Easy piano and easy piano songs are terms often used in the sheet music industry. However, it is not always quite obvious what the publishers put in “easy”, and you can therefore rightly ask: How easy piano songs?
Piano songs or songs for piano, whether they are easy or not, are mostly just regular tunes that are adapted to be played on the piano. The vast majority are also written for other instruments or just for singing.
First, easy piano songs can be all kinds of music genres, from children’s songs to pop and rock tunes as well as classical pieces by famous composers. Secondly, easy piano songs are specially arranged for easy piano, which means at a relatively easy level and often with a recommended skill level of the person playing.
So what is an easy piano song? In this article, I will show how simplifying and adapting music arrangements can turn ordinary piano songs into easy piano songs. If you want to try this yourself you just need to have a music notation program installed on your computer. I recommend trying MuseScore 3 which is completely free and easy to use. You can download it from here: MuseScore 3
To better organize the content I will break it down into chapters and sections like this:
• What characterizes an easy piano song?
• How to simplify parts without ruining the tune
• Skipping difficult parts of the song
• A music score before and after simplification
What Characterizes An Easy Piano Song?
I believe that an easy piano song should have two characteristics:
- Being relatively easy to play for anyone with skills above the level of difficulty of the song.
- Providing simple challenges to those with skills corresponding to the level of the song.
An experienced musician will always be able to understand the level of the song based on the notes and arrangements. The notes, what you might call the images of the music, should tell the musician how the music goes and to a large extent how it is played. That’s why reading music notes is such an important ability when playing a musical instrument.
One of my previous articles on how to read musical notes can be found here:
How to read music notes – improve your musical skills
• Key signature; (number of fixed signs)
• Time signature; (number of counts per beat)
• Speed; (the number above or below 120 bpm will give you a clue)
• The number of short note values; (faster note jumps = more demanding finger technique)
• Note intervals; (long or short distance between notes)
• Modulations; (when the song changes key along the way)
How To Simplify Parts Without Ruining The Tune
If songs and compositions are to be played at a more comprehensible level, certain parts may need to be simplified. The trick is to do it without ruining or changing the original tune too much.
• Key signature
The first step is to look at whether the key is too difficult. It can advantageously be changed to a simpler one without many fixed signs. The easiest keys to play are C major / A minor but sometimes they are either too high or too low for the melody line. G major / E minor and F major / D minor usually work well and they are easy to relate to with just one fixed sign.
• Time signature
It’s not very much to do with the beat of a melody. Sometimes you can change it from 4 to 3 measures per beat but it doesn’t always work.
The speed of a tune can always be adjusted to what suits you best. Especially when practicing more difficult parts of the tune, it would make sense to choose a slower speed, at least at the beginning of the rehearsal.
• Note values
A tune usually consists of both short and long note values. Once the performer is trained, the music should be played as accurately as it is written. For beginners who need a simpler version, difficult elements of the arrangement need to be simplified or rewritten, and preferably without changing too much on the original. This can present challenges and sometimes you have to compromise to find good solutions. Sometimes short notes can be made into fewer or longer ones, but of course only if it doesn’t change too much on the tune.
• Note intervals
To make certain notes easier to play, the distance (intervals) between them can be made shorter. A note jump from, for example, middle C to high F can be shortened by moving F eight notes down, ie one octave down. The F note is still the F note only with a lower pitch. The figure below shows how this can be done:
Moving (transposing) notes like this must not be exaggerated as it will eventually affect the melody’s tone range and character. I would, therefore, recommend being careful about making too many such changes, only where it is useful and necessary.
Another tool to simplify a song is to put on fingers. Finger numbers on some of the notes in certain places will provide more flow and make playing easier.
• Single notes
One last tip would be to play only single notes in both the right and left hand. By doing so, the notation becomes much easier to relate to and still sound okay. Gradually it becomes natural to play multiple notes, but in the beginning, this method can be very helpful.
Skipping Difficult Parts Of The Song
Sometimes a new song will have parts that are more difficult to learn, at least when you start playing. Why spend so much time on these parts? Skip everything complicated. Be smart and learn how to play the simplest parts first. You will learn the difficult parts as you practice and become more familiar with the song.
Many also learn to play the piano by chords. Since the chords are based on one another, the simplest chords should be learned first and eventually the more difficult ones. And always in a logical order. The figures below show the relationship between the four basic C chords:
When a song changes key along the way, it’s called modulation. The modulation usually comes at the very end of the song and often in connection with an extra repetition of the chorus. As a rule, the song modulates a half-tone upward.
A song does not need to be modulated, and if the performer is not experienced it will only complicate things. Modulation is thus another element that you can easily skip.
A Music Score Before And After Simplification
To conclude “How easy piano songs?” I will show you how a medium easy level score can be simplified to an easy beginner level. I have chosen “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie “Titanic” performed by Céline Dion as an example.
The original arrangement offers a bit of each and much of it can be removed. First, I remove the intro and simplify the melody line with more equal note values. Furthermore, I let both hands play single notes only and simplify the repetitions. Since the key is F-major and easy to play, I have chosen not to change it. I also put on some new fingering, mostly for the left hand. The score has now become much easier and clearer. That’s all it took. “My Heart Will Go On” is now a beginner’s easy piano song.
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on “How Easy Piano Songs” and how to assess skills and content. As a music teacher, I have simplified scores and arrangements quite a few times. A customized program is important for learning, especially for the youngest students. There is also a lot of good teaching material at the publishers, but be sure to check the level of difficulty and the recommended skill level.
If you have any questions about the topic, please post them below and I will be more than happy to answer.
Until next time!