Top 5 Best Piano Books For Beginners in 2020 Reviews

piano books buying guideYou must be able to read music notation if you want to play the piano. However, learning notes does not have to be difficult. Modern piano books can quickly teach you how to read musical notes and piano sheet music.

Piano songbooks on Amazon

On this page, I will give you an introduction to piano sheet music. First of all, I want to show you the piano books for beginners that I recommend from my own experience. By the way, the music schools also recommend these methods. As a beginner, you will learn best by purchasing a piano method book. With a good piano book you can develop your skill at a pace that suits you.

5 Best Piano Books For Beginners

It can be difficult to decide which piano music is best for you. It depends on both your skill and the genre of music you play. If you are a beginner, you should buy a piano method book that teaches you all of the basic knowledge and technique. See below:

Best beginner piano book for adults

Best piano book for intermediate players

Best piano book for kids

Best jazz piano book for beginners

Best music theory book for piano

Introduction to piano sheet music

Everyone who loves music has the ability to learn how to play music. One way is to read musical notation.  That may seem very complicated, but in reality the case is different. In fact, reading notes is not quite as difficult as most people think. I learned it myself in a few months, and once you learn, it will be easy to to remember. Knowing musical notation is helpful for many things. This makes the whole practice experience easier (and more accurate). It is also a way to pass on your ideas or exercises to others who can then play them correctly. Notes are, so to speak, music’s answer to the written language, and a book of sheet music can therefore be seen as a written book. Authors write books and read them publicly. Similarly, musicians write music notes and perform them publicly. Nowadays, we can also learn songs by listening to the original recordings. But if it hadn’t been for the notes, we would never have known how Mozart or Bach wanted us to play their works – or whatever they had composed.

We therefore have many reasons to be grateful for the notes within the music – and they are just as important today as they were two hundred years ago.

Origin of the musical notation system

Before the origins of what we know today as musical notation, we had something called neumes. When we hear music we often notice and hear if the voice gets lighter (higher) or darker (deeper). This applies to all instruments. This was the idea behind the predecessor of musical notes. Here, you did not notate any specific notes or rhythms. It was more that the voices (which here were for Gregorian monks singing) became lower or higher. These neumes were more rules of thumb and guidelines than specific requirements.

In the long run, this did not help when you needed to be more precise. So the musical staff was quietly invented. At first, there was no clear rule on how many lines such a system should have. But over time, five lines (as it is today) became the norm. It is believed that the first to arrive at a system which is similar to what we use today was the music theorist Guido d’Arezzo in the year 1050. The notation system is not exactly a new invention. It’s almost a thousand years old!

The structure of the system

To read and understand piano notes – whether it’s playing them or using them to notate one’s own or others’ music – you must remember a few basic ideas behind the system. These basic ideas are built not only into the system itself, but also on music theory as the whole starting point. First of all, the notation system has five lines called the staff. This can easily be remembered by thinking about how many fingers you have on one hand. Now we have actually already finished making a staff, but of course it is not that exciting. It corresponds to a book with blank pages! If you have to write music yourself or play other people’s works, the next thing to learn consists of three essential and vital things. First, we have to know in which clef the notes are to be performed. There are several different clefs, but the two most important (and most recognizable) are the treble clef (or, “G” clef) and the bass clef (or, “F” clef), respectively.

These clefs tell us how we should think in tone and pitch. The treble clef is often used for high instruments (such as violins and guitars) and the bass clef is used for low instruments (such as basses and bassoons).  These clefs tell us where to start counting musical tones. Clefs are thus the reference book for the notation system. If they weren’t there, you could put a note anywhere in the system and call it what you wanted. The treble clef indicates where the note “G” is and the bass clef determines where the “F” is. When we have learned this, we then look at the time signature in which the music is performed. Typically in acoustic-electric music, the time will be given as 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 or 6/8, but it may be something else as well. This tells us how many beats to count. In 4/4, for example, we count one, two, three, four (an example of a song in this time could be Silverflame by Dizzy Mizz Lizzy). In 3/4, one, two, three (typically known as a waltz, and an example here could be the Bridal Roller), and so on. Now there is only one last bit of “prep work” to do. Before we can really start composing our pitches and rhythms, we have to look at the musical signs. Different musical keys have different signs for pitch alteration. Some keys have sharps (#), and other signs have flats (b). If you can’t remember which ones belong to which key, then you can look up “Circle of fifths” on Google and check it out.

