I generally avoid the boxing day sales – rushing around and getting stressed is not a great activity to do on a full stomach, come boxing day you’ll most likely find me relaxing at home with some delicious leftovers and a book. But I’m also not one to sniff at the prospect of saving money. Many music stores will join the end-of-year markdowns, especially when it comes to their Christmas books. You can expect 30%-50% off Christmas stock, as music shops will much prefer to sell them at a lower price than store them for an entire year. There are online bargains to be had as well – with many online sellers not charging postage these can be great bargains. As an example, Sheet Music Plus is taking 30% off selected Christmas music.
When purchasing music for your child, it’s a good idea to ask their teacher if the book is appropriate for their skill level. There is nothing more disappointing than attempting to play something impossible, and nothing more boring than playing something that is much too easy. If you already have a Christmas music book, simply buy the next level up. If your child is learning from a ‘method’ book, you can usually match the level they are at with an appropriate Christmas book. Bastien, Faber and Alfred all have Christmas books to suit each level.
It is important to consider the skill of your child when buying books a year in advance. How quickly do they learn? Will they advance by one level or two this year? It’s also important to consider how difficult you want the Christmas music to be for them. When I teach my students I like to have one piece being ‘polished’, one (or more, depending on age and ability) piece pushing them into their zone of proximal development*, and one ‘easy’ piece that the student can learn relatively quickly. This ‘easy’ piece is important as it gives the student a sense of immediate gratification, pleasure in playing and confidence in their skills. Because such a piece does not have difficult rhythms, notes or technique, it allows the student to focus on mastering the simple techniques perfectly and encourages discipline and control in their playing. From late November I like to use Christmas carols as these ‘easy’ pieces. This means that the student will have learnt a few Christmas carols in time to play them confidently at Christmas. For this reason I generally keep the Christmas books six months to a year behind the skill level of the student. However, you may not wish to do this, or you may wish to have a mix of levels available.
Purchasing digital sheet music is always tempting at Christmas as students will rarely play through an entire book of Christmas carols in one go. Interestingly, the digital Christmas music is also on sale at this time. If you do decide to purchase digital sheet music, store it safely on a hard drive and when it is printed out keep all the Christmas music together in one scrapbook – this means that come Christmas time your child will be able to take out the one book and play through all the old Christmas carols they learnt in previous years.