Are you struggling with how to teach pop music? Perhaps you tried already, but it was a total flop? Let me help with some of my best tips and tricks for teaching pop piano music.
Teaching pop music to piano students doesn’t have to be difficult or scary, and it doesn’t have to take over all your lesson time either. Read on to find out my approach.
Why piano teachers don’t want to teach pop music
In my experience, there are two reasons why piano teachers may not want to teach pop music.
The first is that they’re very traditional and believe students should only learn classical music. That anything else is a waste of time. Trash.
I’m guessing that’s not you, since you’re on the Colourful Keys blog right now.
The other reason piano teachers don’t often teach pop music is that they just don’t feel confident with it. They don’t know which music to choose or where to find arrangements or what approach to take.
Is that you?
If so, you’re in luck. I’m going to make it simple and straight-forward for you.
Need even more ideas about repertoire and resources? Hop on over to my Planning Lessons page.
Two Avenues for Pop Piano Music
When it comes to teaching pop music to piano students, there are really two choices:
- Actual pop songs
- Pop-like songs
You may think this is obvious. Kids who ask to learn pop music want actual pop songs – music from the radio, right?
But that’s not often true. The vast majority of students will actually be much happier – and have more success – with pop-like music rather than trying to play their favourite hits.
Pop-Style Music for the Piano
The reason pop-style songs are often a better choice is that it’s easier to find pedagogically sound and well-written ones. These pieces are written to sound like pop, but they don’t have overly complicated rhythms or one thousand pages like you’ll often find in pop song arrangements.
When many students ask for “pop” what they mean is simply music they can relate to and which will sound cool to their friends. That music doesn’t have to be recognisable tunes.
My favourite pop-style books are the Spotlight Solos books and other books from Piano Pronto and the Composers Community. These pieces sound modern and rich but are accessible to students early on in their piano journey.
Actual Pop Songs for Piano Students
Ok, but what if your student really does have their heart set on their favourite Taylor Swift song?
No problem. But you still need to drill down a bit further.
First of all, ask this student for their ‘top 5’ list rather than sticking yourself with one option. Then, listen to these 5 songs yourself and decide which would be the best option for your student.
To make that decision, you’ll first need to decide this: Do you want them to learn the song by reading, or by ear?
Choose based on the goals you have for your student. If your student is a resistant reader and you think this might push them forward, go with sheet music. If you’ve been wanting to bring some ear-training into lessons, this could be a great opportunity for that.
If you decide to teach them by reading, then the best thing to do is simply look up each of the 5 songs and choose the one with the most accessible arrangement for your student. My favourite sites for quality arrangements are Noviscore and F.M. Sheet Music.
If you’ll be working by ear, then choose the song which has a strong repeating pattern so that your student can have some quick success. Try working them out yourself first if you’re not sure.
Watch the Video
Want to see this in action? Click here to watch my YouTube video on this topic. Make sure to subscribe to the channel while you’re there for more great ideas.
How do you teach pop music to your piano students?
Is there any part of teaching pop which you struggle with? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help.