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Familiar Patriotic Songs Review by Andrea Jones

Arranged by Madonna Woods
Davidson's Music, Inc.
6727 Metcalf
Shawnee Mission, KS 66204

This fun piano book of 13 familiar songs of our country was written with the early piano student in mind. While it can be used by any piano beginner who has learned the five-finger hand position at middle C, Mrs. Woods wrote the lessons to correspond to her Piano Course for Christians. Each lesson begins with notes on music terms, note recognition, and counting of beats and simple explanations of key and time signature. For example, the first selection, "My Country 'Tis of Thee," includes notes on the definition of Lento (the speed at which the song is to be played) and the beats of an eighth rest, eighth note, and a dotted quarter. Concluding each lesson are a few sentences on the song's origin. These are the kind of lessons every homeschool mom strives toward--simple, practical, and meaningful.

By the end of the 13 lessons, your piano student will learn how to identify the key signature and what the time signature means. By answering questions, the student is able to explain what he knows as lessons progress. I was impressed by how simply the lesson notes were written and how easy it would be to teach from them.

Playing songs that are familiar will make the lessons enjoyable and encourage singing along. However, some songs may be difficult to sing along with due to the key they are arranged in. Understandably, this cannot be helped when writing music for beginning students. Many of the songs include several verses, which may motivate students to practice a little longer so that each verse is played. Because of the length of songs such as "Dixie," the student will need to turn pages, possibly frustrating a beginner.

On the other hand, the selection of songs included in this simple book is fantastic. Who wouldn't want to learn to play and sing along to tunes like "You're a Grand Old Flag," "The Marine's Hymn," "Yankee Doodle," and our own national anthem? Personally, I found the built-in history lessons to be a huge plus.

At $12, the price of Familiar Patriotic Songs is comparable to other piano instruction books, and it comes with a companion CD. While there is no slick cover or colorful pages, the black-and-white graphics are appropriate and not too distracting. Music and lessons are easy to read. The only addition I would make is accompaniment for an advanced pianist to play along.

Mrs. Woods has invested many hours to provide a curriculum that anyone can use in teaching a child to play the piano. Check out for a complete listing of materials or request a catalog from their website.

I am inspired to use this book and plan on purchasing others to begin my children's Christian piano instruction. I can't wait to hear them pecking at the piano and belting out "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Product review by Andrea Jones, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2009