Jaws theme song look-a-like "Sharks" will remind your students of the scary movie theme. Now with two "alphanote" versions, students can learn this easy piano music as soon as they can recognize Middle C and B.
What are "alphanotes?" Sheet music with letters. Instead of music notes flash cards, use these note reading "worksheets" for help in learning musical notes.
This free kids' sheet music is often the first piece I give my students for which they must actually read notes on the staff, instead of just using finger numbers (such as with "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or the black-key songs at the beginning of The Faber Piano Adventure Primer).
Put expression into this song... slow and scary!
When I introduce it, I like to play it very low on the piano, with lots of expression. It begins slowly with the ominous sound of a half-step, then picks up a little speed in line two. This definitely makes it sound like the Jaws theme song! When I get to the skip from C to A, I always give each "A" a bit of a push, to accentuate the unexpectedness of the melodic twist. Invariably students' eyes widen as they feel the mood!
Here is the first new music-notes-with-letters arrangement:
But start slow
Don't let THEM speed it up, though! At least not until the counting is well in hand. The metronome is very helpful with this piece, which can start to race and get out of control. Singing the words steadies the tempo, and if you sing along with it, your student will likely join in (if he or she can read).
Turn note-reading into a game
I like to tell my beginning music readers that there are 4 A's "hiding" in the song, which are tricky to find. Then we hunt for them on the page. On their lesson sheet, I also write "Find the 4 A's". This makes for more careful (and fun) note-reading.
Help them master the expressiveness
Because this piece has some built-in emotional elements -- the scariness of the back-and-forth half-steps -- this song makes using dynamics seem natural. And guess what? They almost always LOVE this piece and make it a part of their repertoire. It has even been heard at recitals (only in a pinch, when I have a VERY VERY new student who wants to be in the recital).
Here is the second new alphanotes arrangement, greatly edited to show how to add drama to this scary little piece:
A little improvisation - depart from the music a bit
Encourage them to play it "down" a couple of octaves once they know it well. I always remind them that of course it is WRITTEN at Middle C, B and A, indicating that spot on the piano with a sweep of my hand over the piano company name (which is always painted on the fall-board) and down onto the keys just below the name, but that it is perfectly okay for us to play with the music to make it sound spooky, or just different.
Only 3 notes to worry about!
With "Sharks," students only have to think about one hand -- the left hand (the least-coordinated hand for most kids), and only three notes -- A, B, and MC.
Assignment: Say the note names aloud
In fact, after the first or second week, when they SHOULD be feeling pretty confident with the Jaws theme song, I would likely make it a part of their assignment to SAY THE NOTE NAMES ALOUD as they play the piece. But I usually ask them to do that just 1x -- one time -- a day, and then play it normally after that, if they wish.
Playing piano is like juggling...
The reason is that it can be very hard for beginners to do more than one thing at a time, particularly young boys, and I don't want them to be frustrated and avoid practicing the piece altogether! One time is not too much to ask... eventually, saying and thinking note names will start to become more natural.
So why didn't it sound good at home?
Don't be too surprised if they come back the next week disappointed, having played it in the wrong location all week and thereby having been cheated of the ominous sounds of the Jaws theme song... This is very common and just means they need more reinforcement of piano key names.
Really learning those key names
A good exercise is to have them "Dip Donuts" one time a day going up and down the piano on just one of the keys..."B", for example, every day all week. Then next week, make it a different key. Likely you have a favorite exercise which works well for you. Seem too easy? Hah! Then move on to the black keys: going right up the piano with one hand, have them say aloud "F#, F#, F#..." going back down the piano with the other hand, moving left, have them say "Gb, Gb, Gb..."
What's necessary for your student to have success
For this little song to come easily, a student needs to have 3 things well in hand: the musical alphabet forwards and backwards ("A-B-C-D-E-F-G; G-F-E-D-C-B-A!"), a firm grasp of where the keys are ("B is the BACK DOOR of Grandma's house", for English speakers), an understanding and recognition of beginning notereading (B sits on top of the bass staff) -- oh, 4 things! They also need to count! So you see, there is a degree of sophistication necessary to conquer even to this simple piece.
This song, even creepier...
By the way, a much better, slower and creepier rendition of the Jaws theme song is the movie trailer, available at Youtube. The full creepiness of the song comes across, but I just couldn't bring myself to post it here, because the images are so disturbing (I'm pretty old-school when it comes to violence).
Have fun with the Jaws theme stand-in, Sharks!
Do you have a funny story about this music, or does it remind you of something you'd like to share with other readers? Do you have a question? We'd love to hear it!