Spicing up your Studio with New Repertoire Darlene Irwin     March 17, 2014


Have you ever fallen into the rut of teaching the same old songs to your students. I know that, on occasion, I have had that problem. Another common problem among teachers is that we tend to buy new music and then put it away in our library and forget about it!

This year, I have tried very hard to introduce new material in my teaching. I went through my library and picked out several collections that I thought might be appropriate for the students that I am teaching at this time. I played through these collections and then tagged pieces that I thought students might like. I kept that small pile of books by the piano in the studio. Then, when a student was ready to try a new piece, I tried to match that student with one of these new pieces. I found that when I showed that I was excited to try something different, then the students were willing to try it! Then, after discussing this with the parents, I went to my local music store and ordered several new books for students. They were so excited to get a new book! Several students have chosen some of these works for upcoming performances and exams.

Here are some points to keep in mind when choosing new repertoire for students:

  • Try to avoid giving the same pieces to students in the same grade. Instead, make a point of trying something new and different with each student. It's great for the student but it's also wonderful and challenging for the teacher to try teaching something that you have never taught before. As teachers, we should never stop learning! My students love it when I tell them that I have NEVER taught this piece to any other student!
  • Students feel special that they are playing something that no one else in the studio has played before. They can then share these pieces at upcoming master classes, festivals or recitals. My students love to hear new and different works. Many times I've had other students ask if they could try that song as well!
  • Try some unusual works with a more modern notation. Students respond well to modern works if you, as a teacher, show enthusiasm for these pieces. Some examples would be Olie the Goalie by Stephen Chatman (Pre-Grade 1 level). The entire score is written on a drawing of a goalie with bits of the score under each hockey puck! Or how about trying Night Sounds by Stephen Chatman. Students actually get to meow like a cat, snort like a pig and hoot like an owl!! They even get to improvise one whole section. This piece was a huge hit at our last master class.
  • Support local artists.There are many wonderful composers in Canada and in the United States who are continuing to provide us with interesting and varied works. You could have your student write to their special composer and let them know how much they enjoyed playing their piece. I'm sure that the composers would love to hear from them! The student could also do a little research to find out some information about their composer! Students are always amazed to find out that lots of composers are actually alive and still writing!!
  • Examiners love to hear different pieces as well. Explore whatever syllabus you are using and choose something unusual and unique for their modern piece or for their study. (i.e. the Royal Conservatory of Music allows this as a Teacher's choice for a study). This makes for a much more interesting exam!
  • Students love to play jazzy songs that have a great beat. My students have especially enjoyed pieces from the Connections for Piano by Christopher Norton. There are 8 books in total from Grades 1 to 8. Each song has a downloadable backtrack which makes it even more fun to play! Some suggestions might me Half a Chance (Grade 3), Nefertiti Blues (Grade 7) or Country Sentimental (Grade 8).
  • Make the music come alive by having them write a story or draw a picture. Then have them try to tell their story musically. The younger students especially enjoy doing this. This works especially well for pieces like Starfish at night, Cobwebs, Summer Lightning, March of the Terrible Trolls or Icky Spider. There are extra pages in the back of the Student Music Organizer that could be used for this.

Here is a list of some of the varied and fun pieces that my students have tried over the past couple of years:

Early Elementary


    Late Elementary/ Early Intermediate

    Intermediate/Early Advanced

    Have fun teaching some different and interesting material. Your students will thank you and you will enjoy teaching something new and fresh.

    Please feel free to share any new, interesting and different pieces that your students have enjoyed learning. We would love to hear from you.