Piano Book Recommendations For Beginners

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Classical Piano By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Piano » Classical Piano
Last updated: 12/06/2017
Tags: adult and child beginners, books, keyboard, musictheory, piano

In order to play an instrument well, it is important to build a good foundation for the student's learning, ensuring that they fully understand the fundamentals of music and their instrument before they progress to more advanced material. Therefore, choosing the right book for a beginner is important, and this will vary depending on the student's age and ability. The purpose of this article is to recommend some of the books which I have found to be successful for teaching beginners. Underneath each description I will provide a link to where the book can be purchased.

A book which I have used to teach children to play the piano is Leila Fletcher's Music Lessons Have Begun: For The Piano. This book contains many well-known nursery rhymes and tunes, each one introducing a new skill such as different hand positions, a new note or rhythm, etc. There is also opportunity to begin teaching beginners to play with expression at an early stage as it introduces features such as slurs and pauses. It is a good book to work through to ensure that when the student moves on to more difficult material they will have a good foundation of musical knowledge. 


Another book which I have used to teach students of a similar age and level is Piano Lessons Made Easy by Lina Ng. Whilst the Leila Fletcher book is primarily focused on playing and would require an additional book for theory, this one incorporates more theory as well as playing. For example, it begins with a page explaining the basic note values, then a song which allows students to practice these note values. It contains a mixture of theory and worksheets, songs to play and basic exercises which are more simple than scales, as this is a book for young children. There are different levels, so students can work through these and build a good foundation before moving on to more challenging material. I would suggest working through these books before moving on to something such as Michael Aaron's or John Thompson's piano courses. 


Michael Aaron Piano Course is more suitable for children who are not very young or adults who will be able to pick up new information more quickly. It introduces some of the slightly more complicated concepts such as dotted values, rests and time signatures at the beginning of the book, and is therefore not suitable for younger children. This book requires that the student has already learned some basic theory and has learned to read middle C as this knowledge is expected of the student. The book works through new concepts more quickly than the books described above. This book contains grade 1 standard pieces, but begins with easier material as the student works up to a grade 1 standard. There are also scales, exercises and some grade 1 theory explained, but I would still recommend an additional theory book in order to explain these concepts in more depth and allow the student to practice them. These books begin at a grade 1 standard, and there is a book for each grade up to grade 5. Whilst the grade 1 is good for beginners who already have some basic knowledge, I have also worked through some of the higher grade books in between students’ exams. Rather than moving straight on to grade 2 exam material after grade 1, for example, we may work through the grade 2 Michael Aaron book as an opportunity to improve the student’s playing before learning the grade 2 exam material. This also exposes them to a wider range of styles and techniques rather than being limited to the three exam pieces.


A similar book to the Michael Aaron is John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano. I would recommend the first grade book for older children and adults. It is not for complete beginners, but is a good book to move on to after the student is already able to read music and knows basic theory, as it does not explain basic theory such as reading notes on the stave and note values. It introduces some complex ideas straight away such as phrasing, musical patterns and tonal shading, so it is a good book to begin once the student is competent at playing at a basic level in order to introduce some expression to their playing. It explains some of the more difficult grade 1 theory and also contains some scales and exercises which will help prepare the student for the grade 1 exam scales.


Moving on to teaching general music theory, there are two books which I tend to use, depending on the age of the student.

The first is Theory Made Easy for Little Children by Lina Ng. I use this book to teach my young students theory. It is pre-grade 1 material, focused on note values, rhythms and learning to read the notes on the stave. This is a set of two books. The first introduces note values, included the dotted minim, and some notes close to middle C in treble and bass clef. This book will give the student a thorough understanding of the most basic concepts in music, as each new topic is practised many times through games, colouring in and sticker exercises, and ensures that young children enjoy the lesson. The second book introduces more new notes, and advances on what was taught on note values by adding the rests to this. It follows the same format of completing exercises with stickers and colouring.



The final book is aimed at older children who are ready to learn grade 1. Although it is called Music Theory for Young Musicians, by Ying Ying Ng, I would use these books to teach older students because it teaches the entire grade 1 syllabus in a way that is very clear and made simple, as it is aimed at children. Other theory books can be quite wordy, but this one is very precise and gives plenty of examples. For each new topic there is an explanation followed by a few exercises which increase in difficulty. For the more challenging topics, there are more exercises. At the back of the book are all of the musical terms which the student needs to learn for the grade 1 exam, and some example past papers for them to practise. There is a book for each grade up to grade 5.


For young beginners, I would use either the Leila Fletcher for the playing and Theory Made Easy for Little Children together, or Piano Lessons Made Easy by itself or with the sticker book as well if the child struggles to understand the theory which is explained in Piano Lessons Made Easy. For older children or adults, I would use the Michael Aaron or John Thompson depending on how quickly they pick up new material, along with Music Theory for Young Musicians if they are interested in learning more theory or taking exams.

Cathy Hawley Classical Piano Teacher (Stoke-on-Trent)

About The Author

I am a piano, keyboard and music theory teacher located in Stoke-on-Trent. I have experience preparing students for practical and theory exams. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like to book a free trial lesson.

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