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What Child Is This Piano Sheet Music What Child Is This Piano Sheet Music

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What Child Is This Piano Sheet Music

Written by: Willette Kwong

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Sheet music is a powerful tool that allows musicians to bring their favorite songs to life. It provides a roadmap for musicians, guiding them through the notes, rhythms, and dynamics of a piece. One popular and beloved Christmas carol that musicians often seek sheet music for is “What Child Is This.” This hauntingly beautiful tune is a favorite for both beginner and advanced piano players.

“What Child Is This” is a hymn tune known as “Greensleeves” in its original form. The melody is of English origin and dates back to the late 16th century. The lyrics were later penned by William Chatterton Dix in the 19th century, putting new words to the familiar melody. The song tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the awe and wonder that surrounds His coming.

Whether you’re a seasoned pianist or just starting to learn the instrument, having access to the piano sheet music for “What Child Is This” is essential. It not only allows you to play the melody flawlessly but also provides the necessary guidance to tackle the complex chords and harmonies that make this song so special.

In this article, we will dive deeper into “What Child Is This” piano sheet music, exploring the key signature, time signature, melody, chords, techniques, and ornamentation found in this beloved carol. We will also provide valuable tips and insights to help you master this piece and infuse it with your own musical interpretation.

So, whether you’re preparing for a holiday performance or simply want to play this cherished carol for your own enjoyment, let’s delve into the world of “What Child Is This” piano sheet music and uncover the beauty and complexity it holds.


Overview of “What Child Is This” Piano Sheet Music

Before diving into the specifics of “What Child Is This” piano sheet music, it’s essential to have an overview of what to expect. This carol is typically written in a moderate tempo and is often performed in the key of A minor. The sheet music will consist of both the melody and the accompanying chords, allowing pianists to play both parts simultaneously.

The sheet music will also include additional notations such as dynamics markings (indicating the volume at which to play), tempo indications (such as allegro, andante, etc.), and other expressive markings to help you bring out the beauty and emotional depth of the song. It’s essential to pay attention to these details to capture the true essence of “What Child Is This.”

Furthermore, the sheet music may include lyrics, allowing you to sing along or play the piano as an accompaniment to a vocalist. This can add another layer of depth and resonance to your performance, creating a heartfelt experience for both yourself and your listeners.

It’s worth noting that piano arrangements of “What Child Is This” can vary in difficulty. Some arrangements are simple and suitable for beginners, focusing primarily on the melody and basic chords. On the other hand, more advanced arrangements may incorporate complex harmonies, intricate ornamentation, and embellishments.

When selecting piano sheet music for “What Child Is This,” consider your current skill level and choose a version that challenges you just enough to stretch your abilities but not overwhelm you. This way, you can gradually improve your piano-playing skills while enjoying the process of learning and performing this timeless carol.

Now that we have an overview of “What Child Is This” piano sheet music, let’s explore the key and time signature to understand the musical foundation of this beloved carol.


Key Signature and Time Signature

Understanding the key signature and time signature is crucial when learning to play “What Child Is This” on the piano. The key signature provides insights into the tonality or the main key of the song, while the time signature dictates the rhythmic structure.

“What Child Is This” is typically written in the key of A minor. The key signature of A minor consists of no sharps or flats, giving the song a natural and melancholic quality. This key signature sets the tonal center for the entire piece, allowing you to navigate the melody and chords confidently.

In terms of the time signature, “What Child Is This” is often written in 3/4 or 6/8 time. The 3/4 time signature signifies a waltz-like feel with three beats per measure, while the 6/8 time signature suggests a compound meter with six beats per measure, with each beat divided into groups of three eighth notes.

Mastering the time signature is essential as it dictates the rhythm and pulse of the song. By understanding the time signature, you’ll be able to accurately count the beats and maintain a steady tempo throughout your performance.

It’s important to note that while “What Child Is This” is commonly written in the key of A minor with a 3/4 or 6/8 time signature, there may be variations in different arrangements or interpretations of the song. Therefore, it’s always advisable to check the sheet music you’re using to confirm the specific key and time signature indicated by the arranger.

Now that we have a grasp of the key and time signature, let’s explore the melody and chords that bring “What Child Is This” to life.


Melody and Chords

The melody of “What Child Is This” is hauntingly beautiful and easily recognizable. It is characterized by a combination of stepwise motion and leaps, evoking a sense of awe and reverence. As you play the melody on the piano, aim to capture the gentle and contemplative nature of the song.

In terms of chords, “What Child Is This” follows a traditional harmonic structure, utilizing chords that complement the melody and add depth to the overall sound. Common chords found in the song include A minor, D minor, E major, G major, C major, and F major.

When playing the chords, it’s important to understand their function within the key of A minor. For instance, the A minor chord is the tonic chord, providing a sense of stability and resolution. The D minor and E major chords add tension and create a sense of forward motion, leading back to the A minor chord. The G major, C major, and F major chords add color and variation, enhancing the overall harmonic progression.

