How to find cool new repertoire for your students

How to find cool new repertoire for your students

cool repertoire

As my regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of finding new repertoire for my students. In fact, I believe it’s a job necessity! I predominantly teach beginners to around Grade 2 level, many of whom start learning in Year 7 (ie. 12-13 years old) and often without any prior musical training.

I also teach a lot of adult beginners. Although I have some advanced students and a few who thrive on classical music, most of my students require current, fun, modern music to stay interested. Getting them to practice a Bach minuet for a couple of weeks just wouldn’t work… and I’d get bored anyway!

As I teach at a boys’ school, I’m developing a pretty good idea of what this demographic thrive on. Boys at all levels, but particularly teenage beginners, are very particular about their musical tastes. If you don’t keep their music current, relevant and interesting for them, students won’t persist with the practice required to progress fast enough to want to continue.

For this reason, I have a huge repertoire of music at hand to “capture” any student during a lesson. I spend at least an hour a week on this and often more: finding and playing new music that I think will appeal.

I strongly believe that all instrumental teachers should be spending at least an hour a week finding new repertoire.

While using the same music for every student may have worked in the 80s and 90s, it’s unlikely to keep students interested in the 2010s+.

A few readers have asked me where I find new music and how I go about sourcing repertoire, so I hope the following discussion may help. Here are my main sources:

  • YouTube and its “recommended” links down the right hand side of every page is the first place I explore. If you aren’t a regular user of YouTube in your studio, you really are behind the times now. Kids are on it everyday and many are watching it far more than the TV.
  • You can search for tutorials on how to play just about any piece of music and many of my students do this for pop, film and video game music on the holidays.
  • With regard to recommendations, when I was researching for my article about Daniel McFarlane’s music (see Soundscapes & Supersonics – more cool music for the boys!) I came across composer Chris Hanson. Although I can’t yet find his music to purchase, he has been another great find and gave me even more recommendations.
  • When you find someone you like on YouTube, look through their favourites, the channels to which they subscribe and the videos they’ve “liked” – this will often yield relevant recommendations.
  • Search for other teacher’s concerts and watch what their students perform. For example, Irina Gorin’s channel has a whole heap of other gems and recordings of her teaching – check it out here.
  • My students are continually introducing me to new music. See my post on video game music for example. I encourage all my students to bring music they want to play to lessons. Unfortunately, this means I have to work through many very poor transcriptions that they’ve found on the web, but it is amazing to see how much practice students will do on pieces they love and find themselves.
  • As an example, I recently learnt about the great Hanz Zimmer score from Pearl Harbour. If you’re unfamiliar with it, check out this fantastic track which a Year 7 introduced me to last term. The piano solo sheet music is at about a Grade 2-3 level and very musically transcribed.
Other piano teachers
  • The more networking you can do with other teachers, the better. Piano teaching is a very lonely existence unless you’re teaching in a school (not that it’s guaranteed!) so take every opportunity to meet with other teachers. The biennial APPCA is a place where I made a number of really important contacts this year.
  • Similarly, attend as many workshops as you can. Alfreds and Hal Leonard tend to run a few each year.
  • Recitals and concerts are another place that I regularly catchup with other teachers.
Online Forums, Blogs and Magazines
  • Read and contribute to online forums regularly. Not only can you learn about new teaching ideas and repertoire, you can help other teachers with their issues and questions. The forum I recommend the most is, as you’d expect, my Inner Circle Members’ Forum. It’s off-facebook (meaning better quality discussions and fewer distractions) and jam-packed with creative and innovative teachers ready to share all their ideas with you.
  • Also, whenever you come across a blog that you like, make sure you check out that blogger’s “favourite blogs” or recommended links. I’ve subscribed to a number of other excellent bloggers through these links.
  • Consider a subscription to a piano magazine such as Clavier Companion or Pianist magazine.


  • Finally, just searching Google for “cool new piano music” or “sad piano pieces” or “piano music for teenagers” or anything like that is likely to bring up a wealth of connections and new ideas and subsequent other links and recommendations! It’s pretty easy to waste a lot of time doing this so it’s not my top recommendation, but it’s another good way to start if you’re looking for ideas.

Hope that helps! Good luck with your weekly explorations 🙂

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at 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. I love Easy Piano editions for Disney music, musicals and etc.. I think they are wonderful “treats”. I have a good collection of “The Wicked”, “The Sound of Music”, “ABBA music”, “Disney movies” … My kid loves to sing along while (me) playing the music.

  2. Hi Tim – great blog, am enjoying having a read of your articles.
    My teenage students and adult beginners are a great source of finding new music – they always come to the lesson clutching songs that I’d never have thought of learning. I think my best find via a student has been Maxence Cyrin, particularly his cover of Where is My Mind by The Pixies. So many students have played this and it’s a fantastic piece for performing at concerts.

    • Thanks for your feedback and I’ll check out the Maxence Cyrin track you recommend. I’ve heard other great stuff by that artist too…

  3. Very useful blog (and congratulations on the site – lots of good stuff!) CN

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