With these three things, we have, so to speak, learned which “language” we are speaking in the piece of music, and we now have to consider what we should say in this language. When we need to insert pitches, we can place them in one of two places. On a line, or in the space between two lines. The basic musical alphabet assigns a name to each note: A, B, C, D, E, F, or G. If you have a pitch, let’s say “C”, on the musical staff and you go up, then you advance in the alphabet. If you go down the staff, you also go down a pitch, or, step, and so it continues. If you want to continue higher after the note “G”, you start over again with “A”; if you have to go lower than the note “A”, you continue backwards. One can, however, risk going so high or low on the staff that one cannot move on. Here you can add what is known as ledger lines. They have the same function as the lines on the staff, but must only be given if you need them. This so that you don’t have to write a staff with a lot of lines and use a lot of space every time. You always have five fixed lines, and the rest is as needed. On the piano, we can also play chords. This means that we play at least three different tones at once. This is indicated by the fact that the notes are stacked directly on top of each other.

What makes the notation system unique is that it both tells us what to play and how to play it. The notes themselves (the names of the notes) tell us what to play. The rhythms, on the other hand, tell us how to play the notes, and that is the last thing we must add before we have a complete work that we can play or sing. There are many different types of rhythms: quarter notes, eighth notes, triplets, sixteenth notes, and more, each forming a value. For example, two eighth notes’ rhythms correspond are equal in time to one quarter note. From here, music is actually a bit like a mathematical puzzle we must solve. If, for example, the time signature of a song is 4/4 (four beats – notice the name), then it must be ensured that we have rhythms that correspond to exactly four beats. Then a new measure starts, which is marked by a vertical line through the staff, at which point we start counting from one again. Here we can, for example, play four tones, one on each of four quarters or play three quarters and then two eighths. Both move forward in time and are appropriately notated.

This is actually all that is in the notation system. It can, of course, become more advanced with additional signs and dynamics. But all in all, this is all that is needed for playing piano notes. If you take out your old high school songbook or hymnbook with melodies, then you will see evidence that the notation system is not actually made to be difficult or as confusing as many believe. It is designed to be as simple as possible.

Characteristics of piano notes

A typical piano has 88 keys. Remember that every pitch has a fixed place on a musical staff, and with five lines it contains 9 different pitches (5 on the lines and 4 on the spaces). If you put all the piano’s pitches into a single staff, you would have to make an incredible number of ledger lines and that, of course, does not work. Therefore, from the middle of the piano and on to the right are notated in the treble clef, while from the middle on to the left is notated in the bass clef. This does not mean that we will never end up with ledger lines, but it makes it all easier.

We also typically play the piano with two hands. When playing the piano, one actually reads both a treble clef and a bass clef at the same time. This, of course, requires training, but it is possible – organists often plays from three staves at a time, as they also play bass tones on pedals with their feet!

However, it is also possible that one may play from two treble clefs. If you play a piece where both hands have to play far to the right of the piano, then you do so, of course. If you play a piece where both hands have to play something very low, then you notate both staves in the bass clef. One should always keep in mind that things are notated so that they are as easy to read as possible. This is so the pianist has a chance to learn it easily, or even play it directly from the sheet music without having to practice it beforehand.

A piano also has pedals, but they have a different function than pedals on an organ. On a piano they do not give a specific tone, but an effect. The most used is the ‘damper pedal’, which sustains the tones. To make it clear that the pedal must be held down at a given moment, ‘ped.’ is often written below the note. However, it is not always notated, and thus it is up to the pianist himself to interpret the intent of the composer.

You also often see dynamic markings under a note. This could be an italic “f” which stands for forte (loud) or “p” which stands for piano (soft). These tell the pianist how to express and play this particular place in the music. One can think of it as if there were exclamation marks in a book. We read it with a shouting voice in our imagination. It is a bit the same mentality the pianist must have if he sees “f”. These dynamics are very useful if you want to be sure that a musician plays it exactly as you had thought it yourself. But that is definitely not a requirement. The more accurate and detailed you notate the music, the more precisely the musician plays. The less exact and detailed you notate, the more personally the musician can express himself. Bach is an example of this.  He never notated dynamics – it was up to the musician himself!

On the piano, there is the opportunity to play several pitches at once like on a guitar. In notation for instruments that can do this, one often sees that there is a letter that indicates a chord above the notes. This indicates that if you do not want to play the notes exactly as they are written, you can play the written chord instead. This is seen in many song books.

How to read notes better

Do you want to be good at reading piano notes? Then start by finding notes that are not too difficult. That’s the very best advice I can give. But be sure not to look at your fingers! You can cover them if necessary. You have to focus on reading and playing the notes. The more you do this, the more skilled you become. This is also called sight-reading, and there are many books that are designed to strengthen this skill.

Buying piano sheet music

If you want to play using piano scores, there are plenty of options. All the major music stores have sheet music for sale. Furthermore, there are also specific music stores that do their job in selling – both physical stores and online. The good thing about notation is that you can’t really go wrong. All instruments have their own life and are different. But all clefs are printed exactly the same, and you do not need to spend energy to “try them out”. All it takes is to simply find the sheet music and buy it. Then, in the process of learning the piece you’ve always wanted, you learn to play!

melody 24/7