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So you’ve decided to learn how to play the piano. Now you just have to figure out how, exactly, to do that. If you’re tackling this new goal solo and looking for the best beginner piano books for adults, we have a few recommendations on where to start.
You’re not looking for a book for teachers, serious music students, or children. You just need something with clear, straightforward instructions from a respected music educator to learn the basics, which you can build upon later if you choose. Though teaching methods vary, beginner books operate on the assumption that you have no musical knowledge whatsoever. Most will start by teaching the fundamentals of hand positioning and recognizing the notes on the keys and expanding on these skills from there.
Things to Consider When Buying a Beginner Piano Book for Adults
Clarity: You’re not going to get anywhere if you can’t understand the instructions. A good lesson book includes step-by-step instructions using language you can actually understand, with precise diagrams that demonstrate exactly what goes where. Many books come with an accompanying CD (remember those) or videos that you can follow along. Aside from being enormously constructive to watch an expert when you’re learning a new skill, videos lend the practice a pseudo in-person lesson atmosphere.
Songs: The point of learning to play the piano is to play songs you actually like, right? So we look into the variety (and quality) of songs the books teach. You will probably still have to start small, however, so don’t be too annoyed if you learn “A Tisket A Tasket” before Beethoven.
Method: How effective a given teaching method is will depend at least in some part on your individual learning style, so think about what would work best for you. Do you respond well to repetition and practice drills? Do you like to have things spelled out or are you a more visual learner? How much music theory and music reading are you trying to learn?
Piano vs. Keyboard: While a piano and keyboard (or digital piano) feature similar keys and sounds, books written specifically for electric keyboards will often include lessons on specific keyboard equipment that you would miss with a book for piano. Consider the type of instrument you are using and shop for instructional books accordingly.
1. Damon Ferrante Piano Book for Adult Beginners
We really love how specific the instructions are for this piano book, which is designed for people who are familiar enough with the piano to recognize one when they see one — but not much beyond that.
Lessons begin with basic finger patterns and piano key recognition, and gradually build on skills as the course progresses, for example teaching right and left hand exercises separately before eventually bringing both skills together.
This course actually has two components — the lesson book and accompanying streaming videos — designed to be used together for more well-rounded instruction.
2. Alfred’s Basic Adult All-in-One Course
This book definitely takes a traditional, classroom approach to piano lessons, right down to the written homework assignments. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as many find the accompanying worksheets, isometric hand exercises, and finger strengthening drills helpful for reinforcing the day’s instructions.
It also goes beyond the bare-bones basics of teaching notes and melodies, and introduces fundamentals of music theory in addition to music reading and playing technique. While there is no official CD or video accompanying this course, helpful YouTubers have uploaded demonstrations for each lesson which you can access on your own.
3. How To Play Keyboard: A Complete Guide for Absolute Beginners
Billed as a how-to book for keyboards, this basic primer is designed for you to learn at your own pace, and is an easy introduction to reading and playing music. People find that the clarity of diagrams, illustrations, and instructions are particularly effective when learning fingering and becoming familiar with the notes on the keyboard.
Because it is written for the keyboard specifically, it does include some guidance on electronic keyboard functions, though we wish this was a little more robust.