In today’s video, I’m going to show you my favorite books with Grade 1 level piano pieces in them (as per the RCM) – they come in all different kinds of shapes and sizes.
Note: Links to the books will be available soon – be sure to check back!
Grade 1 piano books
I would be remiss if I didn’t begin by talking about the Grade 1 books – the repertoire and the study book. They’ve got everything you could need – list A piece, B an C, and a separate book of studies. Getting these books is a nice all-in-one deal, and it’s cost effective too.
Personally, I like going outside of the RCM books, because there’s lots of great stuff that can be found elsewhere, and I think some of these other books are more valuable to a piano book collection. For example, some of them can be used for multiple grades, because the pieces aren’t just at a grade 1 level. And some are small books on a theme, which are really fun to return to – unlike the RCM books, which tend to get abandoned as soon as they’re completed.
They’re still great though, and make a fool-proof choice.
My Favorite Grade 1 Piano Books
Christopher Norton Connections 1
So I have two major favorites. The first one is a book by Christopher Norton called Connections 1. Now, all these pieces are at a grade 1 level, so there’s that. BUT the pieces inside are gold. A lot of them are really sophisticated-sounding for being at level 1. This book is great especially for those people who aren’t in love with the “classical music” sound, and would rather learn pieces that sound more contemporary. There’s a good mix of jazz, pop, and expressive styles in this book.
Another thing I love about it is the book comes with a link where you can hear recordings of all the pieces. Not only that, but there are backing tracks to the pieces that you can play along with, sort of like being in a band – which, since piano can be a very solitary instrument, is a fun thing to simulate.
In terms of how his songs are categorized, a couple of them are list B, there’s 1 list C and a study, and every other piece is classified as “pop” – so if you were doing an exam, literally any song in this book could count toward it.
Anyway, it’s a solid book, I love it dearly and make it a required purchase for my grade 1 students.
Essential Keyboard Repertoire, book 1
My other favorite is a mammoth book, and it’s not particularly cheap. It’s the Essential Keyboard Repertoire, book 1. BUT it’s a great collection of pieces from a grade 1 level all the way to 5 or so, and a good deal of them are List A pieces. There aren’t a lot of good collections of List A’s (or Baroque) pieces that I’ve found for early grades – maybe that’s just me?
But this one is good – it comes with a CD so you can hear everything, and at the beginning it makes a list of the 10 easiest songs to get you going.
What I like to do is use the syllabus, and then go and mark down which pieces are for which grades. Not every piece in this book is in the syllabus, but that’s okay – you can learn them anyway, or ignore them, it’s all up to you.
Now I want to take a moment and show you all my awesome little books. These books are cheap and fun, usually exploring a theme or topic kind of like an album.
This first one is Legends and Lore by Christine Donkin. This collection has pieces up to a grade 3 level, but you can learn them all right away – I won’t stop you, because they’re great songs. Some of these pieces are video game-like, which is a win for me – where others like “dream journey” have an almost ethereal sound.
Freddie the Frog by Anne Crosby is another favorite. This one leans in an easier direction – the pieces are mainly prep-level through grade 1, but they’re all cute and animal themed. Don’t think that these books are for kids only, just because they’re cute! Some of these are rather mature sounding.
Soda Pop and Other Delights by Linda Niamath is a very quirky collection, again leaning a little more on the easy side. If you like off-kilter, bizarre pieces that do a great job evoking imagery – with titles like March of the Terrible Trolls – you will enjoy this collection.
Imitations and Inventions by Pierre Gallant is mandatory for learning list C pieces – the whole book is based on these inventions. The pieces aren’t stuffy – they have names like ‘A song between friends’ – and some of them are legitimately challenging. Love this.
I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but this one truly is one of my favorites – Jazz Rags and Blues, book 1, by Martha Mier. It’s got a couple list B pieces and pop pieces, but they’re just fun. If you like jazz, you’ll love this book. Matha Mier does a great job making music accessible and sound great at any level (which can be a challenge for beginner-ish music), and these songs are just a blast to play. There are a couple grade 2 level pieces in here too. Highly recommend – and that goes for basically anything by Mier.
Pop Music Collections
And now we move into pop music collections, which are great fun as well.
The Best Songs Ever, Big Note: This is a huge collection of everything from pop songs to Disney. I know the big note thing isn’t for everyone, because it looks more like “kid” music, but the range of pieces in here makes it worth it to me. It’s also got a ton of pieces from level 1, 2, 3 and beyond, so you can get mileage out of this one.
The Beatles – Beginning Piano Solo: A lot of pop songs that are labeled as “easy piano” are deceptively not easy – but this is a great book if you aren’t ready to play grade 5-level “easy” music. Again, it’s written in big-note style if that’s a thing for you, but it’s got some famous Beatles tunes that are actually playable at a grade 1 level, without a lot of pain and struggle.
The Disney collection: Easy Piano: If you’re into Disney, this might just be my favorite Disney book. Though I’m mentioning this in a grade 1 video, only one of the pieces is officially in the syllabus as being at grade 1 – it leans a little more difficult, so this is a good book to grow into. It also isn’t written in big-note format!
And those, my friends, are my favorite books at a grade 1 level. The grade 1 piano pieces I recommend to my students depend heavily on their personal preferences, but I almost always recommend to everyone the Christopher Norton Connections book, the Essential Keyboard Repertoire, and Imitations and Inventions. There’s no reason for you to get all these books, but try to pick a few that cover a variety of song types – List A, List B, List C, and etudes/pop. As a piano player, it’s important to develop your skillset in all of these genres!
Happy piano playing to you, and take care! 🙂