Music Teacher's Helper Blog

How New Teachers Choose a Piano Method

Now to choose a method–my first private piano student just signed up. Wait. There are HOW MANY piano methods out there???

How in the world will you decide which to use?

Last month I wrote about starting a private music teaching studio. Five questions I’m most often asked, and one question no one asks, but probably should. Future articles will explore guitar and vocal methods, lesson supplements and business aspects of starting a private music teaching studio.


You could simply start out using the books you learned from as a kid. But you might find others that fit you or your student better.

Ask These Questions about Each Method

Which of these hold priority with you as you imagine teaching?

  • Technique
  • Expression
  • Note reading
  • Intervallic reading
  • Chord structure, progressions and theory
  • Having fun
  • Composing
  • Improvisation
  • Classical repertoire
  • Scales and arpeggios

Which method(s) reflect your musical priorities and compliment your style or personality?

How are the graphics? Do you have a visually-oriented student who will engage better with colorful pictures? Is there enough white space for a student to process the information easily? Are the pages too cluttered for a distractable student?

Will this method book or series grow with my students? Think long-term. A student might stay with you ten years. If a method has only one or two levels, what will you do after that? Many teachers feel they’d like three to five levels (even six) before going strictly to teaching through repertoire. The methods can help you avoid gaping holes in your students’ learning.

What sort of repertoire is included? Check to see how varied the styles are.

How slowly—or quickly—does the method move past each concept? Is there too much or not enough repetition?

Does the series include information about composers and music history?

Is correct music terminology used early on?

How costly are the method books? Will you need supplement books to teach theory and technique? If cost is a big factor for your student’s family, can you find a method that incorporates theory and technique into one book for a lower cost? Does this method series include CDs that raise the price, when you won’t need or use them?

Are lyrics used? If so, are they well done? I find if they are well done, my students respond better. If they’re funny, better yet! Children’s author Crystal Bowman has written lots of lyrics for Faber and Faber’s Piano Adventures series. She is amazing!

Pros and Cons of Specific Piano Methods

I have used a number of methods over the years. John Thompson, John W. Schaum, David Carr Glover, Jane Smisor & James Bastien, and Edna Mae Burnam (which came along with a transfer student) all took turns.

In later years, I’ve found others I’ve had great success with. My personal favorite has long remained Randall and Nancy Faber’s Piano Adventures series, with their sync’d supplemental repertoire books in various genres. They go up to level five. I have found they move gradually enough for mastery. Concepts taught in the Lesson books are reinforced in Theory, Technique, Performance, and the corresponding repertoire books.

Depending on the student, however, I might use Diane Hidy and Keith Snell’s Piano Town series. Or Helen Marlais’ Succeeding at the Piano. And I keep the older series on the back burner to pull from.

There are probably as many opinions on this topic as there are teachers. Bottom line? Don’t let me or any other teacher dictate which method you choose. It’s your business. Do what you think will be best for you and your students. And perhaps you won’t sweat it after all. You’ll purchase one and dive in. You can always switch later if you wish.

Other Teachers’ Piano Method Reviews 

Amanda Furbeck has a good post at Music Teachers Helper.

In this article at method, click on a title to find the review.

John M. Zeigler, Ph.D. and Nancy Ostromencki share pros and cons of several methods.

I hope you’ll join me next month for an article on choosing guitar and vocal methods. Meanwhile, happy hunting, and I wish you success in bagging the piano method that fits you and your student best.


Photo by Francisco Gomes on Unsplash

About the Author

Robin Steinweg has found music to be like the creamy filling of a sandwich cookie--sweet in the middle--especially making music with family.
A great joy is seeing her students excited to make music for themselves. From her studio in Sauk-Prairie, Wisconsin, she teaches ages 4-84 piano, guitar, voice, woodwinds, ukulele and recorder.
Musically, she composes, arranges, performs, directs, consults... [Read more]


  1. Brenda Mueller

    I agree with you. I love the Piano Adventures method. It has become my favorite and my student’s favorite method. I have used other methods for site reading and the students didn’t like the other books.

  2. Robin Steinweg

    Thanks for reading, Brenda. I like to use other methods for sight reading, too!

  3. Claire Eldred

    Ive recently switched, after 20 years, to the piano adventures. I wish Id known about them earlier… but they are not that popular in the UK. my kids LOVE them and even the adult range is good. There is nothing to dislike! I was a staunch J W Schaum, Leila Fletcher, Marion Harewood user… now, I only use Piano adventures if I can get away with it. Ive used it from the My First piano to the adult ones, and I can’t fault it.

  4. Robin Steinweg

    It’s great to find teaching material that does the job for both teacher and student. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Smithd275

    I have to agree with your statement with this issue and ceebedcgdfcagfcb

  6. Robin Steinweg

    Thanks for reading, Smithd275! 😀

  7. Taylor

    In addition to that great list of considerations you’ve put together, I want to add that there are super important skills teachers should emphasize on top of any method. In an effort to understand those skills better myself (and remember them), I wrote a blog post on the most important ones. Maybe it’ll be useful to some others out there:

  8. Robin Steinweg

    Thanks for reading, Taylor! You’ve got a well-thought-out blog post, and some great suggestions. Happy teaching!

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