Those just setting out on their piano journey (and their teachers) can now choose from an impressive range of adult-appropriate method books: there’s something here for everyone!
That’s great news, because the last thing most adult learners want is to be presented with Jimmy Timpson’s First Piano Lessons for Tiny Tots, or a minor variation with the word “adult” cannily stamped on the front cover.
There are plenty of good reasons for this:
- Adults usually know what music they do and don’t like.
- Adults have a more mature outlook on learning
- Adults are usually willing to commit as much time as they can to practising.
- Adults coming for lessons tend not to want to play by rote. Many will have already tried learning from apps or online videos and found them wanting.
- Adults often pick up music reading more easily than children, and appreciate the independence that music literacy brings.
- But adults often find it more difficult to learn new coordination skills.
- Adults were schooled differently to today’s children.
- Adults have considerably more independence than children. They enjoy doing their own research and are likely to be networking with other adult learners.
Here, then, are some of my top choices for adult beginners:
Janet & Alan Bullard (OUP)
Pianoworks is a popular choice due to its clear, detailed explanations, logical no-fuss progression, and excellent grown-up music choices.
The two core method books offer a fast, no-nonsense approach to piano playing with an emphasis on independent learning and solid notation reading. There is plenty of text, all engagingly and clearly written to enable the adult learner to progress at their own pace between lessons.
While predominantly a classical approach, Pianoworks includes folk songs, more recent popular and showtune hits, all brilliantly arranged. The two separate duet books are excellent, and there are several superb books of additional repertoire in the series.
+ A fabulous selection of progressive music.
+ Carefully structured no-nonsense methodology.
+ Excellent supporting text and supplementary repertoire books.
– The challenging pace won’t suit all learners.
– CD recordings are a little disappointing.
The Hal Leonard Adult Piano Method
Fred Kern, Phillip Beveren, Barbara Kreader and Mona Rejino (Hal Leonard)
The Adult Piano Method offers a concise, integrated approach which includes Lessons, Solos, Technique & Theory, all contained within the two core books. These have a dynamic modern presentation, with stunning design throughout. New concepts and notation are introduced with well-devised explanations, and the use of spot colour considerably adds to visual appeal and clarity.
Overall, this is a gentle, well-structured and consolidated approach, and the music used throughout is more contemporary in feel than many other alternatives.
Audio and MIDI files accompanying the books can be accessed via a special feature of the Hal Leonard site, “My Library”. Hal Leonard have integrated an on-screen playback device which allows for the tempo to be adjusted slower or faster to help practice. Also, it’s possible to change the pitch/key, balance, and loop tracks, and yet the quality in all cases is stunning.
+ A logical, thorough method, with a gentle pace.
+ The music and supplementary song books are great.
+ The online material is a truly brilliant addition, sealing the deal!
– The early, large-print section of Book 1 won’t appeal to all.
– Some adults will prefer a faster-paced alternative.
The Classical Piano Method
Hans-Günter Heumann (Schott Music)
For the beginner looking for a thorough, systematic and steady approach, the Classical Piano Method hits the nail squarely on the head.
The series comprises three levels, each furnished with four beautifully presented books. These cover Method, Repertoire, Duets and “Finger Fitness”. Most learners will likely find the Method books sufficiently comprehensive, although some of my adult students have bought them and enjoyed the useful extra material.
Alongside pedagogic pieces written by Heumann himself (a true master in this field!), the music mostly comprises very simplified arrangements of classical favourites. Pupils always tell me how much they enjoy these, even though they are often very bare-bones approximations of the originals.
+ Great for the beginners needing a carefully progressive approach.
+ The pedagogy is outstanding, and further helped by engaging text.
+ The music is appealing, and the CD a genuinely useful addition.
+ The presentation is stunning.
– The method deliberately limits itself to classical music.
– Some might prefer more interactive content over the CD.
It’s Never Too Late to Play Piano
Pam Wedgwood (Faber Music)
With its memorable and inviting title, attractive layout and down-to-earth approach, it is no wonder that It’s Never Too Late to Play the Piano has been a best-seller. The method was revised in 2006 and now appears as a single 80-page book, with CD included.
This is faster paced, more ambitious book. Text is clearly and concise, written in an accessible chatty style that conveys the author’s trademark warmth. In addition to simple explanations of notation and technique, there are plenty of “fact files”, composer biographies and more, all adding to the musical engagement of the content as a whole.
Music notation is on the small side, but there are a huge number of pieces packed into the single volume, including a mixture of original pieces, arrangements of popular classics and a familiar popular songs including Memory, Plaisir d’amour, The Music of the Night, and The Greatest Love of All.
Several supplementary repertoire books exist, which are themed around different musical styles including Classics, Jazz, Showtunes, and Rock ’n’ Roll.
+ the needs of adult learners have been carefully addressed
+ the music is appropriate, varied and excellent throughout
+ the interactive CD is genuinely useful and well produced
– the pace will be too fast and potentially off-putting for some
– the music font is rather too small for those with declining eyesight.
And there’s more…
These methods show the diversity and quality of materials available in 2021, but there are many other excellent choices, including:
Adult Piano Adventures
(Faber Piano Adventures)
Part of a best-selling series with a raft of more than 300 supplementary books to suit all ages and tastes, the adult version of Faber Piano Adventures comes as a bumper book with bonus audio and even video tutorial content. Methodical, creative, and a firm favourite!
Mike Cornick: Play the Piano
This is a fast-paced, fairly traditional method with plenty of absorbing text, an interesting selection of music and arrangements, included CD and supplementary repertoire books to use alongside the two method levels. Quite serious in tone!
Carol Barratt’s Classic Piano Course
The venerable Classic Piano Course was published some 25 years ago, was one of the first methods to be written from the ground up for adults. There are three course books in the series, delivering a carefully structured and enjoyable notation-based approach.
Alfred Premier Piano Express
The ground-breaking Alfred Basic Adult All-In-One Course remains a global best-seller, but I much prefer the more recent Alfred Premier Piano Course for its superior methodology and musical content. The recently added Alfred’s Premier Piano Express is a great option for teenage and adult learners looking for a thorough and enjoyable approach.
You can read about all these methods in more depth, as well as reviews of hundreds of music collections for players of all levels and interests on my Pianodao site, where you’ll also find a wealth of information, articles and inspiration to support you on your piano journey.
Do pay the site a visit!
Andrew teaches dozens of adult learners from his studio in Milton Keynes UK, and is a respected professional mentor, writer, composer and leader in piano education.