“Can’t we play this song by Taylor Swift?”
“Well that’s a bit too hard right now.”
“But I LOVE her!”
I get requests for pop songs, Broadway shows, cartoon themes, film scores, and video game music almost on a weekly basis. Whatever is “hot,” I will surely hear about in a matter of weeks. I find out about a lot of new music through my students these days.
I always honor song requests. It may be a huge reason why I retain most of my students 4, 5, 6 years and more. I have found that matching the content of the lessons with student interest is the best way to ensure continued enthusiasm for music lessons. There’s never a big fight to practice when the student is self-motivated to learn their favorite song! I usually begin by searching for easy arrangements.
I search online for song arrangements that are in the easy category as they usually have been thought through from a beginner’s standpoint, but even then, sometimes they are just out of reach conceptually and technically for your passionate student.
You can buy sheet music online at several places. This is especially good when you have to find new music that is still on the charts.
There’s always better value for money if you buy a song folio or collection of songs. There’s some great ones that cover the 1980s or Modern Broadway Show Hits or the greatest hits of...Taylor Swift.
There are many places to look for music in the public domain. This is going to be anything that is about one hundred years or older. My last post was about finding free sheet music.
In my search, I’ve discovered a few arrangers better than others at simplifying piano songs for my students. There are several easy piano arrangements by Dan Coates, which work really well. Nancy and Randall Faber (of Piano Adventures fame) have a bunch of great Funtime books as well as Popular Repertoire in their graded system. These are usually spot on.
Many times, you can find chords to songs quicker and easier using “tab” sites. These are websites that offer chords and lyrics of popular songs, usually submitted by the users, and some offer tablature notation. Because the content is user generated, it is usually not 100% accurate. E-chords seems to have a consistently high level of quality. The chords and lyrics can be used for piano too.
I have found that a few ukulele sites are surprisingly well done. And you don’t have to just use it for ukulele. The chords are usable on other instruments like piano or guitar.
If I can’t find the perfect arrangement for my student, I will usually purchase the easy arrangement and begin making modifications. If I can’t find one at all, I may just start transcribing my own notation (a lot of work!) or use guitar tabs or ukulele tabs as a starting point.
In my next post, I will give you 9 Simple Rules for Simplifying Music Arrangements.