Learning to play the piano without teaching material can be difficult, even for someone with an inclination towards music. While you may be able to quickly associate all the keys with their corresponding notes, there’s more to playing the piano properly than knowing where everything is. At very least, you’ll need one or two of the best piano books for beginners to avoid hitting a technique ceiling after a few weeks.
As you’ll soon learn, there are different levels of beginner when it comes to the piano. Because of this, not all beginner-oriented books may be as easy-to-follow as others.
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Best Piano Books for Beginners – Reviews
Adult Piano Method – Book 1: Lessons, Solos, Technique, & Theory (Student Piano Library)
Part of the Hal Leonard series of books, the Adult Piano Method first volume is a brilliant workbook crammed with information. It’s designed for adults with no prior music experience and features tons of illustrations, easy-to-follow instructions, and good accompanying material.
One of the best things about this book is how it’s been structured. From the most basic of introductory lessons, it offers a step-by-step approach, progressing into technique, music theory, soloing, and composition.
Granted, there’s a lot of information for one book. But the complete curriculum is aimed at turning beginners into experienced players without the help of a teacher. What’s more the book is also quite affordable for a paperback format.
It’s important to note here that the paperback also favors adult students more than children. It’s hard to imagine modern kids being interested in reading paperback manuals with so much information available online.
The book’s pace isn’t a slow one. If you’re looking for something that gets you from point A to B at a lower gear, this may not be for you. Because the book crams in a lot of information, it makes sense that the pace of the lessons is a bit faster.
However, this caters to quick learners and people that want to learn the basics of an instrument faster. After all, there’s nothing stopping you from taking your time with a chapter that you’re struggling with.
But the end goal is to get you to play songs in about two weeks with only one or two hours of practice per day. While at the same time having some knowledge of how to read music, understating sheet music notations, and being ready to take on more challenging scores.
Note that you won’t be able to perform complex classical pieces after going through all the lessons. But the end result should be a good understanding of the fundamentals, enough skill to perform modern pieces from pop, blues, folk, and other genres with simpler piano melodic lines.
Alfred’s Teach Yourself to Play Piano: Everything You Need to Know to Start Playing Now!, Book & Online Audio (Teach Yourself Series)
This book won’t help you become a virtuoso by any means. But it has been written in such a way that you won’t need a teacher by your side. It’s also available in a variety of formats, which makes it even more accessible.
The book starts with the most important fundamentals, including how to properly sit at the piano, how to use the left hand, and how to use the right hand. Different fingerings are explained, as is the keyboard layout.
Musical notation, at a beginner level, is presented in a simple way so that students of all ages can follow along at a consistent pace. The curriculum is as straightforward as it gets, taking you from standard notes, through basic scales, chords, and various songs.
The songs are up to an intermediate difficulty level and include a variety of genres like folk, pop, blues, and even some popular hymns. But what’s really great about this book is the fact that you can get it in many formats.
There’s the classic paperback that’s more text-heavy but also a kindle version. The latter will likely appeal to the younger crowd. It’s more accessible and allows you to learn while away from home. Plus, an audio CD is also available but unfortunately sold separately.
It’s possible to learn everything without the audio CD. Although, using it as a companion teaching aid with the book will help explain some chapters better. In addition, it will also provide more challenging and rewarding practice routines.
Because of this, the book can be helpful in one key area – motivation. This is something that many students lack. It’s also why so many people don’t want to learn an instrument on their own and will only practice in the presence of an inspiring teacher.
But the audio companion material does a good job of providing rewarding challenges at a steady pace. Therefore, you’ll be more likely to dedicate extra time to your studies, with or without a teacher present.
Adult All-In-One Course: Lesson-Theory-Technic: Level 1
Labeled as a Level 1 course, this book offers more in-depth information than most beginner-friendly piano courses. It features advanced exercises, stretching drills, as well as some written assignments to challenge the student.
In terms of information, there’s a lot crammed in to this small book. The focus is mainly on music theory and technique, if the explanations aren’t always easy to follow. However, the lesson progression is still good and makes sense.
What’s different about this book is the level of difficulty. While beginner-friendly, some chapters will require explaining as you go through them. In all, the book contains 68 lessons, some of which are pure theory while others are about learning specific techniques through songs.
