We are reader-supported. Links on our site may earn us a commission. More about us

The 9 best piano lesson books for beginners in 2024

Learning to play the piano takes hard work and commitment, but it should be a lot of fun too. With so much learning material available, finding the best piano books for beginners is a more complicated task than it should be.

Spending hours or days trying to decide where to begin your education takes all the fun out of music before you play your first note.

I hate the idea of beginners giving up before discovering how good they could be. So, let me do the boring bit, so you don’t have to: here’re my top piano books for beginners and why I like them.

Contents

Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Why you should trust me

James Nugent, author and contributor at Higher Hz

I’m a professional pianist and composer with over 20 years of experience in the music industry.

As a beginner, I worked through graded exams from the ABRSM practical piano syllabus before moving on to further music education. From further education to professional musician, I have extensively studied practical and theory-based material from traditional/classical and modern/contemporary sources.

Are piano lesson books still worth it in 2024?

We live in a digital era when anything less than instant access to information is considered too slow. Beginners can access online piano lessons, YouTube tutorials, educational blogs, and much more, all from their smartphone, tablet, or computer. So, it’s understandable that many aspiring pianists would assume that printed books are a thing of the past.

Online piano education platforms prioritize videos and interactive lessons over text-based content because they are more engaging. With an audience used to instant information, watching a 10-minute video is usually more appealing than reading a 10-minute article.

Therefore, the amount of written information provided by online piano websites/apps is dwarfed by the amount of video/interactive content. So, I can simplify this topic further by saying it comes down to what you read versus what you hear.

While I understand the focus on more engaging content, and the benefits of an engaged student, I firmly believe that we retain the information we read far better than the information we hear.

There are many situations where I feel students would benefit more and progress faster by reading from a book rather than watching a video.

Despite being a lover of technology, I also believe it’s important to maintain a connection to the history of the piano. I think every student should read books, learn to notate music by hand, and not just with a mouse, and know what it’s like to place a printed score on your music stand instead of an iPad.

Piano books have much more than nostalgia to offer in 2024, and I hope that never changes.

Books vs online

I don’t think you should limit yourself to one or the other. I’ve tested many piano lesson platforms, and some are fantastic.

Students can learn so much from the listen/watch and repeat method many platforms employ, and I encourage you to do so. But I also encourage you to turn to piano books to avoid the shortcomings of learning online only.

For example, if you watch a video on constructing melodic minor scales, and at the end, you have an interactive lesson that asks you to play a C melodic minor scale, two things are likely to happen:

  • you’ll somewhat follow the theory in the video, but you’ll pass the lesson primarily based on watching the notes on the screen;
  • you’ll move on having aced the lesson; playing C melodic minor will become muscle memory, but you’ll need a visual guide to play other melodic minor scales.

If you read the same information followed by an exercise from a book, there’s a greater chance that you’ll absorb and understand the theory behind constructing scales and find it easier to change key without help.

Sometimes, repetition is king, and sometimes it’s about retaining important information. Don’t limit yourself: read, listen, and watch as much as possible.

Piano booksOnline lessons
Easier to retain information.Gamified learning is highly engaging.
Generally cheaper.Course can be updated with new content.
More traditional.Courses can appeal to a wider audience.
Typically, more in-depth, although you may need to buy more than one volume of any given book.Instant feedback.
Tried-and-tested methods.Easier to stay motivated at times.
Feels more authentic.World-renowned teachers on some courses.
Requires more self-discipline.Fairly expensive, although, most are value for money over an extended period.
You’ll only use most course books once.Most try to cover too much, too fast, leading to holes in the content.
Sometimes confusing progression paths.
Not always enough accountability.
Sometimes cause bad habits.

How I chose the books for this list

For this list, I looked for books that offer some or all of the following:

  • A proven track record of helping beginners progress.
  • A tried and trusted teaching method.
  • A unique but sensible approach to teaching piano.
  • A logical progression path.
  • It can simplify complex ideas for beginners.
  • It suits various age ranges.

Here’s a list of all the piano lesson books I recommend for beginners:

  1. Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course
  2. Alfred’s Basic Piano Library
  3. The Lang Lang Piano Method
  4. Hal Leonard Piano for Teens
  5. Piano for the Young Beginner
  6. The AB Guide to Music Theory
  7. Piano Scales, Chords & Arpeggios Lessons
  8. A Dozen a Day
  9. The Older Beginner Piano Course

Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course

by W. A. Palmer, M. Manus, and A. V. Lethco

There are many reasons that adults put off learning to play the piano: they think it’s too complicated, don’t have access to a teacher, or don’t want to spend hours on a computer screen. These books offer the perfect alternative and are a great reminder that it’s never too late to learn.

Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course lesson book Image: Alfred Music Buy from: Amazon Alfred Music

Like most Alfred releases, the Basic Adult Piano Course comes in multiple parts. While it won’t take you from beginner to expert, it will make you a confident pianist, ready to take the next step from intermediate to advanced. The delivery of information is drastically different from that of Alfred’s kids’ books, but it’s not intimidating at all.

One of the biggest obstacles that any potential learner has to clear, especially adults, is convincing themselves it’s not the most complex thing in the world. Some textbooks, while providing valid information, overload students and scare them off before they get started. Alfred books deliver information in a way that best suits any specific audience, and that’s why I like them.

If you look at the contents of book one in this series, you’ll see a list that goes from how to sit at the piano to playing some impressive tunes. Alfred has found a way to provide manageable lessons that will have students flying through more complex concepts than they realize.

What I like

  • Instantly makes learning piano less intimidating.
  • Easy-to-digest lessons.
  • Sensible progression path.

What I don’t like

  • Less focused on making lessons fun.
  • Slightly dated.

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library

by W. A. Palmer, M. Manus, and A. V. Lethco

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library provides a sensibly-paced curriculum that will help younger beginners develop solid fundamentals. The series teaches valuable material in a way that makes for fun and productive lessons, and that’s what every kid’s piano guide should do.

Alfred's Basic Piano Library lesson book 1A Image: Alfred Music Buy from: Amazon Alfred Music

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library is a series of books that cover music theory, practical lessons, techniques, and recitals. It’s the perfect material for youngsters to work through with a piano teacher, and it is easy enough to follow on their own.

Alfred Music is one of the most trusted names in music education publishing and has a track record of good results that very few can compete with.

One of the best things about these books is that they are playful and fun without forgetting the need for genuine progress. The books use a mixture of informal language and cartoonish illustrations to capture and keep the attention of easily distracted kids.

I love the collection because it keeps kids engaged and entertained and provides a sense of grown-up achievement because they’ll be playing their first recital for the family in no time.

What I like

  • Great balance of fun and productivity.
  • Great delivery of information for target users.
  • Encourages performance goals.

What I don’t like

  • Fast learners should complete it fairly quickly.

The Lang Lang Piano Method

by Lang Lang

Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Lang Lang Piano Method takes an unorthodox but highly productive approach to teaching kids. It’s the perfect book for today’s kids who need a little convincing to take a step back from technology (computer screens).

The Lang Lang Piano Method lesson book Image: Lang Lang Buy from: Amazon Alfred Music

Lang Lang is kind of the superhero of classical music; he’s a rockstar in that world. It makes sense that he should be the superhero in these books.

The Lang Lang Piano Method goes one step further than using cartoon illustrations and creates an immersive comic book experience for students.

It doesn’t just keep the students’ attention; it has them eager to move on in the story, which means they are keen to learn! It also makes them feel like music is a superpower, and the more they learn, the more powerful they are, just like Lang Lang.

I love this approach, especially when it comes from such a credentialled classical pianist. It’s almost like a primitive form of gamified learning; brilliant.

What I like

  • Ideal approach to teaching kids.
  • Extremely engaging.
  • Comes from an innovative renowned pianist.

What I don’t like

  • Some parents will prefer a more serious lesson book.

Hal Leonard Piano for Teens

by Jennifer Linn

Piano for Teens is an ideal middle-ground between the kids’ options and some of the more formal adult teaching methods. Hal Leonard has been publishing books like this for so long they have mastered the art of audience engagement, which isn’t easy with teenagers.

Hal Leonard Piano for Teens lesson book Image: Hal Leonard Buy from: Amazon Hal Leonard

It’s one thing to start learning piano as a young child and continue through the teenage and adult years; starting in the teenage or adult years is very different. In some ways, starting in the teenage years can be most difficult because a few cartoon illustrations and kids’ songs won’t keep them hooked.

You have to find a way to engage with current popular culture without sounding contrived. Hal Leonard has created a book with a great selection of modern and traditional songs that should appeal to a wide demographic of teens.

Another problem with books like this is that once you have a teen’s attention, they have to feel like they are learning to be a real musician and not just play some childlike tunes. This book is a good example of not rushing or skipping fundamental lessons but also maintaining enough substance that teenagers feel a genuine sense of achievement.

If I had one complaint, I’d say while the delivery is good, some design elements of the book are a little dated and could use a refresh.

What I like

  • Great middle ground between child and adult learning.
  • Sets a pace that teenagers can handle.

What I don’t like

  • A bit old-fashioned for some teens today.

Piano for the Young Beginner

by James Bastien

You can’t talk about the best piano books for kids without mentioning Bastien. I have a couple of options on this list tailored to youngsters, and where you think this one stacks up against the others depends on the student. But these books are so easy to follow and focus on well-curated, age-appropriate material.

