If you've read some of my previous blog posts, you know that helping my students to build solid musicianship skills (ear training, improvising, harmonizing, transposing, etc.) is one of the foundations of my teaching philosophy. However, it often can be difficult to fit these skills into our lessons on a regular basis when much of our time is occupied with working on repertoire, music theory, and technique.
My strategy with my own students has been to rotate through these musicianship skills by using many of the free resources I have posted here on my website, along with others that have been generously shared by other educators from around the web. So, starting this month, I will be highlighting one musicianship skill each month and sharing some of my favorite free resources related to that skill. It is my goal to give teachers new inspiration and helpful resources for fitting these musicianship skills into their lessons on a regular basis.
Would you like to join in on the fun? If so, read on for resources related to the musicianship skill I will be highlighting in December: lead sheet playing!
I love to work on lead sheets during December because it is fairly easy to find free lead sheets of traditional Christmas and holiday songs. Because these songs are familiar, they are less intimidating for students to learn, and many of them use only a few basic chords.
Here are a few basic tips for teaching lead sheets to students at each level:
- Elementary students can start by playing simple root position chords or even by playing just the root of each given chord in the left hand.
- Once your students know their cadence chords, encourage them to use these inversions in their lead sheets. There are many songs that use just I, IV, and V chords, and students can practice analyzing and identifying these in the music.
- Encourage early intermediate students to create a "road map" of the inversions they could use for each chord to create smooth voice leading in the left hand. Students can decide (and even pencil in) the inversion of each chord that it makes the most sense to use for ease of playing.
- Encourage intermediate students to experiment with different accompaniment patterns in the left hand. It often helps to pencil in the rhythm of the left hand accompaniment pattern when students are first practicing this skill.
- Finally, encourage your more advanced students to experiment with embellishing the melody of their lead sheets by adding harmony or looking for places to fill in the melody with arpeggios, scales, or other short melodic patterns.
Ready to explore lead sheets? Let's go! First, I am sharing 4 easy lead sheets that I often use with my students during the holidays:
Music for Music Teachers
Jan Wolters Sheet Music
Michael Kravchuk Music
Finally, check out a couple of my other free resources that you might find helpful as your students explore lead sheets: