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  • Writer's pictureandreahywong

Arrangement: In the Summertime

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

by Mungo Jerry for RCM Piano Level 2

I have a piano student that is around RCM Level 2 who was recommended to me by a friend just this past summer who was a bit of a unique case across all of my current students. His enjoyment for learning piano was dwindling, his mother found value in learning a musical instrument, and thus they were hoping to find a teacher to encourage him to play and in particular, songs he would enjoy.


I usually teach classical piano. I’m not opposed to teaching other genres but it’s definitely what I grew up learning, and what I am more familiar and knowledgeable in (e.g. I do not feel qualified nor comfortable at ALL teaching say, jazz piano). I had the odd Disney and pop song in my learning repertoire, but it was definitely primarily classical.


But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning, and I think this is a different case than my other students! For a child that is dedicated to learning piano, perhaps even indifferent to the material and style that they learn, classical piano can be a good fit. However, for a student with diminishing desire to learn music at all, and a growing dislike for piano, I agreed with the mother that learning songs he would enjoy was rather important. So, naturally, I asked what songs he liked, and boy does he have great taste in music!


I’ll have to write down some floating thoughts I’ve had regarding learner-centred music education in a #futurepost. For now, I thought I’d document some fun things I looked at while arranging In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry for my RCM Level 2 piano student. It turns out, my student liked a lot of music his father listened to, hence this song from the 70s! This arrangement took about an hour from start to sending it to the student’s mother. A fun one!


Key. Technique.

To start this arrangement, I had to select a key; the number of black keys, sharps or flats, was a consideration and right from here I consulted RCM’s 2015 piano syllabus to see what was appropriate at this student’s level.

The above chart is taken from the Level 2 Technical Requirements section of that syllabus. I wanted the arrangement to be fun but not too easy, so instead of arranging it in C Major, I decided I wanted at least 1 sharp or flat in the key signature for the reader to navigate. I ended up going with F Major instead of G Major to encourage familiarity with Bb (an odd 4th finger in its RH scale starting on its F tonic, unlike a G Major scale, which has the same standard fingering as C Major).


I find among many of my beginner students a discomfort and fear to move their hands around the keyboard. But with only 10 fingers, and a typical 1:1 finger-to-key ratio, that’s only making use of 10 keys on the entire 88-key span of the instrument! To instill some confidence in moving the hands around, I’ve simplified the LH accompaniment into a repeating 5-3-1-3 broken chord pattern of the basic harmony of the song. Once that pattern is mastered, it’s just a matter of finding the root note to be home free! ALSO: look at the root-position broken chords included in the LH – your favourite IV-V-I chords: Bb, C, F – all chords a Level 2 student would have learnt/learn. #thingsthatmakeAndreahappy




Ear Tests.


I simplified the form to shorten the duration of the song with a quick reminder of what repeat signs are and how to navigate different endings. I didn’t change much of the harmony or melody. Being this is a song that the student is already familiar with, I’d say the primary ear test is matching their memory of what the song sounds like, with what they are actively playing: finding the pitches and relative intervals, as well as sensible rhythmic placement. Which brings me to my next decisions…










Rhythm. Sight Reading.

You can see in the syllabus chart that the expected rhythmic note values for playing and clap/tapping are quite similar. There’s an additional dotted half note and quarter rest required in clapping vs. playing. However, because this isn’t a piece I intended for the student to merely sight-read once but rather practice (hopefully willingly and enjoyably!), I made the executive decisions to sneak in just a little more of a rhythmic challenge in there for him to isolate and practice.



dotted quarter note

Right in the first bar, I had the choice to do what many simplified piano arrangements do – simplify! However, instead of inserting three quarter note F’s, I decided to keep this dotted quarter. Just listen to how iconic this rhythm is in the opening banjo solo!

This would be manageable, and if not, a teachable moment to review dotted rhythms!


eighth rests, syncopation


I’d say the most rhythmically complex measure in this arrangement is in m.5 with the eighth rest right on beat 2. The coordination required in this bar alternates between both hands a lot! If I were to order all the eighth notes and determine if either both (B) hands, or only the right (R) or left (L) hand played the onset of a note (vs. holding a note, notated below with a dash -) it would look like this: B R L R L - B R.


That is vastly more complex than say, m. 7: B - L - L - L -.

I contemplated for a moment if I should simplify and push the placement of the RH D4 onto the downbeat of 3, but alas decided that could be another little moment to isolate and practice. Sometimes I feel oversimplifying a song can really take out all the juicy parts you love, you know? I didn’t want to change the character of the piece too much, and personally, I find the bounciness of this song contributes a lot to its personality! So stay the eighth rest did.


Suggested Fingering.

The last little touches of fingering I added were intended to be suggestions at potential hand position changes to make playing this easier. These suggestions were aimed at minimizing hand position movements – there’s already enough to do with the fingers and counting (ideally 😅). As mentioned before, the LH primarily moves a single pattern around three chords. The RH had more interesting movements and ranges of notes!




The player needs to run down an entire octave from F5 to F4 in the first two measures. That can be quite a quick movement for a beginner student, and I tried to remedy that with a re-placement of finger 4 from F5 to C5 in m.1. Since the next two measures are the same, I didn’t repeat the finger reminders, hoping the reader could recognize the pattern (so much of music is patterns!) and apply the already-learnt fingering.

Another moment, m. 5-7, required a great deal of dexterity (in fingers 3-4-5) and agility (faster eighth note values) from the RH.



Dynamics.

And we can’t forget dynamics! It’s incredible what a change in volume can cause in the overall effect of a moment; that extra addition of variation can do so much. I’ve added that little mf-p “echo” on the restatement of the first two measures and some crescendos. I considered having a differing second-repeat dynamic but thought that might be too much for the first piece of the year.



And there we have it! A Level 2 arrangement of In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry. Really loved doing this and looking forward to more!

If you happen to be interested in having a better quality (pdf) of this arrangement, please don’t hesitate to contact me!


Dec 2021 Update:

It’s been a few months since I first arranged this and I thought it’d be good to document how it went! I was really pleased to see that my student really loved having this song to play (he maybe practiced this a disproportional amount more than other things but… he’s enjoying playing something, and I don’t know if I've experienced anything more difficult in my piano teaching than instilling an enjoyment for playing that wasn’t already there). Following suggested fingering in addition to finding all the notes on the keyboard was certainly only taken as suggestion as there were many other things on the score for him to consider. As anticipated, the coordination in m. 5 and the additional RH challenge in m. 5-7 proved to require a small purple box of isolated practice but he figured it out. Overall, I’m happy to have assigned a familiar song for this student and will be doing so more in the future.

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