Easy pop music arrangements that actually sound good!

Easy pop music arrangements that actually sound good!

pop music arrangementsFinding easy pop music arrangements can be tough!

There’s been a fair bit of discussion over at the PianoFlix discussion threads regarding how hard it is to find pop music arrangements that are not only playable by beginners, but actually sound like the real versions.

This is one of the hardest things about introducing pop music into your studio, but I’m happy to say that Hal Leonard have recently brought out a new series to solve this exact problem.

The difficulty lies most often in rhythm which I talked about in a previous post, Teaching Rhythm in Pop Music. While you can approach pop in ways that avoid having to play these tricky rhythms whilst still maintaining interest for the student (eg. playing by ear, using chords and playing with backing tracks), sometimes it’s easiest to just use a well-written arrangement, particularly if you’re new to teaching pop.

But finding good arrangements is always a challenge.

Enter “Pop Piano Hits”

A relatively new series called Pop Piano Hits is regularly-updated group of books featuring five current songs written for early intermediate students, around grade 1-2 level. The arrangements are cleverly written to reduce complexity whilst still maintaining the feel of the original and most of them live up to this challenge.

Hal Leonard Pop Piano Hits are simple and easy-to-read arrangements of the most current popular songs. Lyrics, fingering, and chord symbols are included to make the most of each authentic sounding arrangement. Students with 2-3 years of piano study can play these right away, and more experienced students can enjoy them as sight-reading material, or the basis for improvisation and arranging.

Here are three of the recent Pop Piano Hits releases (click to view more info):

 Counting Stars (One Republic) • Demons (Imagine Dragons) • Let Her Go (Passenger) • Say Something (A Great Big World) • Story of My Life (One Direction).


All of Me (John Legend) • Dark Horse (Katy Perry) • Happy (Pharrell) • Let It Go (Demi Lovato) • Pompeii (Bastille).


Atlas (Coldplay – from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) • Roar (Katy Perry) • Royals (Lorde) • Safe and Sound (Capital Cities) • Wake Me Up! (Avicii).


As you can see from the above, all the books feature up-to-the-minute releases. In my opinion, this is vital when using pop music in your studio as students enjoy playing the songs they are listening to at that moment. Of course, there will always be students keen to learn older songs by the Beatles, Elton John, Billy Joel, etc., but to be able to offer new release music to your students will be a huge benefit in your studio.

Have you found any good pop arrangements recently?

Please share the title below.

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as integrated teaching, creativity, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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  1. The best arrangements of pop, Broadway, and film music that I’ve found are by Dan Coates. They are consistently pianistic, scaled-down enough to be accessible, while retaining harmonic and rhythmic interest. A large selection of Coates’s arrangements is available from Alfred Publishing. Teen students especially appreciate the arrangements of Jim Brickman songs and the film music medleys (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars…). There’s also a good collection of standards from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s (“Simply Big Band”) that older adults really enjoy. (It can be challenging finding repertory that is relevant and sophisticated for this generation, while remaining within their playing level.)

    • Thanks Debra. Dan Coates does have great arrangements – thanks for the reminder. His books like Something For the Boys also feature great arrangements of contemporary stuff incl some great film tunes: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0739039970/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0739039970&linkCode=as2&tag=timtophamco05-20&linkId=QY4AZD3BSZT7KBNU. Re the adults – I also find it difficult to find music for them, but some of the more contemporary composers – Jennifer Eklund and Diane Hidy spring to mind – are writing really engaging music for adults. Thanks for your thoughts!

      • Thanks; I’ll check those out. I also like Dennis Alexander’s excellent 3-volume collection, graded Early to Late Intermediate, called “Especially for Adults.” These pieces are very attractive to teens as well.

        • Great recommendation – I’ll have to check them out 🙂

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