Beginner piano students, especially older beginners, need a quick win that makes them feel competent and musical and have fun right from the start. The Beatles’ ‘Let it Be’ is a great song to teach to adult beginners at their first lesson. It’s an all-time classic, and the simple chords will have them feeling like a superstar in no time.
In this article, I’m going to give you the exact, step-by-step process I use to teach the chords from ‘Let it Be’ to beginner piano students.
If you’re already confident teaching pop music, this will not be ground-breaking stuff. If, however, you need a little hand-holding and want to hear the nitty-gritty details, then this is the post for you!
Step 1: Their First Chord
Assuming your student is a completely fresh, right-from-the-clingfilm beginner, we first need to teach them what a chord is and how to play one.
For adult students, I would start with the simple explanation that a chord is just “two or more notes played at the same time”. That’s enough defining, and definitely enough talking, for now.
Next, I need to do some sleuthing to see what kind of chords I’m going to teach this student by asking them to play either an open fifth (adult students) or a major third (tweens and teens) on C with their right hand.
The reason I ask for either the fifth or the third first is that hands can vary so much. If they’re already looking a bit awkward, we’ll leave it right there. If, however, they look very confident and comfortable with the two-note-chord, I will add the third note from the triad.
I don’t let my student in on the detective work inside my brain because I don’t want them to feel like they’re failing straight out of the starting blocks. If we need to stick to thirds or open fifths that is absolutely OK. The final result will still sound convincingly like ‘Let it Be’.
Psst…Need more ideas about working with older students? I’ve got an entire section devoted to it on my Planning Lessons page.
Step 2: The Chords From ‘Let it Be’
Now that they have some version of the C major chord, it’s time to add a few more.
At this stage, I’ll demonstrate the main pattern of chords from ‘Let it Be’ with my right hand. As I’m playing, I’ll describe it two different ways:
- In letters: C G Am F
- In movement on the piano: C, down 3, up 1, down 2
Different students will remember it more easily one way or the other, and it may also depend on how well they know the names of the keys yet.
Then it’s time for them to give it a go!
Some students will lap this up right away. But if your student is struggling here, it’s always possible to break it down further.
Try having them play just the root note of each chord instead of the full thing until they’re comfortable. You can play the chords to create a duet and have them practise this over and over while still keeping things interesting because of your accompaniment.
If your student is flying with the chords, get them to add single or octave root notes in their left hand.
Step 3: Make them Minims
Once your student is comfortable finding these chords, it time to add a bit of rhythm.
The rhythm from ‘Let it Be’ is, conveniently, incredibly simple. I demonstrate the pattern in minims (half notes,) playing each chord twice. If they’re using left-hand notes, hold those for the full bar (measure).
You can include counting at this stage if you like, but I don’t tend to. I prefer them to focus on the sound they’re making and not get distracted by their own voice.
If your student finds this easy, a great opportunity for extra challenge and richness is to add the pedal. Then they’ll really be chuffed with the sounds they’re creating in their first few lessons!
Step 4: Step to the Bottom
When I teach The Beatles’ “Let it Be” to adult beginners, we might stick with just that much for several lessons (depending on the student.) It already sounds great and it’s great practice for them to get used to navigating the piano in those beginning stages.
When they are ready for the final sprinkling of Beatles-y goodness, we add some steps to really make it shine. It looks like this:
- Play the pattern twice
- The second time through, instead of returning to C, step all the way down to the next C, one chord at a time
- Repeat the full pattern lots of times
This little step downwards through Em, Dm and then the lower C really lights students up. It sounds so much like the original song and feels instantly like they’re “really playing” the piano.
What’s your favourite beginner pop song, and how do you teach it?
Do you teach The Beatles to your teen and adult beginners, or do you have a different go-to pop song? We all have these little tricks we pick up over the years. I’d love it if you shared yours in the comments below!