Piano Music Lessons: ‘Tis the Season for Holiday Songs!

When you think of the holiday season, one of the most prominent memories for most includes the presence of our favorite holiday music and carols to bring cheer and get us in the spirit for this joyful time of year.  The stretch from November through New Year’s presents a great time for teachers and students to enliven piano music lessons with holiday music that can be shared with family and friends.  But what are the best resources and guidelines for teachers and students to follow in bringing holiday music into piano lessons?
Start Holiday Music Preparation Early!
Because of the typical holiday break that is taken during the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas, this leaves less lesson time to cover holiday music, so an important point to remember in piano music lessons during this time of year is to bring in holiday music early!  Mid-November–around two weeks before the holiday breaks begin–is a great time to start introducing new songs, and it gets students excited about the coming holidays.  Also, this leaves time for the student to prepare several pieces that can be played at gatherings.
Be Conscious of the Difficulty of Songs
Generally, it is best to not overwhelm students with tough holiday piano repertoire, and teachers should bring in pieces that can be learned in no more than two weeks (possibly a little longer on a special piece).  Remember, the songs selected will have a shorter time in which they can be practiced and mastered, so I like to use pieces that are either a level easier or on the same level as the student is currently working.  The goal here is to supply the student with pieces that are holiday themed that can be easily performed, not to necessarily show technical or musical prowess.  Many times, they can function as music to sing-along to, so level of difficulty should not be too much of a concern.  Keep it fun and fast paced!
Use Holiday Repertoire Creatively
Holiday music, however, does still provide an opportunity for the teacher to use it to the benefit of a student and emphasize points of correct note reading and technique in piano music lessons.  One of my personal favorite ways to use holiday music in lessons is to practice sight-reading and general practice techniques with these pieces, as they are usually a bit easier and familiar.  As we get closer to the holidays at Lessons In Your Home, I like to spend a couple of lessons before the break exclusively on holiday music.  With the added benefit of introducing the piece and working through it together with students, we as teachers are not only getting them ready to play the pieces for family, but we are also going over the best ways to approach a new piece and master it with optimum time efficiency.
What are the Best Resources for Holiday Songs?   
The list is quite expansive on this one.  Whatever method book the student uses currently, there is most likely a corresponding holiday music book that will work perfectly and at the same level, which is great for beginners.  For example, Faber and Faber’s Piano Adventure series has a Holiday music book for each level group that covers the same topics, but are holiday themed.  For intermediate and advanced students, there are many collections from various publishers that are not associated with a particular method, and each year, I like to visit a local music store and pick up a few to share in piano music lessons.
In Conclusion
Get students in the holiday spirit this year during their piano music lessons by bringing in holiday songs!  This provides a great opportunity for students to share the love of music with their entire family and inspire enthusiasm for learning new songs.  As teachers, just remember to keep it light and fun when using holiday music, but remember that any song taught provides an opportunity to teach something new.
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