When starting out at the piano it’s important to have the right learning material in order to succeed. There are all sorts of ways of learning the piano whether it be by discovery or even rote learning. No matter how a beginner learns, the method books they look to for guidance are really important. Over the years as a student and a teacher I’ve found that the best piano books for beginners are those that reinforce the fundamentals while also keeping the student engaged throughout.
Here’s my comprehensive list of the best piano lesson books for beginners:
- Faber Piano Adventures
- Lang Lang Method
- Music Tree
- John Thompson’s Modern Piano Course
- Hal Leonard Piano Library
- A Dozen A Day
- Bastien Piano Basics
- Hanon Virtuoso Pianist
- Alfred Basic Piano Library Book 1
- Adult All In One Course Level 1
Why Method Books Matter
Method books are an essential tool for piano teachers. During a lesson, it’s always great to work with a student to help them improve their technique and approach. The reality is that most of the development happens during practice at home.
The right kind of piano lesson book will provide beginners with simple and effective answers to their questions. I suggest something like the Piano Jumpstart course because it teaches everything a beginner needs to know the right way.
The books I find work best are usually littered with diagrams, colorful pictures, and clear instructions to help students learn new repertoire.
All of the books listed below do a fine job of developing the student systematically to becoming exceptional players. Let’s begin our list with the first piano lesson book, Faber Piano Adventures!
Faber Piano Adventures
I grew up on the Faber Piano Adeventures method book and can vouch for it’s contribution to my playing. I always enjoyed opening up the book to practice because of the book cover alone; it’s a piano flying through the air with wings attached.
For beginners, you’ll want to stick with level 1 as it does get progressively difficult beyond that point. Faber Piano Adventures comes with plenty of supplemental material which includes theory, performance, and artistry books.
I like this book the most because it gets you playing quickly. Faber piano adventures focuses heavily on recognizing intervals and switching between various finger positions.
As a beginner touch is really important as you develop your sounds, so there’s a definite focus on playing dynamics the right way.
Along with that is some specific emphasis on music theory and understanding basic chord structures like the tonic, dominate and seventh chords.
From a teacher perspective, this book makes it easy to get into all aspects of note reading, understanding the grand staff and making sense of dynamics and symbols.
The book includes a helpful progress chart so both the teacher and student can see where they are and what’s ahead. It’s all broken down into 10 units; each geared to help beginners achieve specific musical goals. Overall the book is clearly laid out with nice illustrations to keep students engaged.
Lang Lang Method
I’ve been fortunate to spend some time with Lang Lang over the years and was really excited when he released the Lang Lang piano method book for kids. It’s a book that I’ve used to teach my students out of as well and they absolutely love it. There are 5 different levels, each book in its own color.
Where the book differs from some other methods is at the speed it gets students playing. The keyboard is clearly laid out and there are instructions to let you know which notes you’ll be using for the current page you’re on. If the pace is your thing and you want to learn piano quickly then I would go with this one.
There are plenty of illustrations to keep beginners engaged. Lang Lang is actually a cartoon character who’s a superhero pianist. Throughout the book, you play pieces centered around his adventures.
I will say that as you get into books 3 – 5 that things do become quite difficult. If you’re looking for a really active book that also teaches some elements of theory and encourages creativity in performances this is definitely one to go with!
The pages are well laid out, the speech bubbles are easy to read and it’s a fresh take on learning the piano.
Music Tree “Time To Learn” And Part 1
During my time teaching music at UGA I spent plenty of time with Music Tree. This is widely regarded as the best piano method book around for beginners.
The author Frances Clark does a tremendous job introducing the piano in a unique way that even the most novice learner can effectively get results.
I really love the artwork in this book; it’s based on animals like puppies and squirrels. “Time To Begin” is the main building block book all beginners use. It does start a little slow, so you may want to go up a level or two if you find it to be too simple.
Music Tree books also pair with activities books that reinforce the methods taught. It’s excellent supplemental material which makes it really easy for teachers to get results quickly. The repertoire pages have diagrams on them similar to the Lang Lang method, but much easier to read.
They point out which notes are being used for each piece, how to locate them and with letter names. Note grouping is also taught. Where I think Music Tree sticks out is the lyrics that are added under each note.
Students can work on their ear training this way and sing through the piece while also playing. Here are some sample pages of Music Tree to get an idea of how it all works.
John Thompson’s Modern Piano Course
By the time I came across John Thompson’s piano method, I had already been playing the instrument for quite some time. What I was missing though was clear right away.
