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Happy 2023! May your year be filled with music!



NEW Music for the NEW Year, 2023! "Amen" in Level 2C
Joyful music with a simple message, "Amen" has only two words: "Amen" and occasional interjections of "Hallelujah." This is another late Level 2 to early 3 piece, hovering around C position. Some challenges for the student--and things that make it harder than a late 1 to early 2 Level--might be:
  • The beginning stretch with the left hand thumb to A (marked in red!)
  • A shift up one note in the right hand to span D to A
  • The "Hallelujah interjections," at one point played with both hands.
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More NEW Music for January 2023! "Italian Folk Song" by Tchaikovsky
      in Intermediate Level 2
The composer of a devilishly hard violin concerto and "The Nutcracker Suite," Tchaikovsky also wrote relatively easy pieces for piano. "Italian Folk Song" is taken from his opus 39 Album for the Young which is similar to Schuman's collection by the same name, and from which I have taken several pieces for my site. I would encourage teachers and students to explore more of Tchaikovsky's delightful set, along with his Twelve Piano Pieces (op. 40) for more repertoire.

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
1840 - 1893



Music for DECEMBER 2022! "Bright Are the Leaves of Autumn" from Japan
      in Intermediate Level 2


The forests of Miyajima Island, Japan
To the left is a picture I took on my recent trip to Japan. The leaves were just turning wonderful shades of red and orange, and when I saw a Japanese song on Mama Lisa's site about colorful autumn leaves, I thought this would be the perfect song to arrange for piano. Called "Momiji" ("Autumn Leaves" in Japanese), it is taught in many elementary schools. "Everybody knows it," my tour guide said.

This same tune is sung in a video spinoff of a Japanese manga series (comics and graphic novels) with the English title, "Who's in the Forest Strolling." The English words to this version have nothing to do with the original lyrics praising autumn foliage, so I wrote English words based on two literal translations of the original Japanese on Mama Lisa's site. (Thank you, Mama Lisa.)

"Bright Are the Leaves" is more advanced than most pieces I post here, and it took me a good while to arrange it (which is why I am posting one piece instead of two this month). I hope my intermediate level visitors like their new music.

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Here's Your NEW November Music! "The Second Story Window"
     (or "Threw it Out the Window") in Level 1B
What a fun, silly song! Take the first few lines of any nursery rhyme and follow them with "And threw it (or them) out the window." Hilarious results ensue! Like:

Old king Cole was a merry old soul,
A merry old soul was he,
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl,
And THREW THEM OUT THE WINDOW!
The window, the second story window...

If you are at about Level 1 you will definitely want to play this silly song!

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ALSO for November! A new version of "Gilly, Gilly Good Morning" in Level 2A
Now a student at a slightly higher level than Level 1 can enjoy playing a complete version of "Gilly, Gilly Good Morning." This version differs from the one you got last month:
  • in the use of three-note chords (both hands)
  • in stretches down to F# (for a D7 chord)
  • in a shift of hand position in the right hand, and
  • in the addition of a new section (Minnie mack, Minnie mack...)
Enjoy!

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YOUR NEW OCTOBER MUSIC! Gilly, Gilly Good Morning in Level 1C
A great song for beginning any morning activity, "Gilly, Gilly Good Morning" adds a bit of sunshine to a student's sometimes dreary practice time. Play it quickly and have fun!

"Gilly, Gilly Good Morning" is the perfect introduction to G position. There are no finger stretches, no shifts in hand position and no 3-note chords. Just keep your fingers on the keys and play!

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AND ALSO FOR OCTOBER: Wade in the Water in Level 3B
"Wade inthe Water" is an African-American spiritual first performed in the late 1800's by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. This choir belonged to the Fisk School, now Fisk University, one of the first historically black colleges in the United States.

It is believed that Harriet Tubman used this song to warn slaves to get off the trail and into the water to prevent dogs, used by the slavers, from finding them. See also my arrangement of "Follow the Drinking Gourd."

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YOUR SEPTEMBER MUSIC IS UP! Two versions of "House of the Rising Sun",
     one in Level 2 and one in Level 4
"House of the Rising Sun" is an American folk song dating back several centuries and possibly originating in England. Those who are only familiar with the version recorded by the English group, The Animals, may be surprised that many folk and blues artists preceded them, including Jean Richie, Woodie Guthrie, Josh White, Lead Belly, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan... the list goes on. The lyrics, omitted in my versions, decribe the regret of a woman working in a house of ill-repute or of a man who frequents the house. While I have omitted the words, the serious tone is clearly reflected in the minor key.

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Here's your NEW music for August! A Level 2 arrangement of Sibelius's "Finlandia"
Finlandia was composed by Jean Sibelius during the Russian occupation of Finland. It is a patriotic Finnish piece whose sentiment was not tolerated by the Russians. "In order to avoid Russian censorship, Finlandia had to be performed under alternative names at various musical concerts. Titles under which the piece masqueraded were numerous and often confusing--famous examples include Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring, and A Scandinavian Choral March." (Wikipedia)

How appropriate this piece is given today's international news!

