Category Archives: Holiday Music

Jingle Bells with Rhythm Instruments at a Group Lesson

Jingle Bells with instruments

I bought the electronic version of the new book by Philip Johnston called The Dynamic Studio: How to keep students, dazzle parents, and build the music studio everyone wants to get into. (Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate because I get questions about where to buy the things I write about. Amazon sends me a few cents if a reader buys something from clicking  the book link.) Philip Johnston writes inspiring books that get me enthused to teach in different ways. One of his main ideas is to be different; don’t always do the same thing. Maybe that was on my mind when I decided to use rhythm instruments in my group lessons.

After an unsuccessful search for an easy piano/rhythm band ensemble I could use in a group lesson without a lot of preparation, I wrote my own.  I arranged this specifically to be easy enough that they could be successful without having to practice, so please keep that in mind.

I  wrote the second piano part for an electric bass, which some students can play. This part can also be played on the piano, so I call it Piano 2 in the score. You can also use bells or any other tuned instrument, and it sounds fine to omit it.

The first group was my youngest students. They absolutely loved the instruments. But if you have ever used rhythm instruments with young children, you know what a challenge they are.  I didn’t mind that some of them could not play the written part and just played the steady beat.  I was surprised that a few of them actually followed the score. I let the little beginner on the bells shake them through the entire song rather than the way I wrote it in the score. No one in that group reads well enough for the piano part. I had to play by ear because I could not find the piano score! That seemed to amuse the young group.

The second group of 9 and 10-year-old students was absolutely the right age for this activity. Without any practice, (except for the Piano 1 part, which I gave to a 5th grader the week before) they were able to read the score and play the correct rhythm. We traded instruments and repeated it a few times. I am only sorry that I didn’t record it, because they did really well. The student playing the piano part was thrilled to be part of an ensemble.

After that, we changed directions and performed on the piano for each other using good performance skills. Everyone had learned a Christmas song or a favorite piece. That did not take too long and we went on to the next activity.

They had all been looking at the electric bass and wondering why it was there. We discussed the history of the electric bass and how it was like the double bass. I also got in some theory with the older groups, as we discussed the root of chords and how that is an easy way to play the bass. This is where taking our state theory exam really helped. I demonstrated with my meager guitar skills (Me on the electric bass, how funny was that!) and then let them all try it.

Our last activity was playing a Thanksgiving board game, with different level cards for each age group. I was relieved my students enjoyed the game because I had not tried it out with a group. Even my older students had fun and reviewed some theory at the same time. Finally, we just had enough time to pass out cookies and candy canes, and they all left happy.

Later I asked what was their favorite activity. Can you guess what it was? The rhythm instruments! So with that in mind, I am sharing my simple score with you. Feel free to change the instruments to whatever you have on hand, even homemade instruments.

Obviously you don’t need a score for this simple rhythm section, but my students found it interesting, and it helped me focus. If one of your students has a family member who can play the Piano 2 part on the electric bass or any other instrument, that would be really fun, especially for a Christmas recital! Please alert me if you find any mistakes in my score, as I don’t have an editor. Have fun and if you have a successful performance, let me know!


Filed under Christmas, Group lesson ideas, Holiday Music, Rhythm

Father We Thank Thee and Other Thanksgiving Hymns

Father We Thank Thee For the Night

Have you ever noticed the lack of Thanksgiving music for elementary piano students? Today I am posting an arrangement of one of my favorite hymns for children. I even wrote a teacher duet! I remember as a child singing this in elementary school and in Sunday school, where all the children would get together in a large group and sing before we gathered into our age groups. I think this hymn makes a wonderful Thanksgiving song for your students. Maybe they can sing along while they play! Let me know if you see any mistakes. I usually try to get another teacher to check out my duets for errors, but I was not able to do that for this one.

If you are looking for other Thanksgiving music for beginners, check out my website. All of these are Primer level and written on the staff, unless noted. Some of these use clip art rather than my own art.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

American the Beautiful

All Creatures of Our God and King

Bless Us O Lord, and These Thy Gifts That We Receive  Also, check out the easy duet part for this that can be played by a family member. Click here for a pre-reading version for beginners.

Hurray, Thanksgiving Day – Pre -Reading was written for a beginner who really wanted a Thanksgiving piece. I had many teachers ask me for the same 8 measure song but on-the-staff, so here is the staff version. Hurray, Thanksgiving Day – on the staff

There are also several Thanksgiving seasonal games posted on my website, so check them out if you’re interested.

Do you have a favorite public domain Thanksgiving him you want arranged for Primer level? List it in a comment here and depending on the hymn melody, I’ll work on it for next year.



Filed under Elementary Music, Holiday Music, Thanksgiving

Easter Bunny – An On the Staff Version

Easter Bunny

I promise I will not post anymore versions of Easter Bunny! Fortunately my students aren’t getting tired of it!

This version is really good for a student in Primer or Level 1 who has just learned staccato notes and wants to try them out. And if they can play it right away, that’s even more fun for them. There are skips in this piece, so if your student needs a little help with that, let her find and circle them and practice in the air and on the piano cover.

There are 2 pages to this version and a duet that is very simple. An older sibling or parent can play along. I hope your student will have a hoppy time playing this!

Don’t forget that I have posed an Easter bunny composing printable for beginners that you can do this week, as well as many Easter worksheets. Also, here is a Passover worksheet to learn notes.  PassoverEggNotes

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Filed under Easter, Elementary Music, Holiday Music

A Fun Pre-Reading Easter Bunny Song

Easter Bunny

I wrote a little song about the Easter Bunny in several different levels of difficulty. This is the first version. It is suitable for young beginners who are comfortable with the thumbs on the white keys. I have an 8-measure version in landscape orientation and I will post that tomorrow. I also have an on-the-staff version for students in their 2nd method book (Level 1 in most methods, Level 2 in Hal Leonard)  that I am working on. This is the reason I like to self publish. I can customize music for different levels.

To help students who get their hands mixed up, I like to highlight the right and left hands with 2 different colored highlighters. If you have never done this in their lesson book you will be surprised how helpful it is. Students enjoy picking out the colors and that adds a little motivation. (Try to find a set with purple. It’s very hard to come by!) We all have students who focus on one hand and need some extra help to get them together. Some students always get the left and right hands mixed up, as well as some adults, such as me! Simple songs like this can really help that problem before they move on to reading on the staff.

Blogging is a spare time activity for me, and I have not had time to post all the spring time material I’ve made. Sometimes things sit in my files for years before I have time to modernize, revise, and post it. Thank you for all your suggestions, and thanks for understanding! I really appreciate and have learned so much from my readers and the blogging community.

Do you find it helpful for me to highlight the hands like this? Leave a comment if you do. You may remain anonymous!


Filed under Easter, Holiday Music, Pre-reading