Teacher: “Billy, do you want to play any Christmas music this year?”
Billy: “Eh, no not really.”
Am I right when I say this is a phrase you rarely if ever hear from piano students? 🙂
I would suffice to say that Christmas is the time of year when many students get most passionate about what they want to play. Some have quite strong feelings about what favorite Christmas tunes they want to play and some just want to play as much as they possibly can.
Today I’m excited to share with you a new Christmas book that is unlike any other Christmas book for piano students.
I’m confident that you’ll not only find it to be completely unique, but incredibly versatile as well.
What is it?
It’s a book of 8 Christmas tunes to harmonize and play by ear including:
- I Saw Three Ships
- Away in a Manger
- Silent Night
- Up On the Housetop
- Go Tell it On the Mountain
- Jingle Bells
- Joy to the World
- The First Noel
Goals of this Book
The overarching goal of this book is to enable piano students to feel like they can sit down and play some of their favorite Christmas tunes anywhere and at any time without notation in front of them.
Many students find great joy in the annual musical feast that comes around each year making it a great opportunity for the development of life-long musicianship skills.
Students will be encouraged to discern between duple vs. triple meters and major vs. minor tonalities, learn to harmonize using chords, play in a variety of keys, use several accompaniment patterns, and more.
The format encourages the development of audiation, improvisation, and creativity skills by presenting multi-level steps/variations on playing each tune. Each song includes its own checklist so students can use and build on these sheets year after year as their skills progress.
Besides developing skills for playing by ear and playing tunes in a variety of ways, students are also gaining the valuable skill of learning how to play from a chord chart in any key.
Think of it kind of like “build-a-bear” – students are “building-a-book” of Christmas music! 🙂
The songs selected for this book were ones that are (first) in the public domain, (second) the easiest to harmonize, and (third) known to be quite popular to most.
For example, I could have included “Good King Wenceslas” but none of my students ever want to play it. One exception was that I included “I Saw Three Ships” because it’s one of the few Christmas pieces in triple meter or that you can harmonize using only tonic and dominant.
Songs were specifically chosen based on how many chords are needed to harmonize the tune. Only pieces using I-IV-V and no more than one other chord (such as ii or V/V) are included. Ease of harmonization was given priority over ease of melodic line.
P.S. Only 3 of the tunes include a chord other than I-IV-V. 🙂
P.S.S. While there are instances where harmonizations could have been simplified, those chosen were done so in order to enhance and enrichen the musical sound presented to students. For example, in Away in a Manger, it could be possible to avoid the ii chord and simply play a V7. However, I believe students will be more pleased with the sound when not avoiding more seemingly “difficult” harmonizations.
Who This Book is For
While designed primarily with the piano student in mind, this book can serve as a valuable resource for pianists of all levels and life stages of the learning process.
Learning to play by ear, harmonize, transpose, and get creative is something we can all be challenged with continuously in our life journey as musicians since creativity has no end!
Even as a teacher, I like to keep the book handy in my ForScore app so I can easily pull them up myself in a flash as needed through the holiday season.
About the BooK
This book is a 34-page DIGITAL DOWNLOAD sold only as a studio license which means teachers can purchase one copy and print it for as many of their students as needed. (It is not sold as a hard-copy book.)
Each piece is designed as a two-page spread.
The first page is the “song information” and is designed as a step-by-step guide to be completed in the lesson, walking students through the process of naming what they hear in the piece including:
METER – Is the big beat divided into two (duple) or three (triple)?
TONALITY – Is the piece in major or minor tonality?
STARTING PITCH – Where does the melody actually begin? (Does it begin on the “resting tone” or something else?)
KEY – What key do you want to play it in?
While the design of the book allows flexibility in playing in the key of choice, each piece has a recommended key – either C, F, or G. The recommended key was chosen based on the key that would be most comfortable for singing and playing.
CHORDS – What chords will you use to harmonize?
The chords used to harmonize each tune are presented in roman numeral form. Students will “translate” this into chord letter names.
FUN FACT – Did you know?
The second page is the chord chart.
LYRICS – Only the first verse is notated with the chord changes. Additional verses are included separately if the student wants to sing beyond the first verse.
HARMONIZATIONS – This book takes a unique approach to a chord chart in that it is presenting students not with the specific chord names but with roman numerals. This was done in order to support one of the goals of the book – providing a creative opportunity through transposition.
The harmonic indications are written inside a light grey box so students can work through the process of writing in the chord letter names on top of the roman numeral in the key of choice. Thus, teachers could go so far as printing off more than one copy of the same piece for students to translate into a variety of keys.
MY VARIATIONS – Each piece includes a list of the variety of ways/difficulty levels students can work toward playing the piece. Some examples include:
- Singing + RH chords/LH root octaves
- RH playing melody + LH playing chord root harmony
- Get creative by transposing, changing up the rhythm, or playing with the melody.
Space is included for check-marking or writing in dates for tracking their creative accomplishments.
What You Get
Your 34-page STUDIO-LICENSED download includes:
(1) How to Use This Book – Explanations include details from this post along with a few more in-depth details.
(2) 8 Pieces – Two pages per piece as described above.
(3) Notation Appendix – Lead-sheet style notation of each piece intended as a reference for teachers who are more comfortable notation handy.
(4) BONUS Step-by-Step Teaching Tips – A few more step-by-step teaching tips to help walk you through the process.
How to Purchase
You can find this product in the Piano Pantry shop or add it to your cart directly from here.