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Piano Books

Updated on August 16, 2012

Whether you are a teacher or a student, finding the right piano book can be a bit of a daunting task. There are hundreds of titles available on Amazon and other places, and you want to find the book that has the right level of difficulty. Too often, people get into a book that is too difficult and the motivation to keep playing dissipates. If you find a book that is too easy, you are not honing your skills like you should. Since most people buy piano books online, this article will give you an overview of several books and methods so you can make an informed decision.

Piano methods for beginners

Piano methods for children and adults differ significantly. Age is an important factor in determining the right series for you or your child.

Bastien Piano Party method for children ages 4-5
If you have a little one who is dying to learn, this method is perfect. Your child or student will learn their right from their left, how to identify different types of notes, and play easy songs. Since children's fingers are so little, the songs start out using a fist (to hit three notes or two notes together), and then move on to exercising the thumb, pointer, and middle finger. This series includes worksheets interspersed throughout the pages where kids can color and draw.

Alfred Prep Course for the Young Beginner for children ages 4-5
This series is the competing method to the Bastien Piano Party method. Alfred's course is a bit more difficult for young children, as it starts out with harder concepts. If you are unsure, go with Bastien. The prep course can be used on older children (up to seven) who need to work on the concepts a bit more slowly.

Bastien or Alfred Piano Method series for children ages 6-12
These two piano methods compete for the "most popular" titles among piano teachers. Both series are excellent, but there are some differences. Bastien method is more colorful with larger notes printed on the page, but the songs are a bit harder than the Alfred method. Alfred is very "step-by-step", introducing new concepts in small bits. Bastien introduces concepts like the sharp and flat a bit sooner than Alfred. Both publishers have a series of books meant to work together.

Course book
This is the main book, which teaches concepts and new songs.
This book is all about reinforcing the concept with worksheets and activities.
This book is filled with exercises that strengthen hands and increase skill.
This book is similar to the theory book, but it concentrates on activities that promote the development of note reading.
Ear training
This book teaches children concepts related to playing music using your ear.
This book teaches the elementary concepts of composing music.
This book contains music that works well for performances.

All these books are designed to work together. You or your teacher may give your child only a few of these books, or you may have all seven at once! Each book follows along the theme, creating a comprehensive method meant to bring a beginner to a better understanding of music.

All in one courses
Both Alfred and Bastien offer all-in-one courses, designed to cover all the topics in the four main books (lesson, technic, theory, and notespeller) in one book. Frequently, these methods are dubbed for older beginners or adults.

Piano Adventures

This is another popular series designed similarly to Alfred or Bastien. The layout is not quite as colorful, so it might work better for older students, though it is designed for ages 7-12. It covers all the same topics, and offers several books in the series.

Adult Piano Courses

Adults have an advantage over children when learning the piano because they can master difficult concepts more quickly. However, adult hands are notoriously less flexible and adaptable, so children usually surpass adults in that department!

The main difference between adult and child methods is in the concepts. Chords are introduced much more quickly in the adult course, as well as scales, eighth notes, and other tricky concepts. One song may combine multiple new skills, whereas the children's method is more step-by-step.

If you are looking for a comprehensive all-in-one adult piano course, go with Alfred's Adult method or Hal Leonard's Easy Adult Piano.

Other noteworthy books

Perhaps you want something to augment your study, or you are done with the method course and need a change. Here are some books you may want to consider.

Schirmer Library of Musical Classics: These bright yellow books highlight different composers with compilations of etudes, sonatinas, sonatas, and other classics. They also have books (like Hanon) designed to give your fingers a boot camp in technic!

Practical Theory Complete: If you want to learn the ins and outs of music theory, this is your book. It will take you step by step through all the concepts of music.

Favorite Children's Songs (arr. Bill Boyd): This music book stands out in its beautiful arrangements of classic children's songs. The method itself is about level 3, but the quality of the music is sophisticated and eloquent. If you are tired of the traditional plunking, this book is a fantastic option.

A must-have for any teacher!

A teacher's guide

Every piano method series offers guidebooks for teachers that can be helpful. However, any and every music teacher that wants to have a vibrant music school should have Music Mind Games in their repertoire. This thick book is chalked full of games, ideas, and ways to teach difficult concepts to young children. You can use these games in groups or individual lessons, but it will shift your entire paradigm when you read this book. The author is Michiko Yuro, who has run a successful music school for years. This book is especially beneficial to musc teachers who feel they need some new inspiration.

Online music

Perhaps you are just looking for a particular piece of music. There are hundreds of sites that over digital downloads of individual songs for a reasonable price. Many of them allow you to choose what key you want the piece in. If you are a teacher, consider an account with SheetMusicPlus. They offer rebates and discounts to piano instructors. Once you find a site that works, bookmark it. You can spend all day (and night) looking through music, but don't let all the options stop you from making a decision.

Start with the basics and move on from there. A credible piano method series will teach you what you need to know, and then you can go searching for that "perfect" book!


About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and full-time mom of three. For the past ten years, she has been a private music instructor, working with each book that she has listed here. All her reviews are based on personal use and teaching.

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    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Great and helpful article. I ca no longer play the piano or guitar

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Can I dub you the music queen of hubbing? Well I just did, too late! :) Very informative hub here on piano books. Did I ever tell you that I took piano for a year and a half? Well, I did, but then stopped after mt instructor told my twin brother and myself that we had natural talent, LOL :)

      Awesome hub Julie, hope it gets you some deserved google traffic! :)

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      @KD- I do, but a limited number, just because I am so busy~

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      Great source of information and education, as always. I first started with Alfred's books, but then i went into Classic and Romantic Etudes for higher learning. I have to say, you definitely know your stuff with how to teach students of different levels and ages as a piano teacher. Do you still teach, by any chance?

    • Rusti Mccollum profile image

      Ruth McCollum 5 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

      This makes me want to take lessons again! I love piano music its so beautiful.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      Another great music Hub. I just don't practice like I should. Then, when I do try to play, I get all frustrated because I'm out of practice. Sometimes I buy a piece of music that is too hard for me!

      I enjoyed reading this Hub a lot, I voted it UP, etc.etc. and I shared, too.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Julie, I have never really learned to play the piano or any instruments for that matter, but seriously this article along with you other articles on similar topics makes me want to learn. You really lay everything out so nicely here and detail exactly what books work for each level. Very nicely done and have of course vtoed up and shared too!!