This post about world music for piano students was written by Christine Mulhall. Christine is a piano teacher from Noosa Heads in Queensland, Australia and has been teaching the piano for about 15 years. She holds an Associate Teacher of Music and has taught many students over the years from 4-year olds to 80-year olds. Christine is a passionate teacher who loves to learn new and innovative ideas and methods of teaching. In her spare time, she can be found out in the garden, walking her dog or surfing the beautiful beaches in her area.
Music is an integral part of people and their cultures from all over the world. It is as diverse as the many people on our planet. So why limit ourselves and our students to classical European music? If you want to tour the musical world with your students (and you should!), here are a few great places to start.
No matter what part of the world you come from, music has a central role in the development of your culture. In almost all cases, the following will apply:
- Connection: Music brings people and communities together.
- Identity: Music can help identify a country, and it’s people with folk songs and national anthems as well as the style and genre of music.
- Language and Communication: Music helps us to communicate and express ourselves.
- Celebration: Singing and dancing to music is almost universal at weddings and other social events.
- Education: Putting words to music can help us learn particular tasks or hand down history over generations.
What We Listen to Today
Much of the music we listen to today has origins from all over the world. For example, jazz music was born in the southeastern United States but its roots can be found in the musical traditions of Africa and Europe.
If you’ve ever grooved to a bossa nova or salsa, you’ve enjoyed music originating from Latin America.
Including music from the past is also an important part of any world tour. The general classification of western music into Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary periods covers hundreds of years.
Encouraging Music from Around the World
As a teenager, the only music I had ears for were the current hits on the pop music charts. To me, they were the best music around. Suzie Quatro’s ’48 Crash’ was one of my favourites, along with anything Elton John (of course!)
But the main source of music for my piano study was classical. I grew to love this, although I wouldn’t admit it to my friends. 😉
I remember making the piano tinkle with some of the beautiful classical pieces my piano teacher taught me.
I was converted to enjoying music other than pop.
Now as a teacher myself, I encourage my students to try many different styles and genres of music. The variety of music available to piano students today is amazing.
Including a diverse mix of genres can lead to a sound musical education by:
- Building technique
- Adding variety
- Experiencing different rhythms and styles
- Gaining an insight into the different music and cultures from around the world
- Understanding how styles of music have developed over time
If you need help choosing repertoire or adding variety to your lessons, visit Nicola’s ‘Planning Lessons’ home page.
Finding World Music for Piano Students
With the advent of the internet, finding world music repertoire for our piano students has never been easier. Here are a few places you can start.
Many exam books for piano contain a variety of different styles of music. For example, the Australian Music Examinations Board Piano for Leisure, Series 1 Grade 4 has:
- A tango (an Argentine dance/song genre)
- A rock piece (rock originated in the USA)
- A piano etude from the Romantic era by a Swedish composer
- A Norwegian folk song
- A movie theme from American musical theatre
- A jazz piece (jazz originated from African slave music)
- A blues piece (blues originated in the deep south of the United States)
This is just an example of one exam book, and there are many piano exams out there for you to explore.
Traditional and Folk Music
Hal Leonard has a newer series of Folk Songs Collections covering music from Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Irish, Malay, and African American cultures.
Supersonics Piano by the Australian composer Daniel McFarlane has a great book for intermediates called World Music. This collection is particularly appealing because of the included study notes and online support material.
Other great books with a wide variety of traditional and folk tunes include:
- National Anthems from Around the World (56 different countries!)
- Piano Globetrotters
- World Music Songbook
Martha Mier’s Musical Snapshots books come in 3 levels from beginner to late intermediate. These repertoire collections of world music serve as musical tour guides of Russia, Argentina, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Samoa, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Egypt, Hawaii, France, Scotland and the United States.
Christopher Norton’s ‘micro-‘ series offers a large range of world music for piano students including Microjazz, Microlatin, Microstyles, Microswing, Microrock and more.
If you’re particularly interested in eastern music, check out The Christopher Norton Eastern Preludes Collection.
Other Sources of Inspiration
Many of the books we already own contain music from other countries or music which inspires curiosity about other cultures.
Piano Safari, for example, takes students on a safari of animals from around the world including ‘Hungry Herbie Hippo’ and ‘Kristabel Kangaroo Visits Korea’. 🦘
If you’re a part of the Vibrant Music Teaching family, don’t forget to use your member discount to get 10% off when ordering from the Piano Safari site. Not a member yet? The discounts alone make it worth joining – check it out!
Some of my personal favourites include:
- ‘The Japanese Koto’ by Christopher Lee Goldston highlights the beautiful sound of Japanese music for grade 1 piano students
- ‘Soft Rain’ by Naoko Ikeda features a distinctive Japanese sound for intermediate students
- ‘Tambo Tango’ by Grant Arnold is a great world music selection for grade 4 piano students
- ‘Kangding Love Song’ by Daniel McFarlane is a beautiful love song for intermediates
What are your favourite pieces from around the world?
Music certainly does make the world go round. So share your favourites in a comment below to keep us all moving! 🌏