As students become more proficient musicians, a key way to motivate them to continue learning and to encourage their independence is to find music they enjoy learning and performing. This continues to build their confidence and skills — and it’s fun!
DISCOVER MUSIC TASTES
An important first step in finding music that your child loves to learn, is to find out what types of styles and genres he likes. What music does he prefer listening to on the radio or iPad? Is there a certain type of assigned music from lessons that your child really enjoys playing? Is there a style that is a struggle for him? This will give you hints as to what type of music he might enjoy learning on your own.
While finding something a bit more challenging in skill level can be a good motivator, it can also lead to frustration, discouragement and overwhelm. Finding something that is attainable and level-appropriate will help lead to a more successful experience. Checking out the music before purchasing at a local music store — or viewing a sample page online — is helpful in comparing it to the current music you or your child is learning.
LIST OF MOTIVATIONAL PIECES
I’ve been teaching music for quite awhile, and try to include many arrangements of my own — or in the public domain — that I think students will enjoy playing within my online courses. Of course, there are many fantastic collections and solos that my students and children have enjoyed learning through the years that are not part of my online courses due to copyright laws. Here are some that I teach when I find students are in a bit of a “practicing slump” and need something fun to play and exciting to learn (some of these include my affiliate links to purchase):
Famous & Fun Deluxe Collections by Carol Matz
These collections of pieces from Carol Matz are ones I love to use during the summer months with students at my studio. They include standard classical pieces, fun songs from movies (such as Star Wars or Harry Potter), pop music and a few duets. There are many levels in this series, so even students in their first year of piano can find a suitable collection for their skill level.
Especially for Boys by Dennis Alexander
I love this collection — boys OR girls! Songs about frogs and snakes and aliens and dogs. Exciting melodies and interesting styles make this book a fun one for a student who has been in lessons for a few years. (Late elementary level.)
Jazz, Rags & Blues Collections by Martha Mier
I have many students who adore playing jazz, but do be warned: jazz is DIFFICULT! These collections are a fun introduction to that genre, but I would recommend beginning even the first book only when reaching the intermediate level of piano studies.
That’s Cool by Robert Vandall
Robert Vandall is a favorite composer of mine, and I had the great joy of attending one of his workshops a number of years ago when I lived in Milwaukee. This solo is a favorite among my students and is a good fit for an elementary-level pianist.
Anything by Lorie Line
Lorie Line is dear to my heart as her music is what encouraged by own independence as a musician. She has beautiful books that contain arrangements of hymns, pop tunes, patriotic songs, songs from musicals and FANTASTIC holiday collections. Her Practice, Practice, Practice! series is good for students in the early intermediate level. You can also purchase and download sheet music for solos on her site. (Side note: she also gives BEAUTIFUL concerts, if you ever have the chance to see her live!)
I’ve Gotta Toccata by Bill Boyd
Another fun solo, this is one my students love playing because the exciting 5-finger theme of the piece moves all over the keyboard. A nice one for a late elementary musician — and a great one for performances!
Beginning Sonatinas by Lynn Freeman Olson
This collection is a fantastic way to introduce younger students to the form and structure of sonatinas. The melodies and patterns are accessible and fun to play. I use this book for many of my late elementary piano students.
Celebrated Solos Series by Robert Vandall
Another student favorite, this book has some fun pieces for elementary-level students. Each piece has a unique style and sound to it. In Book 1, my students adore “Hurry Scurry” and “Witches’ Waltz” is a fun one to teach during the month of October.
Sugar Cookies by David Carr Glover
For early level pianists, this playful piece is fun and helps students practice articulation — legato & staccato.
Accidental Wizard by Phillip Keveren
Another nice solo for early level pianists, this piece has a bit of a mysterious melody to it, and is a great way to reiterate sharps, flats and natural symbols.