While these chords form the foundation of “What Child Is This,” you can also experiment with various voicings and inversions to add your own personal touch to the arrangement. This allows you to explore different ways of playing the chords and create a unique interpretation of the song.

As you play both the melody and chords together, focus on achieving a balanced sound. Pay attention to the dynamics indicated in the sheet music, gradually building and releasing the tension to highlight the emotional journey of the song. This will help you bring out the contrasting elements of the melody and chords and create a full and captivating performance.

Now that we have explored the melody and chords of “What Child Is This,” let’s delve into some of the techniques and ornamentation that can further enhance your rendition of the song.


Techniques and Ornamentation

Adding techniques and ornamentation to your rendition of “What Child Is This” can elevate the beauty and expressiveness of the song. Here are some techniques and ornamentation you can incorporate:

  1. Arpeggios: Emphasize the harmonies by playing arpeggios in the left hand while maintaining the melody in the right hand. This creates a lush and flowing sound.
  2. Trills: In sections where appropriate, incorporate trills to add elegance and ornamentation to the melody. Trills involve rapidly alternating between two adjacent notes.
  3. Grace Notes: Introduce grace notes as delicate embellishments to add flair and emotion. These are quick, non-essential notes that occur just before the main note in the melody.
  4. Accompaniment Patterns: Experiment with different accompaniment patterns in the left hand to create texture and variation. Common patterns include broken chords, Alberti bass, or simple rhythmic patterns.
  5. Dynamic Contrasts: Use dynamic markings in the sheet music to guide your interpretation by varying the volume of your playing. Gradually increase and decrease the volume to add intensity and drama to the performance.

Remember to practice these techniques and ornamentation gradually, ensuring that they enhance the overall musicality of the piece without overpowering the melody. Be mindful of the emotions and nuances you want to convey, using these expressive elements to tell the story of the song.

Now that you have a variety of techniques and ornamentation to explore, let’s move on to some tips to help you master “What Child Is This” on the piano.


Tips for Playing

Mastering “What Child Is This” on the piano requires practice, attention to detail, and a thoughtful approach. Here are some tips to help you refine your performance:

  1. Start slow and gradually increase the tempo: Begin by practicing the piece at a slow tempo, focusing on accuracy and note articulation. Gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable with the notes and fingerings.
  2. Pay attention to dynamics: Bring out the dynamics indicated in the sheet music by playing softer or louder when required. This adds depth and emotion to your performance.
  3. Maintain a steady rhythm: Count out the beats and subdivisions of the time signature to ensure a consistent rhythm throughout the song. Use a metronome if needed to help with timing.
  4. Practice hands separately: Isolate the melody, chords, and any challenging sections and practice them separately in each hand. This will allow you to focus on accuracy and develop muscle memory before combining both hands.
  5. Experiment with phrasing: Play around with different phrasings to add musicality and expression. Use subtle pauses and breaths to create a sense of tension and release.
  6. Record yourself: Record your practice sessions and performances to listen back and identify areas for improvement. This will help you fine-tune your playing and make necessary adjustments.
  7. Add your personal interpretation: As you become more comfortable with the piece, feel free to add your own musical interpretation. Experiment with tempo variations, rubato, and expressive techniques to make the song your own.

Remember, practice is essential in mastering any piece. Dedicate regular practice time to “What Child Is This” and break it down into manageable sections. Focus on challenging areas and gradually work on smoothing out transitions and improving overall fluency.

By implementing these tips and spending dedicated time practicing, you’ll be able to bring out the true essence of “What Child Is This” and create a captivating performance that touches the hearts of your audience.

Now, let’s conclude our exploration of “What Child Is This” piano sheet music.



“What Child Is This” is a timeless Christmas carol that holds a special place in the hearts of many. By delving into the piano sheet music for this beloved song, you have gained valuable insights into its key signature, time signature, melody, chords, techniques, and ornamentation.

Playing “What Child Is This” on the piano allows you to express both the beauty and the depth of the song. With careful attention to dynamics, rhythm, and emotional interpretation, you can bring the story of the birth of Jesus Christ to life through your playing.

Remember to start slow, focusing on accuracy and gradually increasing the tempo as you become more comfortable with the piece. Pay close attention to dynamics, using them to add nuance and emotion to your performance. Practice hands separately, experiment with phrasing and ornamentation, and don’t hesitate to add your personal touch to create a unique and captivating rendition.

By following the tips provided and devoting regular practice time, you can master “What Child Is This” on the piano and evoke a sense of wonder and reverence in your listeners during the holiday season.

So, whether you’re playing for yourself, performing at a festive gathering, or accompanying a vocalist, embrace the beauty of “What Child Is This” and enjoy the magical journey it takes you on.

Wishing you a joyous and musical holiday season filled with the timeless melodies of “What Child Is This” and many other beloved songs.

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