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.
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):
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.
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Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, 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.