Today’s post is a throwback of a free arrangement of Jingle Bells that I made a few years ago for a Christmas group lesson. The score includes a short piano solo with a very easy left hand only duet part for piano and parts for rhythm instruments. The individual parts for rhythm instruments can be printed for each instrument so students can get a little taste of what it is like playing in a band or orchestra.
I was planning on posting this last week, but life interfered. Not only do I have a brand new grandson, but in the process of changing servers, my site was down for a while. The baby is great, so cute and cuddly, and this site is working better! When you have a site this big, with so many huge files and years and years of material, any change seems to create a big problem, and when you fix one problem, it causes another one. I’m not technological by any means!
If you are having group lessons this week or next, there is still time to print this for your students. The rhythm instrument parts are for beginners and no practice is necessary.
The piano part also stands alone as a piano solo without the duet or the rhythm instruments. Or you can use a piano part out of a Christmas book.
The easy one hand duet part (which is actually an accompaniment) can also be played on an electric bass, a keyboard, melody bells or any other tuned instrument that sounds good with your piano.
What I like about this arrangement is that there is something for everyone, so if you happen to have group lessons with all levels, every student will have something to do.
I also thought this would be fun for a musical family to play when they get together for the holidays. If you don’t have any rhythm instruments, improvise with whatever you have around the house! I use my set of rhythm instruments frequently in my teaching, but especially around the Christmas holidays!
After an unsuccessful search for an easy piano/rhythm band ensemble I could use in a group lesson without a lot of preparation, I wrote my own. I arranged this specifically to be easy enough that they could be successful without having to practice, so please keep that in mind.
I wrote the second piano part for an electric bass, which some students can play. This part can also be played on the piano, so I call it Piano 2 in the score. You can also use bells or any other tuned instrument, and it sounds fine to omit it.
The first group was my youngest students. They absolutely loved the instruments. But if you have ever used rhythm instruments with young children, you know what a challenge they are. I didn’t mind that some of them could not play the written part and just played the steady beat. I was surprised that a few of them actually followed the score. I let the little beginner on the bells shake them through the entire song rather than the way I wrote it in the score. No one in that group reads well enough for the piano part. I had to play by ear because I could not find the piano score! That seemed to amuse the young group.
The second group of 9 and 10-year-old students was absolutely the right age for this activity. Without any practice, (except for the Piano 1 part, which I gave to a 5th grader the week before) they were able to read the score and play the correct rhythm. We traded instruments and repeated it a few times. I am only sorry that I didn’t record it, because they did really well. The student playing the piano part was thrilled to be part of an ensemble.
After that, we changed directions and performed on the piano for each other using good performance skills. Everyone had learned a Christmas song or a favorite piece. That did not take too long and we went on to the next activity.
They had all been looking at the electric bass and wondering why it was there. We discussed the history of the electric bass and how it was like the double bass. I also got in some theory with the older groups, as we discussed the root of chords and how that is an easy way to play the bass. This is where taking our state theory exam really helped. I demonstrated with my meager guitar skills (Me on the electric bass, how funny was that!) and then let them all try it.
Our last activity was playing a Thanksgiving board game, with different level cards for each age group. I was relieved my students enjoyed the game because I had not tried it out with a group. Even my older students had fun and reviewed some theory at the same time. Finally, we just had enough time to pass out cookies and candy canes, and they all left happy.
Later I asked what was their favorite activity. Can you guess what it was? The rhythm instruments! So with that in mind, I am sharing my simple score with you. Feel free to change the instruments to whatever you have on hand, even homemade instruments.
Obviously you don’t need a score for this simple rhythm section, but my students found it interesting, and it helped me focus. If one of your students has a family member who can play the Piano 2 part on the electric bass or any other instrument, that would be really fun, especially for a Christmas recital! Please alert me if you find any mistakes in my score, as I don’t have an editor. Have fun and if you have a successful performance, let me know!