Fun Late Beginner Piano Music [RR#4]
Tim Topham: It’s Tim Topham here and I’m really excited today to show you some of my recent finds and the things that I’ve been using over the last few years for late beginner students. These are the kids that have done their primer method book, they may have done one other level of their method book and they’re starting to read on the stave but it’s pretty basic. They’re not yet ready to do, for example, over here or in the UK, a preliminary exam. They’re kind of in that little gap. It’s often the time, particularly if you’re teaching older beginners, so those pre-teen age kids that you can sometimes lose them. It’s really great to have a whole lot of music up your sleeve that is really engaging and can capture these kinds of students.
Today I’m going to go through a number of some of my favourite books and I’ll play you some example from them as always. Make sure you stay until the end because right at the end of this I’m going to talk about my next live training, which is coming up next week and I know that anyone who teaches beginners is going to find this really useful. Just for a little bit of background, I tend to only teach a primer level of a method book and then maybe one more before I start branching out into a whole lot of other music, which is why I’ve got so much music at this level.
I know a lot of teachers will tend to stick to a method book series and may go right through up until … I know Alfred goes through to book six or seven or something like that and then start looking for other repertoire. I’d encourage people to start expanding their repertoire right from the beginning. As soon as the student is starting to read music, then let’s get them reading lots of different music because there’s so much great stuff out there. By the way, if you’re jumping on the call live now please just say a little hello, type a little hello in the box and tell me where you’re from. It’d be great to see, I’m sure there’ll be a few familiar faces as we proceed today.
When it comes to the kinds of music that I’m looking for, for that particular age group, just after their introductory method, I’m looking for a combination of really kind of three things. I’m looking for work that will improve their technique and that’s often the classical kind of repertoire because that’s where students will really be able to develop the movement of their wrist and the phrase shaping and articulation’s starting and all that kind of stuff. So, that’s great to do, obviously. I also, as you already know, like to use a chordal approach and teaching pop music if it’s appropriate for the student but certainly giving a student an understanding about chords. I’ve talked about that in my last repertoire rap how I do that with some of my teenage students.
The third style of music that I like and that’s what I’ll be covering a fair bit of today is quite pattern based music. This is music that really reinforces and solidifies either chordal movement, or repetitive patterns, things that really engage students. Students love anything that’s pattern based, I find. They can learn music that sounds really hard but isn’t really very different because of the patterns and they get to understand chord shapes and things like that while they’re learning. That’s the reason I like these pieces in particular. What I would say though is that it’s never going to be a good thing to stick to only one style of music.
Let’s say you really love Kevin Olson’s books here. I would never, as much as I love Kevin and his music, I would never advocate a diet of just Kevin Olson or just Daniel Mcfarlane or just any one composer. We should be mixing up things for students as much as possible. In that way, we’ll also make sure that we’re covering all the backgrounds of technique and phrasing and all those kinds of things because some of this music that I’m going to demonstrate today is about fun and patterns and just engaging students. It’s not going to teach them a hell of a lot of technique in their left hand for example because often left hands in this kind of popular pattern based style is quite repetitive or simple. It’s not going to be focusing on that and it’s not going to necessarily be working so much on phrase shaping and articulation, so we need to cover all those bases.
So anyway, let’s get started today. The first person I want to talk about is Daniel Mcfarlane, he’s an Australian composer. I’ve talked about his music for some years. I gave a presentation back in, I think it was 2011 was the first time I really started sharing his music with other people. It’s an absolute winner particularly if you’ve got boys in your studio and particularly if you’ve got teenage style beginners or really young teen beginners. They’re going to need music, which really hooks them in to make sure that they keep playing through those teenage years. I’ve got one of those pieces here, it’s called “Going Under Cover”. You can grab Daniel’s music, it’s all at SupersonicsPiano.com. As usual, I’ve got links to all of this music at topmusic.co/rap. R with an r-a-p. So the first ones called “Going Under Cover”, I’ll just play you a little bit. (piano)
You get the idea, great fun piece, kids love learning it and it’s in the C Minor single hand shape pentascale ablution. It also come with a backing track, here’s what it sounds like. Let’s just restart it. The thing I really love about Daniel’s music is that it all comes with great backing tracks. (piano) You get the idea. Now kids, the minute play this I have not had a student who hasn’t gone, “Wow, I want to learn that piece of music.” So that’s called “Going Under Cover”, it’s actually in his Supersonics Piano level A pack. All his music is downloadable online and it’s all fully studio licensed so buy it once and you’ve got it forever and you can use it with any number of students.
