Repertoire for the beginning adult student

Working with adult beginners can be such a thrill. With dedicated students, it is like watching “time lapse photography” as students progress quickly and enthusiastically.

Last year, I worked with such an adult, Tian. She was finishing up her doctoral work at Princeton University, and had absolutely no experience with the piano or with any instrument. Before she moved back to China, I asked Tian to play some of the pieces we started with at the beginning of her study. Her performances, shown below, illustrate some of my favorite teaching pieces.

I love using rote pieces with adult students, as they provide opportunities to explore a wider range of sounds and promote freedom at the piano right from the start. One of my favorite collections is  Solo Flight – Pearce .  My student  learned “Floating” at her first lesson, and she was able to explore the pedal right away:


Clog Dance, from this same collection, has an opposite mood, and encourages free technique on blocked 5ths:

Another favorite collection I use encourages intervallic reading. I tend to use a combination of rote and reading when introducing the pieces from Be a Star – Costley. I usually start with the lovely “Waking Flowers:”

Be a Star progresses to more difficult, but still patterned, repertoire:


Along with these rote pieces, Tian started in the adult method book Keyboard Musician by Frances Clark.  This book is perfectly suited for students who have had some previous piano background. It moves fairly quickly, and there are many reading drills that put students on the “fast track” to reading fluency. The reason that I used this method with Tian, who had not a bit of musical training, is my assumption that she must be pretty intelligent to have made it to the doctoral program at Princeton. The intellectually sound approach in Keyboard Musician suited this student quite well, and she diligently practiced and was fascinated by learning about the structure of music, American folk tunes, and classical composers. Tian progressed to the early-intermediate level before I had to say goodbye. I’m confident that she is continuing her musical journey today.

For the reader’s convenience, links for purchase of the collections mentioned are provided (all links are “Amazon Affiliate” links, and purchase will benefit the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy )

3 thoughts on “Repertoire for the beginning adult student

  1. I would love to be able to click on the links and see the music and perhaps make purchases to your credit as an affiliate link, but the links are not working for me.

    1. Dear Kay,
      Thank you for this helpful information. Everything has been fixed (along with reloading a video that wasn’t playing before). Apologies for the inconvenience.

  2. Hi Amy,

    Thank you for sharing this success of your teaching career. I am amaze with the music of piano and your videos inspires me to try it out I hope I can see more post from your students and videos of new songs played by piano. Love it!

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