I think, like most piano teachers, we use particular pieces to emphasize different things to our students. We may have a favorite piece to introduce students to staccato. We may have a special piece we use to introduce students to the alberti bass pattern.
I always use the Burgmuller Arabesque to give students a wake up call that their left hand needs to be as agile as their right hand. I use the Handel Sarabande to help students play chords with a rich and sonorous tone. One piece that I find especially fine for teaching students to study and analyze a musical composition is a very nice, often neglected piece from Bela Bartok's For Children -- The Handsome Rooster. Here is The Handsome Rooster. I have it color coded to highlight the three major ideas expressed in this piece. Interestingly, each idea is repeated three times; BLUE, RED, GREEN - BLUE, RED. GREEN - BLUE, RED GREEN
The first idea is in BLUE. The interesting thing about this theme is that the theme is treated differently with each repetition.
The first time the theme is written is 3 parts. The parts are transparent enough where the student can see each part rather easily. The phrasing makes this clear.
The second repetition where the main theme is given a canonic like treatment with the main theme coming in the bass one measure later.
The final repetition of the theme is very chordal and monophonic. So in this interesting little piece one finds a lot of learning. The student can observe in how a theme can be expressed in several different ways. Those differences make for a much more interesting composition than if the theme was repeated the same way all three times. Drawing attention to the student these differences helps him become aware that a composition is much more than a right hand melody part and a left hand accompaniment part.
So much introductory material written, especially in method books, is melody and accompaniment that I think it's a good idea to draw students attention that there are many other possibilities to composers. We also notice that the end of each BLUE section the melody doesn't end on the tonic, but on the note above the tonic. The RED sections are all chordal and each one, again, is slightly different. The "sameness" of the chordal writing contrasts the varied writing styles, polyphonic and homophonic, of the BLUE sections. I think drawing students attention to the concept of "contrast" is very important at this early intermediate level so that why I emphasize it here on The Handsome Rooster. The GREEN (final) part highlights the final idea of each section. Here, each GREEN part ends on the "tonic note D". But, Bartok always finds a way of expressing this final statement a little differently. The final time in octaves and forte, giving The Handsome Rooster a sense of finality to the whole composition. I also make note that the measure preceding each GREEN part is a measure of rest containing a fermata. This gives us a good clue as to the finality or emphasis we should bring to that GREEN two measure theme. This needs to stand out among the BLUE, RED and GREEN parts. If students go through this analysis of The Handsome Rooster they can begin a journey in looking at music with a different eye, a new eye. But, for me this piece is my go to piece to help students begin to analyze their musical compositions as musical compositions. I offer The Handsome Rooster on my Neglected Classics page. It is only $1.00 for a Copyright Edition and $2.50 for a License Edition giving you the ability to make unlimited copies of this neglected classic for your studio use. Go HERE for your copy and an MP3 recording of The Handsome Rooster!! Watch the video below to listen to a performance along with a manuscript.