The most popular Piano books in UK – Pros and Cons
Have you ever wondered which piano books are the best and how to find a piano teacher who follows them?
Does it make sense to feel that you or your kids are effectively learning and the piano lessons are paying off?
In Hampstead Piano Academy we believe that music can be taught from innumerable viewpoints – always tailored to every child – rather from an ultimate method.
Therefore, we made a selection of the most popular piano methods in UK to evaluate their pros and cons based on our teaching experience.
There we go!
First piano books: How to get started
Dogs and Birds
This book provides a fun introduction to music in three graded levels.
It is a revolutionary piano book for children aged 3 to 7 created by Hungarian pianist and teacher Elsa Luzher.
There are two versions of each which need to be combined with each other.
In the animals’ edition, seven animals are placed within the musical note whose name starts with the same letter.
Ant, Bird, Cat, Dog, Egg, Fish and Goose.
Then, the blank edition contains the same pieces without the animals drawings, so it is used as a transition to the conventional music writing.
It is recommended to sing along while playing, to make the students enhance their inner ear.
It all makes the learning process so intuitive that children as young as 3 may start practicing book 1 without even knowing the alphabet.
What is more, it will make the piano lessons much more fun and engaging for the youngest pupils.
Chester “The Frog” is a popular character among those young students who have just started learning piano.
It has become a favorite among piano teachers in UK.
Written by Carol Barratt and illustrated by Sarah Lennon, this method combines pictures, games and activities with a clear approach.
The three volumes may be complemented with two volumes of piano duets, a carols book and two sets of music theory puzzles.
One of the most satisfying characteristics is that the progress is gradually paced through a simple introduction to music theory.
All this is combined with sight reading exercises and pieces of the same level.
After realising that children are particularly engaged by the lyrics of some pieces, we would recommend to add words to all pieces.
Jatekok, games in Hungarian, is a method created by the contemporary composer György Kurtág.
One of the peculiarities of this creative piano method is its way of music notation.
It makes improvisation an important factor and liberates children from sight reading.
It may not be as popular as the ones we have mentioned so far, but it successfully works.
This collection of short piano works was composed to supplement traditional teaching materials for youngsters who have not learnt how to read yet.
It allows the teacher to pay attention to the importance of the body in the piano playing, which will eventually play a decisive role in the performance.
Besides, its kinaesthetic approach stimulates the student to experiment with sensations and sounds without the need of reading from the score.
It helps the students to develop their awareness of rhythm, pulse and pitch as well as enhancing the control and perception of their movements.
Nevertheless, this non-traditional notation is something to bear in mind.
Therefore, it is advisable that the teacher complements the piano lesson with some other materials.
J. Thompson´s Piano method
This is another example of an illustrated music course with colourful drawings and characters.
However, the learning process is sometimes not well-measured.
The book keeps adding too many new concepts before the pupil has enough time to internalise them.
Hence, it is advisable to work simultaneously on some other materials to reinforce the lessons proposed.
From experience, we found that most of the beginners who completed the first volume, were still unconvinced about how to read music from the score.
In addition, the second book became so hard at some point that it was necessary to look for other materials.
Bastien Piano Basics is probably one of the most famous piano books around the globe.
Their four graded volumes of piano, technique, performance and theory provide a clear sense of structure and harmony to the piano.
Curiously enough, most of the pieces are based in three hand positions rooted in C, F or G.
This visual approach gets people playing some notes straightaway.
But some students may eventually feel too attached to the same patterns.
Despite its popularity, you would not use this book in a first lesson.
They do enjoy its fun pieces.
But after finishing this book, they struggle to read other piano music written outside those patterns.
The Suzuki method
This method might sound familiar to us all, specially to violin players.
However, we personally would not consider it as a proper “piano book”.
We would rather say it is a collection of the most popular pieces by the greatest classical composers such as Bach, Mozart or Beethoven.
Fundamental piano repertoire that any piano teacher would use in their lessons.
It is fantastic that they have been compilled in a printed book though, just called as Suzuki.
Nevertheless, this sort of pieces only appear after volume 2, when the student is supposed to have achieved certain capability of playing the piano.
On the other hand, volume 1 is definitely not a beginners book as it starts with high notes on the right hand and proper chords on the left.
In addition to this, almost all the pieces were written in C Major and have quite similar accompaniments.
Working on Piano technique
Dozen a day
This is a book to improve piano technique that might remind you of The Virtuoso Pianist by Charles Hanon.
Well paced sets of exercises for the ten fingers written in the key of C Major make daily practice fun and appealing.
It offers the teachers a chance to watch their pupils’ technique and consciously work on the appropriate use of the fingers, wrists and elbows.
It does not require the students to have advanced reading skills.
So we recommend to make them transpose to all keys as many exercises as possible.
ABRMS and Trinity College. Music graded exams.
These methods represent the main choice for those who want to take their piano lessons more seriously.
The three of them offer a clear pathway to build musical skills and encourage progress towards a final goal: a graded music exam.
These methods allow the teacher to split the lesson in order to carefully prepare each part of the exam. Pieces, technique, aural tests and sight-reading.
Available at eight levels, these examinations asses a combination of skills – such as performance, technique, notation and listening – as well as a good knowledge and understanding of music theory.
On the other hand, we found that some students who had obtained great marks in their exams, had huge difficulties when reading a music score.
They were able to nicely play the pieces but were in need of copying from a teacher.
Adults beginners piano methods
You may have noticed that all books named so far are for children and young beginners.
But is there any piano book specifically for adults?
There are less materials for grownups but, as it is never too late to take piano lessons, here are a couple of recommendations for them.
The Waterman/Harewood Piano book
It starts from scratch and squeezes a wide variety of concepts into it.
It demands the students the ability to quickly assimilate every lesson before moving on.
Therefore this method is a much more appealing challenge that makes piano accessible to adults.
Jazz piano lessons
Jazz and improvisation lessons can be another option to become knowleageble about harmony, arranging, chords or scales.
JazzPianoOnline.com offers watch in-depth, easy-to-follow video lessons on any device.
Study jazz theory, composition, improvisation licks, chords, arranging, etc.
Downloadable PDF practice sessions feature exercises and tunes to print and play with custom backing tracks.
Each lesson is transcription-based so the techniques and concepts presented are derived from master musicians.
Ask your piano teacher for advice
As we mentioned at the beginning of the post, it does not exist such an “ultimate piano book”.
All pros and cons stated are just meant to be a reference point for those looking for a book.
When asking for advice, people tend to rely on experts.
So, when searching in the market for the “best piano book”, turn to your piano teacher.
All pupils are different and so are their needs and skills.
A good piano teacher will know all piano books and will choose whatever suits the student best.