Updated: Jul 26
*all excerpt images of the sheet music are used with the permission of the composer.
If you or your students have a sweet tooth, this piano music collection by Canadian composer, Janet Gieck, is an absolute must-have in your library! I first came across Old Tyme Candy Shoppe in a teacher workshop, and immediately fell in love with one of the featured pieces, Salt Water Taffy.
These short pieces (no longer than two pages) are great as study pieces for preparatory levels up to late intermediate levels. I use these for sight reading excercises and children love the fun, catchy titles that they can relate to.
Here are some of our favourites in our studio:
Salt Water Taffy
This is a great piece to teach by rote, and is a black-keys exploration piece utilizing octave jumps and hand cross-overs. If your students are already exploring Preparatory level repertoire, this is a fun supplement to learn by rote. Many of my students enjoy performing this at festivals.
I bought some salt water taffy candy from Bulk Barn for students to eat when they learn this piece. My goal was to have them feel the crunch and chewy/sticky movements when tasting this candy. We learn to articulate the piece in the same way with the marked staccatos and legatos.
The piece is first introduced with a performance by me. I always invite the student to move freely in a stationary spot, and feel the rhythm of the piece as I perform it. On the second playing, I invite the student to keep moving but this time, have a hand tap or clap on a steady beat. I tell them, "Now, your hands are acting as a metronome!"
Even though it is a rote piece, I find it helpful for all students to visualize how it looks on the score even if they are not able to read the notes. It is visible to us at all times, while we learn to hear, co-ordinate and work the patterns. After experiencing the piece aurally, the children are able to distinguish repeating patterns quickly, and recognizing the singing melody lines that are distinct for each phrase.
For this piece, the opening two measures can be seen as crunching/chewing candy, and the following two measures as the sticky candy feeling that has been chewed upon. I use the phrase, "Crunch, crunch, hold!" to emphasize crisp, staccato touch, and sing using the syllable yum to the notes under the slur. This pattern repeats in the second line, an octave lower, with the left hand now starting the "crunching" sounds.
Exploring A Major in the pentascale position and triple meter, this is a good sight reading piece for students who are reading intervals well. There are lots of ledger lines and switching of hand positions but they all stay within the five-finger position. The challenge for the student is usually finding the starting points/landmarks of the start of each new phrase. This is also a great introductory piece to have students understand the "question & answer" phrases of a piece.
As a preparatory excercise, I usually teach the student a week before - the A Major Pentascale, and get them used to playing the pentascale at different locations on the keyboard. This also challenges the student to pinpoint landmark locations in different octaves quickly, with alternate switching of hands moving up and down the keyboard.
Prior to learning the whole phrase, we can help the student feel familiar with the starting notes of each measure, and just work the landing of these notes, with the right fingers and hand a few times.
The piece starts off in the bass position, moving upwards for the first two lines. The only variation occurs in the five-finger position of the "question" melody, and the "answer" melody. Sometimes I use the rhyme “Rain - bow High” (mm. 3 - 4) and “Rain - bow Low” (mm. 7-8) for students that find it a little challenging working the difference between the two phrases.
I’m a big believer in having students play pieces which cover as much as the keyboard as soon as they are ready. If your preparatory student is able to memorize patterns well by rote and has a good grasp of music alphabets and the keyboard geography, this could be a pleasant solo showpiece for a recital!
Melting Ice Cream
Gieck's short piano character pieces are not only for preparatory level students. These fun and interesting candy character pieces are so useful for sight reading excercises for teens, especially when they are developing confidence in reading four flats and sharps.