The season for playing holiday music is officially here, and while you might rely on a handful of stock favourites, here are 10 student-approved choices to consider for Christmas.
This article features short reviews on seasonal picks from composers around the world. You’ll find some on TopMusicMarketplace, and more from our repertoire lists, including a free Christmas carols lead sheet set (see below to get it instantly!)
We were really excited to find styles and arrangements that check these boxes:
Let’s get to it!
Bradley’s Jazzy Christmas Book 1 includes ten very easy holiday favourites arranged in jazz-based styles students love.
Each tune includes a “Good Idea!” text box with discussion points to enhance the lesson such as how to play fermatas or choose the right tempo as well as bite-sized improvisation tips suitable for beginners.
Notable: Duet accompaniments with flair. Teachers love playing the optional advanced duet parts to motivate students with jazzy accompaniments.
Available at: TopMusicMarketplace / Bradley Sowash store
This noteworthy solo piece is very Mozart-meets-New Orleans’ French quarter. It’s perfect for a quick-study teacher piece, or for an older student to really show off their variations talent with some jazz style.
Darren’s We Wish You a Merry Christmas begins in a very simple position, then works its way through various styles and increases in difficulty as it progresses. Great fun to learn and play!
Level: theme & variations, mixed level – (or advanced if playing the whole work)
Available at: TopMusicMarketplace / Darren Day store
We also like Darren’s collection of 5 holiday solos in an easy elementary level edition.
At five pieces for $5, they’re appealing easy winners for young students.
My older elementary/young teen students enjoy this Martha Mier book because they love how they sound playing these holiday classics. Joy to the World and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are particular winners. These are student-savers which sound big but aren’t difficult to accomplish.
Most pieces are 2 pages and in accessible keys. Think lots of open chords and moving around the keyboard, without complex rhythms.
Level: late elementary – early intermediate
Available on: Amazon
This Einaudi and Yiruma-esque solo of The First Noel will appeal to teen students or adults wanting something expressive and emotive. It’s sure to be a teen choice piece. Also notable, this piece is available in B major or a more approachable C major version.
Available at: TopMusicMarketplace / Girl in Blue store
Mike’s Christmas collection is so satisfying to play for students who love jazz basslines, chords, and a sound that really pops. Jolly Old St. Nicholas is the top pick amongst my students. This is another great showcase book for the holidays for an older student. It includes a good mix of secular favourites also, which is inclusive for students who don’t celebrate Christian tradition.
Level: early/mid intermediate, due to jazz chords and stock jazz rhythm patterns used
The MP3 tracks are so helpful so you can quickly shop this book and know what will appeal. A nice bonus is the play-along style backing tracks.
Available at: Alfred or Amazon
Jerald Simon is well known for writing patterns and music teens love, and shared with us about teaching a studio of teens whom he saved from the brink of quitting in the most epic fashion (hear his podcast episode here).
If you have a student struggling with enthusiasm or finding things they want to play, get into Jerald’s resources like this absolutely great patterns book that was a number-one seller on Amazon for eight straight months.
Christmas is one of this book’s sections, and then find other repertoire staples for all year. With a studio license, it’s a must-buy that allows you to print out the PDF for the piano students in your studio for the life of your piano studio. Serious value.
Use the left-hand fill patterns with our lead sheets free book below!
Level: late elementary and up
Available at: TopMusicMarketplace (studio license!) / Music Motivation store
Award-winning composer Jacki Alexander is offering a well-edited edition of Christmas solos in a contemporary style for single or studio-license (either choice is available).
Notable: Once in Royal David’s City – a lesser-played but beautiful Christmas hymn. Silent Night is a sonorous arrangement. These are very pleasing and offer something fresh for Christmas services, whether online or otherwise this year!
Available at: TopMusicMarketplace / Premier Piano Music store
The November edition of TopMusicSheets features ten pieces from nine wonderful composers from all over the world. Every piece is on a Christmas or winter theme with plenty of secular holiday pieces included to suit every student and support an inclusive teaching vibe in your studio.
Featured Composers from Nov. Holiday Heroes – Sara Kreilein, Grant Arnold, Alexa Madison, Darren Day, Rosemarie Penner, Ann Buys, Jenny Walker, Bradley Sowash, Matti Carter.
This edition is also unique in that it covers nearly all levels, from early elementary to late intermediate+, so there’s something for every student you have! Plus they are studio-licensed.
Available in: TopMusicPro – November 2020 only!
(Read about our Lite membership, designed for ultra-busy teachers, bringing you new digital sheet music each month and more.)
Bradley Sowash plays his medley and mashup of two spirituals from Holidays Heroes:
This one amazing book entirely saved Christmas for me when our church was without a full-time pianist and I subbed for ten months, including all of the holiday services. The congregation, who have quite sophisticated musical tastes, loved these pieces and stopped to comment after services about these arrangements.
Available at: Amazon
Find my friend Swan Kiezebrink playing “Bring a Torch” from this collection as a demo, and fall in love with the rest of this book by Christopher Norton!
Finally, here’s our freebie today for you!
Get access to six popular and easy-to-learn Christmas carols in lead sheet form. This includes a notated right hand, chord symbols above and lyrics so that you, or your student, can sing along.
We’ve arranged them from easiest to hardest. They’re organized so that most students will be able to learn at least one in a single lesson.
Any chord symbols in brackets are optional. They are chords that can be added later on when the student is confident with the song and needs an extra challenge. They are not essential for playing the carol.
If you’re a TopMusicPro member, no need to enter your email, you can find this download now in your Resource Library.
For everyone else, please enter your details below:
We hope this brings something fresh to your teaching this season. Let’s hear it though – what’s your own favourite Christmas piece, composer, or book? Leave a quick note below with your thoughts.
PS> we are ISO some amazing Christmas games for teachers. Do you have any you’d like to sell on the Marketplace? Write us or explore listing your creative teaching solution on TopMusicMarketplace as an independent seller.
Emily Laney teaches piano privately in Texas, where she enjoys helping students find their self-expression through music. She's helped develop the careers of concert artists through the Van Cliburn Foundation's International Piano Competitions, and promoted classical concerts from Lang Lang to Yo-Yo Ma. At TopMusic, find her directing operations and content, and collecting Blackwing pencils.