A Winner Piece


This song has revitalized my teaching and has excited my piano students these fast few weeks. It can be so easy to get in the doldrums of mindlessly turning page after page of method book material without interjecting some fun and lively pieces into the mix. (Not that method books don’t have some fun pieces, because they certainly do).

But it’s nice to surprise your students every so often by saying “This is what we’re going to learn today”, playing something that sounds off-the-charts awesome to them, and then teaching by rote a song that sounds much harder than it actually is to play.

What I like about this piece is that it is based on fifths. Both hands use fifths for most of the piece, but in very clever ways. The main rhythmic pattern of the piece is syncopated eighth notes in 4/4 time: ti-ti-ti, ti-ti-ti, ti-ti. The students never know they are actually playing a rather sophisticated rhythm sequence because I never tell them. When you teach by rote, they play by ear. And when you play by ear, you bypass the (sometimes) confusing visual cues on the page.

The piece is also great because it can be played by beginners through intermediate level students. It can be broken into smaller, manageable segments for beginners to learn, while intermediate students will be able to breeze through the piece more quickly.

While I don’t usually teach by rote, I do think it is a wonderful and necessary way for students to learn from time to time. I am very traditional in that I want my students to be able to read music, but I’ve also realized that most beginning students have the facility to play at a higher level than the level at which they can read. This is good to know – so then I can teach harder songs by rote to keep that motivation level (and sense of accomplishment) high until the reading level catches up.

Check out Celebration by Anne Crosby. It’s a great little winner piece. You can hear it played by the composer here.