This article about piano method books for online teaching was written by Joanna Shiel. Joanna has been working in music education for 13 years. Over the last 15 months she’s been a digital nomad, teaching remotely worldwide from 7 different countries – all the while, refining her collection of digital piano teaching resources. Joanna is also a guest blogger and editor for Vibrant Music Teaching. Her dessert of the month is whatever fruit she can get her hands on.
Digital piano method books are becoming increasingly popular. They’re super handy for keeping your teaching notes consistent across devices, whipping out if your student forgets or misplaces their piano book or screen sharing when teaching online. But with so many choices out there, what are the best ones to try first?
As people are feeling increasingly comfortable using portable devices like tablets, more and more piano method books are being digitised. As an online piano teacher myself, having virtual resources to hand has been indispensable for my teaching and for my students.
Moreover, digital resources save time, money and resources – just one click of a button and you can access whatever you need instantly!
So what makes a good digital piano method book? Here are some things I look for before investing in online resources:
- A PDF or app I can screen share via Zoom, annotate easily and then send to students with the click of a button
- Flexible backing tracks I can manipulate
- Useful and intuitive materials that students and parents can access easily
Luckily, these 4 online piano method books tick all the boxes.
My Favourite Digital Piano Method Books
These 4 piano methods have worked particularly well for me and my students, and come highly recommended by other piano studios.
Although I teach exclusively online, these series all work equally well for hybrid studios and for travelling teachers – say goodbye to lugging around a whole library of piano books! 😅
No. 1: Carol Matz’s Interactive Piano Method
Carol Matz’s approach is completely (and uniquely) designed to be used digitally, for both in-person and online lessons.
Who’s it for?
Great for ages 6+, the pieces are suitable for complete newbies through intermediates. This series works particularly well for online students and people who are comfortable using apps for learning.
- You can request digital samples of the books before ordering, or try some of the sample pages
- Self-contained curriculum includes theory activities, improvisation, composition, technique and lead sheets
- Teacher-friendly with lesson plans available online and fantastic support
- Scaffolded approach with a transfer student guide
- Supplemental materials available for additional purchase, including duets and repertoire for additional support/reinforcement
- Physical copies are available for purchase, but only within the US
- Aimed more towards children, so not the best method for older teens and adults
- No rote pieces, so these would have to be supplemented
- Very traditional material (expect lots of folk songs and classical repertoire)
I give this method a 7 out of 10. If you’re new to online teaching and/or looking to invest in a mostly complete and new digital curriculum, then this would be a great start while you build up your digital piano teaching library.
No. 2: Piano Safari by Katherine Fisher and Dr Julie Knerr
Piano Safari is one of my favourite piano methods (and Vibrant Music Teaching’s fave, too!) This has predominantly been a hard-copy method book, but you can now get access to digital copies via the SuperScore and Kindle apps.
Who’s it for?
This method is perfect for students aged 6+ through adults, from complete beginners to around an intermediate level. It works well for students who are more interested in traditional and classical repertoire (as opposed to genres such as jazz or new-wave) especially at the later levels.
- Backing tracks are easily adapted for each learner in the SuperScore app
- Well-researched and pedagogically-sound piano method book
- Develops secure readers and great listeners
- Rote pieces help any student sound great at the piano from the very start
- VMT members get a discount! 🥳
- Sample lesson plans, teacher guides, pedagogical essays and other free resources are available online
- Great technical exercises to promote tension-free playing
- Not all of the library is online right now (but this is changing rapidly)
- Teachers need to learn how to use this method – it’s not easy to just dive in (Vibrant Music Teachers can access a great course inside the membership which goes through how to teach every piece in level 1, with more levels to come in the future!)
- It can be more costly upfront
- You’ll need an iPad or the Kindle app to access these books digitally
I give Piano Safari an 8 out of 10 as an online method. It’s a great method for more experienced piano teachers or those looking for a change. It’s quite comprehensive, but you might find that students do move quite quickly through the book.
Side note: Since this is first-and-foremost a hardcopy book, I order copies for my students to receive in the mail whilst I use a digital copy during lessons.
No. 3: Piano Pronto by Jennifer Eklund
Piano Pronto is an excellent method book especially for students who enjoy more contemporary music, lead-sheet playing, composition and improvisation.
Who’s it for?
Great for ages 4+ through teens and adults, from complete newbies to intermediates. I would especially recommend this for teen beginners.
- An extensive variety of digital supplemental repertoire materials can be easily matched to a player’s level using the Piano Pronto website
- Studio licenses available, with discounts for loyal and repeat customers 🥳
- The theory is fairly inclusive, including sight reading exercises, composition and harmonisation exercises
- It can be linked to the Piano Maestro app (think Simply Piano for kids), so pieces can be broken down and practised independently…all with a fun backing track!
