Add some spice at a Preliminary level

ChordTime at my piano

This week I’ve had a lot of fun playing through some of the books in the ChordTime® series.

The ChordTime® books are part of the PreTime® to BigTime® series by Nancy and Randall Faber, authors of Piano Adventures®. So, as you can well imagine the arrangements are AWESOME and sit really nicely under the fingers – making them ideal for small hands and perfect teaching material!

I was lucky enough to tour around Australia with Randall recently and heard him describing the series as “adding a little spice” to a students repertoire.

It occurred to me that these might be a perfect edition for your 40 Piece Challenge students.

ChordTime® books are roughly a Preliminary grade level – so they might just be ideal “learn one piece a week” books for your Grade 2-3 students.

Get the students to choose the type of music they love to listen to, or ask the parents to choose something they want to hear!

Remember that your students taste in music might be wildly different to yours.

When I was growing up I only ever remember listening to commercial radio at home, but then an older sibling gave me an Ella & Louis tape and I discovered jazz. I had another sibling involved in amatuer musical theatre, we attended church each week, I played in a Concert Band at school and a Community Brass Band so in actual fact my musical soundworld was rich and varied.

Had I discovered ChordTime® Jazz & Blues back then I would have been in 7th heaven!

In the ChordTime® series there are:

Children’s Songs: In a Cabin in the Woods, Mama Paquita, Catch a Falling Star, Ding-Dong!, The Witch is Dead, Rubber Duckie, New River Train, Pizza
Time!, Tingalayo, Happy Birthday to You, I Can’t Spell Hippopotamus, Oh! Susanna, Teddy Bears Picnic. FF1041

Christmas: Silent Night • Joy to the World • Jingle Bells • When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer • The Night Before Christmas Song • A Holly Jolly Christmas • Good King Wenceslas • Away in a Manger • Jolly Old Saint Nicholas • Deck the Hall • The Twelve Days of Christmas. FF1005

Classics: Aria (from the Peasant Cantata) by J.S. Bach • La Donna e Mobile (from the opera Rigoletto) by Verdi • Largo (from the opera Die Fliedermaus) by J. Strauss, Jr. • The Little Man in the Woods (from the opera Hansel and Gretel) by Humperdinck • March Militaire by Shubert • Overture (from the opera William Tell) by Rossini • Pizzicato Polka by J. Strauss, Jr. & J. Strauss • Polvetzian Dance No. 17 (from the opera Prince Igor) by Borodin • Roses from the South by J. Strauss, Jr. • The Rage Over the Lost Penny by Beethoven • Theme from “The Surprise” Symphony by Haydn • Theme from Trumpet Concerto in Eb by Haydn • Trepak (from the ballet The Nutcracker) by Tchaikovsky FF1020

Favorites: Skip to My Lou • The Mexican Clapping Song • Rise and Shine • The Great Meat Pie • Long, Long Ago • The Duke of York • Three Blind Mice • Everybody Loves Saturday Night • Down by the Riverside • Auld Lang Syne • Where Has My Little Dog Gone? • Hot Cross Buns • Turkey in the Straw FF1014

Hymns: Give Me Oil in My Lamp • This Is My Father’s World • Come Bless the Lord • Hallelujah, Praise the Lord • We Gather Together • He Leadeth Me • Lord, I Want to Be a Christian • Children of The Heavenly Father • Kum Ba Yah • Go, Tell It on the Mountain • He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands • I’ve Got Peace Like a River • Battle Hymn of the Republic • Praise to the Lord, The Almighty • Amazing Grace • O Worship the King • Jesus Loves the Little Children • This Train • Blest Be the Tie that Binds. 1003

Jazz & Blues: Ain’t Misbehavin’ • Baby Face • Dill Pickle Stomp • Do Wah Diddy Diddy • God Bless’ The Child • Left Hand Louisian’ • Ol’ Man River • Tea For Two • Tuxedo Junction • Watermelon Man • When The Saints Go Rockin’ In • Where Is Love? • Whistle Stop Blues FF1046

Jewish Favorites: My Draydl • Hanukah • Maoz Tzur • Hanukah Cradle Blessings • Artza Aleenu • Tumbalalaika • Seeman Tov • Hatikvah • Hinay Mah Tov • Shabbat Shalom • Hayvaynu Shalom A’layhem • Havah Nageela. FF1192

Popular: Angel Of Music • Can You Feel The Love Tonight • Circle Of Life • Do Re-Mi • (Meet) The Flintstones • Heart And Soul • Lean On Me • She Loves You • Star Wars (Main Theme) • The Entertainer  •  We’re All In This Together FF1004

Ragtime & Marches: Alexander March • Alexander’s Ragtime Band • Astronaut March • Colonel Bogey March • Dalmatian Rag • Raincoat Rag • The Caisson Song • The Entertainer • The Marines’ Hymn (Halls of Montezuma) • The Stars and Stripes Forever • The thunderer • You’re a Grand Old Flag. FF1133

Rock ‘n Roll: Chantilly Lace • Come Sail Away • Crazy Little Thing Called Love • In The Midnight Hour • Long Tall Texan • Lost In The Fifties Tonight (In The Still Of The Nite) • Mr. Tambourine Man • Rock Around The Clock • Surfin’ Safari • Wipe Out • Witch Doctor • Yesterday • You Really Got Me FF1021

There really is something for everyone and they’re as cheap as chips to boot!

