Classical music can seem complex to understand if you have just taken up the piano or are learning to play. As a result, beginners can feel quite intimidated or discouraged and might not attempt classical songs because they feel too difficult.
However, classical music should be an essential part of playing the piano, as the patterns found in classical music can show us how to play better in other genres.
Learning to play classical piano pieces will vastly improve your piano technique since the genre is the foundation of playing the piano. You won’t have to spend weeks trying to earn these songs, either, and they should help you discover the joy of playing.
From beginner pianists to intermediate players, these beautiful piano songs were created by some of the greatest composers of all time. They range from simple pieces to more advanced and complex chord structures, which may require actual work on the piano rather than a keyboard at home.
However, these great songs will help keep you motivated and encourage you to push yourself to learn the intricacies of the piano as a way to further your skill.
What classical piano piece should I learn first?
Working with a piano instructor is the best method to know what classical songs are best to learn on the piano as a beginner. A professional pianist or piano player who teaches will have the best idea of what simple piano pieces will be more manageable or more challenging for you to tackle.
In fact, many of them already have music books to guide beginning pianists. But the finished product of the piece will help motivate and encourage you to learn more.
Taking online piano lessons is an option if you don’t have the ability or convenience of working with a teacher near your location, so be sure not to short-change yourself by not working with a piano teacher.
Someone who teaches piano can help you learn the fundamentals of music theory and specifics to the instrument, including key signatures, time signatures, dynamics, and more.
Though there are many piano pieces you can start with as a beginner, the list below outlines some classics that range from more straightforward to more intermediate songs, and you should include them within your piano repertoire.
You don’t have to learn them all; listen to some of the pieces and see which ones might move you to want to understand them. Then, you can propose them to your piano instructor at your next lesson!
7 Easy Classical Piano Songs
1) Minuet in F by Leopold Mozart
This easy classical piano song was written by the father of world-famous composer and prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Leopold was a German composer, conductor, violinist, and widely known across Europe as a respected teacher. He was the piano and violin instructor to his children Wolfgang and Nannerl.
For several reasons, the Minuet in F is a great entry point into classical piano music. First, there are great opportunities to work on the relationship between a quarter and eighth note rhythms.
There are simple dynamic changes written in the piece that will help beginners add color to the song easily, and there are very manageable hand position changes between the sections.
Follow this tutorial from start to finish, and I guarantee you will master this fun classical piano song. However, beginner players should note that it is helpful to consistently play at a slow tempo when starting out until you have a grasp of your proper hand placement.
2) Musette In D Major by Johann Sebastian Bach
This fun piece was written by whom many consider the father of music, Johann Sebastian Bach. The Musette in D is from the more extensive work The Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach.
This work is becoming progressively more difficult than the previously mentioned Minuet. A definite challenge for a beginner but great for those starting to transition to the intermediate level. Many skills will be worked on in this song, including:
- Playing in the key of D major
- Bouncing octaves in the left hand
- Playing sixteenth-note rhythms over eighth notes
- Syncopated rhythms
- Playing with diverse articulations
Follow along slowly with this detailed tutorial until you are comfortable playing it up to speed:
3) Ecossaise in G by Ludwig Van Beethoven
The Ecossaise was a popular dance piece written in the 18th and 19th centuries. This particular tune was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven as an Ecossaise for wind band. It was later arranged for piano by one of Beethoven’s former students Carl Czerny, who in his own right was a successful composer of piano etudes.
This Ecossaise is written in the key of G major so that we will be focusing on a key signature with F#. However, watch for accidental notes, including A #’s and A naturals.
The song also features these important teachable moments:
- Diverse dynamics, including crescendos and decrescendos
- Articulations including staccato and legato phrases
- Sixteenth and eighth note relationships
- Left-hand octaves
- Broken Chords including G major and D7
- Syncopated rhythms
- Accent marks
- Eighth rests
4) Moonlight Sonata (1st Movement) by Ludwig Van Beethoven
Another one of the more famous songs composed by Beethoven is the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata. It is also an excellent one to learn as a beginner and one that many people will recognize when they hear it.
Beethoven is one of the most influential and inspiring classical composers, so learning to play Beethoven like a pro helps solidify your reputation as a genuine pianist. Learning this hauntingly beautiful piece touches many people, which is why it is so widely popular, and a great piece to know.
Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas, and some have become practically necessary for pianists to learn when playing. The Moonlight Sonata is a straightforward song in the key of C-sharp minor, which allows it to be a more manageable piece to play.
The beginning is arpeggiated and seems improvised, making this first movement the most admired. This song will also help introduce the use of the sustain pedal on the piano if you have not yet worked with the pedals since you need to use it throughout the song.
5) To A Wild Rose by Edward MacDowell
If you are looking for a lighter and more simplistic classical song to play, this is it. To A Wild Rose is refreshing and provides players with simple fingering, slightly increasing and diminishing to retard. The song is the first piece from “Ten Woodland Sketches” and became a more well-known and good piece for beginner players.
