No Book Beginners: A Piano Teaching Success Story

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No Book Beginners: A Piano Teaching Success Story

No Book Beginners

Today, I wanted to share with you a piano teaching success story from my No Book Beginners framework.

If you haven’t heard of my No Book Beginners piano teaching course, click here for more information.

Here’s a quick rundown:

    • As you might have guessed, it’s all about teaching beginners WITH NO BOOKS for at least 10 lessons
    • I have my students playing chords, improvising, creating melodies and so much more all without using a method book
    • We don’t even touch reading until after we’ve gone through this framework
    • It’s available in full in my TopMusicPro

Why Does it Work?

So many teachers have given me great feedback about the power of teaching beginners without a book.

At first you might think it sounds crazy.

But it works because right from the beginning we can give our piano students the ability to play and explore the keyboard, without going though tedious reading exercises.

Right from the beginning, we can open our students’ imagination, ask them to create melodies and improvise, and watch their love for piano unfold.

Reading can come later, and is of course vital.

But in those first 10 weeks, I believe my No Book Beginners framework will give your students the best possible start to their musical education.

Bec’s Success Story

TopMusicPro member Bec got in touch with me about how No Book Beginners has transformed her studio.

She’s just started teaching an 11-year-old girl who can’t read yet due to learning difficulties.

This student is easily overwhelmed, shy and struggles to concentrate for more than 10 minutes during school.

Here’s what the student’s mum warned Bec before starting lessons:

She told me that after five or ten minutes I should expect her daughter to blurt out ‘is it finished yet?’
And here’s how Bec prepared for what was sounding like a pretty difficult lesson:

Mum (Mrs E) had told me that her daughter (Miss A) liked dragons, and I started to imagine some kind of improvisation we could do using black notes.

Just as I was working on that, the name of your NBB course popped into my head, and I watched your training videos for Lesson One on YouTube at noon on Wednesday.

At 2.30 I had my trial lesson with Miss A. We had a good chat about dragons and the games she likes to play with her friends, about my offspring and the fun imaginative things we like to do.

She had a big smile on her face and was engaging cheerfully, although refused to play me anything she’d ever played before despite my cheerful persuasion.

teaching beginner piano

Bec used a creative approach to teaching a beginner student with a great outcome for all involved!

But then after a few more minutes, Bec had Miss A playing the piano, and not just that, improvising and having fun.

I said ‘Ok, well I’m going to play for you a piece about dragons!’ Her eyes lit up and we brainstormed what kind of dragons (baby), where they were (a lake) and other story elements.

I improvised a piece following her ideas on the black keys, with her watching, and at the end I said ‘Wow, you created such great dragon music with your story! Now it’s your turn to play on black notes!’

I had a sinking feeling Miss A wouldn’t play a note, but she joined in straight away. By the second piece, she started swaying along with the music as she improvised on three black notes.

I could see mum and big sister behind me and they were in shock. Once we got to the animal story, she was on fire.

The idea of No Book Beginners is to get creative in your first lessons with a new student, to inspire them to be imaginative and explore the keyboard for the first time.

And doesn’t this sound exactly what Bec has done:

I think most of all Miss A liked that I was happy to play, not in the sense of play piano but in the sense of imaginative play. I am so grateful to mum for explaining that was such a big part of her daughter’s life, because I was ready to engage and meet her where she was.

I am grateful for your videos that prompted me to trust my gut and rely on creativity, imagination and fun.

The End Result?

At the end of the day, Miss A signed up to a full term of music lessons.

Our half an hour lesson was up, and I turned to her and said ‘Well, I’m sorry, but that’s all we have time for…’ and she said ‘Aww’. Her mum was trying to keep her own emotions in check so she didn’t overwhelm her daughter, but I could see she couldn’t believe how well the lesson went.

At noon the next day, I saw Mrs E and her friend at a social event. Mrs E confirmed they would book in for the term, and her friend scheduled a lesson for HER daughter after hearing how well it went for Miss A. ‘I heard Miss A absolutely loved it – that’s the kind of lesson I want for my daughter!’

What a fantastic story for everyone involved. Bec’s creative approach helped her get two new students, but more importantly she helped inspire a young girl with learning difficulties, who had previously struggled to concentrate for more than 10 minutes.

It all comes down to creativity, imagination and fun!

Free NBB Lesson Plan

As a thanks to you for reading today’s blog post, I’d love to offer you a free download below from my No Book Beginners Course.

Don’t forget to sign up to TopMusicPro to access the full course and hundreds of other teaching resources, or you can buy the course as a standalone here.


If you’d like to know more about why I teach beginners without a method book, check out this article I wrote.

What do you teach beginners? Leave your thoughts below.

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as integrated teaching, creativity, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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  1. Bravo! I had a similar experience this past Wednesday with a student who came in with her Mom and big sister! She was shy and refused to look at me, talk to me or play anything until after I showed her some improv ideas about 4th of July and fireworks which we were getting ready to celebrate the next day. All of a sudden she started asking if she could show me a song she knew and played hot cross buns. I springboarded from there and played Mary Had a little lamb and her next song she wanted to show me was a very rough version of Fur Elise, just a few of the first notes but I figured out quickly what she was playing and played just the beginning RH theme with two hands. Her eyes got very wide and her first smile appeared! After that we started black key improv and she said she already knew the names of the white keys and could start from the highest key and named each one going backwards! I praised her for how much she already knew and encouraged her with some ideas for CDE improv. She was counting groups of 2 & 3 black keys and finding every C before the lesson ended and I sent her home with Susan Paradis’ Wiggly Worm song as her starting piece. Her mom was almost in tears and said she loved how I interacted with her daughter. I told her I like to wait before assigning books and she was just fine with that! I find when transfer students come to their first lesson with me they bring a stack of Alfred, Bastien or Faber books and when I set them aside, they are shocked at first but then relieved and their anxious expression disappears! I believe it’s vital to get to know a new student, observing their learning style and processing, practice commitment, personality, etc. before determining which method will work best FOR THEM, not for me😉

    • Wow Valerie – thanks so much for sharing this story. It’s a fantastic example of what we can achieve when we don’t focus on reading, we meet students where they are at and work creatively with them in that first lesson.

      Well done on such an engaging, fun lesson to kick off your time with this student. You’re a teacher after my own heart.

      Keep it up!

  2. Guide

    • Hi Elaine – if you’d like to download the first lesson plan, please enter your details above 🙂

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