If you liked the sound of that track, give me a little bit of a thumbs up or a heart would be fantastic to hear from the people who are live on the call today. I’ll play just a couple of these other tracks. Another one, completely different style this time is called, “Winter’s Day”, it goes like this. (piano) Okay, you get the idea. It’s in 3/4, nice little waltz, really melodic, has some phrases and you can grow and move in the phrases so it does cover some of those articulation and phrasing points. I love this one too it’s in D Minor and then what happens in the middle section, (piano) we go from to (piano) and it’s great talking about the relationship between those two key being relative, the sun comes out effectively on this winter’s day because we’re going to the major key. So, it’s got some great teaching points in it. It’s one of my favourite pieces by Daniel, it’s called “Winter’s Day”, and again that’s available at supersonicspiano.com.
Links again, through my website at TimTopham.com/rap. I’ll just play one other by Daniel, it’s called “Fortress”. This is another one that my boys tend to really enjoy. He also has great names for pieces too I think and they’ve got some really good fonts. I don’t know if you can see that very well. They’ve all got good fonts, great names, they’re exciting. This one’s also got a backing track. I’m not sure I’ll be able to find it too quickly, let me have a quick look. Oh yeah, here it is. This one’s all about triplets. (piano) You get the idea of that piece. Now that’s a little bit at the harder end of this level that I’m talking about at the moment and only when students are ready to play triplets and repeated notes and things would this be right for them, but a great fun piece. I think this is also in the same pack but you’ll be able to see, you can either download his pieces individually if you like any of these ones or you can download packs of them.
Definitely check them out. Again, if you are on this call, love to hear from you, whereabouts you are in the world. If you’ve got any ideas too of the best music that you teach this kind of tricky level, after the first couple of method books, before they start real high chord repertoire or exams or whatever you’re going to be doing with them, this is the period of time I’m talking about. All right, so that was Daniel Mcfarlane’s music, totally love what he’s doing.
The next one I want to go onto and explore is this series, it’s called “Upgrade” and “More Upgrade” by Pam Wedgwood, sorry mental block. Fantastic series, really great music. So what I’ll do is I’ll start with “Upgrade”. They’ve got the grade numbers in the top right corner so this is “Upgrade” zero to one and then “More Upgrade” zero to one. The thing I really like about this is, of course, it’s appealing, I wouldn’t be sharing this with you if it wasn’t. Good day, who have we got? Darlene, thanks for saying hi Darlene. It’s obviously appealing but the thing I like about it is it really reinforces a lot of chord shapes and scale movement and those kinds of things that you’ll be teaching them anyway at this stage in their learning. Let’s take a look at a couple from “Upgrade”, not the “More Upgrade”, just “Upgrade” level zero to one. This one’s called “Flip Flop”. (piano)
You get the idea of that one. She’s got an old fashioned Minuet. (piano) She’s designed these … She’s from the UK and I’m pretty sure she’s from the UK and the exam system there is quite strong as it is here in Australia so she’s actually designed these as what we call light relief between grades. So they’re not meant to be anything particularly difficult or challenging or trying to get students doing anything particularly different. It’s just meant to be fun and engaging and that’s why I like them too. Here’s another one called, “Sun City”, this is also by Pamela. (piano) Get the idea of that one too, great. Really great fun, skipping through, we’ve got some in 6/8 as well so there’s one called, “O’Riley’s Whistle”. (piano) It’s great to introduce students to 6/8 time and the feel of that kind of flow.
Good day Rene as well from the Netherlands, nice to have to you on the call too. “Mission Impossible”, from “Upgrade” zero to one, is one of my favourites, it goes like this. (piano) So look, it’s simple, it’s not going to be challenging them as I said to improving their technique in either hand but again, I found kids really enjoy it. It’s great because it’s also very simply based around one key and in the case of that one was E Minor. What else have we got? “UFO”, this is also in E Minor, got a similar kind of a feel to it. Lots of fifths and I find fifths fantastic for students to getting … It’s got that powerful sound to it and kids really do enjoy it. (piano) So that one’s called “UFO” from the same book. Oh, and “Daydream”, there’s one in 5/8 and this is pretty cool at this level I think and its almost got a kind of baroque feel to it. This is how this one sounds. (piano)
How cool is that? Nice, easy little piece but great use of moving between 5/8 and 6/8 and it’s got some of those chord progressions and harmonies that kids 100% love, well everyone loves. This would be great for adult beginners too, let’s face it. That was “Upgrade” zero to one and the “More Upgrade” which was a later release with the same kind of things in mind also has some great pieces. Let me play you a couple of these. This one’s called, “The Brave Knight”. (piano) It’s got that Tudor or knights and medieval kind of sound to it, which is really well done. “Temple of Doom”, can’t get a better name than that for if you’ve got some boys in your studio who need a little bit of motivation. Give them the “Temple of Doom”, I’d be playing it. Here we go. The speed indication is dangerously. (piano)
Again, very simple left hand just moving in fifths, just fills out the sound and as I say you’d be wanting to do this alongside other music and not have a solid diet of this because I think there are things that this doesn’t necessarily challenge the students to do, however again, I’m always up for finding engaging music and this is engaging. This one’s called, “The Little Blind Donkey”, this is from “More Upgrade” zero to one. (piano) There, isn’t that beautiful? The simplicity of her writing, I think, is a thing that I love most about it. So that’s the “Upgrade” series, I would definitely check it out. It’s by Pamela Wedgwood, got some great things in it.
