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When you want to learn the piano, the first thing you might be thinking is “I need a piano teacher”. However, if you’re an adult pianist, learning the piano on your own without a teacher is definitely doable. There are piano method books that are specifically designed for self-teaching. This allows you to learn at your own pace and also to save a few bucks on hiring a teacher.
Below is a list of the best piano books for self-teaching:
- Alfred All In One Adult Piano Course
- Piano Jumpstart
- Music Tree Books 1 – 4
- Alfreds Self Teaching Adult Piano Course
- Piano For Dummies
- Faber Adult Piano Adventures Book 1
- How To Play Keyboard: A Complete Guide For Absolute Beginners
- Alfred’s Teach Yourself To Play Piano
- Bastien Piano Basics Level 1
While I still recommend hiring a piano teacher to look over your playing, it’s not a bad idea to get started with a self-teaching book. Self-teaching books are a great way to get familiar with the piano before committing to intensive study with an instructor. Next, I’ll break down each of the books on this list and explain why they are great options for beginner pianists.
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Alfred All In One Adult Piano Course
The most complete course for beginner pianists is Alfred’s All In One Adult Piano Course. It’s a successful self-teaching book that is packed with a ton of content. With over 160 pages of detailed instruction, adult pianists can walk their way through each unit without really needing a teacher.
Pianists not only get a complete breakdown of how to maneuver their way around the piano, but there’s also a huge focus on the theory aspect of music. With every unit comes theory exercises to reinforce those concepts and to provide a complete understanding of what’s happening while you play.
The opening portions of the book focus heavily on how to sit at the piano with good posture. There’s even a section dedicated to finger exercises, stretches, and more to get the hands ready for an intense practice section. The layout of units and the progressive format allows adult pianists to learn in small portions effectively.
You’ll learn how to play in C position, G position, and also get a firm grasp on the grand staff too. This allows for quick enjoyment of short pieces as well as more challenging tasks.
Once you’ve completed book 1, you’ll have all of the tools necessary to play intermediate to advanced repertoire. A variety of playing styles from classical to jazz will also be quite comfortable for you at this point. When book 1 is complete, definitely check out book 2 which dives into inverted triads, more complex theory and a great selection of repertoire.
For a complete breakdown of how this method book works and why it’s one fo the best piano teaching books for adults, read this article.
This is an effective method that I wrote specifically for teaching yourself to play the piano. This is a multi-unit method that achieves the following in just 35 pages:
- Hand placement
- Reading the grand staff
- Counting rhythms and note values
- Intervallic note reading
- Time signatures
Each unit is tightly focused and moves at a slow pace with detailed instructions. What I’ve included at the end of each unit are short playing exercises that focus on the material learned in that unit. As each unit progresses so does the material. The book ends with a series of repertoire pieces to show off what you’ve learned.
To learn more about Piano Jumpstart you can check out the beginner piano course page here.
Music Tree Books 1 – 4
While the Music Tree books are geared towards student learners, the method is an excellent resource for adults too. I recommend this for an adult piano student who wants something easy enough that they can teach the material to themselves.
What Music Tree does well is break build on concepts. The initial focus in the earlier books such as Time To Begin is on rhythm. To help with that, the note reading is off-staff. This means there are no lines or spaces, but just the notes themselves.
Eventually, the music moves to partial staff reading, and this is where pianists learn to read music through counting intervals. Once seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths are comfortable, the music starts introducing the grand staff.
At this point, you’ll want to move into level 1 through level 4 books. Those books introduce new rhythms, key signatures, sharps and flats, new time signatures, and much more so that you can play more complex music.
I recommend Music Tree for an adult piano student who wants a slow entry into playing the instrument, and also needs a step by step approach to learning. The music tree books provide a lot of details and hints to help you get playing quickly. It’s a great self-teaching book if you can get past the cartoon characters on each page!
Alfreds Self Teaching Adult Piano Course
What better self-teaching course for piano than one actually named that! Alfred’s Self-teaching Adult Piano Course is a lot more than just a book. It’s a complete offering of all the strategies you need to play the piano effectively without having professional instruction.
Because of the materials that come with the book and the step by step instructions, it’s almost failproof for a beginner pianist to get started with this method.
The coursebook is 192 pages of detailed piano instruction. Along with the book is a CD. The purpose of the CD is to provide a way for you to check your playing for accuracy. The CD contains the piano parts that you will play along with an accompaniment to help make the pieces sound more exciting and engaging to play. This is helpful when you don’t have a teacher and you need a duet part to play with.
What impresses me most is the self-teaching study guide that goes along with each piece that you play. The instructions are really detailed. For instance, on page 4 of the method book, harmonic 4ths and 5ths are introduced.
The piece that follows is Jingle Bells, and the book describes in detail how the hands will move, where they will set, and where you can recognize the harmonic 4th and 5th occurring as you play. The book even details things you should not miss such as the dynamics, balance between the melody and accompaniment. It even discusses when to expect the hand to move up and down between specific keys.
Simply reading through the self-teaching instructions can give pianists a visualization of what’s going to happen step by step. This way when you play the piecdes you can anticipate and recognize your mistakes quickly and have a plan of action to correct them.
Piano For Dummies
Piano For Dummies is a nice option for people who want a quick and to the point strategy to learning the piano. There’s no fluff, only straightforward instruction. While it’s not exactly the kind of Faber or Hal Leonard method you may be used to, it’s still really good!
