Returning to the Piano

Advice to help you rediscover the joy of playing piano

man playing piano

Used to play piano but haven't for a while? Maybe a really long while? You may be surprised at how much you remember. At first, you'll probably feel like an absolute beginner, but your skills should gradually return with time and practice. Here are some ideas for how to get back into it.


You might find it most pleasant to start with easier repertoire. The books below are full of charming, enjoyable pieces that are not too difficult to play. I think everyone’s library should contain these books:

  • Tchaikovsky: Album for the Young, op. 39 (Romantic)
  • Kabalevsky: 30 Pieces for Children, op. 27 (Early twentieth century)
  • Clementi: Six Sonatinas, op. 36 (Classical)
  • J. S. Bach: The Anna Magdalena Notebook (Baroque) or The Children's Bach (published by Allans)
  • Kerin Bailey: Jazzin’ Around series, especially no. 2 (Jazz)
  • Schumann: Album for the Young, op. 68 (Romantic)
  • Satie: Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes (Late Romantic, or Impressionist)

Downloading music (legally!)

You can also buy individual sheet music on the web. You pay online, then print out the music immediately. It’s legal and cheap, and there is often a choice of arrangements of varying difficulty. Two good sites are Sheet Music Direct and Music Notes.

Good music collections

Piano: Australian Anthology: Preliminary to Fourth Grades

Published by AMEB, edited by Jeanell Carrigan. This book has 20 pieces by some great Australian composers – all sorts of interesting pieces in all sorts of modern styles, some tonal and some atonal. A great variety of music.

Essential Keyboard Repertoire Volume 1: 100 Early Intermediate Selections

Published by Alfreds, selected and edited by Lynn Freeman Olson. This book has a lot of easier classical pieces in their original form (not simplified arrangements). A selection from the more famous composers, and quite a few more obscure ones.

The World’s Great Classical Music: Great Easier Piano Literature: 95 Favourite Original Pieces by Major Composers

Published by Hal Leonard, edited by Blake Neely and Richard Walters. These pieces are more difficult that the collection above, but still the easier side of the piano repertoire. Some very famous and well-loved pieces.

Improvisation and playing by ear

Even if you learned as a child, you may never have been taught how to improvise or play by ear – how to read from chord symbols, or how to adjust an arrangement to your own liking. My own book, Improvisation for Classically-Trained Pianists, might help you.

Finding a teacher

It can really help to have a guide to help you and encourage you through the process of regaining old skills and learning new ones. Finding the right teacher is very important: here is some advice on how to find a good piano teacher.

Useful Links

The Music Teachers’ Association of NSW

Standard rates for music teachers

How to find a good piano teacher

“Coming back to music has been the best thing that I’ve done in retirement and it is hard to describe the pleasure I’ve experienced” - Judith, Potts Point