What makes this an easy piano piece is that its simple placement of fingers is intended for children and beginner pianists, with only the piano as the accompaniment and no other various instruments are played.
6) Ave Maria by Franz Schubert
The song Ave Maria was composed initially to be a vocal solo and accompanied by the piano. You typically hear this song featured at weddings and funerals, supplying a peaceful and calming melody. It sounds impressive when played and is excellent practice for arpeggios as well as chords.
To play this piece, you will utilize a series of arpeggios that repeat throughout. There are also piano solo transcriptions, and there are multiple versions you can choose from, starting with more simplified sheet music.
Whichever version you work with, it is helpful to pivot your hand to reach the upper notes in the arpeggios so that you aren’t stretching your hands too much.
7) Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel
Like the Moonlight Sonata, this is a recognizable classical piece, often played at weddings. In addition, the chord progression is featured in other popular songs of today, such as Vitamin C’s “Graduation Song.”
The Canon in D was originally composed for strings, but it was transcribed for the piano. The song features eight chords in repetition with the left hand. The right hand starts with the appealing melody and gradually increases in complexity throughout the duration of the piece.
Suppose you find yourself struggling to play with your hands together on the different keys. In that case, you can separate and play each hand individually, keeping in mind that the left hand is still based on the first eight notes, so you can work with only those until you gain confidence to work in the right hand.
What is a list of progressively harder classical piano songs?
As your piano skills advance, you can start adding some more intermediate piano pieces into your repertoire. Learning the easier songs when you begin will provide you with a solid foundation for growth, and you will feel more equipped to tackle some of these incredible pieces.
5 Intermediate Classical Piano Songs
1) Prelude No. 7 in A Major by Frederic Chopin
The Prelude No. 7 in A Major is a short piece, only about a minute long. The challenge comes with blending harmony with the melody to capture that feeling of contentment. The left hand uses a style where you can work just on the first beat of each measure of the left hand, which will help you identify the pattern.
There are only four chords to learn in this song, which are repeated, and there are some spots where your left and right hands will overlap. You have the option to play the notes from the bottom to the top, similar to a harp sound, or you can redistribute the notes between your hands if it is more comfortable.
2) Sonata No. 16 (Sonata Facile) by Wolfgang A. Mozart
Mozart may be the most famous composer who ever lived, and many of his pieces are incredibly daunting to tackle for beginners. However, the word “facile” means ‘easy,’ and this piece is an excellent choice for the intermediate piano player.
3) Arabesque Op. 18 in C Major by Robert Schumann
The Arabesque Op. 18 in C Major contains the exact rhythmic timing used repeatedly, so this is a great piece for pianists to work on counting and rhythms. This piece is based solely on appoggiaturas, with the right hand controlling the melody and pacing.
In the prelude, the song has the primary form of ABACA, but in the B section of the song, there is a key change to E Minor, back to B Major, and then back to the E minor melody. Finally, the C section is done in A Minor and repeats its pattern. The syncopated pattern makes this piece more complex for learning on the piano.
4) Claire De Lune by Claude Debussy
Claire De Lune is a haunting classical piece meaning “moonlight” for intermediate players. The song is usually played slowly and very softly, or in musical terms, as pianissimo. The beginning theme has been adapted as a more simple piano piece for beginner players to start before tackling the original, entire piece as an intermediate player.
This piece is also great for teaching piano habits so that you don’t go too heavy on the keys and stay fluid to play the irregular harmonies. You may have to start it at a slower pace before working up to the correct tempo.
5) Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
This romantic anthem is recognized by many and is usually performed in ballets. The piece is legato with very fluid movements and an easy rhythm for piano players.
The song provides pianists with a lot of chord practice. Good practice is key to improving your skills, and finding different ways to work on specific areas of your piano skills is a great thing. A simple piece can sound more complex to our ears, but it is not that challenging to play when you take the time to break it down.
Pianists can find inspiration to play everywhere. Some of your favorite movies most likely feature classical piano pieces and give you some other great pieces to learn to play. Look up other famous composers such as Franz Liszt, Carl Philipp Emanuel, or other Baroque music or popular song in the classical genre to see what interests you.
For example, many people have heard Handel’s famous “Messiah” sung by a choir, but did you know that you can also learn the piano for this? Don’t limit yourself to easy piano songs, especially as you gain confidence and skill with your playing.
Once you have a working knowledge of these classical piano songs, you can move on to other pieces you might want to learn to play on the piano, such as rock songs or jazz. It is always helpful to learn songs that you enjoy and want to play since that will spark an interest in your learning.
Do not underestimate the beauty and joy of playing classical music. It may even help if you read some books about the composers themselves, since understanding them might help encourage your playing. Download some digital sheet music to practice on your own, or take a prelude to learn an entire collection in your own time, and bring it to your next lesson – your teacher will be so impressed!