Skip to main content

10 Famous Classical Piano Pieces You'll Instantly Recognize

January 30, 2023

10 Famous Classical Piano Pieces You'll Instantly Recognize

5 Famous Piano Songs

Whether you are a beginner pianist looking to hear some of the most famous classical songs on piano for the first time or a more advanced player yearning to play some of these classical piano pieces for yourself, we have you covered. We have rounded up 10 of the best piano classic music songs by the most famous composers, from Ludwig van Beethoven to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Get to know these popular classical piano song from pianist and you’ll be a better piano player for it!

10 Popular Classical Piano Songs

1. Ludwig van Beethoven – “Moonlight Sonata”

Who has the best piano song you might ask? There is no classical composer whose music better expresses emotions than Beethoven. As one of the earliest Romantic Era musicians, Beethoven wove a complex emotional landscape into each one of his pieces. As such, his music is heartfelt, brooding, and full of feeling.

As many know, his music is even more amazing upon realizing that he lost his hearing in early adulthood. One of the most famous things about Beethoven is that he was completely deaf by the time he wrote many of his famous classical piano pieces. However, some recent research suggests Beethoven could actually hear some of his final symphonies, although in a very faint way. Whether he heard them or not, these pieces are true treasures. 

Beethoven most famous song is “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, No. 2” (nicknamed the “Moonlight Sonata”).

The first movement, marked Adagio sostenuto, is the most recognizable, with its smoothly moving triplet motive in the right hand and the heavy, pedantic melody in the low bass line.

True to the adopted name of the piece, the tune offers a beautiful mental image of a melancholy moonlit night. When it comes to the most famous classical piano pieces of all time, “Moonlight Sonata” certainly has earned its spot at the top.

2. Claude Debussy – “Clair de Lune”

French composer Debussy is the epitome of the Impressionist style of music. His piano pieces are soft, light, and dreamy, suggesting seascapes and tranquil natural settings.

“Clair de Lune” (which translates to “light of the moon”) is actually the third movement from his larger piano piece called “Suite bergamasque.”

This is one of the most famous classical piano songs, as it has been used in countless movies and television shows to depict a soft and dreamlike state. The pianist uses the higher end of the keyboard and a certain lightness of the fingers to musically imitate the soft moonlight and the twinkling of the stars. Learning this piece on the piano will help you develop a sensitive sense of dynamics and touch.

SEE ALSO: 8 Best Piano Apps

3. Frederic Chopin – “March Funèbre”

Whenever movies and television shows need music that instantly makes people think of morbid settings, they often turn to the second movement of Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2,” aptly marked “Marche Funèbre” (“funeral march”).

This recognizable melody is slow and heavy. It mimics the feeling of marching slowly through a street while carrying a casket. “Marche Funèbre” is certainly one of the best piano songs for creating a dark and oppressive feeling. But don’t let it get you down! Playing and listening to this piece is a rich and beautiful experience.

4. Ludwig van Beethoven – “Für Elise”

Beethoven’s piano music is so universally well-known and beloved that he deserves a second mention in this list! The full name of this piece is “Bagatelle in A Minor,” but most people will recognize it under the name “Für Elise.”

This is one of the best classical piano songs because of its beautiful and lyrical melody. It’s also one of the standard piano pieces for beginner piano students to learn. The right and left hands play constant eighth-note lines that weave in and out of each other to create a smooth texture. Practicing this tune is a great way to develop your finger independence. If you want to learn an easy classical piano song, start with this gem.

5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – “Rondo alla Turca”

Everybody knows the name Mozart and recognizes him as one of the greatest composers and pianists in all of music history.

However, not everyone knows that he was a child prodigy, composing music and touring all of Europe at the age of five! He lived during a time when Eastern influence, especially from Turkey, was incredibly trendy in Western Europe.

All of these elements combine beautifully in the third movement of his “Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331,” marked Rondo alla turca (“Rondo in the Turkish style”). The music is fast, energetic, playful, and rhythmic.

SEE ALSO: Intro to Reading Piano Notes

6. Johann Sebastian Bach – “Prelude 1 in C Major”

You can’t round up the most popular classical piano songs without mentioning works by Johann Sebastian Bach. A German composer and talented organist in the late Baroque period, Bach is celebrated for his many masterpieces, such as his Brandenburg Concertos. As for his piano pieces, “Prelude 1 in C Major” is an excellent song for pianists looking to master proper technique. Practice warming up on this beautiful melody and focus on nailing those musical nuances. 

7. Johann Strauss II – “The Blue Danube”

Want to learn a famous classical piano song that sounds tricky but is relatively easy for beginners? Then turn to Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube.” Inspired by a poem, the Austrian composer wrote this classical piano piece in 1866. The upbeat waltz is a delight to hear and even more enjoyable to perform. When you’re just starting out, start slow and then speed it up as you get more comfortable with this piano style

8. Jacques Offenbach – “The Galop” 

There’s a good chance you’ve seen or heard of the famous Cancan dance. Throughout the 1890s, women, particularly in France, would perform this dance while wearing elaborate costumes. Jacques Offenbach’s “The Galop,” from his opera “Orpheus in the Underworld,” is the song that most often accompanies this iconic dance. The piano piece is upbeat and lively, offering the perfect challenge for beginners.

9. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – “Swan Lake” 

If you’ve had the pleasure of watching a ballet performance of “Swan Lake,” then you’ll instantly recognize Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” piano number as the theme song. This popular classical piano song is slow and legato, making it the ultimate practice song for beginner players. 

10. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – “Piano Concerto No. 20” 

Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 20” rounds out our list of the best piano songs of all time. This solo piece is said to have been one of Mozart’s favorite compositions. Unlike some of his more happy and lighthearted numbers, this piece is a bit more dark and somber. 

These 10 famous classical piano songs are just the beginning of the wonderfully expansive repertoire of piano music out there. Explore these pieces, but don’t stop there! Keep in mind, that the first step in learning how to play the most beautiful piano pieces is to sign up for piano lessons or online classes. Sign up today to receive the instruction you need to master this instrument in no time.

Are there more classical songs everyone knows that we missed? Leave a comment letting us know your favorite.

Photo by Daniel Kruczynski

Jessica Dais is a blogger for TakeLessons on topics related to music education and language learning. She has a Bachelor's in Journalism and started writing professionally in 2008. Jessica enjoys writing about the piano, guitar, and singing. She is currently learning Spanish but is interested in the French language and culture as well.

Jessica Dais