Wednesday, February 1, 2023

"I Can Do All Things With Christ" Simplified Piano Lead Sheet

Introducing piano students to lead sheets and lyric sheets empowers them to play their favorite pop songs with greater ease. 

Instead of playing complicated left-hand accompaniment patterns, lead sheets allow students to ease into a piece by starting with simpler root notes in the bass and gradually working up to more sophisticated rhythms or chords if desired.

I remember the frustration as a younger pianist trying to play accompanist versions of my favorite Christian songs but being frustrated because it's hard to play 3 parts with only 2 hands! 

And without the melody line that is often omitted in the accompanist part, the song does not satisfy... unless you sing along!

I created this simplified excerpt of "I Can Do All Things With Christ" (the 2023 youth theme song from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Now my students can enjoy playing the piece while learning some basic skills for arranging and playing from a lead sheet. The original version is available for free download so students can compare the scores and spot the differences. It pairs perfectly with the Greensleeves lead sheet in Piano Adventures 3A, giving students extra practice reading a lead sheet.



The following steps can be applied to create lead sheets from other pieces.
  • Start with the melody only from a part of the song. You can play just the theme or chorus without having to arrange the whole piece.
  • Double the value of the rhythms if needed to make it simpler to read (quarter notes become half notes, half notes become whole notes).
  • Transpose to a different key if needed to make it easier to play. (For example to change a piece in B to C, move every note up a half step to avoid having to play a lot of sharps!)
  • Add chord symbols. If not included in the original song, analyze the bass notes to figure out which chord to use. You can also play I, IV or V chords and listen to which sounds best in each measure or phrase.
  • Experiment with different bass styles (root only, blocked chord, broken chord, syncopated rhythms, open intervals, etc.). 
  • Lead sheets give you the flexibility to imitate the style of the original or create your version.
For example, by playing broken intervals in Forrest Gump style, the Piano Guys transformed this traditional classical piece into a more modern version.

And Row Your Boat is definitely different than the version you sang in preschool! 
They took the liberty of changing up the bass pattern.



For more practice playing from lead sheets, check out this great selection of familiar tunes in lead sheet format from Piano Song Download.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Resources for Teaching Piano Arpeggios

This month my piano students will be completing an Arpeggio Challenge to boost their skills and understanding of this fundamental pattern that comes up in music over and over. 

While prepping for our piano arpeggio-themed group lesson I discovered some new arpeggio resources and revisited some of my favorites from the past.

Elementary

Hand over Hand Arpeggio Video

The Piano Safari's rote pieces are favorites for my beginners because they can play by rote much more than they can read in those first months of lessons.

 "Rainbow Colors" is a beautiful piece that combines the hand-over-hand arpeggio motions with 4 chords. 


Piano Safari Rainbow Colors Reminder Video


Piano Safari Rainbow Colors Performance Video

The middle note of  each chord is omitted so when I introduce it, I sing "Open Fifths then crossing over, open 5ths then step up" to solidify the pattern or similar lyrics that reflect the patterns played.

Intermediate

I love how Lisa Witt demonstrates how to combine arpeggios and chord progressions for some super-satisfying piano improvisation in this video.

This Blank Keyboard Printable is a great resource to help students solidify finger patterns as they write  arpeggio fingering groups.  

Instead of having to memorize arpeggio fingering for every single key, I love how Joy Morin has grouped keys based on their arpeggio fingering in this helpful Scale and Arpeggio Fingering Reference Sheet. I call them Vanilla's, Hamburger's and Oreos.

I use those same groups when introducing 5 finger patterns to beginners with D'net Layton's Keyboard Pentascale Free Printable.


2 Octave Arpeggio Sample Video


Pianote Intro to 2 Octave Arpeggios Tutorial









Advanced

Watch this video to learn some excellent specific technical tips for arpeggio playing.

See how adding accents or changing rhythms can improve your arpeggio skills in difficult passages.

Explore the pitter-patter, mind bender and dreamscape variations based off of arpeggio patterns that create different moods and sound impressive without being difficult to play once you see and feel the groupings.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Piano Accompaniment Patterns for Left Hand

 Playing with a lead sheet gives you the power of choice to stylize songs however you like.

And there are so many options! Listen to a few below. Then choose some of your favorites to use as you accompany the melodies of simple folk or Christmas songs you already know.

Block Chords: Stacked up Like a Snowman

Hey Ho Nobody Home 


Block Chords with Syncopated Rhythm: Bop di Bop


Broken Chords: Oom-Pah

Jingle Bells



Alberti Bass: Bottom Top Middle Top

Alberti Bass Two Minute Tip



Broken Intervals: Chord Pieces


Forrest Gump Style: Interrupting Eighths

Piano Guys Ode to Joy


Alberti + Broken Intervals + Forrest Gump


Bluesy 5-6 Swing Beetles


Bluesy Swayin' 1-5-6




Going Further:

Watch the following videos if you'd like to learn more left-hand styles and see them in action.

Pianonote 3 Easy Left Hand Patterns (Broken Intervals, 1 8va Arpeggio Variations)
Tutorial with sample at the end (8:20).








Thursday, October 13, 2022

12 Days of Halloween Piano Free Printable Rhythm Dictation Activity

Listen to the 12 Days of Halloween.

