The piano has been quite popular among amateurs as well as professional musicians. Even though it is one of the most popular instruments, not everyone knows about the classical music that has been written for it.
Classical piano music is arguably the most beautiful genre of all. It involves complex techniques, improvisation, coordination, and creativity, among other aspects of form. In this list, we look at 10 of the best classical piano music books that every pianist should read.
Classical Piano Music Books I Recommend
1. The Well-Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach
This book is one of the earliest books written for the piano and is perhaps one of the most famous classical piano music pieces. Bach wrote it to demonstrate the range and possibilities of the Baroque keyboard.
The book is known for its technical and harmonic complexities that many pianists have widely studied over the years. The 48 preludes and fugues in the book explore every key and challenge the pianist to give it their best performance.
2. The Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach
Another book written by Bach follows the same Baroque style as The Well-Tempered Clavier. The Art of Fugue is a completed unfinished work by Bach that consists of 14 fugues and canons.
However, this book does not include piano music but focuses on fugal writing for keyboard instruments. It is known for its difficult contrapuntal passages and has been a favorite of many pianists over the years.
Like its predecessor, the book is known for its harmonic and technical complexities that challenge even the most experienced pianists. It is a must-read for any classical piano enthusiast.
3. Études by Frédéric Chopin
This book contains 26 etudes written by Chopin in the Romantic era. The book is a great way for pianists to expand their knowledge of different techniques used in piano music due to its technical demands.
All the études are highly challenging and involve difficult playing techniques, polyphony, counterpoint phrasing, and more. They also have a high degree of Romanticism characteristic of Chopin’s music. Pianists looking to improve their skills should start with these etudes.
4. Das Wohltemperierte Klavier by Wilhelm Kempff
This book is a compilation of the two books by Bach that we previously mentioned. It was published in 1965 and contained both the preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of Fugue.
The edition was performed by Wilhelm Kempff, one of the most famous Bach interpreters of all time. It is very popular among pianists since it contains both books on one sheet of paper.
5. Fundamentals of Musical Composition by Arnold Schoenberg
This book is not for the faint of heart. Schoenberg, an early 20th-century composer, wrote this book as a method for composition.
The book is not just for pianists but for any musician who wants to write music. It is known for its difficult concepts and exercises that require a lot of time and effort to understand.
However, once a musician masters the material in this book, they will have a deep understanding of musical composition. It is a great read for any classical pianist who wants to learn more about music theory.
6. Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas by Alfred Brendel
This book is a compilation of all 32 piano sonatas written by Alfred Brendel. The sonatas were written during the Classical and early Romantic periods and are some of the most iconic pieces in the repertoire.
It was published in 1978 and has been praised by several pianists over the years because of its insightful commentary and notes. Every single piece is challenging and requires a high level of technical skill to play them properly.
Since the sonatas are all so different, this book offers pianists an opportunity to explore different styles of music and discover new pieces that they may not know about. While it can be daunting to try to learn every single sonata, it’s a rewarding experience in the end.
7. Erard: A Passion for the Piano by Robert Adelson
Written by Robert Adelson, this book explores the life and influence of Sebastien Erard on the development of the piano. The book also contains numerous illustrations and photographs of pianos from Europe during the 18th century.
Erard is a French maker who played a crucial role in advancing piano construction during his time. His inventions were highly innovative and helped establish the standard design for pianos today.
This book is perfect for pianists who are looking to learn more about the history of their instrument and piano makers in general. It’s also a great way to discover the man behind all these wonderful inventions.
8. Piano Pieces by Philip Glass
This book contains over 20 piano pieces written by Philip Glass in the Minimalist era. The compositions are highly repetitive due to their minimalist style, which consists of a few simple elements repeated over and over.
It makes the pieces easy to learn and play, making them a great introduction to the Minimalist era. The book is also a great way for pianists to improve their technique due to the repetitive nature of the pieces.
9. The Applause Series by Lynn Freeman Olson
This series of books is a compilation of the best piano music from different eras. It includes 12 volumes, each containing 50 pieces from Bach to Shostakovich. The pieces are written in an easy-to-read format that beginners and more advanced pianists can use.
This book is a compilation of 6 books written by Lynn Freeman Olson, an American pianist and educator. The books aim to teach the basics of music to children and beginners.
Each book in the series covers a different topic, such as rhythm, melody, chords, and more. They are filled with fun exercises and activities that will keep children occupied.
10. Quiet Classics by Keith Snell
The contents of the books focus mostly on Baroque music, which is appropriate since it was one of the earliest periods in classical music. You can also find a few modern pieces in each book.
This book was written by Keith Snell and contained 21 pieces that tend to be on the softer side. One of the best parts about this book is that it was written by an accomplished pianist who knows how to make learning fun and easy for all types of players. It consists of famous classical music such as Clair de Lune, Canon in D Minor, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, and more.
This book is a collection of classic pieces suitable for beginner pianists. The compositions are easy to read and follow, making them perfect for players who are new to the instrument. It is perfect for pianists who like playing gentle piano music that does not require a lot of technical skill.
Classical music is a rich and complex genre that has been around for centuries. To truly appreciate it, you need to understand the history and theory behind it. The ones mentioned above are just a few of the most popular classical piano music books out there.
They are all great for expanding your knowledge of the instrument and helping you improve your playing skills. Within the selection of books, you will find several different difficulty levels. If you are a brand new pianist, I would recommend starting with those aimed at beginners.
If you have some experience playing the piano, go for something more advanced like The Applause Series. Whatever your skill level is, there is an appropriate book that you can learn from. The sooner you begin reading piano music books, the sooner you will be playing your favorite classical compositions.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.