On occasions I ask people, “What song or piece would you like to be able to play on the piano?” Whether it’s a pupil I have been teaching for a while, a brand new starter or even someone who has never had a music lesson in their life, they almost always have an answer.  Most people have apparently thought about it before!  But when it comes to helping them reach their goal, their answers can be quite challenging…

Sometimes it might be a well-known (possibly classical) piece that is far beyond their skill level. If so, I have check to see if there is a published simplified arrangement. If not, I consider producing a more accessible version for them myself. Whilst I regularly use my Sibelius software to produce and develop printed scores, this can be very time-consuming, depending on the complexity of the original.

New horizons

On the other hand, a lot of my pupils (particularly the teenagers) answer with the name of a modern song and artist or band. I’m not much of a BBC Radio One listener, so I often have to tell them I’ve never even heard of the song or possibly the artist either!

This is where the Internet comes in very handy. A quick search on YouTube will get almost always get me to a video of their song. This is generally enough for me to assess whether I can make them a simple enough arrangement. Other websites also offer lyrics and chords to help me on my way.

Staying flexible

Often all people want is to be able to play the tune or the introduction to a song. Sometimes they just want to vamp the chords to sing along to. But even if they want a full arrangement, I can often oblige. Unfortunately some songs, often featuring rappers, have very little melody, making them rather unsuitable for a piano arrangement. So I try to find a better song by the same artist and offer that instead.

I don’t charge any extra for sourcing music for my pupils: I feel it is part of being their teacher. Besides, I enjoy doing it and it also widens my musical horizons (though not always in directions I would choose!)

What about you? If you’re a music teacher, how much effort would you put in to find music requested by your pupils? Or if you’re a pupil or thinking of learning, how much work would you expect your teacher to do for you between lessons if there was a song you liked? I’d love to know – please add a comment!