My Favorite First Recital Pieces
Last night a teacher sent me this request:
"Would you recommend some books for performance? I have many little students. They are 6 - 8 year-old beginners."
To me, the interesting part of this question is the "I have many little students." How many of us have lots of beginners who are doing just fine, but all of them need little recital pieces at the same level at the same time? You can't assign them too early because they are learning and changing. But suddenly the recital is two months or even one month away and the pieces must be found!
This is even more of a problem if you have a method that you like to use and have lots of students in the same method books. There just aren't enough pieces!
Finding a first and second recital piece is important. You want it to sound impressive but not be too tricky. Here are some tried and true pieces I've loved teaching over the years.
Jon George's Musical Moments Book One has simple 8 and 16-bar pieces, some with accompaniments. My favorites are probably Pop Corn! and Lonely Beach (which has a lovely teacher accompaniment.)
The second book, Musical Moments Book Two has pieces which aren't much more difficult but are a bit longer. I enjoy almost all of these, but am especially fond of a cute piece called Monkeyshines and the Medieval Piece. (Medieval Piece also has a very simple teacher/parent accompaniment that makes the piece sound quite important.)
If you have a bit more time and a slightly more advanced student, Jon George's A Day in the Forest has many sweet pieces. My favorite is Rain and the Rainbow which I've taught (sometimes by rote) and students always love it.
On almost every recital in my studio someone plays The Audience - a piece I wrote that is both in Piano Town Performance Primer (as a pre-reading piece) and available as a sheet written on the staff with an extended bridge. Both include an accompaniment.
Here are the lyrics:
When I hear you playing,
I know what you're saying,
Even when the music has no words at all.
Sing the melody,
Gently, just for me.
Take your place onstage,
Your audience awaits.
You can find more information about my other sheets here.
One of my favorite composers of teaching pieces is William Gillock. You can never go wrong with his Accent on Solos Volume One. There's a silly piece called My Toy Duck that was such a favorite of one little girl I taught I had to beg her to stop playing it! With beginners you never really know what will float their boat!
I've always liked the simple pieces in Pageants for Piano by Donald Waxman. They are useful books to have on hand. They use simple motives and slightly more interesting rhythm and compositional techniques than most other pieces at their level. The cover says that the pieces are part of a method, but it isn't a method in the sense of Faber or Piano Town.
If you're lucky enough to have a young student who is a bit more adventurous, I highly recommend Elissa Milne's brilliant book Very Easy Little Peppers. These pieces are delightfully quirky and fanciful. If you want to play pieces in C Major Five Finger Position, these are not for you. However, they are full of patterns, can be taught by rote if you'd like, and kids adore them!
Would you like to find out more about my Attention Grabber books?