When it comes to the lessons that require additional information or explanations, it’s best to have a teacher around. In fact, this book was designed to help beginners just starting to take piano lessons.
Of course, some private tutors may have their own book preferences. But, seeing as this one is a bestseller, it’s likely that most of them will accept you studying from it. Besides, there’s nothing too different in terms of progressing through piano techniques and music theory.
Apart of course from some illustrations of more complex exercises, stretching routines, and composition lessons. The book is only available in a plastic comb format. If you’re looking for a digital format, you’re out of luck.
That said, the variety of styles covered through the lessons should compensate for the lack of availability in a digital format. And, since the illustrations are done in very good quality, following the exercises shouldn’t be an issue.
All things considered, the book is a must-have at the early stages in your development as a piano player. The exercises alone will help you develop much-needed dexterity while also learning proper left-hand and right-hand technique.
Piano Technique (Dover Books on Music)
Available in both Kindle and paperback formats, the Piano Technique is one of the older teaching materials on the market. It’s also made up of two piano books from Walter Gieseking and thus addresses two important aspects of learning the piano.
In the first part of the book, the student is taught to visualize music and understand the structure of song. The teachings focus less on mechanically explaining music notation, chords, and scales, but rather how to treat a song as a whole and how to differentiate between different styles.
The second part of the book presents a study of Bach’s French Suite in E Major. Based on the Allemande piece, many intermediate and advanced techniques are explained. Various exercises are also presented in the second part of the book.
Some are used for basic stretching and developing finger dexterity while the others are used to explain piano dynamics, phrasing, and simple and complex rhythms. These will tie in with the lessons done on Bach’s French Suite in E Major.
Another great aspect of this book is the study of the piano pedal and learning to use different touches when playing. This is one area in which other beginner books fall short. They don’t focus enough on expressivity and the true dynamic range of a piano, mainly because these are considered more advanced topics of discussion.
All things considered, the Piano Technique book is a bit more advanced. It can still help beginner students but not so much those trying to learn alone. Some aspects of music theory will require some additional explanations.
It’s also worth noting that a good grasp of musical notation will be required. Therefore, it’s best to go through a few piano lessons before picking up the Piano Technique book to deepen your studying.
Piano For Dummies, Book + Online Video & Audio Instruction
Developed by Hal Leonard and Adam Perlmutter, this book takes a simplified approach to teaching piano. It still focuses on the important aspects such as music notation, rhythms, melodies, and proper technique, but it keeps things more relaxed with explanations and examples.
This is a book best-suited for the absolute beginner. Its main focus is on teaching the fundamentals of playing the piano, with clear instructions on what to do with each hand, how to read piano sheet music, and how to differentiate and approach various music genres.
Piano for Dummies even provides important information, in a guide format, on how to choose a piano. It also offers important maintenance tips, that most teachers won’t bother touching on. It’s handy information even for more seasoned pianists and for those returning to the instrument after a long absence.
Basic information on notes, rhythm, melody, and harmony is offered in step-by-step lessons, without going into unnecessary detail for a beginner student looking to play simple songs. Piano for Dummies also explains the importance of individual technique as well as how to use basic piano knowledge and music theory. This should help you come up with your own music or at least figure out your groove.
The book is a fun read and more engaging than others, for both adults and kids. And, while its teachings won’t likely take you from beginner to pro, the material is more than enough to take you to an intermediate level. Especially if you make full use of the online video lessons you can access after buying the book.
Besides, the amount of work you put in and how long you practice certain techniques will ultimately increase your skill level. But, the Piano for Dummies 3rd Edition book is one of the best piano books for beginners, that you can follow during your first month or two of studying the instrument.
Another important aspect is that this book doesn’t require a teacher present to help expand on the information presented. In fact, the book also has a section dedicated on how to find a good piano teacher.
It does this by explaining the types of questions you should ask prospective teachers and how to explain what you’re trying to get out of the instrument. Therefore, you can use this as your guide to learning the piano, finding a teacher, expressing yourself in different genres, and finding a suitable practice and study regimen for your specific goals.
Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing (Dover Books on Music)
Another oldie but goody, the Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing is all about explaining advanced notions of piano playing and composition in a very concise manner. The book was penned by Josef Lhevinne, known as the first popular artist to be offered a teaching position at Julliard.
In this book, which is somewhat beginner-friendly, you won’t require any advanced knowledge of music theory. The main focus is understanding how to listen to music and hear its nuances. Also, playing piano music not so much mechanically but more so on feel and by using key music theory concepts.
One of the most interesting sections of the book explains one of the author’s favorite techniques, called “the arm floating in air.” This section outlines the importance of keeping the hands and wrists relaxed and allowing them to absorb the shock or feedback from the piano.
Many of the teachings revolve not so much on advanced music theory but on actual technique. Although not one of the thickest piano books, it does a great job of offering information that few others do. Such as what to do with your hands, wrists, arms, fingers, and even your entire body when hitting the keys and when resting.
All exercises and techniques come with easy-to-follow illustrations. Apart from offering some master pianist-level secrets to achieving the perfect technique, this book is great for another reason. It can be used as a resource by beginner-level students alone, without needing further explanations or teacher involvement.
In terms of difficulty, the book is beginner to intermediate. It will require some music theory knowledge and understanding of the keyboard. But nothing too advanced. If you’re looking for something to study during your first month of taking piano lessons, this is probably not the right fit.
However, after you reach an understanding of the fundamentals the book can be an excellent resource to study from when practicing at home, without your teacher. And, even advanced students can learn a thing or two.
The book also has a section dedicated to achieving a beautiful tone. Although it doesn’t focus on specific genres and music styles, it explains many key aspects of developing your own tone, finding your style, and taking musical variety seriously while practicing.
Lhevinne’s teachings have a very nice flow that makes the book easy to understand for beginners. The fact that he manages to also squeeze in intermediate and advanced techniques and explain them with concise examples is a great bonus. All of these nuances make the book a valuable resource at all levels for any serious piano student.
The Art of Piano Playing Paperback
This piano book may not be the cheapest, but the fact that it was penned by Heinrich Neuhaus, one of the most prominent teachers of the Moscow Conservatory says a lot. It’s a true authoritative take on piano playing that offers sufficient easy-to-follow advice for beginner students too, not just advanced players.
The Art of Piano Playing is available in two formats, paperback and hardcover. The music theory and techniques explained in the book are presented with a gradual increase in difficulty. However, the book may require at least a firm grasp of the fundamentals for you to follow everything properly.
One of the main points of emphasis is technique. Exercises and important pieces to study are presented not just as recommendations but also accompanied by an analysis done by the author, drawing from his own experience.
This will help you understand why some of the classics are more influential than others and why some concepts are considered the building blocks of all musical genres. Of course, that’s not to say that all music styles are well-represented in this book, as the author does have a preference for classic composers.
Another large portion of the book is all about giving advice on how to find your tone and how to recreate someone else’s. This section involves tips and secrets, if you will, on how to better read piano sheet music and how to understand certain nuances.
Making full use of the piano, pedals included, is advised and explained. One very interesting topic in the book is on how to teach piano to others. This is one of the main reasons why the Art of Piano Playing is one of the best-regarded books in any good piano teacher’s arsenal.
Students can also gain valuable knowledge from this section. You can learn how to spot a bad teacher as well as learn what aspects of piano playing you should brush up more on your own.
In a way, this book is a tougher read than others. But it’s still considered an important resource at any stage of study. Even though it lacks in the illustration department when compared to similar piano books, it does a much more thorough job of explaining how everything fits together.
How music theory, melody, technique, performance, and everything else is interconnected. This is the type of stuff you usually learn about in advanced classes. But, unlike in the Art of Piano Playing, these concepts are usually explained separately and not always with clear examples as to why one is so important for the other.
Are piano books something you really need to learn how to play properly? Yes. As you study, you’ll quickly find out that some concepts you can’t learn by ear. And, since it’s unlikely that your piano teacher will always be there to answer questions, having some of the best piano books for beginners can help you find the answers on your own.
Both very rudimentary and more advanced books are important. As you progress, you’ll need to deepen your study. And, once you have a solid foundation to build on, you’ll be able to move on to more complex lessons, techniques, and to learn about the nuances of being a true pianist.