Music really does make the world go around and few things can be more enriching than acquiring musical skills, whether you’re a kid or an adult. One of the best instruments to start your foray into the musical world, the magnificent piano has been around for ages and has been stealing hearts for just as long!
Studies show that playing the piano has many benefits. It is a great stress reliever and can help calm your mind. Not only is it a relatively easier instrument to start with (all you have to do is press the key to make a sound, whereas other string instruments require fingering, bowing, or plucking), it is also a great way to fine tune coordination between different parts of your body. Reading music, using your pedals, and playing notes all at the same time can be quite an exercise in coordination! Playing the piano also helps sharpen your intellect, bring your motor skills to point, and just generally give you a sense of accomplishment, confidence and fun! Of course, all this is provided that you do devote the required time and effort the instrument asks for (much as we all wish there were, there are no shortcuts to success, so practice is the key!).
In fact, we love the piano so much that we’ve put together a list of the 15 most famous piano songs of all time to inspire the same love for the instrument in our readers! Whether you’re just taking baby steps towards playing the piano or are a child prodigy with years of experience under your belt, this article has a little something for everyone. These songs are sure to motivate beginners to keep learning and practicing to someday be able to play these songs, while also giving experienced players something new or even challenging to try out. Even better, if you haven’t tried the piano at all, we hope this list makes you fall in love with the instrument and give it a try. Read on for our top 15 picks!
Fur Elise by Beethoven
Honestly, this one’s a no-brainer. We’re pretty sure this tune has been heard at least once by 99% of the human population, given that it plays everywhere, from restaurants to elevators to ringtones to alarms, making it one of the most recognized piano pieces in the world! One of the first complete pieces taught to piano students everywhere, “Fur Elise”, written by Ludwig van Beethoven, is memorable for its uniquely popular melody and relatively easy nature (in terms of learning) despite being a classic.
River Flows in You by Yiruma
Pianist Yiruma has quite an impressive musical education, a fact that is reflected in the beauty that is “River Flows in You”. This sublime “contemporary classical” piece, which was initially mistaken to be a part of the “Twilight” OST (original soundtrack), has since gained popularity, especially as a wedding track. With a highly catchy and repetitive melody, this song can be challenging to play but is definitely worth the effort, and is highly popular with classical pianists as well as those who are not familiar with classical music.
Fantaisie-Impromptu by Frederic Chopin
Frederic Chopin’s “Fantaisie-Impromptu” in C-sharp minor has quite a history behind it. Easily one of the most recognized pieces in the world, this solo piano composition was composed in 1834 but wasn’t published till 1855, way after Chopin’s death in 1849. Known for its overall complexity, the piece is nonetheless one of the most performed compositions of this musical maestro.
Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, literally translated to “moonlight” in French, is a ray of just that! Silvery, magical and ethereal, this composition is the third and most famous part (or movement) of “Suite Bergamasque”, one of Debussy’s most famous piano suites. This piece is also famous due to the availability of various versions in varying levels, making it a perfect song to be taught to beginners as well as a complex enough piece for advanced students to attempt.
Flight of the Bumblebee by Korsakov
Originally an orchestral piece written by Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov for his opera “The Tale of the Tsar Saltan”, this piece is well-known for its evocation of the constantly changing and chaotic pattern of a bumblebee’s flight. In fact, so popular is this piece that it’s been used on numerous occasions in popular culture such as movies, anime, radio shows, and more recently and recognizably, in “Glee”, when a character is about to get a “slushy” in their face! A piano version of the song by “B. Bumble and the Stingers” even reached the 21st spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” list in 1961. Quite an impressive composition, we must say!
Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
The “Moonlight Sonata”, another of Ludwig van Beethoven’s highly popular compositions, has retained its appeal from the days of the composer till the present day. Written by Beethoven in dedication to a student of his, the piece received its name from German music critic Ludwig Rellstab, who compared the music to the feel of moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne! In fact, “Moonlight Sonata” is even said to have influenced Chopin’s “Fantaisie Impromptu”, with the latter deemed a tribute to the former! Slightly lengthy in its full version, this piece is a favorite among teachers to teach to beginners and advanced players alike.
Rondo Alla Turca by W.A Mozart
Even if you don’t recognize this piece by name, you’re sure to recognize it as soon as you listen to the first bar! The “Rondo Alla Turca”, popularly known as the “Turkish March”, is one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s best-known pieces. The composition imitates the sound of Turkish bands whose music was popular in Mozart’s time. “Rondo Alla Turca” is the third movement in the composer’s “Piano Sonata No.11” and is still widely learned and performed today.
