32 fingers and 8 thumbs.

Granted, this is exactly a “piano ensemble” but it felt fitting to include in this post because it’s so incredible.

 

Downloadable Sheet Music Ensembles

Susan Paradis

Susan Paradis has several Piano Trios available on her website.

 

She also has a Jingle Bells Duet with Rhythm Ensemble that, while it’s a piano duet, includes an ensemble of 4 rhythm instruments. This is a fun ensemble to use during group class with elementary students especially.

Continue reading

Spring Recital 2018

“Songs We Know”

This past Sunday was my studio’s 7th spring recital. Every year I try to do something different to keep things interesting. Last year we did a studio-wide collaborative project (a narrative suite). In 2016 we did collaborative pieces (duets, trios, 2-pianos 4-hands).

Sometimes in the fall, I hold a themed recital. This past fall we did a church music recital and three years ago we did a color recital (this recital was prior to Piano Pantry so I don’t have a post on it).

This year the theme was “Songs We Know.” Usually, I reserve the majority of pop-tune playing and such for our summer picnic performance. With our house project and all that’s going on this year though, I decided to forego the summer performance. Thus, the popular-themed music for spring recital.

I’m going to share a couple of highlights from our recital including a list of the repertoire books we used.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Favorite Hymn and Praise Piano Books

(and a Church Music Recital)

Have you ever done a themed-recital?

Two years ago I decided I wanted to start doing themed recitals on occasion.  My Spring recital sometimes has a partial theme, but I wanted something that was a 100% all-in theme. Participation is optional for students, but both times I have had nearly 75% of my students participate. Mid-October seems to be a good time, right before Fall break.

My first one was a “color” theme. That recital happened prior to Piano Pantry so I don’t have a post about it  – maybe someday. 🙂 This year, since so many of my students are already using their skills in church, it felt like the right time to do a “church-music” theme.

Today I’m going to share with you a few highlights from our recital as well as some of my favorite resources for church music repertoire for students. Be sure and share your favorites in the comments!

Continue reading