Most piano students are interested in learning popular music, but it can be challenging to find piano arrangements of popular music that are approachable, pedagogical and satisfying.
For piano teachers, it can be hard to stay on top of the popular music trends. After all, it’s a genre that is constantly changing.
When browsing online for sheet music of current hits and popular music, it’s common to run across these problems:
- Music that’s not written with a learner in mind, such as difficult key signatures, hard-to-read rhythms and complex left hand accompaniment.
- Music that goes on for pages. Most popular songs when transcribed go on and on for many pages – often 6+ pages of music. This is really intimidating to less experienced piano students.
- Poor transcriptions that don’t translate well to the piano. Most popular music was written for a variety of instruments and voices. It can be difficult to combine all of those different parts and voices into one cohesive piano arrangement that highlights the strengths of each part.
I love helping students learn music that is interesting and exciting to them, but I’m not one to settle for just any old arrangement found on the internet. I want students to learn music that is level appropriate and complements their current abilities on the piano.
I’ve been collecting excellent piano arrangements of intermediate level popular songs and current hits lately.
My students and I have tried and loved these collections:
The Piano Pop Hits series from Hal Leonard has many small collections of popular hits. Each book contains about 5 piano arrangements. The right hand is often only the melody or melody plus one line of harmony. Similarly, the left hand is often one or two bass notes. These arrangements also include chord symbols, so I often have my students learn the right hand and harmonize with chords in the left hand.
EZ Play Today Songs of the 2010’s is a large collection of music with almost 70 current songs
If you’re not familiar with the EZ Play Today series, it uses lead sheets with large print notation that includes note names written on the note heads. These arrangements are ideal for students very early in their piano study who don’t have a lot of experience reading music notation. They are a great way to get students playing music they enjoy right from the start.
Most of the arrangements use a hand full of chords that can easily be learned by rote.
Top Piano Ballads features 8 arrangements by Jennifer Watts. It includes 3 of the most commonly requested songs in my studio: All Of Me by John Legend, Lost Boy by Ruth B and 7 Years by Lukas Graham. The arrangements are very well suited for the piano and very manageable for piano students.
Pop Hits For Kids is a large collection of 25 songs from Hal Leonard. The notation is a little larger and each hand only plays 1-2 notes at a time. The music also includes chord symbols for students who prefer to read chord charts. This book includes several songs that kids love such as Happy by Pharrell Williams, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and Fight Song by Rachel Platten.
Today’s Pop Hits is a big-note piano book from Hal Leonard. For most songs, The melody and bass are mostly single note lines with a few occasional harmony notes.
I was so excited to see that the Faber’s had added a current hits collection to their supplemental piano library. Their music is especially accessible to students. I confidently give my students music from this series knowing that it will be manageable and level appropriate.
The current hits are available in levels 2A, 2B, 3A-3B and 4.
My students have also loved the new Faber Disney series that is available in Primer, Level 1, 2A and 2B.
The Alfred Popular Hits collections are available in Level 1, 2-3 and 4. It’s nice to have some super simplified options for beginning students. These arrangements are very pedagogical and align with the leveling system of Alfred’s method books. The songs are easy to read and have just enough notes to make them sound complete.
Current Hits For Teens, arranged by Dan Coates, are graded pieces in 3 different volumes. These are nice, pianistic arrangements with a variety of songs that appeal to kids such as Firework by Katy Perry, Just Give Me A Reason by Pink, and When I Was You Man by Bruno Mars.
Phillip Keveren’s popular arrangements in a classical are some of my very favorite pieces to play and teach on the piano. They are so appealing to both the listener and the play because they use familiar material in a beautiful classical style. Keveren has a knack for bringing out the best elements of each piece through the piano.
Some collections worth checking out are:
- Adele for Easy Classical Piano
- Disney Songs For Easy Classical Piano
- The Beatles For Easy Classical Piano
Phillip Keveren also has a great selection of more advanced popular collections in a classical style. Some of my favorites are:
- Coldplay For Classical Piano
- Queen For Classical Piano
- Elton John For Classical Piano
- The Beatles For Classical Piano
- Billy Joel For Classical Piano
Chart Hits For Easy Duet includes 10 pop songs that are very manageable for intermediate pianists. All Of Me by John Legend, Hello by Adele, and Grenade by Bruno Mars are all songs that kids love and request frequently.
Do you have any favorite popular music collections or arrangers? Share a link below!