The piano is a beautiful instrument capable of playing a wide array of sounds, from staccato to grandiose. The ability of a composer to create an array of emotions and ideas on the piano goes a long way in explaining why certain famous piano songs have stood the test of time.
This also explains why these famous piano songs are often used to accompany scenes in movies, commercials, and television shows. The five piano pieces below are just a few of the most beloved songs that everyone will recognize.
5 Famous Piano Songs
1. Ludwig van Beethoven – “Moonlight Sonata”
There is no classical composer whose music better exemplifies emotions than Beethoven. As one of the earliest Romantic Era musicians, Beethoven bore his emotions openly, and his music is expressive, brooding, and full of feeling.
As many know, his music is even more amazing upon realizing that he lost his hearing in early adulthood. Beethoven was completely deaf by the time he wrote many of his famous classical piano songs!
His expressive spirit is exemplified in the famous “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.
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 composition “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 is able to use the higher end of the keyboard and use a certain lightness of the fingers to musically imitate twinkling and soft moonlight.
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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 instantly recognizable melody is slow and heavy. It mimicks the feeling of marching slowly through a street while carrying a casket.
“Marche Funèbre” is certainly one of the best classical piano songs for creating a dark and oppressive feeling.
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 beginning 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.
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 as many know 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 all turca (“Rondo in the Turkish style”). The music is fast, energetic, playful, and rhythmic.
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These five famous piano songs are just the beginning when it comes to the wonderfully expansive world of piano music that is out there.
The first step in learning how to play these beautiful piano pieces is to sign up for piano lessons or online classes. An experienced teacher can help guide you through the process of developing the skills you need to perform these famous piano songs with mastery. Good luck!
Photo by Daniel Kruczynski