50+ Amazing Things You Can Teach Using Pop Music


Yesterday, I launched my free eCourse, Teach Pop Piano.  Here’s an article about it.  This “mini-course” will only be available until Saturday, October 22.  If you are interested in trying it out for free, click here.


This list is just the beginning for what you can do teaching pop music.  I hope these 50+ ideas open your mind to even more creative thought.  By the way, here’s a printable pdf version of this post.  (This list assumes you teach pop music not just with sheet music, but with chord charts, lead sheets, and by rote.)

Have a great time teaching!




Arpeggios (Tip: student plays arpeggios while the teacher plays the melody OR student plays arpeggios in one hand and the melody in the other)

Circle of Fifths

Chord Voicings (Pop music is perfect for this, because you can change the voicings with the student and experiment to find sounds they like)

Common Chord Progressions

(More on this in a future post)

Primary Chords and Secondary Chords

Triads / Seventh Chords / Extended Chords / Diatonic Triads / Diatonic Seventh Chords


Chord Inversions (Tip: Play through the chords in root position and then identify the chord inversions that use the least movement)

Learn Chord Symbols

Do your students know the following symbols?

C-7 or C+ or CΔ or C6 or sus2 or sus4 or N.C. or slash chords…

(If they don’t, try out my Beginner’s Guide To Reading Chord Charts.)

Learn to play (or write) Chord Charts

Learn to play (or write) Lead Sheets

Learn to play (or write) the Nashville Number System

Harmonizing The Melody (give them only the melody and have them figure out the chords that accompany)

Filling In Below The Melody (for example, if the right hand has the melody, adding additional notes in the right hand for a fuller sound)

Major and Minor Keys

Teach multiple songs in the same key

Teach the same pop song in multiple keys

Student learns a song, then transposes a song to another key

Student listens to pop songs and tries to find the key as quick as possible

Scale Degrees (analyze the scale degree tendencies in a pop song melody)

Train The Ear To Hear Simple Intervals (Tip: keep it simple… Is it going up or down?  Is it moving a step or a skip?)

Playing Intervals

Harmonic Intervals (Tip: analyze the accompaniment or play the melody in parallel intervals, like thirds or sixths)

Melodic Intervals (analyze a pop song melody)

Scales (tip: teach one and then try to play a song with that scale)

Major scales / Minor scales / Pentatonic scales (used commonly in pop music)

Song Structure (Have them listen for changes in the song i.e. verse, chorus, bridge, etc.  (Bonus: then have them listen for “changes” in an instrumental piece)

Roman Numeral Analysis (analyze a chord chart and add roman numerals)

Practicing Octaves (play the melody or bass line in octaves)

Fingering (determine the best fingering for the melody of a pop song)


Arrange a pop song with them

Look at other people’s arrangements of pop songs and learn from them


Analyze the chord progressions, melodies, rhythms and then copy them

Playing by ear

Try learning the melody by ear

Try learning the harmony by ear

Try both



Improvise on a pop songs chord progression

Improvise using the same notes of the verse or chorus


Help your students to count out loud while they play

Playing with a steady beat (Tip: play along with the recording)

Harmonic Rhythm vs. Surface Rhythm


Time signature

Student listens to pop songs and tries to identify time signatures

Hand Independence

Ensemble Playing (Tip: you accompany them while they play the melody or vice versa)



Voicing The Melody

Maintain A Musical Line


Listen to a pop song and write out the dynamics you hear. (Tip: don’t forget to write crescendos and diminuendos)

Make up dynamics for a piece while only looking at the lyrics, then play them


Technique (why limit this to technique exercises?)

Practice Skills

Posture (Tip: say “whenever you play this song, you have to sit like this”) 🙂

And So Much More!!!



I hope you enjoyed this post!  Again, you can get a free printable version of this post here, or you can check out my free eCourse Teach Pop Piano.

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