Minuet in G by Christian Petzold
Mistakenly assumed to have been written by Johann Sebastian Bach for his lovely wife, turns out that this wonderful composition is, in fact, to be attributed to Christian Petzold, a German composer and organist of excellent caliber, second only to Bach himself. What makes this piece even more popular (apart from its usage in popular media such as The Toys’ “A Lover’s Concerto” or several movies), is the fact that this piece is one of the few surviving compositions of Petzold. A highly happy tune that is reminiscent of spring, the “Minuet in G” definitely belongs on this list!
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by W.A Mozart
One of the most popularly used pieces in movies (especially in the “Silent Era” of Hollywood), cartoons, and television shows, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s composition for a chamber ensemble, composed in 1787, and though initially meant for string instruments, the piano version of this song is just as popular. Lively and majestic, mastering this composition is no easy feat but you’ll realize just how worth the effort is, once you do!
Divenire by Ludovico Einaudi
Honestly, no list about anything related to exceptional piano skills can be complete today without Ludovico Einaudi’s name on it! This Italian composer has been stealing our hearts with his music since the release of his first work in 1984. Einaudi hasn’t looked back since, going on to score music for classic movies like the “Black Swan” and “The Intouchables”. Known for its beautiful melody and widespread usage (such as in a commercial for the 2012 Olympics), “Divenire” is one of Ludovico Einaudi’s most well-known pieces.
I Giorni by Ludovico Einaudi
Like we already said, Einaudi is a modern-day genius when it comes to the piano. Therefore, it only makes sense that we’d feature another one of his exceptional compositions. Used by BBC for their commercials for arts and cultural programmers as well as by the Indian telecommunications service provider, Airtel, in their advertisements, “I Giorni” is a beautiful yet simple melody, appealing to trained and untrained ears alike, a trademark feature of Einaudi’s music. With a repetitive pattern and easy tempo, “I Giorni” is one for the playlists of all music enthusiasts around the world!
The Minute Waltz by Frederic Chopin
Frederic Chopin is known for work that is characteristic of high tempos and cascading notes. The “Minute Waltz” is yet another example of this. Famous for the fact that is attempted to be played by pianists around the world in under a minute (you know, for the “Minute” in “Minute Waltz”), this lively melody was actually named the “Minute Waltz” to signify that is a small or minute waltz. Also known as the “Waltz of the Little Dog”, this piece has also been used by BBC to advertise their “Just a Minute” program and has also has been attempted by popular artists such as Barbra Streisand.
Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel
We just had to include this song on our list, for after all, which wedding is complete without the bride walking in, to the melody of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major”? A piece that was popular in Pachelbel’s time but soon became obscure for centuries till its revival in 1968, the “Canon in D Major” is one of the most widely used classical piano pieces around the world. Various versions of the piece exist, covered by various artists, in various fields of popular media, and for various reasons! A simple-enough song to learn but highly beautiful when played, the “Canon in D Major” definitely deserves to be on this list.
The Bridal Chorus by Richard Wagner
If it isn’t “Canon in D Major” at the wedding, it’s definitely “Bridal Chorus” from Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin”! Though many people may know this piece as “Here Comes the Bride”, this piece originated from Wagner’s opera where it was played as the female protagonist of the opera walked down the chapel on her wedding day. Since then, this piece has been a standard at most weddings in the western world, contributing to its popularity.
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
The last item on our list may be rather unconventional but that doesn’t take away from its enjoyability or technical quality! This piece seamlessly fuses jazz and classical piano styles but was torn apart by critics in the 1920s, despite which it sold over a million copies by the end of 1927. It remains one of Gershwin’s most popular pieces till date, widely played by orchestras around the world! Though meant for an orchestral ensemble, the piece can also be played as a piano solo and has been used in various movies (such as “The Great Gatsby”), played at various events (such as the 50th Grammy Awards), and even used as inspiration by various musicians (such as “The Beach Boys”)!
The Parting Note
If anything, this list is a testament to how the piano is a beautiful instrument to listen to as well as play. The fact that it’s also relatively easier to play earns it more brownie points. We hope our list has inspired you (just like it has us!) to start lessons, get back to your practice, or even just listen to more music that is piano-based. Let the black and white keys of the piano open up a million colors in your mind!