Select the Right Piano Teaching Method

Selecting the right piano teaching method can be a daunting task, especially if you are a brand new piano teacher.  There are probably as many piano methods as there are piano teachers to teach them.  So how do you know which one to use? You could choose a single method to teach across the board – all new students start with the same materials.  Or, you could find out what each student wants to learn and choose a method for them individually.  Chances are, after a few years of trial and error, you will find a method that you truly feel comfortable with and very much enjoy teaching from. Maybe you’ll even write your own!  Regardless, here are a few piano methods that I enjoy teaching from.

John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano.  I love this piano method, for several reasons.  First, it’s the method that I learned from as a little girl.  I was so excited when I got to play from the big red book!  It brings back many fond memories of piano lessons.  Of course, given my age, you might not think of it as being all ‘that’ modern, but that’s the name of it.

In all seriousness, this method is my go-to method for students who want to learn classical piano.  It contains great directions for classical technique (think wrist staccato and drop and roll) as well as many classic style pieces that every budding pianist needs to learn. Book 1 is great for the late elementary school student who has had some music experience at school.  For the younger beginner, check out Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which is a great introduction before moving onto the big red books.

A Dozen a Day.   This is a great supplemental series that goes with pretty much any method.   This method teaches great tone and technique, featuring legato, staccato, arpeggios, and chord patterns in an easy to play, light-hearted format.  It’s great for beginners or the more advanced student.

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library.  This series gives you tons of options for teaching piano.  There is the basic course, the prep course, and all have supplemental books that coordinate with them, such as recital books, technique books, and notespellers. There is a great map that shows how you can skip from one series to another within the Alfred Library.  These methods feature bright pictures which are great for kids. On the other hand, Alfred’s All in One Adult Piano Course is perfect for the older beginner, from teen to adult.  This series features theory and technique built right into the piano method.  You’ll only need one book at a time as you move through the series, and there are optional CD’s to purchase. This method is great because it gets budding pianists playing songs quickly, many of which they may recognize and enjoy.  This book is a little light on the piano technique, but makes up for it by having a strong foundation in teaching chord structures.

Wunderkeys.  Did you ever wonder how to teach preschoolers without using the Suzuki method?  This is your answer.  Wunderkeys is a 3 book series which gets preschoolers ready to move into an early beginner method, such as Teaching Little Fingers to Play.  This method focuses on the most basic skills needed for music : patterns and counting.  It’s great because it teaches tiny ones math as well as gets them ready for regular piano lessons.  The format is fun, and there are tons of downloadable resources to go with your preschool lessons.  An added bonus is one on one help from the creators themselves as well as personalized advertising materials created just for your studio.  You can’t go wrong with this easy  and fun to teach method.

Other methods you may want to try out include Piano Adventures by Fabre and Fabre, John Schaum, Suzuki, Bastien, The Worship Piano Method, and Hal Leonard, and Pianotown. Another great method for teaching jazz music is the Jimmy Amadie method.  Every method is different and valuable.  If you don’t know which to choose, camp out in a music store for a while and try out as many as you can.  Or select a few key students to test drive new methods.  Most importantly, find a piano method that gets you excited about the piano.  If you love to teach it, your students will love to learn.  And that is what it’s all about. Happy teaching!



About the Author

Amanda Furbeck
Amanda has been teaching private piano lessons for 15 years. She plays piano, keyboard, and organ, and has worked in church music for 17 years. Amanda received a B.A. in music from Eastern University. She has written and recorded music that is available on iTunes and, and writes CD reviews for Worship Leader Magazine. She is the author of "Clef Hangers," a book of devotions for wors... [Read more]


  1. Leia

    Great post! I love Wunderkeys, but am not that keen on Alfred’s teaching books. I find the repertoire dull and it keeps students in C position for far too long. I used John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course when I was learning, and I’ve tried this with students, but a lot of the earlier beginners found it too hard as it approaches note-reading from day one. I think the best thing is to try several methods with several students and find the one that you – and they – find the most appealing!

  2. Yiyi

    Alfred has a new series called Premier Piano Course – it is non-position based and the repertoire is modern and refreshing, with contemporary sounding teacher accompaniment. I highly recommend it! Another good “newer” method is FJH Succeeding at the Piano.

  3. Kerri Green

    I’ve never looked at Wunderkeys! I’m excited to check it out. I have to agree with Leia about Alfred’s basic teaching books, but I’m much more impressed with their Premier Piano Course. I use a lot of Faber, but have also had good success with Frances Clark’s Music Tree, especially with bright students who are early readers.

  4. Mareli

    I use Nancy and Randall Faber’s Piano Adventures. It is great with fun pieces.

  5. choir sheet music

    Just like anyone else who are just starting their piano lesson, I think the best way or method is the basics of piano. Learn it from the start, do not ambition to go on a higher level of learning the piano as you can never go places unless you walk through the process. Learn it from the start and always remember to know every single details, that way it would be easy for you to learn other methods.