Piano for the Young Beginner book Image: J. Bastien Buy from: Amazon

Piano for the Young Beginner focuses on material that should appeal to the youngest students up to age seven or so. I’ve been a little vague on the age group because all kids are different, but any kids who still enjoy songs like “Old MacDonald” will love it.

Bastien doesn’t follow the cartoonish path of the Alfred books, but it does teach music theory using predominantly children’s songs. There’s nothing new in this method, but it’s a tried-and-tested way to help youngsters understand scales, intervals, and other elements of music by using a familiar song.

The series moves at a relatively slow pace, which gives young students every chance of success before running into anything too difficult.

What I like

  • Content suits target readers.
  • Great song selection for kids.
  • Ideal introduction to piano because it takes a slow pace.

What I don’t like

  • Kids will outgrow it quickly (it’s still a worthwhile process).

The AB Guide to Music Theory

by Eric Taylor

As a student, this book was my go-to resource for all things music theory. I love it, as do countless students and pianists around the world.

The AB Guide to Music Theory book Image: ABRSM Buy from: Amazon ABRSM

I can keep this one nice and short because it’s not a lesson book or one that teaches how to play. It’s more of a musical theory dictionary; it has all the answers and well-defined descriptions of every aspect of music theory.

It’s a book I highly recommend any student keeps as a study resource alongside any other course material.

What I like

  • Outstanding resource for all things music theory.
  • Cheap and lasts a lifetime.
  • Provides clear and direct information.

What I don’t like

  • It won’t help you learn piano alone, it’s a great accompaniment to other books.

Piano Scales, Chords & Arpeggios Lessons

by Damon Ferrante

It’s a book that should stay with you from beginner to advanced and one that you should open at least once per day. These lessons are invaluable for any pianist.

Piano Scales, Chords and Arpeggios Lessons book Image: Damon Ferrante Buy from: Amazon

This book might be a hard sell for some potential students because it focuses on technical exercises rather than lessons that lead to songs. It’s a common frustration of beginners to assume that learning/playing scales, chords, and arpeggios has little or nothing to do with playing their favorite songs. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The more you play and understand these technical exercises, the easier it becomes to learn any song you like, even without sheet music. Damon Ferrante is a respected educator, and this book provides 140 step-by-step lessons that get progressively harder.

Any student who dedicates even a little time each day to these exercises will progress through other material much faster thanks to rock-solid foundations.

What I like

  • Builds technique quickly.
  • Encourages routine.

What I don’t like

  • Technical exercises get boring.

A Dozen a Day

by Edna Mae Burnam

This book is part of a daily routine for so many pianists because it’s simple, fun, and it works. It’s an excellent way to begin each practice session, encouraging discipline and routine.

A Dozen a Day piano technical exercises book Image: Willis Music Buy from: Amazon Willis Music

A Dozen a Day takes the idea of warming up before physical exercise and transforms it into a fun but rigorous piano warm-up routine.

The Willis Music publication cleverly mimics movements like walking, running, and skipping in various finger warm-up routines. As you develop as a pianist, you discover that it’s about much more than playing the right notes; it’s about the feel.

A Dozen a Day not only gets your fingers warm, loose, and ready to play, it takes you through some of the most common types of “feel” that we use in performance.

It makes the learner mindful of their touch being too heavy or too light and aware of using space and time properly. It’s a simple book that yields fantastic returns.

What I like

  • Encourages routine.
  • Short but productive exercises.

What I don’t like

  • You have to do it every day to get the most out of it.

The Older Beginner Piano Course

by James Bastien

The book could use a modern update, but it does what it sets out to do, and that’s no surprise from James Bastien.

The Older Beginner Piano Course book Image: J. Bastien Buy from: Amazon

It’s fair to say there are some things that I love about this book and some that I hate. I’ll get the negatives out of the way by saying the book looks like an art history book that has sat untouched on a library shelf for decades.

Now, art history is fascinating, but there’s no reason that a piano book has to look so dated just because it’s aimed at older students. Of course, the book was first published in 1977, but I’d argue that it probably looked old-fashioned even back then; it needs a makeover.

What I love most is that we need more books and content sharing the same message: it’s never too late to learn! The content and choice of music is good and should satisfy a fairly broad audience. It’s ideal for anyone who maybe feels like the age of digital learning is passing them by.

What I like

  • Targets a sometimes forgotten audience.
  • Reminds us that it’s never too late to learn.
  • Covers music to suit varied tastes.
  • Great pacing for late starters.

What I don’t like

  • Even for older learners, it’s a little old-fashioned.

Conclusion

Many of these books are available in digital formats, and if that works best for you, that’s great. But there’s a lot to be gained from keeping things a little old-school at times and getting your hands on a printed book.

Share
Discussions