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Returning to the Piano

Some advice

coupleplayingpianoMan playing piano
Used to play piano but haven't for a while? 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)

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.

Some good 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. The Music Teachers Association of NSW keeps a list of accredited teachers. Call them on (02) 9570 1436 or try their website: They also provide a list of Music Teachers Associations of other states.

When you start talking to teachers, it’s a good idea to ask how many other adults they teach, to get an idea of whether they understand the differences between teaching adults and children. Steer clear of anyone who is going to push you into exams (unless you want that), and ask about practice requirements – a good teacher of adults needs to understand that adults have to schedule piano in around other priorities. You don’t want someone who is going to give you more stress in your life!