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But wait, you get MORE in August! The Danish carol, "Now it's Christmas Again /
     Nu' det jul igen" also in Level 2
This month's pieces were inspired by my recent trip to the Nordic countries. When I asked my tour guide for a well known Danish song, she suggested this Christmas carol. The picture to the right (also on the sheet music) depicts the Danish custom of dancing around a tree adorned with real, lighted(!) candles. Piano teachers who start planning their Christmas recitals in the fall should remember this piece.

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Your NEW Music for JULY! Two versions of "Everywhere We Go", One in First Pieces B
      and the other in Level 2A
Cheer leaders chant it at college games, scout groups sing it around the campfire and drill sargents call it as a cadence for marching soldiers. "Everywhere We Go" is a rhythmic chant which many a piano student will recognize and want to play.

In the First Pieces level it is a two handed piece in a not-quite Thumbs Share C hand position. Unlike in Thumbs Share C, fingers 2 and 3 of the left hand play A and G respectively instead of B and A. This positioning provides more room for the thumbs.

I placed "Everywhere We Go" as the very first piece in Level 2. This placement is because it perfectly introduces second inversion chords, a kind of chord played in many Level 2 pieces, including in the very next piece, "Oh Susanna". (Some Music Theory: In a second inverion chord the note which is usually a fifth above is moved to the bottom. So for an F chord, the C becomes the lowest note.)

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JUNE'S Music! "Seashells by the Shore" from the Ukrainian "You Tricked Me"
      in Primer Level A
This popular Ukrainian song has humorous lyrics which sound harsh without the context of its many verses, verses I had no room to include. So instead of the angry-sounding, "You tricked me" (because you didn't show up when you said you would), I substituted the more innocent, "Where are you? I don't see you."

Like the beginning of the Ukrainian National Anthem which is listed just above on the Primer page, this song is in an easy Thumbs Share C arrangement.

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Another June Tune! "Did You Trick Me?" also from the Ukrainian "You Tricked Me"
      in Level 3B
Lyrics for the Level 3 version include the suspicious-sounding "Did you trick me?" rather than the more accusatory Ukrainian, "You tricked me!" In any case regardless of the words, it is the exciting and fun melody which is so attractive in this song.

Technical skills include moving from a D minor hand position to F Major. Be aware that the hand positions change abruptly between the second and third lines.

The periwinkles in the verse can refer to either a flower or a sea snail. Thus the two different pictures and English lyrics associated with the two arrangements.

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NEW Music in May! From England, "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" Level 3C
This month you are getting the English version of "Foggy, Foggy Dew" as popularized by Burl Ives and as set by Benjamin Britten (there is also a very different Irish song by the same name). In your new arrangement--though rhythmically and harmonically straightforward--the hands wander around the middle of the keyboard with no relation to any "hand position" at all. ...and it is this independence from hand positions that places it in a late 3 or early 4 level.

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More Music in May: Invention No. 1 by J.S. Bach, newly edited and now with mp3 playback
      in Intermediate Level 4

Brilliant idea, Herr Bach!
Until now the Bach Inventions in Intermediate Level 4 have had no markings for phrasing, articulation, fingering or dynamics. Using a similar "bare bones" version from Make Music Inc. (developers of Finale notation software), I added these elements and posted a score of Invention No. 1 with more guidance for you.

Some notation deserves a little explanantion here:
  • The ornaments are mostly lower mordents with the main note dropping down a step and then back to the original note. However there are a few upper or inverted mordents which do not have a slash through them. These should be played rising a step and then back down again.
  • Secondly, be sure to play the last note of each phrase short--as if that last note had a dot on it. That will help separate the phrases.
  • And lastly the symbol with both a dot and a horizontal line means to play the note detached, but not as short as staccato.
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April's NEW Music! The Ukrainian national anthem in Level 4A
So the Russian invasion of Ukraine grinds on. You or your students will want to play this arrangement of the Ukranian national anthem in sympathy with those who have suffered there.

Your new arrangement is between Levels 3 and 4, beginning in the key of F (played in a traditional F 5-finger position) and ending in D minor (played in D-minor position). Consider playing or assigning this meaningful piece.

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MORE NEW music for April! "Follow the Drinking Gourd" in Level 2C
Legend has it that in this song the drinking gourd refers to the constellation of the Big Dipper. Two stars in the Big Dipper point to the North Star, and in this song it is the North Star which guides runaway slaves to freedom.

This new piece is in a D minor hand position with the exception of a B-natural on the very first chord and third finger crossing over the thumb at the end of some phrases. As in many Level 2 pieces, these are gentle tugs leading students away from strict hand positions. At this point, to help break away from reliance on hand positions and finger numbers, I have found that my students benefit from letter name drills.

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A Bonus piece for March: The Ukrainian national anthem (beginning) in Primer Level A
This arrangement of the beginning of the Ukranian national anthem is a tribute to the brave citizens of Ukraine who are doing their best to defend themselves against Russian aggression. The piece is accessible to beginning pianists familiar with thumbs-share-C position.

