Introducing Lead Sheets


Just a little snapshot of Caroline as she works on syncing up with a backing track from Supersonics Piano Plus. The pieces she’s working on come from the Supersonics Piano Blast Off! Galaxy Pack by Daniel McFarlane, which contains a whopping total of 576 pieces in 6 different keys. (C, G, D, A, F, and E).

Daniel’s reproducible book incorporates solid technique and lead sheet reading, so it’s a resource that I love to use with older beginners because it helps them sound awesome from Day 1. Before I introduce the backing tracks, I often improvise with my students to give them a sense of how much “fuller” the sound can be if we add more rhythmic and harmonic interest.

This resource is also a perfect precursor to introduce playing popular music! After a few weeks of studying pieces from this book, Caroline will be ready to explore sections of some of her favorite pop songs, in the key of C major of course.

(Note: I said “sections” — sometimes all you need is an introduction or a really cool sounding riff. You can always tackle the rest of the song later! Or maybe just that little bit will be enough for your student to be satisfied.)

Not sure about what songs are popular nowadays? Don’t worry, I’m not up to date either! Instead of listening to the radio, I just ask my students what they’ve been listening to lately. Here’s a glimpse of one of my student’s “Top 10” lists:


Abbey’s start to a “Top 10” list from this week.

This fancy looking chart is a great way to get your student thinking about songs that they might want to explore.  And of course, it’s free… just click the image to download.

P.S. Interested in learning more about lead sheet and chord chart reading? Check out this excellent podcast by Tim Topham on the Creative Piano Teaching Podcast: How to Teach Lead Sheets and Chord Charts with Susan Deas. Studies show that students who learn these skills are more likely to continue playing the piano later in life! (It’s true. Just ask my husband!)

P.P.S. Looking for an alternative to a music conference? The Upbeat Piano Teachers webinars come with unlimited access, multiple teachers on single topics like technology, building your studio, and teaching group lessons. Best of all? No travel required. 😉


Are you teaching any pop songs in your studio? Share in the comments! 

Last week I helped a student learn “All Star” by Smash Mouth. (That was a throwback to my senior year of high school.)

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