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 will share my favorite Christmas books for students from beginner through late intermediate levels. The repertoire in this post 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 which books seem to appeal most to students and which pieces within those books are the best. So, I’m also going to highlight some of the arrangements 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.
- PreTime Piano Christmas Primer Level (Beginning Reading)
- PlayTime Piano Christmas Level 1 (5-Finger Melodies)
- ShowTime Piano Christmas Level 2A (Elementary Playing)
- ChordTIme Piano Christmas Level 2B (I-IV-V7 chords in C, G, and F)
- FunTime Piano Christmas Levels 3A-3B (Easy Piano)
- BigTime Piano Christmas Level 4 & above (Intermediate)
- AdvanceTime Piano Christmas Level 5 (Pianistic Arrangements for the Advancing Pianist)
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.
Adult Christmas Books
Any of these books could be used for kids, not just adults. These are just books I tend to give to adults especially.
Adult Piano Adventures
Faber’s Adult Piano Adventures Christmas Book 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 most about 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 your student’s needs and desires!
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 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:
- In Recital with Christmas Favorites (Books 1-6)
- 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 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 1 (Early Elementary)
- In Recital with Christmas Favorites Book 2 (Elementary)
- In Recital with Christmas Favorites Book 3 (Late Elementary)
- In Recital with Christmas Favorites Book 4 (Early Intermediate)
- In Recital with Christmas Favorites Book 5 (Intermediate)
- In Recital with Christmas Favorites Book 6 (Late Intermediate)
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!
- In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 1 (Early Elementary)
- In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 2 (Elementary)
- In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 3 (Late Elementary)
- In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 4 (Early Intermediate)
- In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 5 (Intermediate)
- In Recital with Popular Christmas Music Book 6 (Late Intermediate)
Chord Town Christmas
Lastly, even though I only bought this series last year, Anne Crosby Gaudet’s PDF download Chord Town Christmas will undoubtedly become a staple.
Comprised of nine lead Christmas carols written in a lead-sheet syle, students are presented with various accompaniment patterns from which they can choose.
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 nice arrangements. They’re all so nice that I can’t point out any particular favorites!
There are three books in the series and then three books in the “Popular Christmas Memories” series ranging from Early Intermediate to Late Intermediate.
- Christmas Memories Book 1
- Christmas Memories Book 2
- Christmas Memories Book 3
- Popular Christmas Memories Book 1
- Popular Christmas Memories Book 2
- Popular Christmas Memories Book 3
What are your favorite go-to basic Christmas books for students? Let’s keep the list going in the comments!