12 Days of Halloween with Lyrics


12 Days of Halloween Piano Version


Print the 12 Days of Halloween Free Printable.

Can you dictate rhythm patterns below each picture? Hint: 3 Black Cats= 3 Quarter Notes

1-Owl in a Rotten Oak Tree

2-Two Trick or Treaters

3-Three Black Cats

4- Four Skeletons

5- Five Scary Spooks

6- Six Goblins Gobbling

7- Seven Pumpkins Glowing

8- Eight Monsters Shrieking

9- Nine Ghosts a Booing

10- Ten Ghouls a Groaning

11- 'leven Caskets Creaking

12 Bats a Flying

Challenge: Can you change the "12 Days of Christmas" into the "12 Days of Halloween" by transposing it to the Relative Minor key? (Music on "Making Music Fun")

1- Add a flat to the 3rd and 6th notes of the scale.  Remember to check the key signature!

2-Change the melody rhythms to match the Halloween lyrics. For example "Halloween" has more syllables than "Christmas" so change the quarter note in the first measure to an eighth note.

3-For an easier version add primary chord symbols (i, iv or V) above each measure and play as a lead sheet instead of playing the left hand as written. 

Hint: Owl in a Rotten Oak Tree= i-iv-i-V-I


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Free Piano Improvisation Printable: Who Can Sail Without Wind?

If your piano lessons are focused on just reading music from the method books, improvisation can feel a bit scary. Some students are so stuck to the printed page they are scared to make mistakes.

This is similar to reading a speech from a script. But with a little guidance, exploring improvisation can be much more exciting than a speech read just like hearing a speech given from the heart can be more engaging than a recited speech from memory.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Review of "I Want to do What Jesus Taught" by Jerald Simon

"I Want to Do What Jesus Taught" by Jerald Simon

I was first introduced to Jerald Simon's music over ten years ago when I reviewed his "Cool Songs for Cools Kids" books.   This energetic series has a lot of appeal for the teens and boys in my studio because of the video game, new age and fast-paced songs with repeating patterns. 

He recently released a book of Christian primary songs, "I Want to do What Jesus Taught".  This is definitely a different genre and style compared to the "Cool Songs" series.  

I love that the central theme of the song lyrics focuses on basic Christian principles and values of prayer, kindness, and reliance on God and family. 

 It includes a good mix of slower calm songs and more upbeat energetic styles.  Some songs are very short with just one or two lines that children could learn to sing easily in just a few minutes.  Most songs are about 1 page in length with a single verse although a few include multiple pages and verses.

 The melodies are easy to sing and I like that he chose lyrics that are understandable to children without complicated vocabulary words that would need explanations. 

What pianist level is the book suitable for?

The difficulty level of the accompaniment of the majority of the songs is intermediate level.  As a piano teacher, I like the wide variety of left-hand patterns found in the music including alberti bass, 2 8va arpeggios with finger crossings, 7th chords,  and some simple intervals or chords.  

Some of the large leaps and finger crossings may be more difficult for students with small hands to play, but I love that chord symbols are included in the music so accompaniments could be adapted if needed.  The songs could also be played as lead sheets for additional chord variation practice. 

There are a few songs limited to 5 finger position that a late elementary piano student could play, and others that are more advanced with 7 sharps or 4 flats that typical piano students wouldn't encounter until at an advanced level in method books.

If you are interested in learning more about how to improvise or compose using a variety of left hand patterns, check out this free YouTube video of Jerald's workshop "100 Left Hand Patterns Every Piano Player Should Know."  

It definitely inspired me to want to experiment more with arranging!


Jerald Simon is the founder of Music Motivation® and focuses on helping piano students and piano teachers learn music theory, improvisation, and composition. He refers to these areas as: Theory Therapy, Innovative Improvisation, and Creative Composition. Simon is an author and composer and has written 28 music books featuring almost 300 original compositions, 14 albums, three motivational poetry books featuring over 400 original poems (https://www.poetrythatmotivates.com), and is the creator of the best-selling Cool Songs Series (https://musicmotivation.com/coolsongs), the best-selling Essential Piano Exercises Series (https://www.essentialpianoexercises.com) and Essential Piano Lessons for piano students (https://www.essentialpianolessons.com) and also Essential Piano Teachers for piano teachers (https://www.essentialpianoteachers.com). You can watch Jerald’s videos on his YouTube channel at this link: https://www.youtube.com/jeraldsimon. Listen to Jerald’s music on all streaming sites and his podcast, Music, Motivation, and More – The Positivity Podcast with Jerald Simon on all podcast platforms.

 


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Free Piano Teaching Game: Chord Match

Piano Chord Match Game with Triad Chord Qualities and Seventh Chords
I love to start piano lessons with short games to introduce or review theory concepts.  I find there are a lot of free piano games for beginners but not as many options that review intermediate level concepts. 

Since I could not find a game covering the concept of  identifying 7th chords and different chord qualities, I designed this memory game on canva.com and created free printable flashcards.  

This quick game helps intermediate piano students to learn about triads and 7th chords with visual reminders of the intervals used to build various chord qualities


Major Triad Picture Major 3rd + Minor 3rd, Image for teaching Major chord pattern

A few tips can help students quickly identify various chord qualities