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What Child Is This Sheet Music Duet What Child Is This Sheet Music Duet

Sheet Music

What Child Is This Sheet Music Duet

Written by: Joycelin Holland

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Table of Contents


Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the sheet music for the enchanting holiday carol, “What Child Is This.” This timeless classic, also known as “Greensleeves,” has captivated audiences and musicians alike with its beautiful melody and poignant lyrics. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced pianist looking to play this lovely piece as a duet, this article will provide you with all the information you need to master the sheet music for “What Child Is This” and create a memorable performance.

“What Child Is This” was composed in the 16th century and is believed to be derived from the melody of the traditional English folk song “Greensleeves.” The lyrics, written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865, have since become synonymous with the Christmas season. The carol tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and invites listeners to reflect on the significance of the nativity.

Playing this beautiful carol as a piano duet can bring an extra layer of depth and richness to the performance. A piano duet involves two pianists playing on one piano, with each artist performing different parts of the music. Cooperative synchronization and communication are crucial in order to achieve a seamless and harmonious performance.

Throughout this article, we will explore various aspects of the sheet music for “What Child Is This” and offer valuable tips and techniques to help you master the duet. Whether you’re playing with a partner, a friend, or performing both parts on your own, the information provided here will enhance your understanding of the piece and enable you to deliver a captivating and emotive performance of this beloved carol.


Overview of “What Child Is This”

“What Child Is This,” also known as “Greensleeves,” is a popular Christmas carol that has stood the test of time. The melody, with its hauntingly beautiful and melancholic tone, is instantly recognizable and has become a staple in holiday music repertoire.

The carol’s lyrics were penned by William Chatterton Dix in 1865, capturing the essence of the nativity story and the wonder surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. The lyrics invite listeners to reflect on the profound significance of this child and the salvation he brings.

The sheet music for “What Child Is This” typically consists of two main sections: the melody and the accompaniment. The melody is played by one of the pianists, while the other pianist provides the accompaniment, adding harmonies, arpeggios, and beautiful textures to enrich the overall sound of the duet.

The key signature of “What Child Is This” is usually in E minor, though it can also be transposed into different keys to accommodate the vocal range or the preferences of the performers. The piece is written in 3/4 time signature, giving it a gentle and flowing rhythm that suits the lyrical nature of the carol.

Throughout the piece, you’ll encounter gentle and expressive dynamics, allowing you to evoke the poignant emotions of the nativity scene. From soft and delicate passages to powerful and triumphant moments, the dynamics lend depth and intensity to the performance.

As we continue exploring the sheet music for “What Child Is This,” we’ll dive deeper into the specific techniques and playing styles that will bring this carol to life. From finding the right key signature to tackling challenging sections, we’ll equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to perform this stunning piece as a piano duet.


Sheet Music for Piano Duet

When it comes to playing “What Child Is This” as a piano duet, it’s important to have the right sheet music that accurately represents both the melody and accompaniment parts. Many editions of the sheet music for this carol are readily available online or at your local music store.

When selecting the sheet music, look for arrangements specifically labeled as “piano duet” or “four hands.” These arrangements usually provide separate staves for each pianist, ensuring that both parts are clearly indicated and easily playable. The staves are typically marked with the names of the pianists to differentiate the parts.

It’s also beneficial to choose an arrangement that suits your skill level and personal taste. Some arrangements may offer simplified versions for beginners, while others might provide more intricate and advanced variations for experienced pianists. Take the time to peruse different editions and choose the one that aligns with your comfort level and desired level of challenge.

In addition to printed sheet music, you may also come across digital versions or sheet music software that allow you to access the duet arrangement on your computer or tablet. These digital options often provide additional features like adjustable tempos, MIDI playback, and annotation capabilities, making it easier for you to practice and personalize the music.

It’s worth noting that while the melody is typically written in the top staff, with the accompaniment in the lower staff, there may be sections where the parts switch or overlap. This creates a dynamic interplay between the two pianists and adds interest and texture to the duet. Pay attention to these moments and ensure both pianists are coordinating their playing to achieve a cohesive and captivating performance.

As you delve into the sheet music for “What Child Is This,” take the time to study the markings, dynamics, and articulations indicated by the composer or arranger. These elements provide guidance on how to shape each phrase, highlight important musical moments, and convey the intended emotions of the piece.

Now that you have a better understanding of the sheet music for “What Child Is This,” let’s move on to explore the process of finding the right key signature for your duet performance.


Finding the Right Key Signature

Choosing the correct key signature is essential when preparing to play “What Child Is This” as a piano duet. The key signature determines the tonal center of the piece and influences the overall mood and character of the music.

The most common key signature for “What Child Is This” is E minor. This key signature adds a melancholic and introspective quality to the piece, complementing the reflective lyrics of the carol. However, it’s worth noting that different arrangements may offer the option to transpose the piece into a different key, allowing for flexibility based on the vocal range or personal preference of the performers.

