Teaching 101: Teaching Piece Collections

Teaching Pieces are just what they sound like — music specifically written to be taught to teach piano students. In addition to single sheets, many teaching pieces come in collections. Most Teaching Collections don’t include art, but a few do. If you choose a collection with art, be careful to match the art and titles to the age of the student.

Here are some to consider:

The Month Songs by Diane Hidy

  • Includes art appropriate and inspiring for all ages, including adults
  • Difficulty progresses in small increments
  • The “song for each month” can encourage students to learn one each month and feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Attention Grabbers, Books 1 – 4 by Diane Hidy

These books were inspired by and written for my students with focus issues. I’ve taught them to students of all ages, including adults and I hear from teachers frequently about how much they enjoy teaching them.

Little Peppers by Elissa Milne

These books begin quite simply and increase incrementally through early advanced pieces. They’re jam-packed with fantastic stuff. Each book is filled with imagination, energy and clever pedagogy. I can’t say enough good things about them.

If you’re new to Elissa’s music, you might want to purchase her Guided Tour of the Little Peppers for a behind-the-scenes look at exactly how the pieces are constructed and how to best teach them.

Beware the Jabberwock by Jason Sifford

Jason used the Lewis Carroll poem (from Alice in Wonderful) to create a magical, mystical set of pieces with kooky, wonderful titles like Galumphing and Snicker-Snack. My students loved learning these pieces which were just published in 2019.

You can’t go wrong with music by William Gillock. His teaching pieces are available in a multitude of books, and they’re all great. Here are a few of my very favorites. These are books that I buy numerous copies of each and every year.

Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style — pieces I teach to almost every student sometime during their intermediate years. The pieces progress through every major and minor key in appealing, interesting styles. Adults find these rewarding as well.

Collected Short Lyric Pieces — an easier collection of solidly early intermediate pieces. One of the best is Land of Pharaoh.

Halloween Music can be extremely motivating and here are a few of my go-to books:

Piano Town Halloween — correlated books for each of the five levels make it easy-to-get the right piece for a student. The art and titles are creepy and intriguing. And so is the music!

The Creeps by Jason Sifford. This book of Early Intermediate/Intermediate pieces is slightly most sophisticated than some Halloween music. The titles are hipper, the music has a groovy sound and my students adore these pieces. Here’s a silly video I made of me playing the title piece from this book:

Video Transcription:

I want to talk to you about teaching piece collections. By “teaching piece” I mean as a piece of music that was written specifically for teachers to use with their students – it’s a piece that’s designed to teach.

In addition to sheets there are many collections f teaching pieces and I want to recommend a few and talk about how you might choose between these and what might work for a given student. The first example I have is The Month Songs which is a printed version of the month songs that I wrote. And this is an example of a set that does have art but the art in it isn’t necessarily age specific. Anybody might want to look at the piece that had camping art and the pieces are somewhat progressive. They don’t get terribly difficult by the end. There’s a little bit of progression a little bit of art and in general could be used for students of any age. Then I want to talk about Attention Grabbers which are a series of pieces that I wrote. There are four volumes published by Kjos and they start off with very simple pieces that are catchy and these were all written specifically with students with attention deficit disorder in mind and read for my students that had those kinds of attentional challenges and these books don’t have any art in them. And the titles you can see these or something some that were used by students with all kinds of stickers on watching tape of the titles are this start up a little bit more juvenile and become a little bit more sophisticated at the beginning they have a compliment which are are useful and they’re great out so the student doesn’t get mixed up of between what they’re supposed to plan what teachers supposed to play and. In general they are slightly more difficult as they go so the first book is the easiest on level 4 is the hardest. Those don’t have any art so you can use the most students at any age.

The next one I want to talk about is some of my favorite books eve which are written by the Australian composer Elissa Milne. They’re called the Pepper books or the Little Pepper books and there are I think five of them and they are filled with whimsy and wonderful titles and. Crazy titles like the Little Vortex, Grouch, Double Agent, Cloak and Dagger, Mister Bumble and Violets Are Blue. I have never taught these to students who were not thrilled with them they’re full of energy and imagination and creativity and everything that’s good but they don’t have any art on the actual he just so I have taught them with great success to absolutely every age from 5 through 70 literally I’m and had great success so I highly recommend these as teaching pieces and they are graded – they start off with the very easy Peppers, they go up through the harder ones and then finally they go up into 2 books of Pepperbox Jazz which are quite sophisticated and also include several really jazzy fantastic duets.

Next I want to talk about a fabulous book by Jason Sifford, an American composer who took the poem by Lewis Carroll, “The Jabberwock”, and used phrases from it as inspiration for his pieces. They’re full of energy and humor and style and some of them would be suitable as Halloween pieces. They’re just great great pieces and I love teaching them to my students.

I’d like you to remember that name William Gillock. He is one of the first rate teaching composers. He’s no longer with us, but I use his music pretty much every week that I teach the piano. This is a series of late elementary early intermediate pieces. I can’t tell you how well crafted. His music is its fall of just genius on every page here’s an example of another series of of books there are many different ways you can buy William Gillock’s music and this is one where they compiled it by level so this is a series starts with buying one which is that the easiest level and goes out through later intermediate and this is another very useful way that you can use his music I just one other simple way that we have collections is there are correlated collections for methods so for instance there’s a series of Halloween pieces and Halloween books that go with him to town and this is easy because if you’re in level 2 you can use the level to Halloween.

Same thing there’s also a Christmas book at every level than many methods have correlated books that go with the different levels this is an easy way to to grab something that’s going to work with your students yeah all those kinds of books will be things I want to use in your studio you want to have things with our without art things with creative titles things that would appeal to a student with a certain kind of interest you want to have lots of them up your sleeve for any day when somebody walks in and they need something to perk up their lesson.