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A Guide to Choosing Piano Materials for Beginners


If one is just beginning to play the piano and wants to get started in the right direction, what are some good songs and exercises to begin practicing?  Some of the basics are to learn beginning repertoire,





establish a scale routine for technique, and gain an understanding of at least basic theory.  Below are some materials that can help develop piano skill.


Basic Repertoire


Beginners should start with simple material and play even very ‘easy’ pieces.  The important thing at this stage is to become comfortable reading notes and playing in a smooth, relaxed manner.  It is much better to be able to play a simple piece with strong technique and accuracy, than to struggle with a harder piece without having first developed good habits.



Suitable pieces include some of the basic texts for beginning piano students, such as the James Bastien series.  These books contain simple songs only a page or two long, that are often condensations of famous works by Haydn, Mozart, and others.  The benefit of these pieces is that the notation is not complex, meaning that the player

can focus on fully understanding and executing each basic element.  For example, a piece might feature isolated staccatos, or two-note slurs, or only a few dynamic markings.  The pieces also introduce common tempos and meters.


The Bastien series has a Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 for favorite melodies, as well as basic Theory, Hymns, and a range of other good repertoire for beginners.  Students may also want to purchase basic repertoire from other good methods such as Alfred's Basic Piano Course.  Books of easy to play styles of music can also be good practice, such as Lee Evans' Jazz Standards Arrangements or the Bill Boyd Easy Christmas Collection.  A collection of these books and simple pieces should provide weeks or months of practice.


Scales and Arpeggios


In conjunction with playing pieces the student enjoys, developing a scale and arpeggio routine is very important for learning piano well.  The MacFarren Scale and Arpeggio Manual provides an excellent catalog of everything needed in every key.  There are minor and major scales; minor, major, and dominant arpeggios; and other useful types of scales and broken chords.  Players of all levels benefit from starting each practice session

by playing through a cycle of scales using a metronome, focusing on technique, accuracy, and familiarity with each key.  More information on these areas is in How to Practice Arpeggios, and a good teacher will also help develop strong ways of practicing scales.




Finally, a beginning piano student should try to develop an understanding of at least basic theory.  A basic text such as the HarperCollins College Music Theory Outline can be a useful reference.  The more a student knows about harmony, chord progressions, and scales, the better the student will be able to create his or her own music and interpret composers’ works.  For example, by understanding the unique sound and structure of a IV chord, and knowing how it could resolve to a I chord, a student gains fluency in musical language.  When a IV-I progression arises in a piece by Beethoven or Mozart, the student knows that vocabulary and can better express the ideas in the music.


Once you have purchased some basic texts on theory, scales, and basic repertoire, try perusing the rest of LIFTOFF!’s Piano section for ways to develop further skill.  Many Composition and other articles can also help in improving musicianship.







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