Piano Playing Technique: The Best Books to Improve

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What are the best books to help you build an excellent piano playing technique?  

There are many books about piano techniques "out there." These piano technique books I have found give great, measurable results and are very effective for beginners.  

Piano Books to Help You Build a Great Piano Playing Technique

To make it easier, here I have compiled a step-by-step plan with suitable materials to help you build a great piano playing technique, specially tailored for beginner (adult) pianists.

Improve Your Piano Playing Technique Step by Step

Improve your piano playing technique.

1. Beginning Exercises- Finger Drills

Start using Edna Mae Burnam's A Dozen a Day Preparatory Book, Technical Exercises for Piano (not Mini if you are an adult). As soon as you have learned how to read both hands together in a five-finger position.

Keep working through Preparatory, Book 1, and Book 2 for a great foundation of fundamental movements in piano playing. Yes, I know they are for kids- put another cover if you like- but these piano exercises are great!

2. Beginning Scales

Start with scale practice- you don't need anything fancy at this stage. It is better to learn scales and chords by heart anyway. Here is a free lesson where you can learn to play 10 major and minor scales by ear: Piano scales the easy way.

3. Beginning Piano Etudes

As you work in book 1 (Green) of "A Dozen a Day," also start with Frances Clarks' and Louise Goss's Piano Etudes Book 1 for Musical Fingers.

It comes with valuable performance instructions and focuses on musical playing.

4. More Finger Drills

Time for Hanon: "The Virtuoso Pianist" (Just the title makes you feel great, doesn't it?) And since this book will be an investment for many years, get a great edition, even put plastic on it!

Focus on the first 10-20 exercises first. Read more about how to practice Hanon's piano exercises here.

5. More Scales

This is also the time to get a good quality scale book (unless you are OK with the tiny note scales in Hanon). 

Alfred’s The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios, and Cadences is good, but many are quite acceptable at this level.

6. More Etudes

I must admit I am in “love” with the Piano studies/Etudes books in the Celebration Perspectives Series. Generally, they have done a fantastic job selecting graded repertoire for this exam system.

Continue to practice your scales, etc., as well as Hanon.

Hands on piano keyboard

What's Next?

Many sheet music books help you improve your piano playing technique. These are the ones that I find "fool-proof" and have stood the test of time. They give excellent results together with a beginning piano method book or two.

By working your way through the technique books I have written about here, you have mastered the beginner levels of piano playing and have reached an early intermediate level.

You can continue to work with the Celebration Etudes Series as it is graded anthologies with many different composers of very high quality.

With Hanon's exercises and a good scale book, you are set for quite a while!

Recommended Piano Exercise Books from Beginners to Intermediate

Here is a summary of my recommendations of piano playing technique books with exercises and etudes for beginner and early intermediate pianists. The piano exercises are fun, effective, complement each other, and really work:

  1. Edna Mae Burnam's: "A Dozen a day," Preparatory to book 2
  2. Piano Etudes For the Development of Musical Fingers, Book 1
  3. Hanon "The Virtuoso Pianist." Especially exercises 1-10, 11-20, 21-30.
  4. Celebration Series: Perspectives Piano Studies/ Etudes from Grade 1 and on.

Also recommended to continue with on an intermediate level:

A great resource is Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield's: Burgmuller, Czerny & Hanon: 32 Piano Studies for Technique and Musicality The three BIG names for piano exercises! 

It's like having three books in one but organized in a logical order. Start with book 1, which begins at an early intermediate level.

Advancing levels:

As you progress, I recommend getting the Technique for The Advancing Pianist by Valerie Cisler. It's a collection of all types of technical exercises from an intermediate level and up to advanced levels of technique.

I like to use it with my students, especially adults, who have progressed well and need more challenging materials. You'll find Hanon here as well as many different composers' finger drills, scales, chords, arpeggios, etudes, etc.

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