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MUSIC for MARCH! A Prelude by me, Gilbert DeBenedetti, in Intermediate Level 4
If you are an advanced pianist you will enjoy playing this Debussy inspired prelude.

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MORE for March: Last month's pieces in lead sheet notaion in Levels 1C and 4A
New Chords: "Oats, Peas Beans and Barley Grow" in Level 1 gives you the option of playing I and V7 chords with just two notes. "Oh Mommy, Oh Mommy" in Level 4 introduces you to the A minor chord in the key of C.

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NEW in FEBRUARY! "Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow" in First Pieces A
"Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow" sings the praises of a farmer working the land to plant our food ...And it does so with just five notes played with just one hand. Not only is this the perfect piece for introducing the piano keyboard and musical notation, it is also a satisfyingly familiar song--see how many YouTube videos I found!

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ALSO for February: "Oh Mommy, Oh Mommy" composed by me in Level 3C
If you have ever cared for a baby or a young child, I wrote this song for you. While the melody, inspired by "Hush Little Baby", is childlike and while the words are from the perspective of a child, the harmonies and skill level are more sophisticated than in most children's songs. So it is really an older child or an adult who will appreciate this piece. I hope you enjoy my latest original gift to you.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2022 and CONGRATULATIONS
     You are finally bringing back the sun!


Imagine the power you must have when you can play "Oh Mr Sun" and
"Keep on the Sunny Side" (from October and November) and there is actually
an affect on the sun! Just think, today--New Years Eve day--in my home town
there were two more minutes of daylight than on December 21. Good job!


NEW music for JANUARY 2022: Two pieces in lead sheet notation
You can use lead sheets as learning tools for students at any level; their use should not be limited to playing jazz and pop music. Lead sheets add intellectual and tactile/motor dimensions to learning to play piano--intellectual in the recognition of chord names and tactile/motor in relying on the feel of chords. Lead sheet notation emphasizes these dimensions by eliminating the usual visual cues of notes on the page.

Your new pages are unusual for lead sheets in that, while the melody at first appears in treble clef (as is usual), the melody then moves to bass clef for the left hand. This reversal in the roles of the hands provides excellent and often neglected practice.

You can find more practice with the feel for chords in my "Five Finger Patterns and Chords", available on my exercises page.

     1. "A-Tisket A-Tasket" with I and V7 chords in C, F, G and D in Level 2A...
"A-Tisket A-Tasket" is the easier of the two pieces in lead sheet notation. There are only two chords to choose from in each key and the chord changes are less frequent than in "Good Morning."
     ...and
     2. "Good Morning" with I, IV & V7 chords in C, F, G, D, A & E in Level 2C
In "Good Morning" the student plays three chords for each key and the changes of chord are more frequent than in "A-Tisket A-Tasket". There are also small stretches beyond the five-finger position in the melody hand. The versions in the keys C, F and G are appropriate for Level 2C while the other keys are meant for students at Levels 3 and 4.

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DECEMBER's New Music! "Keep on the Sunny Side" in Primer Level A and Level 2B
You were supposed to bring back the sun last month by playing "Oh Mister Sun!" Instead we are having fewer and fewer hours of daylight. Did you fail play your new November song enough? You don't seem to have convinced Mr. Sun to stick around.

Fortunately you get another chance this month with "Keep on the Sunny Side" arranged for Primer and Level 2. By year's end you will surely have encouraged him to show his face more than in the past few months.
     --with apologies to Southern Hemisphere users.

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ALSO in DECEMBER: The fiddle tune, "Old Joe Clark" in Primer Level
How well this piece fits under a child's hand! There are no awkward shifts of hand position, finger crossings or left hand over right. However there are a few places during which the hands are playing together. The song needs a G in one hand so as not sound like it is in D minor. The tune is a great example of Mixolydian mode, though this bit of theory is well beyond students at this level.

By the way, another arrangement of "Old Joe Clark" appears near the beginning of Level 3A.

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NOVEMBER's New Music! "Oh Mister Sun" in Level 3A
A favorite song of fans from Raffi to Barnie, you are getting "Oh Mister Sun" at a time when we see less and less of him (at least in the northern hemisphere). Please play this song in the hopes that Mr. Sun will hear you and come shine down on us in all his glory once again!

Technically the student needs to stretch a seventh from C to B-flat in the left hand and to be able to shift a whole step up from C position. This piece is also a great opportunity to introduce "swinging eighth notes," as explained in the score. Primarily associated with Jazz and Blues, these long-short pairs of eighths are often heard in children's songs as well.

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ALSO in NOVEMBER: "Hot Cross Buns" without staffs in First Pieces
This version of "Hot Cross Buns" provides an alternative to the one written with staff lines. Just as I frequently omit rests and slurs in beginning music, many piano methods start beginners reading their music without staff lines so as not to complicate the notation. In fact I have found that too many symbols--too much "ink on the page"--makes the music look harder to play than it actually is.

