Teaching Boys Piano – Repertoire Ideas

Teaching Boys Piano – Repertoire Ideas

teaching boys repertoire

Most of my career has focussed on all-boys education. I believe there are many merits to single-sex schooling, especially when it comes to the arts. However, this is not a post about co-ed versus single sex schooling, rather it’s about repertoire that I have found resonates really well when teaching boys.

In my experience, boys feel a greater need than girls to study pieces which resonate with them early on and which will sound and look good when performed in front of people. Boys love nothing more than being able to show-off to friends by playing cool stuff that other people recognise – the opening chords of a pop song, the piano riff from a cool dance track or a famous movie theme.

Although I’m generalising, I feel that girls are more content playing pieces recommended by their teachers and they don’t have the same concern about how their playing will be perceived by others (i.e. whether it’s ‘cool’ or not). Hence, I believe that finding repertoire for girls is probably a little easier than for boys on the whole.

Now this post won’t be all that relevant if the boys you teach already practice four hours a day and are doing their Diploma at age eight. Rather, it is about engaging those students who are already in three sports teams, do karate and study another language on the weekend; i.e. those kids who love the piano but don’t necessarily have hours to devote to it and who may well quit if they don’t get a chance to play at least some music of interest to them.

What works with boys?

Now to the music. I still find it fascinating how an engaging title can really capture (or a bad title can ruin!) a boy’s imagination, even if the music isn’t all that brilliant! Call a piece “Funnel-web spider”, “Train Crash” or “The Chase” and you have roped many boys in before they’ve even heard how it sounds!

On the flip-side, I generally avoid giving boys pieces with titles to do with roses, tea parties and flower dances. Call it sexist, but it’s an important factor in my experience. The music might be brilliant, but an unappealing title may have a subconsciously negative effect.

I’m not sure it’s true to say that most boys like the “Indian Drums” kinds of pieces with lots of 5ths in the LH (although many do) or pieces that are just loud and rambunctious. Sometimes it’s quite the contrary.

I have noticed however, that many teen boys like rhythmic, arpeggiated music especially if it has unexpected and unusual changes of harmonies, even if the pieces themselves are quite repetitive. Pieces that look harder than they are, are always a winner too. Film music is great too – see my post Creating a Buzz with Piano Film Music.

Recommended pieces for teaching boys

With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of some composers, pieces and books that I’ve found really successful with boys, in the hope that this may be of interest to other teachers. I know how easy it is to get stuck in a rut of just teaching the same old pieces over and over (or, heaven forbid, only teaching from the same exam books year after year!!).

Just click the link to see where to find the music online.

Beginners/First Year:

  • Supersonics Piano – by Daniel McFarlane. Heaps of options in here. Brilliant, fun music with exciting titles! Seriously – don’t skip this one!

Check out my video demonstrating some of Daniel’s great music. For links, head to my blog post: 15 of the Best Pieces for Boys by Daniel McFarlane



…and, of course, plenty more!

Also make sure you check out my comprehensive Teaching Boys Piano resources page with research, links and more help if you teach boys in your studio.

What are your favourite pieces for boys?

Leave your thoughts below.

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at staging.topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as integrated teaching, creativity, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

 feeling inspired? 

teaching boys repertoire
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. This is a fantastic list! Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for taking the time to review.

  2. Tim that list is absolutely brilliant and just what I need thank you soooooo much!!

  3. Hello Tim,
    Am looking for books I can buy in pdf format with a studio license – classical music in particular. Beginner level to early intermediate. Any suggestions?

  4. My son loved learning and playing a simplified version of Toccata and Fugue in D minor after he realised it was the same music as in Tom and Jerry!

    • Hahaha! Well I haven’t heard that one before, but I did love the Toccata when I was a boy 🙂

  5. Great ideas! Many thanks. Gillock’s “New Orleans Jazz Styles” is also a good one, as is the Martha Mier series “Jazz, Rags and Blues”.

  6. Thank you thank you. Love the current ideas!

  7. Have you ever played Jon Schmidt music? Check out The Piano Guys on YouTube. My boy students LOVE Schmidt. All of Me, Waterfall, etc. Love his music.

    • Hi Jan

      Thanks for the suggestion. I’m familiar with the Piano Guys from either amazing YouTube videos, but didn’t realise that one of them was a composer as well so thanks for the heads-up. I’ve been looking into his music and found that much of what I can see online at least is quite difficult music. Can you let me know the favourite pieces your boys like and whether there is any stuff in the easier category that is popular too??

      Thanks for contributing to my blog!

      • Most of Schmidt’s music is more advanced, but he has an easy piano book for beginners called “67 Fun Songs” that have a few excerpts of his popular songs in easy form. The two favorites are Waterfall and All of Me, which you can hear on youtube.
        (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fAZIQ-vpdw). So fun to play.

        Another one that you can hear on the PianoGuys channel is by Jarrod Radnich, Pirates of the Carribean. My older teenagers are having a great time with it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzGgX1DihPw&feature=relmfu

  8. […] Teaching boys – repertoire ideas […]

  9. This book was a lifesaver for me: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/5-Finger-Movie-Heroes/19120993 I had 7 new boy students beginning in my studio last year and I’ve used this book with every single on of them and each little boy has gone from disinterest in piano to excited because of this book. There are more in this series at different levels but I use the 5-finger one because it grabs their attention as soon as possible!

  10. Hi Tim,

    Have you seen the series “Jazz Connection” (3 books) by Eric Baumgartner? There are some great piece for boys!

    • Hi Daniel – I’m not familiar with it so will have to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. Thank you thank you thank you. My 11-year old boy is practising and enjoying playing to the point I have to stop him (time to go to school, for instance) when he plays something he likes, and dragged crying to the piano by me to practise even 5 minutes when he has to play something indifferent to him. And I was running out of ideas. (tip: on beginner’s/intermediate level the Naruto-songs have been a great hit at our music school).

    • Wow – wonderful news!! Doesn’t get better than that! Thanks so much for the feedback. I’ll check out Naruto – is that Anime music?

  12. Hi Kym – so glad this was useful for you! Good luck with your teaching and let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

  13. This is exactly what I have been searching for – thankyou! I recently started teaching a 7 year old (my first male student) & he’s been super challenging for me. I’m constantly trying to think of new things to do or ways for him to concentrate and your post hit the nail on the head regarding his attitude. He wants to sound cool – but being an absolute beginner I’ve been struggling for ways of teaching him and making that somehow happen. This is super helpful. 🙂

more Repertoire, Teaching Boys posts

from our blog

contact us

Reach out to learn more about our multi-teacher memberships