Yankee Doodle is a familiar song with a strong beat -- that's the kind of song most fun to play for beginning piano students. Here is free sheet music for Yankee Doodle, and lots of ideas for stretching your students' understanding of what chords are all about!
This funny old video, below, has the Yankee Doodle lyrics and a great male singer bringing them to life! Wait for the introduction to be done - it's worth it:
Download free sheet music Yankee Doodle for beginners
After they play through the melody, you can turn it into a duet by adding simple chords. With you, the piano teacher, on the bottom part (or secondo) and them on the top part, play through together like this:
Then try it, still as a teacher/student duet, like this -- much more energy in the music! (The bass staff shows the left and right hands playing open chords an octave apart.)
Then switch parts, let them be the Secondo or chord part! First, have them play, with LH only, C chords all the way through the song -- it will sound just fine to a young musician with C chords only.
To help them keep time, use a conducting gesture -- a downward movement like a bouncing ball -- to compel a rhythmic response from them. This is far more effective, I have found, than just counting aloud. Physical movement from the teacher seems to propel their hands to move in time.
After a week or more of playing C chords only while you play the melody, have them play -- again, left hand only -- the F and G chords also, as 4-beat chords.
Last of all -- this is the most fun -- demonstrate how to play "Left, Right, L, R," with each of the chords.
Download free sheet music Yankee Doodle with chord symbols
Show them the page with chord and slash symbols (or just write on their original sheet... I write all over my students' music, usually with colored pens). As with guitar players, the slash symbols make it very plain how many times to play the chords.
They will love playing in this rhythmic fashion with big arm movements, and it is an easy kind of duet for beginners to play together: all chords for one piano player -- no note-reading necessary -- and all melody for the other.
I have put no fingering into this piece. After a discussion about "skips" and "steps" (a talk you need to have again and again), they may not need any fingering at all.
Here is another Yankee Doodle video - same singer as the one above, but with fun pictures (unfortunately there are tiny skips in the sound from time to time):
Have fun with Yankee Doodle!
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!