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, piano trios (such as piano, cello, violin), only piano ensembles of three or more.
I’m lucky enough to have four keyboards in my studio that 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 it in this post because it’s so incredible.
Downloadable Sheet Music Ensembles
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.
Lauren Lewandowski has several downloadable piano ensembles on her website PianoWithLauren.com including two Christmas ones. The great thing is that it’s for multiple levels.
According to her website, each one includes rhythm practice, a harmony guide, individual parts for harmony (chords), bass notes, and melody and advanced variations of each part.
Luckily for those of you without multiple keyboards, Lauren’s music allows students to play the music as a solo, duet, or trio on one or two pianos!
One Piano Six Hands
This piece is an elementary arrangement of Away in a Manger and the First Noel by Carrie Kraft. Published by Alfred, it includes the complete score as well as sheets for individual players. At less than $4 it’s a great resource to keep on hand!
Piano Ensembles (4-Part Ensembles)
There are two main resources for Christmas Piano Ensembles, one by Alfred and the other by Hal Leonard.
My favorite is the Christmas Piano Ensembles series that is part of the Hal Leonard Student Library. The series arranged by Phillip Keveren hosts 5 levels that coincide with the piano method.
Each book includes 4-5 songs with a conductor’s score, individual parts, and optional accompaniments.
Here’s a fun video of some of my students playing “Up on the Housetop” from level 2. The arrangements include suggestions for midi sounds which can be a lot of fun.
The Alfred Merry Christmas! Piano Ensemble series coincides with Alfred’s Basic Piano Library. While you can purchase the levels separately (1A, 1B, 2, 3), I would recommend simply purchasing the “Complete” versions.
Both books host ten 4-part ensembles for 4 keyboards arranged by Gayle Kowalchyk and E.L. Lancaster. The complete 2&3 version is listed as “for the later beginner.”
The only piano method currently out there based on Edwin E. Gordon’s Music Learning Theory, Music Moves has a unique approach. In the Christmas Music book, the left side of the pages focuses on establishing the tonal and rhythm patterns in the piece using keyboard pictures and solfege as well as the Gordon rhythm syllables. The right-hand side of the page is a notated version of the piece using RH melody and LH bass root tone harmony changes.
One student could be assigned to play the melody while another student would play the bass harmony. One student count play chords (not included on the music but could easily be added), and another could improvise, be the conductor, or play a repeating rhythm pattern using a rhythm instrument of any kind. You could use your imagination here!
These are just a few resources I have found over the years that have been great to use around the holidays.
Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list? Let me know!