If you’re unsure about the key signature that suits your duet performance, consider the range of the melody and the technical capabilities of both pianists. As you go through the piece, pay attention to any challenging sections that might be easier to play in a different key. Transposing to a different key can also adjust the overall tone of the piece, creating a more delicate or powerful interpretation.

It’s helpful to experiment with different key signatures during the rehearsal process to find the one that best suits your collective vision for the performance. Keep in mind that transposing requires understanding of music theory and familiarity with key relationships, so it’s advisable to consult with an experienced pianist or music teacher if you’re uncertain about this aspect.

Whether you choose to play “What Child Is This” in E minor or decide to transpose it to a different key, be sure to communicate and coordinate with your duet partner. Both pianists should be comfortable with the chosen key and understand any necessary adjustments to fingerings or hand positions.

Once you’ve determined the key signature for your duet performance, practice playing the piece in that key consistently to develop a strong sense of tonality and familiarity. This will allow you to confidently navigate through the sheet music and deliver a polished and cohesive performance.

As we conclude our exploration of key signatures, let’s move on to discuss the playing techniques and dynamics that will bring “What Child Is This” to life in your piano duet.


Playing Techniques and Dynamics

Playing “What Child Is This” as a piano duet offers a wonderful opportunity to incorporate various playing techniques and dynamics that will enhance the overall musicality of the piece. By understanding and utilizing these techniques effectively, you can bring depth and emotion to your duet performance.

One important technique to consider is voicing. Since you and your duet partner will be playing different parts, it’s crucial to balance the dynamics between the melody and accompaniment. The melody should be emphasized and brought forward, while the accompaniment should provide a supportive and complementary texture without overpowering the melody. Keep this balance in mind as you work through the different sections of the piece, ensuring that each pianist understands their role in maintaining a harmonious blend.

Dynamic markings, such as piano (soft) and forte (loud), also play a significant role in shaping the expressive qualities of “What Child Is This.” Pay close attention to these markings and use them to guide the intensity and volume of your playing. Consider the overall arc of the piece and how the dynamics can be used to create contrast and convey the emotional journey of the carol.

In addition to dynamics, articulation marks such as legato (smooth) and staccato (short and detached) are important in conveying the musical phrasing and adding nuance to your performance. These marks indicate how each note should be played and the desired effect they should create. Experiment with different articulations to bring out the melodic line and create musical interest within the accompaniment.

Pedaling is another technique to consider in playing “What Child Is This” as a duet. The sustain pedal can be used strategically to enhance the resonances and harmonies, particularly in sections with sustained chords or passages with overlapping notes. Coordinate the use of the pedal with your duet partner to ensure a smooth and seamless transition between phrases.

As you practice the playing techniques and dynamics, pay attention to the expressiveness and musicality of your performance. Seek opportunities to add your own interpretation and emotion into the piece, while still adhering to the stylistic integrity of the carol. Engaging the listener’s emotions through your playing is key to delivering a captivating and memorable duet performance.

With the playing techniques and dynamics in mind, let’s move on to the next section, where we will provide valuable tips for the duet performance of “What Child Is This.”


Tips for the Duet Performance

Performing “What Child Is This” as a piano duet requires teamwork, coordination, and careful attention to detail. Here are some valuable tips to help you navigate through the duet performance and deliver a polished and captivating rendition of this beloved carol.

1. Communication: Establish open and clear communication with your duet partner. Discuss and agree upon the interpretation, dynamics, and nuances of each section. This will ensure a synchronized performance and a cohesive musical vision.

2. Practice together: Regularly rehearse with your duet partner to build a strong ensemble. Pay attention to the timing and coordination between the two pianists, particularly during sections with overlapping melodies or rhythmic patterns.

3. Watch the conductor: If you have a conductor for your duet performance, keep a close eye on their cues and directions. This will help you stay synchronized and unified with the overall ensemble, if applicable.

4. Achieve balance: Strive for a balanced sound between the melody and accompaniment. Ensure that the melody is prominent and clearly heard while the accompaniment supports without overwhelming.

5. Pay attention to dynamics: Dynamically shape the phrases and sections according to the markings indicated in the sheet music. Create contrasts between soft and loud passages to evoke emotions and enhance the storytelling aspect of the carol.

6. Blend and balance the tone: Focus on matching the tone and touch of your duet partner. Aim for a seamless and unified sound, paying attention to matching the articulation, phrasing, and expression.

7. Clear and precise articulation: Pay close attention to articulation markings such as legato and staccato. Ensure the notes are played with clarity and intent, enhancing the overall musicality of the performance.

8. Record and review: During rehearsals, consider recording your duet performance to review and pinpoint areas that need improvement. This will help refine your interpretation, polish technical aspects, and enhance your overall musicality.

