It’s been a while since I shared books with you guys, and I’ve never shared non-sheet music books on this channel before.
So today I wanted to show you all of the books that I refer to over and over, which help me immensely in many different aspects of piano – goal setting, repertoire selection, theory, piano technique, and so on.
Some of these books I have digitally on my Kindle, so for those ones I’ll show you a copy on the screen of what the book looks like.
This, my friends, is my bible. You don’t even need to be a part of the RCM school to love it. The best thing about this syllabus is that it serves as a template for lesson planning.
Here’s the free online version.
At a grade 1 level? Well there are 100-ish pieces graded at a grade 1 level, with information on what book/collection they can be found in. There are details of what technique you should be able to play, and at what speed. It tells you the expectations around ear training and sight reading.
This is the book I refer to the most, hands down. I probably use it weekly.
This is more for teaching, but the big brown “Handbook for Teachers” is also really useful if you specifically use the RCM books – it gives pointers on what to learn for those pieces. It might be something you want to look into if you’re self-studying.
Complete Elementary Music Rudiments
Sheet Music Plus
(also has an answer book)
When I was studying and teaching theory, this giant spiral-bound work and instruction book was my bible. This theory book will get you through an RCM advanced rudiments exam, and if you don’t care about that, it’ll get your theory skills on par with a grade 8 playing level (early advanced).
Since this book combines 3 levels into 1, it moves at a relatively quick pace and assumes you’re not a total newb (though it still has good instructions). I had been playing piano for years when I worked through this book (and scored something like a 95% on my advanced rudiments exam), so I was familiar with most of the concepts in it.
If you’re a beginner, this might move too fast for you, but for those of you with some years under your belt, I can’t recommend this book enough.
Artistic Pedal Technique
This next book is another one that isn’t really useful for beginners, but it’s a great book for the intermediate or advanced student. It’s called “Artistic Pedal Technique”.
This is a book that I have on my Kindle, so I can’t show you the exact copy of it. But I first read it when I was preparing for my Grade 9 exam, and it was really useful – I like how it discusses how pedal is used in various eras (Classical, Romantic, etc). It also discusses weird and specific techniques, like flutter pedal. Great book if you’re wanting to up your pedal game!
Pianist’s Guide to Standard Teaching
Another book that I have on my Kindle (but should really have a hard copy of for practicality’s sake) is The Pianist’s Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature.
It’s a reference for teaching, yes, but I find it useful for my own purposes as well. It’s basically got every important composer listed from the Baroque era to the Modern-ish era, and goes over the core repertoire.
The author ranks the difficulty of key pieces in the repertoire, and key collections, while offering helpful blurbs about their significance, charms and challenges.
So say you want to get into the music of Handel, you would look him up in the book, read through an overview of his works, and get a sense of what would be a good starting point. The author also lists some good book suggestions for each composer.
Here’s a shameless plug for the practice journal the editor and I created together. It’s small, colorful and fun, which is why I like it. I wasn’t happy with the other practice journaling options on the market, so we decided to make our own. It was a largely selfish endeavor – now I have a journal like I wanted! – but we figured some of you might enjoy it as well.
I’m currently filming this from the past, since right now off galivanting on holidays. Because of that, I can’t say if we’ve made this journal public yet, or if you still have to wait a little longer. We are planning on making it available on Amazon for those of you who are interested. If we’ve released it by now, I’ll leave you with a link to it in the description bar if you want to check it out.
Personal development books
I want to make a non-musical book suggestion as well – I read a fair amount of personal development books, and enjoy reading about goal setting, organization and etc. Learning about these topics has not only improved my life, but it’s also made me a more efficient pianist.
I would highly recommend a good book or two about setting goals. Most of them are about organizing your business or life, but I’ve learned some useful lessons that can be applied to specific things like music practice.
There are too many to name here, but one of the classics is David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which really changed my life when I first read it. Once I was able to organize all the different aspects in my life, it was much easier to “have time” for piano practice and set meaningful goals in that arena.
A new book that I also found very helpful was The Five AM Miracle – that book has served as the basis of my life organization for the past year.
Another book that I’ve read fairly recently is called “Deep Work”, which is all about that flow zone you enter when you’re completely undistracted and focused on the task at hand. I think this is an important book for creatives, because we really do our best work when we’re completely absorbed by it. I also really enjoyed the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for similar reasons.
The musician’s way
One of my all-time favorite books for practicing musicians is The Musician’s Way. I reread this periodically and always glean new insights from it. This is a book that’s useful for any student, beginner or advanced. It’s full of advice on how to practice, how to perform, how to structure practice sessions, and so on.
It’s immensely useful, and I deliberately saved the best for last. Well, this and the syllabus. Both are easily my most relied-upon resources.
I hope you enjoyed this non-sheet music tour of some of my favorite music books! Let me know what your favorites are in the comments. 🙂