The book doesn’t just focus on repertoire. Much of it is geared towards theory and explaining what’s really going on when you play. For example, it explains that when you play a C major chord, you understand how the root, third, and fifth make the chord quality what it is.
I like this book because it comes with an audio CD to accompany the text. It’s a great way to train your ear to hear what your eyes are seeing! Many of the songs included on the disc are popular tunes you would be familiar with. That’s makes it easier to play!
The other neat thing about this book is that it goes just beyond the classical style. It covers rock, jazz, and pop music too as well as suggestions for how to play that style the right way. The book provides a glossary of musical symbols that you can refer to as you progress through the music.
There are a lot of ‘shortcuts’ in the Piano For Dummies book. For example, there’s a page you can tear out and stick above the piano that breaks down all of the white key names along with the enharmonic spellings of the sharps and flats.
While this is a great self-teaching book, it’s not necessarily for beginners. It’s not a slow walkthrough like Music Tree, and probably less hands-on than the Alfred adult piano courses. What it does do well is give you a great breakdown of the piano and get you playing quickly.
Faber Adult Piano Adventures Book 1
Faber already makes a standard Piano Adventures book that has a great selection of custom pieces to play. The Faber Adult Piano Adventures book is just as good as the version for younger players. All in One course comes in a variety of packages.
You can get it with just the book, or add int he CD/DVD package for the accompaniments and additional instruction. If you want to use this as a self-teaching book, then definitely get the additional CD/DVD resources because that’s a great way to check your playing and have a recording to play duets with.
This book focuses a great deal on technical and theoretical concepts for each piece. This way you’re not just playing pieces, but understanding what you’re doing as you play. This level breaks down musical notation right from the start. You’ll know exactly how to count rhythms, how to find notes quickly, and then put it all together with theory and proper technique.
The theory exercises are short but quite detailed. It’s step by step so you’ll have a process to go through. For example, the theory exercises on the G major pentascale has you sightread the passage, write in the harmonies, and then play the petascale melody with the chords you’ve added in. Everything is carefully laid out so that no steps are skipped and you are gaining the most from each exercise.
The repertoire also has short hints written on the page. For example, some will have you identify what key the piece is in, or to locate a scale you might have just learned within the piece. Other instructions detail how you should play the music and move your hands around.
Self-teaching usually means without a physical instructor helping you play the piano. However, Faber has provided an excellent resource with its online training module. There are several hours of online instruction that you can access as at any time as you progress through the book.
Included there are walkthroughs of the pieces you’re playing, explanations, an example of theory exercises, and much more. That material can be accessed at any time which is convenient for adult piano students.
How To Play Keyboard: A Complete Guide For Absolute Beginners
This Ben Parker book is actually quite good if you need a beginner’s approach to piano playing. Within the first few minutes of working with this book, you’ll be playing popular music even if you don’t have experience. It’s a short method at just 48 pages, but it covers everything you need.
How To Play Keyboard: A Complete Guide For Absolute Beginners approaches piano playing through using letters to help you familiarize yourself with the keys. That’s a little different than some of the other books that put a big emphasis on the grand staff, this book uses note names to get you playing quickly. There’s also a focus on chord playing and basic piano exercises too.
The book has plenty of photos and illustrations to help pianists out. The book focuses on simplicity, so for someone who’s a quick learner, it may seem almost too easy for you. However, if you’re a complete beginner, I think you’ll find this book to move at just the right pace.
Alfred’s Teach Yourself To Play Piano
If you haven’t already noticed, Alfred publishes some of the best piano method books on the market. They provide so much variety to accommodate all kinds of learning styles. An often overlooked course they offer is Teach Yourself To Play Piano. This one much like their other courses focuses on adult pianists teaching themselves having to play by supplying them with helpful tools and strategies to do so.
This course is 96 pages and focuses on the fundamentals of playing first. From there it slowly graduates students into musical notation, scales, and rhythms. There’s also a very thorough explanation of how the keyboard looks so that you can maneuver your way around it with ease.
The book is organized into 9 helpful units. The first unit focuses on the introduction to playing the piano. Everything discussed here includes finger numbers, sitting posture, dynamics, and much more. The next unit immediately jumps into the C position and has warmups to go along with that.
The next few units cover the grand staff, F position, how to play chords and the theory behind them. By the end of the book you’ll be familiar with five-finger patterns, phrasing by dropping and lifting the hands, and much more.
This book also includes an audio CD so that you can work with duets. Ultimately it’s very similar to the other Alfred self-teaching course, but with more emphasis on the theory and mechanic. If you want something more expansive that covers more hand positions, scales, and advanced playing, definitely check out the Alfred All In One Adult Course.
Bastien Piano Basics Level 1
Alone, the Bastien Piano Basics Level 1 book can teach you a lot about the piano. However, the entire set is necessary to cover all elements needed for well-rounded pianists. The music in this piano method is original, so while it’ s not all recognizable, it’s still enjoyable music to play.
The main lesson book is 56 pages, so a bit on the short side compared to some of the big adult piano methods. Still, there’s a lot of material there. Pianists are walked through finger positions, patterns, notes, rhythms, and other elements of notation.
While this book is okay to use for self-teaching, there are a few areas that are not fully explained as you will find in some other methods. With a bit of thinking, most beginners will get it. It’s not for complete beginners in the sense that it covers every single aspect, and it does move a bit quicker than most methods.
If you’re looking for additional repertoire or a bigger focus or theory, then you’ll need to invest in the entire four-book set which you can find here.