How to Find Great Repertoire Your Students Love

Look at your repertoire bookcases.  How did you choose the books that were placed there?  Hopefully, your shelves are filled with great teaching repertoire that your students love. 

I’ve been sucked in by marketing (hello, “Peanuts Activity Book”) or purchasing a book because “my student already has this so I should buy it”.  And, I can say with certainty that it is better to be careful what goes into my repertoire library.

The question I ask myself these days is …

Is it a matter of marketing, need or pedagogy? 

The “Everyone Trap”

Don’t you love that there is an answer for “everything” online?  Within seconds you can find multiple options to solve almost any question.

However, there is the danger of falling into the “everyone trap”.

Whether it is a method book series, educational resource or pedagogical book, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Online Results

When you do a Google search there is a danger of falling into this trap.  It isn’t that Google is wrong.  It’s just giving you the answer it thinks you want based on the wording of your request.

Take a look at the results & see if the first several websites all say the same thing.  Try modifying your wording.

Fellow teachers

“I don’t rely on online searches, Rosemarie.  I ask other teachers.”

Fair enough.

But, are their teaching styles the same as yours or different?

Often, we spend time with people who are most like us.  That doesn’t make us bad teachers.  Just human.

To counteract this, it’s important to spend time with teachers that have diverse approaches.

For example at a recent APTA get together, the topic of using technology in lessons came up.  You know that I use tech in each & every lesson.  However, there was a teacher who said she decided a long time ago not to use any technology in her studio.  You may have an image in your mind of this teacher & what her belief systems are.  But, I wonder if you’re right?

It is the way she differentiates her studio from all the other studios.  She made a choice to still do creative activities that ensure students are exploring music in many ways.  She just doesn’t use any technology to do it.

This teacher does not have the same approach to teaching nor does she use the same resources that I do.  But, I have learnt from her exactly for those reasons.  Through her sharing I’ve been exposed to new ideas, resources & ways of approaching teaching that I don’t typically get through my online searches.

Focus on Pedagogy

We are teachers.  And that means that our job is to use the best educational practices & resources to help our students learn the material.  Regardless of the subject.

Back in the day, when I still taught in the school system, I remember looking through the approved resource list for junior high Social Studies.  Imagine my shock when several of the resources referred to the U.S.S.R. as if it still existed.  That means that particular resource list had books that were a minimum of 16 years out of date.  When I looked through the Music resource list several years later, almost every single book was out of print.

Update your resources regularly

Research gets updated.  Our students today are much different than they were 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

So, why would you fill your bookshelves with the same resources for that whole time?

Ask other teachers (online & in person) what their favourite books are & why.  When you come upon a new answer, check it out!

Some of the best resources you find may come from unexpected places.  Give them a chance & you may be surprised.  It may just be the repertoire that your students love.

Check it against a list of outcomes

My repertoire bookshelf is getting full.  I’m guessing you have the same conundrum.

Which means we need to channel a little Marie Kondo & think about our purchases.  Even though buying a whole bunch of books feels pretty amazing in the moment. 

Before purchasing, look at the music to see that it meets the pedagogical needs of your students at that level.

If you are not sure what you should teach at each level, click below.

How to create a leveled program plan for your studio!

Knowing exactly what you want your students to learn means you can focus on repertoire that your students love and teaches them exactly what they need to learn in order to move forward.

Repertoire that your students love

It is no good purchasing pedagogically sound repertoire if your students drag their feet while playing it.

We’ve all been there.  The student “forgets” to practice a song for a week.  Then, two.  Then, three.  And, no amount of practice within lesson seems to change it.

This is a sure sign that while the music may be pedagogically sound, it is not repertoire that your student loves.

When choosing repertoire, listen for:

  • Similarity in sound to music your student already loves.
    • If you don’t know which artists your students listen to, find out.
  • Interesting parts without a bunch of unnecessary complication.
    • This holds students back as they focus on how “hard” the song is rather than how great it is to play.
    • Think “looks hard, but is easy to play”.

Where to look

As much as we need to be on guard for sticking with the same old resources, asking other teachers as well as looking online are both good places to look for great repertoire.

Oftentimes as I work I listen to various playlists & keep a running list of music that my students tell me about.  Not only do my kids & I love a little carpool karaoke, but it helps me hear trends in music.

Since our students want at least some choices that sounds like their favourite music, we should include these trends in new resources.

You don’t necessarily need to purchase books of the latest pop songs.  Because this changes so often, those books will probably gather dust on your shelves.  Use sheet music instead to save space.

Or you can take a page from arrangers & use existing repertoire in new ways.  What would a Classical era piece sound like with a basic pop accompaniment pattern?

Remembering to look at potential music with a two-pronged approach (pedagogy & student enjoyment) will lead to bookshelves filled with repertoire that your students love!

Wondering how to pick repertoire that fits your student’s level?  Click below for your FREE “Method Book Cheat Sheet” PDF.

Get your FREE Method Book Cheat Sheet!


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