Getting Ahead During Christmas Season
It’s holiday season again, a good time to look back on the progress you made this year and set new goals for next year. It’s the perfect opportunity to get together with family and friends, play the songs they love and show off your progress!
No matter your level or experience as a piano learner, there’s always a reason to perform a piece for others. For tips on preparing to play in front of others, please refer to our previous blog “6 Tips To Start Playing Piano Before An Audience”
Besides being a great opportunity to perform, Christmas songs are also ideal learning material to gain new playing skills.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can learn on “The Christmas Course”.
For beginners, “Jingle Bells” is a great lesson for learning to play a simple melody accompanied by left-hand bass notes.
This lesson begins with right-hand melody like many other lessons, but since the left-hand is playing a whole-note accompaniment, it’s a perfect introduction to learning to coordinate both hands. Playing with both hands is a challenge at first, but it can easily be learned if you choose your practice material according to your proficiency.
As you can see, you play the first note of each bar with a left-hand bass note of C. Because your left-hand is not busy looking for the notes, it’s much easier to concentrate on your right-hand. Practice this part until you feel comfortable pressing the keys with both hands at the same time, and be sure to hold the bass note for the entire duration of the bar.
Once you feel at ease with this material, move on to the next 2 bars where the bass note changes to D and then C again while the right-hand is playing F. Practice playing this small part very slowly and make sure timing and the duration are correct.
In this fashion, you will start to accumulate coordination skills. Be sure to tackle small parts at a time.
Second lesson in The Christmas Course is “Rudolph, The Rednosed Reindeer”
This song not only helps you improve your coordination between both hands, but also introduces more complex rhythmic values like eighth notes, ties, and dotted half-notes.
Before you begin to practice this song, take a moment to notice the third note “A” on your right hand as you listen to the melody. Since there’s a tie, the note is sustained from the second note, not played twice.
Listen to the melody and take in what you’re hearing and seeing on the notation to understand the rhythmic feel of the melody. I’m sure you’ve heard the song many times, but seeing on the notation gives you a better understanding of how it’s notated versus how it sounds.
This association between your ears and eyes is an essential step for becoming a skilled pianist.
In the second bar, you notice the dotted half-note. Dotted notes are sustained longer by half the value of the note. A half-note is two beats long, so a dotted half-note is three beats long.
While you practice along this song, focus on playing the rhythm precisely in time, especially in the first note of the third bar. The dotted half-note makes it an unusual length, so it’s essential you master this new notational value and become familiar with the length of it.
For those at the intermediate level, have a look at “Silent Night” . This beautiful and calming melody is a Christmas favorite for many.
This song introduces the challenge of moving the position of both hands at the same time in the middle of a melody.
From the fourth bar to the fifth bar, you will shift your hand position.
In order to master this, focus on on the transition between the hand position. For example, play only the fourth bar plus the first notes of the fifth bar. Practice this small portion for a while until you master the distance your hands need to move while simultaneously placing your fingers on the correct keys. Do this until you no longer have to look at your hands. It’s okay to look at your hands at fist, but it is much easier if you focus on the movement first and get the coordination down before moving on.
Do the same practice routine for each bar plus the first notes of the next bar, starting with the fourth bar. Playing one bar plus the beginning of the next bar is a very effective way to practice coordinating and transitioning your hand positions.
Try it out and make sure each portion is well mastered before moving on. Patience pays off – you’re mastering each hurdle this song presents, which will give you confidence in your ability to smoothly play the melodies.
I hope this blog post was helpful, please feel free to leave us a comment.