The iconic traditional piano duet ‘Heart and Soul’ is an amazing gem. The chord progression is satisfying to play. The melody is catchy. As a duet, it brings people together. Even people with little piano background can play Heart and Soul and experience the joy of playing the piano.
Heart and Soul beautifully lends itself to being taught by rote. And, while our students are staying safe at home with their families, it offers you a unique opportunity to teach them music that they can in turn teach their other family members.
While real-time teacher duets are no longer possible because of delays in internet transmission, students might be able to play this simple and enjoyable piece with family members at home. Or, they’ll be able to play along with the videos provided in this series.
Treat Heart and Soul simply as one piece of repertoire that your student is learning, alongside all of the other pieces they are working on. Begin by teaching the music to your student as you would any rote piece. Study the blog posts and watch the videos first for ideas.
This teacher intro post opens up a complete suite of blog posts that you can share directly with your students to help them practice between lessons. Ideally, you would share only one until your student has mastered the music or challenge, and then share the next one. It is recommended that you use the student-centred posts in this order:
Learning and Playing the Duet
Fun Intro to Keyboard Harmony
The following three posts use Heart and Soul as an introduction to keyboard harmony. It is recommended that you teach them sequentially in the following order:
Unlocking creativity at the piano
The following two posts explore being creative with improvisation and composition. Heart and Soul helps break down fears and sets students on the thrilling path of making up their own music at the piano!
Fine Print: For teachers only
The fun of this unit is revealing only a little at a time. When you begin with your students, keep the whole plan in mind but only focus on one step at a time. Each week or two when you add a new layer (and share a new link), it will be like a surprise.
This one simple traditional arrangement of the popular song Heart and Soul holds so much potential to teach basic music skills like improvising and transposing, and basic harmony like primary chords and relative minors and majors.
My personal back story with Heart and Soul. In my small rural elementary school, we had music class several times a week. But it wasn’t in music class that I learned how to play Heart and Soul. No — it happened before and after gym class. Our class lined up in the narrow hallway next to the gym on the polished green and black checkered tile floor. We tried to stand quietly as we waited for our teacher to be ready to begin gym class. But jammed in the narrow hallway there was an ‘old clunker’ of a piano. Several ivories were missing, the wooden appliques were chipping off and the tones were wobbly and out of tune. But it was a piano we had access to. No one stopped us from playing it. In the absence of our teacher — who knows what she was doing, maybe gathering gym equipment — we kids had enough time alone with that piano to pass on many rote gems of music. Heart and Soul was one. I was one of the lucky kids who was also in piano lessons, but there were many who weren’t. In these moments we all learned how to bang out a few decent tunes. It was the piano equivalent of playground chants, skipping games and clapping songs. It was an oral tradition, kid to kid. I wonder these days if any of that is still going on. I loved playing Heart and Soul. I played it endlessly at home, and because I had no duet partner, learned how to play the whole thing on my own (bouncing my left hand the octave between the bass line and chords while my right hand played the tune). I later used it to memorize the primary chords and as a shortcut to find relative minors. This entire Heart and Soul unit is based on my own experiences with this music as a child. I hope your students have fun and learn a lot!
In short, Heart and Soul is motivating. It can spur on the absorption of several key skills and key points in music theory and harmony.
Teach it to all of your students!
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Video of the Week
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Intermediate, Level 5) is written in the popular and irresistible piano swing style. From the print and eBook Titanic, A Voyage in Piano Music, Early to Late Intermediate Piano Solos. Check out the eSheet for The Unsinkable Molly Brown!