THE Guide to Piano Music Editions by a University Professor


When you start learning a new piece, like a Chopin Nocturne or a Bach Prelude & Fugue, do you wonder what edition you should be using? Well, you SHOULD be careful, because if you use a bad edition, you risk learning wrong notes, distasteful pedaling and articulations. As a University Piano Professor with years of experience, I’ve seen firsthand how the edition choice can impact a pianist’s progress and understanding of a piece.


Music editions are more than just printed notes on paper; they represent a wealth of interpretive insights, editorial decisions, and historical contexts. The differences between editions can include variations in fingering, phrasing, dynamics, and even the notes themselves. Choosing the right edition can make the learning process smoother and provide deeper insights into the composer’s intentions.


1) A facsimile edition presents a photo reproduction of a composer’s manuscript. These are usually very hard to read.

2) The “urtext” edition is the unedited, original and earliest edition of a work. If you want an edition that doesn’t have any editing, like added fingering, dynamics, and articulations then you will be safe with the Urtext edition. Henle is often my recommendation for Urtext.

3) Critical editions, also known as scholarly editions, analyze aspects of a composition or compare versions. They aren’t meant for use in performance.

4) A performance edition adds expressive features like dynamics, phrasing, pedaling and fingering and often makes the music available at a lower cost. These types of editions can be problematic because they can reflect the editor’s personal opinions more than the composer’s intentions. However, if they are carefully prepared by responsible editors, they can be the most helpful and insightful editions.


Sometimes I recommend the Urtext edition. But, it’s my goal to give you my opinion of what I think are the best performance editions that will help you the most with fingering, phrasing, pedaling and ornamentation. I personally love editions where the added markings are either in a different font, different color or different size from the original. This gives you the opportunity to compare.

FREE GUIDE! Recommended Classical Piano Editions

Make sure to get your FREE PDF that lists my favorite classical piano editions here:

I’ve created this guide to help you make informed decisions about piano music editions. It includes my favorite editions that I prefer for playing and teaching classical keyboard music and focuses on the major works of the great composers from all of the time periods.


by Professor Lenora Ford Brown

April 6, 2024

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