The next one I want to look at … I’m just going to look at two more and remember that I’m trying to find books that have a lot of options in them for you because I know how we as teachers we don’t want to ask our parents to buy a book and there’s really only one or two pages in it, which the students like or, which are good to play. Then it’s just a whole waste of money so anytime I recommend these things I’m trying to find books that have a lot of different music in it, which your students will love. The next series is called, “Celebrated Virtuosic Solos” by Vandall. This is a great series, I think it’s a five book series and I really like book number one. It’s got some really great straight forward music for students that are just starting to explore the different areas of the keyboard. One of the ones I like from that book is called “Nimble Fingers”, and it goes like this. It’s in 6/4, which is a pretty cool time signature for students at this level to explore. (piano) Then there’s a chordal section. (piano)
Now given that I teach in a fairly chordal way, certainly alongside all the work that I do with students, this is great because this whole B section is about E Minor, C and D Major. (piano) So, really easy to teach students who know about chords and then an A Minor section. (piano) and an E Major chord to get us back to … (piano) The main thing. Really great, it’s a real storytelling piece, which is another reason I really like that one. Another one from this book called, “Power Walk”, again great for reinforcing simple, tonic, dominant movements and scale patterns so this one’s in D Minor although it’s got no key signatures so students don’t need to worry about that. (piano) As you can hear too, the sections are very simple, they’re very similar. Often he’s only just changing maybe an octave position or something like that so it’s something that students can achieve with a short amount of time but it’s a fairly long piece. It’s about three pages and it sounds a lot harder than it is.
There’s one more in here that I think I’ll play. It’s called “Rowdy” and it’s just some fun with fifths really. (piano) Each of them has a middle section that tends to be a little bit more melodic. (piano) You can hear the patterning moving up and down, similar kind of positions, five finger patterns mainly and all over the piano so, great fun to play with. So that’s the “Celebrated Virtuosic Solos” book by Robert Vandall, my second to last one. The last one I wanted to show you was a series called, “My Kind of Music”. If anyone knows of this one, give me a bit of a thumbs up. This is a great series, I think it’s four books and I’ll be coming back to some of the later books in this series in future repertoire raps because the music is really engaging and great fun to play.
In book one, I’ll play you a couple of pieces from book one, this is “My Kind of Music” book one. First one I’ll play is one called, “Kokopelli’s Flute”. (piano) This is just perfect for when students are moving out of, as we said, those first couple of method books, they’re reading notes in the stave and we’re just adding the introduction … Well, they will have had the introduction of some thirds and fifths in their method book if it’s a good one so this just puts it into practice in a really lovely little tune. Another one I like from this is called, “Tiger Tracks”, it goes like this. (piano) You can almost hear that kind of prowling of the tiger through the forest, so that one’s called “Tiger Tracks”.
The last one I’ll show you from this book, which is book one, “My Kind of Music”, is “Cry of the Lone Wolf”. (piano) As you can hear lots of pedal in that one. Actually the indication is to hold the damper pedal down throughout. I think it probably needs a little bit of changing, but again great one for atmospheric kind of sound building for students. So that’s a great one it’s called, “The Cry of the Lone Wolf” and that was from this series in book one. I’ll show you just a couple from book two before we wrap up today and I do hope this has been useful for you wherever you are in your teaching and what you’re doing. Give us a little bit of a thumbs up if this has been helpful and also it’d be fantastic if you get the chance to, just press that share button. Share this around with some other teachers who you think might value it in their studios as well.
So, “My Kind of Music” book two, I’m going to show you first piece called, “Saturday Surfers”, it goes like this, “Surfing USA” kind of style. (piano) Okay, you get the idea. This kind of music is really built around the chord progressions of today, the chord progressions that kids are listening to already. So that’s why this kind of thing will be really engaging. This movement from here, to here, to here and back to here, which is effectively what it’s doing. It’s like a G Minor, B Flat, C and G Minor. Kids will love that because it sounds popular, it sounds like pop music. So if you can engage them in something that sounds like pop music but isn’t pop music and is actually written for a beginner to learn, we’ve got a winning situation, in my opinion, you might disagree. So this is called, “Saturday Surfers”. Thank you for the thumbs up there.
