My piano skills are the weakest part of my conducting/rehearsal technique, so I'd like to work on them essentially starting from scratch. I don't have the option of a piano teacher, so I'm looking for method books or suggestions on what to practice that will help with my goals:

I'd like to be able to play through, say, a typical short 4-part Palestrina motet or a Bach chorale up to tempo with good accuracy after a couple of tries, with the eventual goal of sight-reading that kind of piece. My theory background is good and I can work out on paper a figured bass, identify chords and progressions, etc. I know more theory can only help my piano, in terms of being able to anticipate more of what's going on in a piece so I can play by "skimming" in a sense. My biggest problem right now is getting my hands to work together, and to some extent reading bass line quickly--I've only ever sung treble and played seriously instruments that are notated on treble clef, so I'm still slower in other clefs after all this time.

So, I'd like something like an "adult piano" book, but one perhaps for people who have theory background and experience on other instruments, and repertoire-building in terms of performing myself not being the goal.

  • 3
    Not really what you're looking for, but if you don't know this guy already, some of his piano videos might be useful to you. Others might be way too basic, but give it a try. Apr 27, 2011 at 8:31
  • 2
    If your goal is to develop bass clef reading, left hand development, hand synchronisation toward 4 part pieces from Bach Orgelbuch, the best preparatory might be Bach himself: 2-voices Inventions, 3-voices Simfonia, English and French Suites, Little Preludes and Fugues, Well-Tempered Keyboard volume 1 and 2.
    – ogerard
    May 2, 2011 at 11:46
  • do you have absolute pitch? do you use solfeggio in your rehearsals? how often do you do scales and appeggios on piano (i.e. stuff that are mainly for getting your body move in a certain way, with little [if any] musical food-for-thoughts)? how you go about improving your piano playing depends on these (and other) factors, so please state them.
    – user1217
    Sep 17, 2011 at 12:03

1 Answer 1


Alfred Publishing has the "Basic Adult Piano Course."

I'm not a trained pianist, technically, but my keyboard methods course during undergrad used this series.

Use Amazon's peek inside feature to get an idea for what might be most appropriate for your level. There's also the "All-in-One Course," but that includes extra theory instruction that you might not need.

Sight reading a 4-part chorale is certainly a good goal, but you're only going to get there with consistent diligent practice. You can find tons of Bach chorales on IMSLP. I'd go get some and work on them alongside lesson book practice from the beginning—that will get you to your goal faster. Since you're not using a teacher, I'm going to give you just a few little tips:

  • Always play as relaxed as possible (especially in the wrist and hands) while keeping the fingers curved and localizing movement to the individual fingers. Don't transfer excessive weight from the arms through the wrist.
  • Clip your fingernails.
  • Always pay attention to the notated fingerings. They are never arbitrary, and you will eventually gain an intrinsic understanding of why they work and how to apply them to real music.
  • Practice your scales and arpeggios. (With the correct fingerings!)

You'll gain more hand independence and bass clef skills just as a result of going through the lesson book, but if you really want to drill bass clef, there are some handy tools at http://musictheory.net. Here's an example bass clef exercise.

If you want to input notes with a MIDI-USB keyboard, you'll need some other software. Most are very expensive, but if you're a Mac user, you can download and use the free Aquallegro.

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