This book is repertoire heavy and has a ton of fun pieces in it; not just a huge manuscript of really difficult Classical techniques.
Any popular Classical piece you’ve heard on a CD or have seen in concert is in this book. If you’ve got a student who’s kind of been turned off by piano, then this book will certainly recapture that interest.
Thompson does have another method book out (JT Easiest Piano Course) which is much better for the complete beginner. The illustrations seem to perfectly capture the essence of the work at hand.
For example, on page 5 you’ll find the piece “Playing Tag” which features cartoon characters chasing each other.
Musically the right-han plays an eighth note passage followed by the left hand; mimicking tag essentially.
There is also plenty of theory sprinkled throughout the book that calls on students to draw stems on notes and place note names for example. Overall the method is well organized and a perfect starter book.
Hal Leonard Piano Library
If you’re looking for nonsense and straightforward method, look no further than the Hal Leonard Piano Library. Book 1 is the perfect starting point and actually encourages creativity in playing from the start.
As a kid growing up I would play along with the accompanying CD’s and let me tell you, they are amazing to play with!
The CD alone is enough to challenge a beginner student to be their best and to practice. I find this book to really good for a student who wants to be able to move ahead and grow without having a teacher at their side each step of the way. It’s just that well laid out!
Hal Leonard even sprinkles elements of improvisation and theory training throughout each level of the method. Musical terms and symbols are thoroughly explained in each level too.
A Dozen A Day
Short, sweet and to the point; that’s what A Dozen A Day provides to beginner piano students. This book is more of an exercise book than anything, and it strives to be that way too.
The pieces are really short and tons of fun to play. If you want a student to get some quick wins early on in their piano journey then this is definitely the book to go with.
I wouldn’t use this as a primary lesson book, but it’s excellent supplemental material. This is a great book to test out some sight reading and memory based practices with.
For the development of technique, this might be the closest thing to Hanon on the market.
Bastien Piano Basics
Level 1 of the Bastien Piano Basics book takes new pianists across the entire keyboard. The goal of the method is to get students to play effectively in all 12 keys, develop basic technique and theory.
Level 1 focuses on the first 3 keys while the other 9 are taught throughout the other 4 levels of the method.
The beginning of the book focuses on C position and then gradually works into recognizing tonic and dominant. Shortly after various articulations like staccato and musical form are introduced.
By the end of the first method book, students will be able to play in multiple octaves and even experiment with various musical styles outside of Classical. There is also a Primer level of this book which complete beginners with no experience might want to use.
Hanon Virtuoso Pianist
Last on my list is the ever-popular Hanon Virtuoso Pianist book. This book has become a staple for pianists both beginner and professional.
This is where some of the most basic foundations of piano playing can be developed. This is mostly a technique book, but with some creativity can be turned into much more.
The downside with the Hanon book is that there are no cute animations or nurturing words in it. It’s simply the student and a page full of notes with very strict instructions.
As a teacher, you really need to have a grip on what you’re doing before prescribing a method like this to a beginner.
Where the instructions aren’t clear you should be chiming in offering plenty of detail and finding ways to cater each exercise to the individual student.
The results students can gain from Hanon are lifelong though. It’s one of those methods that you can use to fix common issues someone might be having with their main repertoire.
It’s also the best book in my opinion to develop and really hone in on scalar passagework and mastering the art of octave playing!
Alfred Basic Piano Library Book 1
The reason I really like this book is because of the popular hits included inside it. This is a great book for a beginner student who wants to connect with different genres while learning.
Alfred has included some really awesome hits in this book. Tunes such as the Batman theme, Meghan Trainor and Star Wars just to name a few.
As a young pianist who might want to impress their friends and family, this makes the piano seem “cool” to them. I would combine this book with some of the Alfred theory books and Classical based training out there so that the pianist is well rounded.
Adult All In One Course Level 1
A lot of what I’ve suggested so far on this list caters towards young pianists in particular. For them seeing beautiful illustrations and attaching fun stories to their playing really makes the learning process either.
For adults, that’s not necessarily the case and a more serious approach works better. Besides, there are plenty of adult pianists out there these days.
This is where the Adult All In One Course Level 1 book comes into play. I used to teach college-aged students out of this book and it’s really straight forward and well laid out.
The method is comprehensive all around with a great deal of theory and practical approaches to music involved.
The one thing I like with this book is that the note names are printed right in the middle of the staff so you know exactly which note is where. As a complete beginner that’s helpful as you get around the keyboard. The exercises that accompany the music make sense and helps tie everything together. What I like most is that everything builds progressively on the methods learned previously.