In any case, you can now take your pick. Choose whichever one you like--with or without staff lines.

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OCTOBER's New Music! "Tu scendi dalle stelle / From Starry Skies Descending"
      arranged by Fabio Cavicchio in Level 3C
Here is a new Christmas carol for teachers to add to their students' repertoire. Planning for end-of-the-year recitals must be done early in the fall so this October posting of a carol gives you plenty of time to decide who will play it and how long it will take to learn.

Fabio Cavicchio graciously arranged this for us in the key of D with the right hand shifted up one whole step above "D position." He prepared this as a sight reading exercise which requires good familiarity with note names in the right hand and little reliance on a hand position. Grazie Fabio!



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ALSO in OCTOBER: A Sonatina in two movements by Fritz Spindler
      in Intermediate Level 2. Movement 2 is a Tarantella!
Tarantellas are so much fun! They are fast but generally not hard technically. In fact you may want to skip the first movement of this Sonatina altogether and go right to the Tarantella. It certainly stands on its own as a piece to show off a student's speed.



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NEW in SEPTEMBER! "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)?"
     in Level 4C
This song can evoke some quite personal religious feelings. It is sung slowly and for the most part quietly, as if someone is singing just for him or herself. Ironically this restrained performance communicates a powerful sense of grief.

"Were You There" is the first piece on this site in the key of E major. The light accompaniment and slow tempo help the student read in the new key signature of four sharps. So beyond the F, C and G sharps in the key of A--as in "The Ash Grove" and "Cielito Lindo"--the student must also remember that D's are sharp. As always in a new key, familiarize yourself with its chords and scale.

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ALSO in SEPTEMBER: The beginning of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in Level 3A
Certainly one of the most stirring pieces of music I have ever heard--just listen to these inspiring performances.--I now offer you the beginning of what is sometimes called the African American Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Although the melody flows out of the singers' mouths easily and musically, as an instrumental piece it is quite difficult to play. Nevertheless I was able to arrange a nice shortened early-Level 3 version for you. I hope you enjoy it!

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NEW for AUGUST! "This Little Light of Mine" in First Pieces B
This song makes you want to move! Listen to the choral video for inspiration and play it loudly and with intensity. All around the town, let your little light shine!

You are getting an arrangement which provides an early experience with middle C position (or as I like to call it, "thmbs share C"). All you need is fingers 1 to 4 in the left hand and 1 to 3 in the right hand.

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ALSO in AUGUST: "So Much More" an original piece dedicated to Ellen
     in Intermediate Level 2
I wrote this piece many years ago as a lead sheet (melody and chord symbols only) and it didn't occur to me until very recently to arrange it for piano. It's in a popular or folksy style with a traditional alternation between verse and chorus. Be sure to crescendo to the F chord with the fermata halfway through the chorus. That's a really special moment.

I hope you like the sentiment.

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NEW for JULY! "Old Blue" (or "Had a Dog and his Name was Blue") in Level 1B
This song will make you want to turn around from the piano and just hug your dog. The song is as old as it is easy. Why is the dog's name Blue? I have no idea!

"Old Blue" was arranged to be the student's first experience with the C chord. I always make a big deal about him or her playing so many notes at once. "...and there's even a FOURTH note (cresc.) in the other hand! WOW! You've never played this many notes all at once before!" (Tone of voice helps a lot.)

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MORE Music for JULY: Two versions of "The Ash Grove", one in Level 3A
     and one in Level 4B
"The Ash Grove" is a Welsh song originally written with words which are too morbid for my site. You know, a young man goes to his dead sweetheart's grave and yadda yadda. Fortunately the more popular version has more uplifting lyrics which reflect a really graceful melody. In fact they begin, "The ash grove, how graceful, how plainly 'tis speaking." It is frequently performed by folk musicians on an Irish harp, or by concert vocalists in an arrangement by Benjamin Britten.

The Level 4 version of "The Ash Grove" is only the second piece at beginning levels which is in the key of A major, the other one being "Cielito Lindo." Practice the A major scale and primary chords to prepare yourself.

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YOUR NEW TUNE for JUNE! The ever popular "Down by the Bay" in Level 2A
Who can resist enjoying this catchy song popularized by Raffi? This is another nonsense song (you received one last month too) for which children can make up their own short rhyming verses.

The piano and reading skills include stretches from C position up to A and a further finger crossing in the left hand up to B-flat. These are easily within the reach of Level 2 students...And they are sure to enjoy the familiar tune!

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ALSO in JUNE: From the Italian Alps "Gran Dio del cielo / Great God in Heaven"
     in Level 3B
Arranging this song has been a work of love for me. My mother and sisters and I would sing the soaring melody with an almost free meter. So it is well within its spirit to end each phrase with a fermata or to speed up slightly during the crescendo and slow down during the diminuendo.

I hope you enjoy this song which originated long ago in the Italian Alps and which was sung slowly and almost reverently by my mother's family.

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NEW MUSIC for MAY: "Michael Finnegan" in Primer Level A
How does someone's beard get blown back into his face by the wind? What??

