Lately, I've taken to composing easy-to-play piano instrumentals that can quickly feel rewarding to master. I've published the first five of these on flat.io, a platform for composing, arranging and sharing sheet music notation.
Whether you're a piano teacher looking for new material to keep your students motivated or you're learning a keyboard instrument and want to sound great playing an easy piece, I'd be delighted to hear what you do with these songs.
Remember: when you're learning these songs, break them down to the smallest passages and there's no limit to how slow you take the tempo at first. You can always increase the tempo as you become familiar.
The Heart Knows
This first one is “The Heart Knows,” which I improvised at the piano after teaching my wife Amy. At the time I remembered a bit of my own beginnings as a young keyboardist and the types of pieces I was given to learn. I mixed in a bit of rock/pop sensibility to the composition and got this result.
The beginner pieces I was given as a child were very “square;” all quarter notes and half notes with no syncopation. For this piece I kept the simple fingerings and adherence to the C major scale but added some syncopated rhythms so beginners can more accurately capture the authentic feel of rock and pop.
This new tune introduces an accidental, a note not normally in the major scale of the song's key. In the key of C, any black key would be an accidental. When the left hand plays a B-flat (Bb in notation) in the transition between sections, it creates a dramatic musical moment a beginning pianist and their audience can enjoy.
Fun fact: I asked Amy to title the song and she came up with “Welcome Monday.” I hope your work or school weeks all start out cheerfully in this manner.
I composed the this song's main theme when I was just 13 years old and obsessed with my little Casio keyboard (which I've since passed on to my daughter). I just recently added a “B section” that I believe nicely complements the main theme. It was nice to co-write with my (much) younger self!
This tune's main theme gives the melody to the left hand while the right hand adds accompaniment that changes each time through. You'll hear some of these right hand patterns in much of the rock and pop that's featured keyboards since the 1980s. See if you can make the left-hand melody a bit louder than the right-hand accompaniment so it really shines through. Then pass the lead to the right hand in that new “B” section.
This more challenging song gets its title and its its style from the piano-based blues music heard in barrelhouses (bars) where the piano player would really get the audience up and moving. The driving rhythms of the left hand and the memorable melodies of the right hand would lay the early foundations in American music for what would later become rock-n-roll. Black artists like Pinetop Smith, “Cow Cow” Davenport, and Leroy Carr sounded like full bands when they sat down at the piano!
This is the first time I show you a key signature other than the key of C. Every line shows that F# and C# just after the treble or bass cleff. This simply means that every F or C that appears in the notation should be treated as F# or C# unless otherwise marked (remember my introducing accidentals in “Hello Monday”?) If an accidental is shown during a measure, it “wears off” by the next measure unless it's marked again.
This one is a slower, more simple entry into this fun and expressive style of music. To give the melody its distinct feel I added a “blue note," the lowered third followed by its natural (to the key) counterpart. In the key of D, the lowered third is an F-natural; the natural 3rd is F-sharp (F#).
If you've learned the blues scale, you're aware of the other blue note - the raised 4th. In this key of D, the raised 4th would be a G#. I didn't hear a good use of the raised 4th in this tune, but others are on the way!
Also keep in mind that we “swing” the eight notes, giving this song its jazzy, bluesy rhythm. When you see a pair of eight notes, you'd play the first eight note longer than usual, leaving less time for the second eight note. As the notation shows, a pair of eight notes should be treated as if it were a quarter note triplet followed by an eight note triplet.
Remember, there's no limit to how slowly you can play this song as you're getting familiar with it. Have fun adding a bit of swing to this one!
Salt and Sand
This is the first of my existing rock songs from my catalog of recorded tracks that I've transcribed for easy piano. I kept it in the original key so you can play along with the recording. It has the opening sax melody written for piano. I've also moved the vocal melody to the piano's right hand.
It's in the key of B-flat (Bb), so every B or E in the notation should be interpreted as B-flat or E-flat accordingly, unless otherwise marked.
I hope you have as much fun playing these songs on keyboard as I had creating them. If you create any video or audio recordings of yourself performing these songs for social media, you can tag me on any platform. If not, you can always privately send me your recording; I'd love to hear what you do with these!