Here are some super cool things that you might not know about the ChordTime® books:

1. Each piece includes a Practice Chart. Students can shade in a star for each day of practice.

Practice ChordTime

2. There is a Study Time section at the end of each piece – for extension teaching ideas.


3. Many of the pieces include warm-up exercises such as this:


Welcome to the Challenge – US teachers!

As teachers in the US begin their school year there is much talk about the 40 Piece Challenge and similar challenges.

US teacher, composer and pianist, Wendy Stevens (of Rhythm Menagerie fame) is adapting the 40 Piece Challenge to suit the American teaching year (nearly three full months of summer holiday!), and she details her plans here!

In her article Wendy discusses the challenge rewards.

40 Piece Challenge Certificates are available to download here and due to popular demand there will soon be a range of certificates to download – for students who reach 20 pieces, 30, 50 and 100! Stay tuned.

Here are proud Western Australian Challenge participants with their certificates:


The numbers game

The 40 Piece Challenge started because we were inspired by a number of piano teachers who talked about and wrote about the idea of teaching a lot of pieces.

Elissa Milne wrote about her 100 piece medal in the Surprising Power of Quantity.

Tim Topham wrote about how his student Ben went from a beginner to Grade Two in 10 Months when he learned 75 Pieces in One Year.

Samantha Coates wrote about learning 50 pieces in a year

Regardless of whether your students are learning 20 pieces per year or 100 pieces each year, the benefits appear to be overwhelmingly positive.

Better sightreading, students are eager to learn more music and are coming to their lessons prepared, better exam results, improved skill and coordination and more confidence.

Don’t get too hung up on the numbers game – just enjoy the improvement in your students and your teaching studio!

Ideas from Ontario

A big welcome to the 40 Piece Challenge to Megan from Ontario in Canada.

Megan writes that as part of her preparation for the challenge she is planning on having a group lesson at least once every 2 months so all her students can play their new pieces for each other – an ideal performance opportunity in a non-threatening environment.

Good one, Megan!

I wonder how many other teachers are engineering special performance opportunities for their students?

Parade of the Possums & lots of cool tricks!

A great collection to consider when searching for repertoire for your young students are the P Plate Piano Books.

Check out this super cute video of Rowan playing Parade of the Possums from P Plate Book One.

What we really love about these books is that students are encouraged to explore all the cool tricks you can do on a piano.

IMPROVISATION: “Make up some buzzing fly music with your free hand where you see the little keyboard in the music” – I spy a fly from P Plate Book One



GLISSANDO: “The right hand glides over the black keys from bottom to top” – Island in the Sea from P Plate Book One


CLUSTER CHORDS: “Very high chord cluster, slap with right hand palm” – Those creepy crawly things on the cellar floor from P Plate Book Two


HARMONIC VIBRATIONS: “You need to ‘prepare’ the piano before you start by finding something to press and hold down the lowest D, E, F, G and A keys. Mobile phones are about the right size, but they aren’t heavy enough to keep the keys down, so put a heavy book on top of the mobile phone and you’ll be ready to start playing” – Ghostly voices from P Plate Book Two


EXPLORING THE ENTIRE PIANO: “Be dramatic in your performance of this piece, enjoying the big distances your hands need to travel.” Prelude and waltz in C from P Plate Book Three


GRAPHIC NOTATION: “The music doesn’t have a steady beat so we can’t use barlines or notes that have a rhythm. The noteheads show you which notes to play but you decide how long they should last” – Too tired for anything from P Plate Book Three


Slightly concerned about teaching a piece with graphic notation? Click here for an online tutorial presented by Elissa Milne (editor of the P Plate series) about how to teach ‘Too tired for anything.’

Usually a student would be ready for P Plate Piano Book One when they can play all 5 fingers in fixed position and know crotchets, minims and semibreves – by the time they have completed their first tutor book, but we think that P Plate pieces are ideal for 40 Piece Challenge students.

Try P Plate pieces for students who are studying at a Grade One or even Grade Two level but have not yet encountered the series.

Each P Plate Book contains at least 18 pieces so at $19.95 they are great value – even better value if you buy a three pack (which includes Book One, Two and Three) for $49.95!!!