This silly nonsense song is all the more fun
because it just goes on and on and on and never stops. The instructions say to repeat "ad nauseam" meaning to keep playing until someone gets sick of it. This tune is sure to appeal to the mischievous side of young piano students.

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ALSO new in MAY: Two versions of "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho"
     one in Level 2A and one in Level 4A
Listen to Mahalia Jackson sing this song! What power! What intensity! Let her rendition and the others on the video page inspire your playing.

The Level 2 arrangement was contributed by Marjorie Goertzen, a Canadian piano teacher, who writes, "Discovering online music programs has helped me develop teaching materials like music spelling exercises, scale exercises, a few piano duets, and numerous hymn arrangements. To enable elementary students to play with a full sound and to train them to play by ear, I have arranged a number of hymns with a simple right-hand melody and left hand chords." Thank you for your arrangment Marjorie!

The Level 4 arrangement is from an old page of sing-along songs which briefly made its appearance on this site.

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NEW for APRIL: The Vietnamese song, Đàn chim trắng in Level 1C
If you place your right hand in F position and your left hand third finger on middle C--well, that's all you need to do to begin playing!

...But really, there is a lot more to this Vietnamese children's song. First, it uses the notes of a pentatonic scale and this is partially responsible for its East Asian charatcter. Furthermore, despite its pentatonic scale on F, the melody actually avoids its key note F and the F chord at the beginning. That's pretty unusual for the pieces we have on this site. If the lack of tonic at first feels disorienting to western ears, wait til the end of the song where it comes to a satisfying conclusion on F.

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ALSO new in April: Bach's Prelude and Fugue No.2 in C minor
     from the Well Tempered Clavier 1 in Intermediate Level 4
Bach wrote two books of Preludes and Fugues organized in a truly historic way. The Well Tempered Clavier Books I and II each contain one Prelude and Fugue in all 24 major and minor keys. Bach's groundbreaking idea was to combine the 24 pairs of pieces into single books so they could be played one after the other without retuning the instrument. This convenient innovation had only recently become possible with the advent of a new "well tempered" tuning, a tuning in which all half-steps were the same distance apart in pitch. Before Bach's time one had to retune the keyboard for each key--what a pain!

Bach put the Preludes and Fugues in order chromatically: the first pair in C, the next in C minor, then D-flat, then C-sharp minor, then D and D minor and so on. Since you are receiving the pair in C minor, you will see that they are labeled "No. 2." Of course Bach's theoretical astuteness is more than matched by his artistic genius in each piece. So please don't compare this three-part fugue to the one I wrote and posted last month!

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NEW for MARCH: Another sea shanty, "Blow the Man Down" in Level 3B
Introduce yourself--or your students--to D major with "Blow the Man Down" as well as with the piece listed immediately afterwards, "J'ai perdu le do de ma clarinette/I've lost the do on my clarinet." Take this new key seriously: practice the D major scale to help remember those F- and C-sharps.

And while you're at it, you will be learning a sea shanty, a kind of song that has recently become all the rage.

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ALSO new in March: "A Fugue in 3 voices" by me, Gil DeBenedetti
     in Intermediate Level 4
Back in the day when I was a composition student, I was required to write two fugues, one for keyboard and one for choir. Boy was I nervous! Would I really be able to write these most learnèd and complicated contrapuntal pieces? Long story short, yes I was. And you now have available to you my keyboard fugue in three voices on a theme by Mozart.

Many thanks to Luz Manríquez, a collaborative piano and piano pedagogy professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, who gave us the most comfortable and natural fingerings for this piece.

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And a THIRD NEW piece for March! "Father's Whiskers" in First Pieces
Just a fun piece! Enjoy some silly music in our easiest category. Five fingers of your right hand is all you need.



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NEW for FEBRUARY: The sea shanty, "The Wellerman" in Primer Level C

from: The Mariner's Chronicle of Shipwrecks,
Fires, Famines, and other Disasters at Sea
New Bedford Whaling Museum
Sea shanties have been all the rage recently--ever since Nathan Evans posted himself singing "The Wellerman." So have fun playing this tune almost exactly as he sings it (I took out some dotted-quarter eighth note rhythms for the sake of simplicity). It is written in "Thumbs on C Position" and has a few flats in it.

This shanty is from New Zealand and is about the crew of a whaling ship called the "Billy o' Tea." The crew longs for "sugar and tea and rum" from a supply ship owned by the Weller Brothers--thus the reference to when the "wellerman" comes.

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ALSO NEW in February: "O mio babbino caro" in Level 4B
This aria is a favorite among contestants in talent shows, and I arranged it for those of you who would like to sing it as well as play it. You have three transpositions to choose from depending on your vocal range. I can imagine these arrangements being enjoyed by vocalists who want accompany themselves but do not have the skills of a professional pianist. They can also be played by an amateur accompanist or by a Level 4 pianist who is not necessarily interested in singing at all.

So as not to clutter the Level 4 page with all three versions, the green dots for this piece link to another small grid of options for download and playback.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! May your 2021 be healthy and safe.

NEW for JANUARY 2021: An original Russian inspired, "Troika" in Level 3B
A troika is a Russian harness driving combination using three horses abreast, often pulling a sleigh through the snow. At full speed a troika can reach 45 to 50 kilometres per hour (28 to 31 mph), which was a very high speed during its heyday in the 17th to 19th centuries. So the troika became closely associated with a fast ride. The troika was developed in Russia during the 17th century, first being used for speedy delivering of mail.

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ALSO NEW in January: Another original, "Homestead Memories"
     in Intermediate Level 2
Soft dynamics and major seventh chords give this piece a contemplative, nostalgic feeling. How our memories seem to flood the mind when we return to childhood haunts!

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NEW for December: "J'ai perdu le do de ma clarinette / I Have Lost the Do
     on my Clarinet
" in Level 3B
A favorite marching song in French speaking countries, the words in the second half of this song clearly refer to what is called a "cadence." This is not a harmonic cadence like the ones we teach in Music Theory, rather it is a drum rhythm (or a rhythm shouted by a sargent) which is played to keep everyone in the parade marching in step.

This arrangement reinforces playing in the key of D major, especially the D major chord whose middle note is sharp. The feel of this chord is important as it will be encountered later in other major chords. There are also some 16th-note rhythms which either may be new or could provide a review for the student.

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ALSO NEW in December: Bach's "Little Prelude in C" in Intermediate Level 1
Do not be satisfied playing the right notes with the right rhythms in this piece! First of all the dynamics are an often neglected but important part of the performance. But this is probably old news by now.

What may be new here is the equally important element of phrasing. Be sure to lift the hand between phrases, shortening the last note under the slur. You may even think of this last note as having a dot. Listen to the .mp3 for guidance. Once the notes are mastered, the addition of these two elements, dynamics and phrasing, is guarenteed to produce a wonderful interpretation.

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J.S. Bach with some of his sons. The master may
well have used this piece to teach these children
to play the harpsichord.



NEW for November: "Now Let Me Fly (Way Down Yonder)" in Level 4A
This piece blends three of my favorite characteristics.
  • First, it's a great tune that just sounds good.
  • Second, it teaches skills which students should be learning at this level. In this case the piece has parallel sixths in the right hand--with a skip in measure 2 which might be challenging--and it has arpeggios spanning an octave in the left hand.
  • And third, this is a song from an underrepresented minority which has struggled for recognition. Here an African-American slave wants to fly away in an angel's chariot.


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...AND ALSO for November: "Amazing Grace" in First Pieces A
Did you know if you just play the black keys on the piano you are automatically playing music in a pentatonic scale? Pretty cool! What's even cooler is that the well known hymn "Amazing Grace" is a pentatonic tune.

I took advantage of these two musical tidbits, and arranged "Amazing Grace" for the First Pieces Level, to be played before students play on the white keys, before they see staff lines, and before they learn letter names. This new piece will bring a lot of satisfaction to people coming to the piano for the first time.

Download other arrangements of "Amazing Grace" in Primer Level B and Level 4C

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FOR OCTOBER for the Day of the Dead, you get two NEW Mexican songs!
      FIRST: "Calavera/The Skull" in Level 1A
Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember those who have died, and to support their spiritual journey. The holiday is celebrated between Ocotber 31 and November 2. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Mexicans view it not as a day of sadness but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awaken and celebrate with them.

Calaveras, or sugar skulls, display colorful designs to represent the vitality and individual personality of the departed. The recent Disney movie "Coco" is about this holiday.

I took a well known poem about Día de Muertos and and set it to some spooky music. It is in a minor key, and prominant in the accompaniment is a D-sharp, a tritone above the key note, A.

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...AND SECOND: "Al pasar la barca/As I Stepped on Board" in Primer Level A
A children's tune about an unfair official who allows "pretty girls" to board a boat for free while everyone else must pay. "Well I'm not pretty and I don't care to be!" sings the young narrator, with an implied, "And so there!""

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A NEW PIECE FOR SEPTEMBER! "Li'l Liza Jane" in Level 1A

image of Baltimore from:
https://twitter.com/downtownbalt
"Li'l Liza Jane" is a "Thumbs Share C" (or "middle C") piece normally associated with very beginning levels. A few challenges however put it in Level 1 rather than Primer. First, lines three and four have a lot of music where both hands play together. Simultaneously the student should be careful about the dynamics and articulation. Dynamics are the louds and softs indicated by f and p between the staffs. Articulation is the "touch:" playing legato (smoothly) under the slurs, and staccato (short and choppy) where the notes have dots.

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...AND ANOTHER NEW PIECE FOR SEPTEMBER: "The Fox" in Level 1C
"The fox went out on a chilly night, He prayed to the moon to give him light." So this song takes the point of the view of the fox, who steals a goose from the farmer and gives it to his family. That's an unusual twist--and kind of fun!