- No app required; just download the PDF
- Hard copies of the books are only available in the US
- The method can progress slowly for some students
- Stickler for being in mostly 5-finger positions at the beginning
- No rote pieces, so you’d need to supplement
I give Piano Pronto a 7 out of 10 as a series of online piano method books. These aren’t my personal favourite piano method books to use in online lessons, but some students just really love it so I keep it in my library. I always supplement Piano Pronto with a rote-piece book such as Little Gems by Paula Dreyer.
I love Piano Pronto’s repertoire performance collections, so more often than not I tend to assign Piano Pronto as supplemental material.
No. 4: Supersonics Piano by Daniel McFarlane
Supersonics is accessible via a dedicated app or via the online portal. The students have their own spaces, and can access all the material the series has to offer whenever they want.
Who’s it for?
This method works well for ages 5 and up. It’s great for teens and adults, from complete newbies to about intermediate level.
McFarlane’s music is known for being especially great material for boys and teenagers. I also find that this method ticks a lot of boxes for students who are neurodivergent, as it’s highly patterned and repetitive.
If you have a transfer student who is struggling to read, I would highly recommend this as a stop-gap measure.
- Backing tracks online
- Books can be printed out and downloaded
- All books in the series are available at any time without separate purchases
- You can cancel your subscription at any point.
- Highly patterned music works well for students who struggle to read
- Exciting arrangements often come with stories – a lot of modal and film-music type scores
- No special device is needed – just download or print out the materials as needed, or access the app via your computer, tablet or phone
- Students can complete theory assignments online and submit them with 1 click
- Needs to be supplemented
- Monthly or annual subscription, which can become expensive in the long run
- While the pieces are highly-patterned, they can feel boring or repetitive for some students
Supersonics Piano gets a 7 out of 10 from me as a piano method for online lessons. I love it for some students – particularly transfer students that need a way to fill in any gaps with big-sounding repertoire.
Although expensive in the long run, there is also a tonne of material for your students to work through (including holiday music) – especially useful for students needing extra practice with a particular concept or pattern.
Want more help teaching piano lessons online? Check out the Technology section of Nicola’s Planning Piano Lessons web page.
“App”reciating Online PIano-Teaching Resources
Some online piano books come as PDF resources, but others require a special app in order to access them. Let’s take a look at the apps I have on my tablet.
SuperScore is a free app for iPads. I use this app primarily for the digital versions of Piano Safari books, but you can also use it to access Carol Matz’s Interactive Method, to store your own PDFs/copies of scores and to access a whole library of adapted repertoire books.
You can annotate in SuperScore using a variety of colours. There are even a few musical symbols available to use, such as the treble clef.
SuperScore also holds any backing tracks that might accompany your purchased material, with a built-in function that allows you to change tempo and instrumentation with 1 tap.
I like to have this app open on my iPad, functioning as a second screen during lessons.
Kindle is a free app from Amazon available for Android and iOS devices, plus PCs and Macs. If in doubt, you can access most piano books digitally on Amazon now. Before investing in a new physical book, I check to see if it’s available digitally through Kindle.
There aren’t as many functions in Kindle as a dedicated music app like SuperScore, but it’s still handy to have digital copies of your books to use (especially if you’re a travelling teacher)
I love to use the Piano Maestro app in conjunction with the Piano Pronto method books online. Students can access the entire Piano Pronto collection via the app, and practice with the backing tracks. You can even use it to track progress and give your students rewards for practice throughout the week.
Piano Maestro requires a monthly or annual subscription to use, and is only available for iPad. There’s an option to purchase a teaching studio license, which allows you to give access to each of your students. An excellent value-add for your piano studio!
Special Mention: Google Drive
I keep all my sheet music, PDFs, MP3s and screen games on Google Drive. From here, I can access all my resources any time that I need them, from wherever I am, with any device at my fingertips.
Whenever I purchase a new digital resource without an app to call home, I immediately back it up to my Google Drive.
Supplementing Digital Piano Method Books
In addition to online piano method books, there is also a huge availability of on-screen games, activities and workbooks.
The VMT Printable Library has a wide variety of games with on-screen adaptations for you to use with students on PCs, Macs, or tablets, whether you’re teaching online or in person.
If you’re a member of Vibrant Music Teaching, check out our huge selection of screen-option games and resources here.
I love Nicola Cantan’s Thinking Theory series of workbooks, available digitally as both single-user and studio licenses.
The special thing about these books is that they work on flipped learning. New concepts are introduced with quick video clips on YouTube – perfect if your student gets stuck or if you want them to work independently at home.
Are you a VMT member? Don’t forget your members-only discount code. Not a member yet? Wow…you must not realize how much you’re missing out on! Learn more and join the movement at vibrantmusicteaching.com.
Do you have a favourite digital resource I didn’t include in my list?
Let me know what I need to add to my own collection. 🙂