Piano music has the unique capability of expressing a myriad of emotions, feelings, and songs: from loud and intense epics to soft and delicate melodies.
There are some songs that are instantly recognizable as famous piano songs. With just the first few notes, a listener will be able to identify the song. Obscure classics are great, but wouldn’t it be cool to be able to play something that everyone knows?
If that sounds good to you, keep reading to learn about 10 famous piano songs that you can learn to play.
1. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”
When we’re talking about famous piano songs, we have to talk about Beethoven. Often considered one of the best musical composers of all time, Beethoven’s music is known for its emotionally expressive nature.
Despite his deafness, he managed to compose some of the most well-known piano songs in history, including “Moonlight Sonata.”
This song is made up of three movements, the first of which the most recognizable and popular. It is played pianissimo, which means very quietly, with a smooth moving triplet rhythm.
Many describe this first movement as melancholy, ghostly, and indeed reminiscent of a moonlit landscape.
2. Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”
Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, more well known as Fur Elise, is another one of Beethoven’s most popular songs.
Interestingly, this song wasn’t published until decades after Beethoven’s death, and the “Elise” referenced still hasn’t been positively identified. It’s known for its smooth melody as well as for its popularity with beginner pianists.
The song begins with its iconic Poco moto, known as “little movement”, which gives a nice smooth flow.
3. Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor”
Pianists describe this difficult piece as adventurous, troubled, grand, and triumphant. With a little bit of everything in this piece, it has become one of the most recognizable and famous piano songs in history.
It consists of three movements: Allegro molto moderato, Adagio, and Allegro moderato molto e marcato – Quasi presto – Andante maestoso.
The first movement is known primarily for the dramatic beginning timpani roll with a grand ending that is similar to the beginning. The third movement is interesting in that it switches from A minor to F major back to A minor and finally to A major.
This song is known to be challenging, but don’t let that get you down while you’re learning. A challenge is a great way to learn, especially when the outcome is knowing how to play a popular, well-known song.
4. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”
Not everyone knows or likes the classics, so it can’t hurt to learn a song that almost everyone has heard nowadays. Peaking at number 9 on the Billboard charts, this Journey song has been described as having one of the best keyboard riffs in all of rock music, according to Allmusic.com.
The song is played in E major with an 8 chord progression throughout. It is known for its instrumental parts, specifically the beginning riff. This is definitely one of those songs that only requires the first couple notes before people instantly recognize it.
5. The Beatles’ “Let It Be”
This is another insanely popular song by probably the most well-known band of all time, but it is also a great song for beginner pianists to learn to play. Paul McCartney wrote this song, saying that he thought of it after a dream he had about his mother who had passed away when he was a teenager.
The song is known for its introduction in which the right hand playing a series of chords while the left plays single notes.
6. Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”
As the name suggests, this song attempts to mimic the flight and actions of bumblebees with music. It was actually written as part of an opera, and it wasn’t even a huge part of that opera. However, the song lives on as one of the most recognizable pieces of piano music in history.
Like Grieg’s Piano Concerto, this song is known to be quite difficult. It is very fast paced with complicated fingering. The best way to learn this song is to practice it very slowly at first before attempting to play it at the proper speed.
Another problem people run into while learning this song is that they can’t reach the proper keys because their hands are too small. This just takes a lot of practice, and some suggest just rolling the chords quickly.
7. Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”
Let’s continue with another difficult song. This should probably be learned when you are very experienced with the piano, or else you would be in for a frustratingly difficult, almost impossible, task.
This song is technically difficult and demanding, but it is also physically so. You’ll be all over the place: you need stamina, a great understanding of keyboard geography, strength, the ability to play extremely quickly and nimbly, as well as an intense dedication to the song.
Even the best pianists struggle with this one; understand exactly what you are getting into with this iconic song, and prepare to practice for months!
8. Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”
Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” earns a spot on this list for its obviously recognizable name and for its simplicity that beginners will be thankful for after looking over Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody.” A song about being a piano player definitely has to make this list of famous piano songs: it’s too perfect!
The song is in C major. It is most famous for the piano intro that features the harmonica.
9. David Foster’s “Love Theme From St. Elmo’s Fire”
Sometimes, movie soundtracks become the most recognizable songs out there (think Star Wars or Indiana Jones Theme). This song comes from the film St. Elmo’s Fire, but the song itself became a stand-alone hit.
It is known for being somewhat jazzy and melancholy while giving off a feeling of longing and happiness. This is another recognizable song that isn’t too difficult to play, so it would be a great song to learn as a beginner/intermediate player.
10. Chariots of Fire Theme
Lastly, we have another song from a film that has the same name: Chariots of Fire. The movie itself is about two Olympic athletes from 1924.
This song actually appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, staying at the top of many country’s charts for months at a time. There was a controversy over plagiarism, but the courts ruled in favor of the composer saying that the disputed F-G-A-G sequence is common in many compositions, and thus doesn’t constitute as plagiarism.
This popular soundtrack song would be another great one to learn, especially if you are already familiar with it.
You Can Learn Famous Piano Songs
Famous piano songs range in difficulty, but they are well known and well liked so that your listeners will be happy and intrigued when you start to play them. While some may take longer to learn, they are rewarding and fun to play.
If you need any help or would like some guidance from a teacher, contact us. We can help you whether you’re just getting started or if you just need help on a particularly difficult song.