Some things for the Level 1 player to watch out for are:
  • the dotted-quarter eighth note rhythm.
  • Both hands going up to A in C position, and
  • the left hand going down to B in C position
I hope you like this. This has been a popular folk song for many years and you will find many recordings of it.

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TWO NEW PIECES IN AUGUST! "Korobushka" (The Tetris® Theme) in Level 2B.
How odd that Korobushka emphasizes D so strongly at the beginning--D even appears as the lowest note of the left hand on the very first beat--yet the piece is clearly written in G minor (check out the last note and chord). The first measure would be harmonized with D7 instead of G minor with the D chord giving a stirring sound in a rough and folksy way. For the second line the right hand rises to a high C minor position and, since this is still not common at this level, I put a reminder arrow at the end of the first line.

Many will know this tune as the theme to the Tetris game so I put some falling Tetris pieces on the page as an illustration. But please listen to the videos to hear how stirring the tune can be when played by talented folk musicians.

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...AND ALSO IN AUGUST: "Arioso" by Daniel Gottlob Türk in Intermediate Level 1
As the title suggests, in this piece you get to play a beautiful flowing melody. After all, "Arioso" means "like an aria," vocal music taken from an opera. Be careful, the third line is a little tricky with a few unusual chromatic notes. Although they are unexpected at first, with practice these notes will have a beautiful yearning sound, a yearning for the resolution that appears in the following notes.

And finally, the symbol above the A in the last line is called a "mordent." To perform this ornament simply go back and forth quickly from A to B-flat and back to A again. Listen to the playback to hear how it sounds.

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Daniel Gottlob Türk (1750 - 1813)
organist, music theorist, composer of piano music



Your NEW piece for JULY! "Go Down Moses (Let My People Go)" in Level 4B.
This piece introduces you to the key of C minor. You may need some practice with the three flats in this piece. Try the C minor scale on the piano exercises page and experiment with C minor chords. What are the i, iv and V7 chords in C minor? I encourage you to look in a book, on the web or ask a teacher. (There is another version of this song in the key of E minor in Level 3.)

This piece also reminds us of the black experience in the United States. "Go Down Moses" was composed by slaves in America who saw a parallel between their enslavement and that of the Jews in ancient Egypt.

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ALSO in JULY: The most popular song in Venezuela entitled simply, "Venezuela" in Level 4C
ESPAÑOL: Venezuela es una canción popular venezolana, con letra y música de los eñoles Pablo Herrero Ibarz y José Luis Armenteros Sánchez, compositores de canciones para artistas hispanos de renombre. La popularidad y el sentimiento que evoca en los venezolanos es tal, que se la considera el tercer himno de Venezuela. El primero es el Himno Nacional (Gloria al Bravo Pueblo) y el segundo, "Alma llanera". --Wikipedia

ENGLISH: "Venezuela" is a Venezuelan folk song, with lyrics and music by the Spanish composers Pablo Herrero Ibarz and José Luis Armenteros Sánchez, songwriters for renowned Hispanic artists. The popularity and feeling it evokes in Venezuelans is such that it is considered the third anthem of Venezuela. The first is the National Anthem (Glory to the Brave People) and the second, "Alma llanera". --Wikipedia

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...and STILL more for JULY! The complete Selected Tunes from Level Four.


This month I am giving you the last of your four booklets of tunes selected from beginner levels. If you are overwhelmed by the number of pieces on this site, or if you feel you need guidance in how to progress through this site, these booklets will give you practice with all the skills at a particular level.

Remember though, this site does not actually teach these skills. It does not tell you how to do what you need to do, nor does it evaluate how well you are doing it. But as a supplement to lessons and/or careful attention to a piano method, these booklets will help you improve your abilities and enjoy your piano playing.

Your new Level 4 booklet includes practice with syncopation, the key of C minor, and grace notes. Also, as the pieces get longer the concept of form (the sections and structure of a piece) is introduced. To properly introduce the key of C minor I re-arranged "Go Down Moses" (there has been another version in Level 3), and I added the key signature to "Big Bad Goblin Blues." Enjoy!

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NEW tune for JUNE! "I Heard a Robin Singing" in Level 1B.
Watch out! finger 2 of right hand is on C for much of this piece! As any piano teacher will tell you this can be a confusing hand position for many beginning pianists, whether young or old.

I wonder if anyone is familiar with this piece. We learned it from my daughter's day care teacher, but I can't find it anywhere on YouTube or by searching Google for the lyrics. If anyone knows where the song comes from please tell me (see the link below). Thank you!

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ALSO for June: The first half of Selected Tunes from Level Four
This will be the last of your booklets of selected pieces. In it you will find pieces with syncopations, in the keys of A major and C minor, and demonstrating various forms. A few Keyboard Classics will also be included.

I hope these booklets are helping you to focus on the skills and concepts you need to learn to play. Sometimes it is nice to browse through a bunch of pieces and play familiar ones for enjoyment. But real progress is made by a more systematic approach.