Another one here, this is “Midnight Mist”, this is a little bit different in 3/4, lots of pedal again, nice and atmospheric. (piano) Nice piece, that’s called “Midnight Mist”. I’ll just show you one more, this one’s called, “Under Starry Skies”. (piano) Okay and again that one goes on for a couple of pages. There’s a few variations, again it’s an engaging chord progression, students love that kind of sound and because they’re getting to use the pedal we’re building a whole lot of atmosphere so it’s really great fun. I really encourage you to check it out. That series is called, “My Kind of Music” by Kevin Olson.
Just wrapping up today, we started with “Supersonics Piano” by Daniel Mcfarlane, I literally I showed you, what, three pieces from that book, it’s got so many more in there so, do explore it. We had “Upgrade” by Pamela Wedgwood and in the next session I’m going to go into a little bit more detail about that one for you. We had Robert Vandall’s “Celebrated Virtuosic Solos” and “My Kind of Music”. They’re the four books that I’ve been talking about today. In two weeks time I’m actually going to continue this same kind of leveling of music and looking at some pieces by Alyssa Millen, another fantastic book by Pamela Wedgwood, which I think you’ll really love, which combines a whole lot of her music into one, and also some Christopher Norton, some other micro series books that you might not be aware of that are fantastic and a couple of others as well.
In two weeks time, similar kind of session to today but with some different music, which I hope you do find useful. If this has been of use to you, please let me know with a thumbs up or a heart, it’d be fantastic to get that feedback from you. I said right at the beginning that there would be a little announcement at the end. The announcement is that I’m releasing my pre-method book beginner creative course, it’s called “No Book Beginners”. It’s going to be released on Monday with a webinar training. Free one hour training, online, do it from wherever you are in the world and whatever you’re doing, cup of coffee, glass of wine, whatever it is, hang out with me. It’s going to be just like this, me at the piano demonstrating a whole lot of stuff that you can use.
The plan is that the framework that I give you, it’s not a method, it’s just a framework of ideas and the plan is that you’ll be able to use that when you first get a beginner in your studio for anything up to about 10 weeks just doing a whole lot of improvisation, recreative, fun, engaging activities with them before they start reading. So we’re trying to inspire them, motivate them and enthuse them but also lay the ground work of things like sitting position, basic technique, understanding of rhythm and beat and meter and time, moving around the piano, all that kind of stuff. I think it’s a fantastic foundation, it’s what I love to do with students rather than jumping straight into a method book. I think there are better ways that we can teach. I still love method books and I still use them myself but again, I wait just a few weeks at least, do some fun creative stuff first.
I’m going to show you exactly what you can do in that training, which is on Monday. I’ve put together a quick link for you if you’re interested in registering for that and there will be a replay available. I should say this is Monday 10 o’clock Melbourne time which is in the States, Sunday evening depending on whether you’re Pacific or East Coast. It’s probably about 4:00 pm Pacific I think, maybe 7:00 pm East Coast and in London it’s about 11 or 12 o’clock at night. Sorry about that guys, hopefully you’re a night owl. That’s Sunday night, Monday morning, if you want to register head to TimTopham.com/training and that will take you straight to the registration page for that. If you can’t make it live, I will be offering a replay for 48 hours. Of course, any members of my community who are on the call listening today, you’ll be able to get full access to the webinar replay ongoing in our resource library so you don’t have to worry about it too much.
Barbara, thank you, great video, I love, “My Kind of Music”, will definitely purchase it. Yeah, look, this series, I think it’s four books in the series, I will as I say definitely cover some more from that series in future repertoire raps because it is really golden in some of the things that he’s produced. I really like Kevin Olson’s work, it’s great and Robert Vandall of course. Hope you’ve found today useful. I’ll be back again on Monday of course, make sure you join me for that free webinar about teaching beginners with no books and then I’ll be back in two weeks time to continue similar levelling pieces but some new music and I hope you do find this useful.
Please make sure you share this video, I would really appreciate it. Just click the share button, wherever it is, somewhere down here for you. Click the share button, leave your thumbs up or leave a comment. If you completely disagree and think this music is awful, please tell me, I would love to know that. If you reckon it’s okay, please let me know that too, it’d be great to hear from you even if you’re watching the replay. I hope this has been enjoyable and I will see you on Monday or Sunday night, depending on where you are in the world for the one-hour live training on teaching beginners. Until then, catch you later.
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.