9. Practice performance etiquette: When performing, maintain professionalism and respect for the music. Maintain eye contact with your duet partner and engage with the audience as appropriate, immersing them in the beauty and emotion of the carol.

10. Embrace the emotion: Above all, embrace the emotional impact of “What Child Is This.” Allow the music to resonate within you and convey the heartfelt message of the nativity scene. Connect with the music and let your duet performance be a sincere and moving rendition of this timeless carol.

By following these tips and investing time and effort into your duet performance, you’ll be able to create a musical experience that captures the essence of “What Child Is This” and leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

As we near the end of our guide, let’s move on to discussing common challenges that pianists may encounter when playing “What Child Is This” and explore potential solutions.


Common Challenges and Solutions

Playing “What Child Is This” as a piano duet comes with its fair share of challenges. However, with proper practice and a proactive approach, you can overcome these obstacles and deliver a stellar performance. Below are some common challenges you may face and helpful solutions to consider.

1. Syncing hands: Coordinating both pianists’ hands can be challenging, especially during intricate passages and sections with rapid note changes. Practice slowly at first, focusing on precise hand synchronization. Gradually increase the tempo as you become more comfortable, ensuring both pianists stay in sync.

2. Balancing dynamics: Achieving a balanced dynamic between the melody and accompaniment can be tricky. Communicate with your duet partner to ensure both parts are clearly heard without one overpowering the other. Experiment with different levels of intensity during rehearsals to find the perfect balance.

3. Interpreting complex rhythms: “What Child Is This” features various rhythms, including syncopations and dotted rhythms, which can be challenging to execute together as a duet. Practice slowly, counting and clapping out the rhythms to internalize the patterns. Gradually increase the tempo until you can confidently play the rhythms together.

4. Coordinating pedal usage: Coordinating pedal usage between two pianists can be tricky, especially in sections with sustained chords or overlapping notes. Take the time to plan and discuss pedal changes during rehearsals, ensuring smooth transitions and avoiding excessive or incorrect pedal usage.

5. Maintaining consistent tempo: Keeping a consistent tempo throughout the performance can be challenging, especially when both pianists have different interpretations or get caught up in technical difficulties. Practice with a metronome to develop a sense of rhythm and timing. Communicate and agree upon a tempo with your duet partner to maintain a steady pace.

6. Overcoming technical difficulties: Some sections of the sheet music may pose technical challenges such as fast arpeggios, octave leaps, or complex fingerings. Isolate these challenging passages and practice them slowly and steadily. Break them down into smaller sections, gradually building up speed and accuracy. Seek guidance from a piano teacher or mentor to overcome specific technical obstacles.

7. Focusing on musical expression: It’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of the piece, but it’s important not to overlook the emotional expression. Embrace the lyrical beauty of “What Child Is This” and prioritize the musical message over technical perfection. Connect with the music and let your emotions shine through in your performance.

By acknowledging these common challenges and applying the suggested solutions, you’ll be better equipped to navigate through the complexities of “What Child Is This” as a piano duet. Remember to approach each challenge with patience, persistence, and a desire to continually improve both individually and as a duet.

Now, armed with the knowledge and tools to tackle these challenges, go forth and deliver a mesmerizing performance of “What Child Is This” as a piano duet!

As we conclude our comprehensive guide on “What Child Is This,” we hope you’ve gained valuable insights and inspiration to master this enchanting holiday carol. Enjoy the journey of bringing this timeless piece to life and making a lasting musical impression.



Congratulations on completing our comprehensive guide on playing “What Child Is This” as a piano duet! We’ve covered various aspects, from understanding the sheet music to mastering playing techniques and dynamics. By following the tips and solutions provided, you can confidently approach and deliver a captivating performance of this beloved holiday carol.

“What Child Is This,” with its haunting melody and profound lyrics, has the power to evoke emotions and create a memorable musical experience. As you practice and rehearse with your duet partner, remember to communicate, listen, and collaborate harmoniously, bringing the piece to life with unity and coherence.

Whether you’re a beginner embarking on your first duet or an experienced pianist looking to add another beautiful duet to your repertoire, “What Child Is This” offers a rewarding challenge and an opportunity to showcase your musicality and interpretive skills.

As you prepare for your duet performance, remember to pay attention to the key signature, playing techniques, dynamics, and common challenges outlined in this guide. Embrace the emotion and expressiveness of the piece, creating a heartfelt connection with your audience and capturing the essence of the nativity scene.

We hope that this guide has provided you with valuable insights and tips to enhance your duet performance of “What Child Is This.” Embrace the joy of making music together and cherish the unique experience of playing this timeless carol as a piano duet.

Now, it’s time to gather your duet partner, open the sheet music, and let your fingers dance across the piano keys, weaving a magical tapestry of sound and storytelling. Enjoy the journey and create lasting memories through your musical interpretation of “What Child Is This.”

Wishing you a harmonious and enchanting duet performance of “What Child Is This.” Happy playing!

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