26 July 2021
By Ellie Palmer
Are you a beginner pianist looking to improve your playing? We take a look at the best piano books out there for you
1. RSL Classical Piano
Rockschool (RSL), most notably known for their popular music exam syllabuses, have decided to take a dive into the world of classical music and directly rival the likes of ABRSM and Trinity. They have books available from Pre-Grade 1 to Grade 8, each one full of ten pieces and technical exercises. The pieces are all preceded by a page of introductory notes covering the music's background, as well as helpful suggestions on how to prepare and perform the music.
While it is technically a Classical piano book, the pieces are still predominantly from the last century.
If you are looking for a beginner piano book that comes not only with pieces but also technical exercises and helpful tips on how to play the pieces, the earlier grades of these RSL Classical Piano books might be just right for you.
2. Cool Keys 1 & 2 – Sonny Chua
Both of these books contains pieces written by Australian composer Sonny Chua, who sadly passed away in 2020. A lot of his pieces are characterised by infectious rhythmic drive, humour and catchy motifs.
Book 1 contains 12 pieces from Pre-Grade level up to Grade 2, and book 2 contains 12 pieces from Grades 3-5.
You're guaranteed to have fun with these!
3. The Faber Music Easy Piano Anthology
Faber has already released numerous successful piano anthologies, covering Christmas music, Contemporary music, Jazz piano, and Soundtracks.
This Easy Piano Anthology is aimed at players around Grade 5-7, more suited to the late-beginner/lower-intermediate level pianist. It's an ideal book for those that are bordering on being ready to make the leap to intermediate level.
There are 51 pieces drawn from pop, jazz, film, folk and classical genres. Ranging in length from one to eight pages, there are only a handful of chords requiring octave stretches, making the pieces accessible to those with smaller hands.
4. Modal Exploration for Piano – Darren Fellows
British pianist Darren Fellows has put together twelve one-page pieces, with at least one piece written in each church mode (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian etc). All the pieces are around Grades 3-4, ranging in mood from the gentle and expressive Last Goodbye, to the energetic and upbeat Let It Go!
5. Ancient Modes of Transport – Graham Buckland
Composer Graham Buckland took inspiration for the music in this book from ancient modes of transport, such as Bucephalus (Alexander the Great's horse), Genghis Khan's Camel, Balaam's Donkey, and the Merchant Ships of Phoenicia.
Each piece explores a different church mode (Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian etc). The difficulty level of these pieces sits at around Grades 2-5.
A fun little book to get stuck into!
6. Primo Piano – Easy Piano Music for Adults
Primo Piano is a relatively new book curated by author Aria Altmann. Inside you'll find In this book you will find a diverse selection of many evergreen pieces in simplified versions, along with corresponding fingerings. There are 55 pieces in total, including Brahms Hungarian Dance No 5, Scott Joplin The Entertainer, and Offenbach Can Can amongst others. The pieces get more challenging as you work your way through the book.
Along with the sheet music, you'll also receive free downloadable audio files of each piece.
7. Chord Crash Course – Meridee Winters
Author Meridee Winters takes a slightly different approach to adult learning compared to the previous books in this list. She takes the 'learn by pattern and shape' approach, focusing on chords and patterns rather than the ability to read music.
She initially developed this method to empower recording artists who were unable to accompany themselves. It is, in essence, a way of teaching yourself how to play the piano at a basic level, fast. Through simple diagrams and step by-step instruction, you will learn some of music's most popular chord patterns, arpeggios, intervals, Alberti bass, rock rhythms, pop progressions and more.
While this method won't be for everyone, it's worth including on this list as it may just be the ideal way of learning for some of you.
8. Adult All-In-One Course – Alfred Music
This publication may date back to 1994, but it can still serve a purpose to today's adult beginner.
It's designed for use with a piano teacher, so if you are self-taught it may not be the right book for you.
The book includes lessons, theory, and technique in a convenient, all-in-one format. This includes isometric hand exercises, finger strengthening drills, and written assignments that reinforce each lesson's concepts.
Plenty of content to work through in this publication.
9. Cinematic Piano – Piano Hive
Authors James Thompson and Janette Mason have put together this wonderful 34-page book of cinematic piano music, accessible for the upper-beginner/lower-intermediate player.
The music inside, composed by the pair, is inspired by the likes of Ludovico Einaudi, Alexis Ffrench, Olafur Arnalds, Luke Howard and Nils Frahm.
The book is suitable for home performance, practice piano pieces, ABRSM, Rock School and Trinity piano grade support pieces, professional and recital performance, school, college and student learning.
10. Ludovico Einaudi – Graded Pieces for Piano
Einaudi's simple and repetitive patterns, catchy melodies and contemporary harmonies are like a siren call to pianists in the early phase of their learning journey.
This volume contains 20 arrangements with exercises and practice notes at Pre-Grade to Grade 2 level.
A brilliant addition to your repertoire if you are looking for something that's simple without taking away the music's beauty.
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