Playing on the black notes is a great way to start for small hands.
Playing up on the black keys helps shape beginners' hands, and songs that are fun to play will induce them to practice lots, hopefully, and strengthen those tiny muscles. Well over a dozen songs are here that you can download FREE.
I've never created music for the black notes before, and now I'm wondering why - it's so fun! Short little songs can create a mood or carry you into a setting quickly.
Goodness knows my younger students can use more time just using fingers 2, 3, and 4. I am seeing excitement and pleasure at the different kinds of lyrics and melodies.
Some of my little ones who are starting to read the notes around Middle C still want to have a new "black key song" every week!
None of these songs have "parallel" fingerings; all of them place one hand on 3 black keys, and the other on 2 black keys.
Not so hard once they get the hang of it... now my students, after choosing a song, quickly glance up at the top of the page to see if it's "Grandma's House" or "Dog House" on the right or left, and place their fingers with NO ASSISTANCE from me. WOW.
If you are NEW to this kind of music, please remember: ONLY FINGERS 2, 3, & 4 ("Grandma's House") will be used in one hand, and ONLY FINGERS 2 & 3 (the "Dog House") in the other hand!
"Bad Dog" is a bit trickier to start than most of the others, as the first notes have no stems to indicate "right hand" or "left hand."
I ask my students, "Do the stems point up? Top hand! Do they point down? Bottom hand!"
But here, you cannot tell. So this is a good song for getting out the green and red markers or crayons, and circling the LEFT hand with LIME color, and the RIGHT hand parts with RED color.
Let your student see if they can figure out where the red loops and the lime loops must go; in Bad Dog there are very few notes for the right hand.
A very simple song - but with such clever words. Some of my students know the last line as "celery stewed is more QUIETLY chewed."
Now, a song for Christmas!
"Christmas-time" is pretty easy, and the lyrics - admittedly - pretty obvious! Everything does not have to be a work of art to please young children. ; )
This piece lends itself to two possible harmony accompaniments for the teacher... when I wrote it, I was thinking Db minor, with Gb as an alternate chord. Later the same day, I tried it with Db MAJOR, and Gb and Ab chords.
Perhaps there are other chords that would also work. It is rather pretty, and my husband says it is the kind of song he would have liked as a child. (A rare compliment.)
I wrote it with slow notes so that little ones can count it carefully - although with this level, they are mostly pleased to just find the right finger!
If there were bar lines, you would see that the first half note is actually a pick-up note. There are 6 half notes per "measure", or a pulse of 3, in reality.
Just in time for the Christmas holidays, this song may be familiar already to your students. I like to prepare students for folk or traditional songs by warning them that it might sound "different" from other versions.
Every region where the song is known might use slightly different - or VERY different - notes! This is only half of the piece, but it is probably enough to satisfy your little beginners.
By the way, a fingering error is evident in the graphic (#2 bottom Left) - I fixed the PDF, so it's fine!
Now here is a song that one only needs to see the title to instantly desire (at least if you are an 8-year-old boy, as I discovered today!):
Obviously, my students are doing UNIT COUNTING with these beginner songs. Notice there are no measure lines.
Sorry! So when they count a quarter note, it is "Tah", or "One." A line of quarter notes might be "One one one one..." Half notes are "one - two," and sometimes "Tah-two." If there is a word, then the word plus "two."
I prefer for them to sing the song lyrics, but also to be able to count the notes. Usually, we will practice a new song with "drumsticks" (pencils) on the piano lid, alternating hands as the song calls for one hand or the other.
This piece has some sophisticated techniques: the repeat dots at the end of line one, and the two hands playing together in the second line.
I think this Halloween song will be a favorite - we'll see!
I'm having good luck rehearsing these songs with PIANO LID DOWN, using pencils for drumsticks, and just playing right and left, to focus students' attention on the note stem directions... pointing "up" for the "up" hand, and "down" for the "downward" hand.
Usually just once through is enough - if it's a bit rough, then we do it again, FASTER. Then to the keys themselves.
Here is the song "Hot Cross Buns" - one version for right hand, and one for left hand. Perhaps the easiest song in the world:
Mary Had a Little Lamb should need no introduction... my students will also be playing this on the white keys soon!
This next piece, Morning Sun Upon the Mountains, has a bit of an old-timey hymn-like flavor. The chords formed by using 2 notes at a time have a happy sound, just like the simple lyrics. This song has two pages!
"Morning Sun" is pretty tricky - but I have a little girl who can't leave it alone, and just keeps improving it every week, without much input from me.
Here in Alaska we really do see whales quite a bit. Even so, people in my town may pull over to the side of the road and watch from their cars or trucks when whales are passing down the local waterways.
When their tails come up, you know they are going down for a long dive! Kids like to play this song.
"Ooey Gooey" was inspired by a list of poems my grandkids and some of my homeschool students have been learning.
You might not think kids would like this song with the strange lyrics, but you would be wrong!
There is a tricky rhythm going on in Pirate, but the lyrics will help with that problem, as the natural emphasis or stress of each word lends itself well to the rhythm.
Like "Morning Sun Upon the Mountains" and "Halloween Monsters," there is a bit of both hands playing at the same time.
This is a short and simple-looking song with two complications: the hands play simultaneously on the last line, and there is a tied note at the end. Good practice counting the basic notes which beginners are first exposed to!
Another thing we have a great deal of here in southeast Alaska - RAIN! I guess that's why the Tongass National Forest is called a rain forest.
When the sun comes out for long periods of time, locals walk around with silly smiles on their faces. Perhaps that's what John Denver meant in his lyrics "Colorado Rocky Mountain HIGH."
I endeavored to make the repeated black keys sound like drops of rain...
This is a VERY easy song.
We only see the sandhill cranes as they pass in groups, far up in the sky. Their rattling calls to each other are unmistakable for any other bird, and we rush outside to watch their migrations.
There is a bit of the true "pentatonic scale" sound with this song - to me, it sounds a bit Oriental.
How to read this song? Point to the stems going up and the stems going down, and help your student interpret the notes.
This song poses a bit of a challenge, because it moves up an octave (and stays there for the rest of the song) after just 8 beats.
Then there is a repeat at the end, and to end the song, students should GO UP AN OCTAVE again. Where to end? I point to the "Fine", and tell students that means "finish" or "ending."
I haven't put any dynamic markings in this song (or any of the songs) but expressive playing, ritards, and pedalling will make a difference in how musical the pieces sound.
This next piece is a true "story" about a squirrel making a noise on the metal roof of a shed, busily dropping cones.
Please notice that the final note requires crossing the right hand over the left hand to go down an octave, to the next "Grandma's House."
I suspect that the lyrics of these short pieces will only seem interesting to children 4 - 7 years old, but we will see...
I welcome your feedback as well!
UPDATE: I AM STILL SEEING EXCITEMENT and expectation from my students. Almost every week they say, "I want a new song!" and we leaf through the stack again.
I think they like that these songs have a VERY SHORT learning curve! In fact, once they understand hand placement, some of the songs can be played instantly. Then they can pay more attention to counting...
Hi! I'm teaching my little brother to play the piano and this is really helpful.
Kim in Washington:
My son is hooked...I've been introducing piano to my son on and off for a year or so, but he's not had much interest. Then I gave him "Monsters Everywhere". He loved playing it with the organ sound on our piano. He memorized it that week and I'm printing off the other Halloween songs to keep him going. I love the detailed instructions on teaching since he is my first student! Thanks so much.
That is so neat that your son has experienced the magic and mystery of music through this little song. That is so exciting to me. Thanks for writing, Kim!