There are a number of songs children learn while growing up that seem to stick
in the ears for the entire rest of their lives. Learning how to play these easy songs on the piano is only the next practical step
toward making our knowledge of these songs complete.
One of the best songs to begin with is “London Bridge is Falling Down,” which is a simple melody to pick out and
presents an easy set of chords to learn.
When learning to play any song, including learning to play “London Bridge is Falling Down” on piano, the natural
first step is to try to find the melody. Since any song can be played it any key, it doesn’t make sense to try to
find the “right” key that this song should be played in; rather, it is best to find the easiest key when putting
notes to a familiar tune.
Let’s start on a note that helps us play in a key that requires as few black keys as possible. Frequently this
means starting out on a C or G. In fact, if you begin on a G, you’ll be playing in the key of C and won’t need to
play anything other than white keys.
Once you have decided on the first note to play, try picking out the melody from there. It’s not too difficult
to do, but you might hit several wrong notes before finding the right ones. This is normal. Try humming the song to
yourself and deciding if each note is higher or lower than the one before it, then hitting the note that seems like
the right direction from the previous one.
Once you feel comfortable with the right notes for the melody, it’s time to add in chords with your left hand.
Normally, the approach you want to take with chords is to find the simplest chord that’s in the same key as the
melody and is a chord that includes the current note of the melody you’re in.
For example, for the first note, G, trying to play a C chord with it is a good idea because it is in the key of
C and includes the note G. In fact, this chord is a great one that starts the song.
Now, continue playing the melody until it feels like that C chord doesn’t work anymore. This happens on the
second “falling down” which begins on D. To find the next chord, follow the same rule: which chord has D in it and
no black keys? Great chords to try are the IV and V chords – and it happens that the V chord, a G chord, fits this
When you play the third “falling down” you can go back to the C chord and just listen for how to end the song.
The next chord change you need is on the “my” of “my fair lady.” When at the end of songs, dominant seventh chords tend to work well, so playing G, B, D, and E in the left hand
when hitting the D in the right makes a good chord that transitions perfectly back into the C chord on the E when
playing the “la-“ in “lady”. Typically, songs will end with the chord of whose key they’re in.
Getting the chords and melody under your fingers can be challenging but meaningful. Enjoy learning how to play
“London Bridge is Falling Down” on piano, and you can apply this same process to any song you like.
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