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NEW in May! Sur la Glace à Sweet Briar (Arpeggio Waltz) by Caroline Crawford
      in Intermediate Level 2.
This is a great piece for practicing arpeggios. They are all played within the octave (no stretches to, or going beyond, the octave in the same hand) and they begin easily enough with C major. A little further into the piece some beautiful and more unusual chords appear.

The audio link goes to an mp3 recording, as do most other audio links on the page. I am in the process of replacing midi files with .mp3's.

Thank you Beth Longmire Parks for bringing this piece to my attention and my thanks also go out to the library at the University of Maine for allowing me to copy it.

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"Sur la glace" means "On the ice"
in French



ALSO for MAY: The complete Selected Tunes from Level Three
This booklet adds stretches of a seventh and to the octave to what you received last month in the level three selections--sixteenth notes and scales and chords in the key of D. As always in this series of books, the pieces progress smoothly in difficulty and logically in their presentation of skills and concepts.

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NEW for April: A calming and beautiful piece during these disturbing times:
     Debussy's "Clair de lune" arranged for Level 4A.
Here is the theme to this popular piece, a favorite among pianists who have completed intermediate repertoire and are embarking on advanced material. Now you can experience the joy of playing this etherial music in a shortened and simplified version.

Stay calm, play the piano, stay safe.

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ALSO for APRIL: A NEW booklet, Selected Tunes from Level Three!
The first part of your new booklet is now available, and you will get your completed version at the beginning of May. Meanwhile you have ten pieces which review 6/8 time, introduce scales and chords in the key of D and introduce sixteenth notes.

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NEW for MARCH! (I'm Just a Poor) Wayfaring Stranger in Level 3A
The open fifths in this piece convey the empty feeling we have when we are left out of a group. Have you ever felt left out? This piece reminds us to be kind and to try to include those who are different from ourselves.

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ALSO new for MARCH: Selected Tunes from Level Two is finished!
Your new booklet reduces the number of Level Two pieces from 75 to 29. If it has been hard for you to choose which of those 75 pieces to practice and in what order to practice them, then this booklet is for you. Here you will find the skills taught in most piano methods clearly identified with the appropriate piece in the Table of Contents. I hope you are finding these Selected Tunes booklets useful.

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NEW for FEBRUARY! Debka Druze in Level 2C
One name for a certain Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, Palestinian, or Iraqi dance is "dabke." The similar name "Debka" however usually refers to an Israeli dance inspired by this (usually Arabic) one. In addition the debka you are receiving this month is inspired by the Druze people.

The Druze are an Arabic speaking people who are not Islamic--that is, they are not Muslim. Like Judaism, Islam and Christianity, their religion is monotheistic. Another interesting characteristic of the Druze is that they are loyal to whatever country they find themselves--Israeli Druze are loyal to Israel while Lebanese Druze are loyal to Lebanon. What unifies them is their religion and culture. The people of the world are not easily characterized!

I arranged "Debka Druze" in memory of my fellow congregant Jerry Rabinowitz, who died on October 27, 2018 in the worst antisemitic shooting in US history. Music is my way of speaking out against such acts of hate and fear. I hope that the international flavor of my site contributes to a climate of calm, tolerance and respect.

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The Druz flag



ALSO new for FEBRUARY! Selected Tunes from Level Two
"This month you get eight pieces selected from Level 2. As in the previous "Selected Tunes" booklets you can proceed from piece to piece confident that they are arranged in a logical sequence for building your piano playing skills. Most importantly level two breaks away from strict hand positions by shifting the hand--usually the right hand--up and down the keyboard. Your new booklet also introduces:
  • I, IV and V7 in C, F and G
  • the key of D
  • the G Scale
Remember, nothing on this site actually teaches you to play. For consistent learning over a long period of time the student should buy a piano method--there are many excellent ones avaiable--and/or take lessons from a capable teacher. Certainly some progress can be made by just going through my pieces, but students need some guidance from a book or teacher for feedback and introducing concepts and skills.

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NEW for JANUARY 2020! Have You Ever Seen a Fishy? in Primer Level
There are so many versions to this song! Some have the words, "Have you ever been a-Fishing" and others are sung to the tune of "Turkey and the Straw." I am giving you the version which I learned from my wife and which I have found to be so much fun to sing to my kids and my grandkids. I found only one video of this version on YouTube and even this one isn't exactly the same as mine. Anyhow I hope, now that I have written it out for you, that you will enjoy playing it as much as I have enjoyed singing it.

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ALSO NEW in January, 2020: Selected Tunes from Level One is now complete!
Selected Tunes from Level One has grown to include eight more tunes:
  • A Ram Sam Sam
  • Jingle Bells
  • A-Tisket, a-Tasket
  • Do, do, l'enfant dor
  • Skip to My Lou
  • Ainsi font, font, font
  • Hey, Hey Come out and Play
  • Für Elise
Along the way it introduces G position, G and D7 chords and easy switching from one position to another. There is a descending C scale presented as a switch from F position to C position, so this would be a good time to start the student learning scales.

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See earlier postings of sheet music in the archives for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, ,
2014, and 2015-2020.
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