When I see a new piano or voice student for their first lesson, I often ask them what their favourite song is? After all, one of the primary reasons someone decides to learn a musical instrument is so that one day they will be able to play or sing that “favourite song.” But, what about when the favourite song is something too difficult for the beginner student? Will they need to wait years and years before they are able to play that piece? The answer is yes and no. Perhaps it will take many years to be able to play the piece just the way it sounds in it’s original form, but that doesn’t mean that even a beginner student can’t play a part of the piece now. Talk to your teacher and before you know it, you’ll be playing that song you’ve always dreamed of.
First, focus on the melody. Maybe it’s a really long song, and the part you like is a line from the chorus. Don’t worry about learning the whole entire thing at once!! Start with the part of the song that interests you and then try to pick out the melody on your instrument. Get your teacher to help you. Your teacher can guide you to know whether the notes move up or down. Your teacher will use methods like “rote” and “ear training” to help you remember your melody. Basically, they can show you how to play little sections of the song, and you repeat them back until you can play them from memory.
After you’ve figured out the melody, your teacher can show you how to add chords. Any student can do this, no matter how beginner you are. Chords are patterns; and thus, easy to memorize. If you have small hands, your teacher can show you a pattern that will fit. If you have bigger hands, you may be able to play octaves or broken chords. Once you’ve memorized the pattern, your favourite piece will start to sound more and more like you remember hearing it.
Learning songs by rote and by ear is simple, even though it does take some time. However, many complicated classical pieces would be too hard and too long to learn by these methods. That’s where “easy piano” (or guitar, flute, etc.) arrangements come in. Most famous tunes have several published arrangements that are easier to play, but still sound like the original. Ask your teacher if the piece you like is arranged for your current skill level. By having print music, you can work even on your own time learning your favourite piece.
I know many of my students signed up for lessons specifically to learn one song! Don’t think you can’t do it! Ask your teacher to help you learn the song you’ve always dreamed of playing.