Holiday music is always part of my students’ lessons at this time of year. Often it’s just fun for them to have some holiday music to play. Sometimes they need to have holiday music in their fingers for a performance. Whether they prefer religious music or pop standards, I am happy to include it in their lessons. And with a little creativity, it can be a great teaching tool, even if you’re just teaching yourself.
Holiday music has some distinct advantages over more regular repertoire. The time frame is limited, the music can be chosen according to the student’s preferences, and it relieves some of the holiday stress. Beyond that, however, there are some specific ways to get extra benefit from holiday music:
1. Brush up your technique. My favorite Christmas-themed finger warm-up is Salzedo’s Variations on O Tannenbaum, but just about any carol will provide good practice in chords or arpeggios.
2. Great for sightreading. Get a book of simple carol arrangements, and begin every lesson from now until Christmas with a brief sightreading session. You can even make it a teacher-student duet, if you like. One excellent book for this is Sylvia Woods 50 Christmas Carols for all Harps.
3. Sneak in some notereading drills. Happy holiday music makes practicing note reading seem much more fun. Classic notereading practice drills, like playing one hand and singing or saying the note names of the other, are easy and fun with music students know and like.
4. Good rhythm drills. Look at a carol arrangement and have the student count and tap the rhythm. Or look for any differences between the “usual” rhythm and what is written by the arranger.
5. Excellent lever or pedal practice. Using music a student is already familiar with is a great way to advance lever or pedal skills. The familiarity of the music gives that extra motivation to be accurate with the accidentals.
Some of my favorite Christmas carol books: