A quick look online will quickly show you that there are thousands of piano books in print. For a new piano teacher or a parent wishing to buy for a child it can be really difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff and find the perfect book.
So, here we have a summary of some of the best books out there. I have arranged them according to difficulty, starting with a list of books which I would recommend for beginners of various ages, then moving on to lists of books suitable for each grade. Obviously different pianists will prefer different styles of book, so it is impossible to be totally objective. But the review of each of the books should give you an idea of the style and pace of each book as well as simply it’s difficulty level.
Best piano books for beginners
Age 7 and Under
John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4
First published in 1945 this series has stood the test of time.
Designed to present the simplest possible approach to learning piano, includes an amusing family of characters and pictures to help with the information being taught.
Part one is devoted to developing fluency in reading by note, the biggest hurdle for most young children. The range is purposely limited. Only five notes up and five notes down from middle C are presented and time values do not go beyond crotchets.
Each book of the course contains its own writing exercises, sight-reading drills, review work and later, technical studies.
Accompaniments for teacher or parent are supplied with most of the examples.
I have used all four books in my teaching practice. I find that books 1 and 2 progress at a steady and manageable pace for most young students. By the time they get to books 3 and 4 most students lose interest in these books. Partly because the tunes are mostly pretty obscure and also because the style of the pieces is somewhat monotonous.
Age 10 to 12
Piano Time Books 1, 2 and 3
This well established series by Pauline Hall includes 3 course books and dozens of themed repetoire books including such treasures as Piano Time Classics, Piano Time Jazz and Piano Time Carols.
These books will give any beginner a really thorough grounding. They include solos and duets and progress at a very manageable rate. Book 2 covers some grade 1 scales and broken chords. They are probably best suited to students aged from about 10 to 12 who are happy to play music in a classical style.
Piano Grade 1 in Easy Steps
Get ready for Grade 1 piano with this series of three books.
These books are ideal for students who want to enter for grade 1 but need to take a few more steps up before they are ready. Each book contains a selection of all of the types of test found in a real grade 1 exam: 9 pieces (choose 3 to learn); scales and broken chords, sight reading, aural tests, theory. There is even a mark sheet and a certificate included, to be signed by the teacher once the Pre Grade 1 test has been passed!
Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course
A good course for adults who wish to learn chords. It teaches chords for both hands and the student will be able to play melodies with chordal accompaniments. This course is designed to be used with a piano tutor or experienced musician.
Alfred’s Basic Adult All-in-One Course
This book should be followed with the guidance of a piano instructor. It is an expanded version of Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course and includes lessons, theory, and technique in a comprehensive, “all-in-one” format. This course has such features as isometric hand exercises, finger strengthening drills, and written assignments that reinforce each lesson’s concepts. Styles include folk, classical, and contemporary selections. On completing of this course, the student will be able to play some of the most famous music ever written and will have a good understanding of musical concepts and styles.