There are SO many books out there to learn piano with. I have pretty strong opinions about this, being a long-time private piano music teacher. I hope you can benefit from my years of experience with piano, and get the perfect fit for you, so that it truly will be the best book to learn piano for you.
There is a lot to consider and I’ll walk you through the options so you DON’T GET DISCOURAGED and you can grow at a fast clip.
There are books for young kids, books for adults, books for teens, accelerated learning books, books for slower-paced learning, books for intense note reading, books with tons of visual ‘crutches’ to stair-step your way into reading notes on the staff, books that are ‘way too wordy and books that leap into so much technical crap-ola that it makes me mad! I imagine a person new to reading music and new to piano trying to sift through some of these tomes and I feel bad for anyone who is trying to make sense of it all. I know I couldn’t do it with most of them!!
Here’s what I’ve concluded after teaching for a long time:
It is far better to start micro slow and nail the basics slowly than to try and cram too much into learning too fast. This is going to be a foreign language written in freak’n hieroglyphics, for crying out loud…first we need to get comfortable with the alphabet.
It won’t take long, I promise!! But be patient enough to study the smallest of basics for a couple of weeks or so, then you can delve into some of the other books and not be overwhelmed, frustrated, or at the very worse, conclude that you can’t do it!
Step One Book
I always, always start first-timers in this book. I don’t care if you are six or six hundred years old. This is where we’re going to start. Here’s the reasons why:
- First song is just ONE note on the staff. Yeah, I know that’s baby-ish. Guess what? You’ll have that note memorized in a few seconds.
- Second song is that same note played with the opposite hand. Easy-peasey, right? Now you know which hand to use on the keyboard.
- Third song introduces ONE more note, plus loud and quiet. Now you know dynamic changes
- The next song introduces how you know when to play two notes at the same time. You are now learning that stacked up notes mean play simultaneously.
And so it goes…every few pages you get to learn an additional new note on the staff and where it is on the keyboard. Some adults and teens can handle two notes in each hand (Treble is up, Bass is down the keyboard) on the first lesson. Mostly, not! That’s a ton of data to process on lesson one. Hopefully your teacher shows you where these guys are on the keyboard, proper hand position, given you some flashcards to drill on memorization of all the new notes, terminology, and signs on the staff like Treble and Bass, loud (forte) and quiet (piano). Hopefully they have also given you additional beginner music appropriate for this book like this book. You can also print off or read on your tablet free primer level songs to practice each stage of your learning like at this website.
I tell you, most other piano learning books start right out with FIVE notes on the staff in EACH HAND!!! Talk about too much information! I tell my students the first three lessons are going to be super easy because I want your confidence to be high and the ease of memorization to be fairly easy! No overwhelm allowed. By the time you’re done with this book, you will know 15 notes on the staff! And I mean know them. Not guess them. That’s a winner!
With a teacher, it will take kids about two to three months to learn the entire book. With adults, it can take as short as three weeks!
Step Two Books
Once you have the notes and terms memorized from the above book and you are comfortable with most of them, you’ll be ready to move onto the beginner books. If you finished the book above well, by which I mean you didn’t skip along so fast that you have to try and remember what you’ve learned, then I recommend these books for different age groups, abilities and learning styles:
For 100% Free Books
Mayron Cole was a life long piano teacher who wrote her OWN music books and curriculum. When this wonderful teacher passed away, she mandated that her entire line be published online for free. I don’t know how long it will remain available, because it sure isn’t free to maintain an internet site, but you can download her entire line here. Amazing! Bless her! Her books are good for older kids, teens and adults who want a fast-paced learning book(s). Make sure you do the music sheets if you decide not to do private lessons and don’t skip ahead.
For Adults and Older Teens Who Want It All and FAST:
Adult Alfred All-In-One Book One
For people who need a refresher from having had lessons previously or really intellectual people, this book clips right along at a fast pace, introducing new concepts and progressively harder songs at a fast rate. Unless you are really putting in the hours practicing, this book may not be a good fit for you. By the time you have finished the entire book, you’ll be playing at the typical third-year level of private lessons. It’s like a crash course in piano. Best advice: GET A TEACHER!! And be prepared to practice the piano a lot, and almost daily. You can not do this book with just a few minutes two days a week.
For Grade Schoolers and A Slower Pace of Learning:
Piano Town Book 1
I like this publisher because they start introducing chords in level 2 right away. Level one is individual notes and more practice getting your fingers to cooperate and move right. By the time you have finished Book 1, you’ll be ready to make fuller sounds with chords in the left hand and melody in the right. Most songs are recognizable folk songs which makes it easier to learn because the tunes are familiar to you. I find that people who struggle to read on the staff tend to do well in this series.
For Emphasis On Note Reading (not chords)
Faber Piano Adventures Book 1
This series has more modern compositions and emphasizes notes on the staff, not chords. It plugs along at a fairly sedate pace, increasing difficulty gradually and comfortably. I recommend getting the Performance book 1 as well, because this book is not that big of a challenge, and you’ll progress faster if you push yourself to learn two books at the same time.
For Maximum Challenge, But Best Reward
Alfred Lesson Series Book 1B
This is the series I hope most of my students can handle. It’s quite a dexterity, rhythm and mental challenge, but by the time you finish this book, your fingers should be cooperating really well, and you’ll be able to process more mental work much better than the other series. That being said, it’s definitely the most difficult option here. Plan on powering your way with determination and patience to master this book.
For the Young Learner
WunderKeys Elementary Piano 1A
This series by the excellent Andrea Dow is full of games, cartoon stories, fun activities and a simple, logical progression to learning piano by reading on the staff. I give this series to my students younger than second grade AFTER the Faber Book B, and it is the perfect fit! Along with this Disney book, they are motivated and have fun at the same time.
For The Digital Book Experience
Digital books may have the additional benefit of including videos, audio files to play along with and other innovations. If you store them on your tablet, they are the ultimate in portability and in compact storing. These are some of the best:
Mayron Cole Method
Carol Matz Interactive Method
Faber Piano Adventures
There are other options out there to consider. Be very wary if you can’t look inside the books before purchasing!! Here’s what to avoid like the plague after the Adventures B Book:
- Books that want you to purchase a bundle with technic, theory, workbooks and even more workbooks. You’ll only need these if you start working with a teacher and he/she requires them. I never assign theory workbooks! Who wants to do homework?? I teach theory during the lesson, not with writing stuff down. Just my opinion of course!
- Books that write the letter names inside the notes, or write the finger number above every note. THOSE are crutches! Start using them and it is very, very hard to get off of them! I’ve had students come to me from other teachers who have given them two or three years of lessons and they STILL can’t read music because they are using crutches. Start reading right off the bat! And do not write the letter names above the notes! Did you start with my first book recommendation or did you skip that step?
- Books that have stickers, charts, and fake keyboards with letter names on them to prop up on your keys or behind the black notes. No No NO!! More crutches equals dependence.
- Books that throw too much information at you right away. Stair-step your learning! If the first song has you learning five notes in each hand….RUN. That’s ten notes on lesson one.
Here’s what to look for past the Adventure B Book:
- Books that introduce new material that the pace you learn best with and the time your schedule allows you to devote to learning.
- Books that have coordinating songbooks so you can practice what you’re learning but with different songs: folk songs, hymns, pops, Disney etc.
- Books that introduce chords by late level 3. Chords are the building blocks that will help you sound great!
- The new thing is digital! Newer books like the Carol Matz method books, Super Sonics Method Books and the Hal Leonard Faber Books are integrated with online digital extras like soundtracks to play along with, worksheets to reinforce your learning and ear training for playing by ear.