Every year I have a student who comes into lessons with a GREAT piano book from Santa. There is excitement for the music on both the parent and student side, but when I open it, the music is too hard. Learning piano is a long process and nothing is more of a motivation killer than having exciting music you're not able to play. Here are some helpful hints to avoid this problem, and a Facebook sized photo to share these ideas:
1. Look for supplementary books that go with the series the student is using.
Most piano methods have options of corresponding books incluing Pop, Christmas, Classical, Jazz, and Movie Music. Look at the student's level and method composer to find books to match. If you can't find what you're looking for, Faber and Faber and Alfred Primier have fabulous and several supplementary books. Usually matching the level numbers will get you close enough if it's from a different series.
2. If a student has been playing for less than a year (or close to) look for "Five-Finger" books.
Hal Leonard has a great series of Five-Finger books which cover Disney, Movies, and even music like Taylor Swift. The melody is split up between your 10 fingers and the student will get the same satisfaction of playing a song they know without the frustration of it being too hard.
3. "Easy Piano" DOES NOT MEAN EASY!!!! These are fabulous books for Intermediate players.
Easy Piano books are everywhere, but they are probably really meant for pianists who have taken lessons for at least 3 years, if not more. (I still enjoy them...) "Easy Piano" is a total trap! The hand coordination and rhythm is not something someone can try and figure out if they're not ready for it. This is the most common mistake made when buying music. If you have an intermediate student, these books are GREAT! They are simpler versions of songs they will know.
4. When in doubt, compare the music to their method books.
You can look at a piece of music and know if it's the same-ish level or not, even with advanced students, and even if you have no idea what you're looking at. Look at the amount of notes, size of notes, and if there are lots of notes at the same time. If the number of notes are about the same, it's probably okay.
5. Use the above ideas and go to sheetmusicplus.com!
Sheetmusicplus.com has page views of what the music looks like, always has sales, and has huge selections! Depending on where you live, if you do budget shipping, it can take a 1-2 weeks to arrive. Make sure you order with a few weeks to spare!
6. Ask your teacher for help!
Teachers are ALWAYS excited when a parent or student asks for extra music advice! We know what your student's strengths are and combining that with your knowledge of what they actually want to play can be a slam dunk, especially during the post Christmas slump that is about to happen when Christmas music gets put away.