There seems to be an unspoken consensus among musicians and non-musicians about piano performance. Legendary and masterful guitar players will sometimes look at a virtuoso such as Lang Lang and wish that they could have stuck to piano lessons. We tend to associate piano performance with Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart; this may explain why so many of us end up thinking that this instrument is hard to learn. American guitar player Eric Johnson often recommends young learners to start with piano before moving to string instruments.
Johnson is not the first to admit that learning piano was easier than guitar; however, he also admits that mastering the guitar is a lot easier than mastering the piano. Music teachers will tell you the same about the piano, an instrument that is universally considered to be the best for young learners to start with. The Prodigies Music method and curriculum for preschool and primary education learners centers on music theory, but the knowledge and skills acquired through our lessons are easily transferable to the piano.
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One of the reasons the piano is excellent as a first instrument is because learners can easily get instant gratification. Here are a few more things to know about pianos and why they are so great for music students:
- What you play is what you get; unlike other instruments, you do not have to worry about notes splashing or buzzing.
- When it comes to understanding notes and scales, pianos are intuitive because of the way keys are arranged.
- The neat arrangement of piano keys is conducive to developing coordination.
- Playing by ear is easier than many people think. When you see players keep their posture while leaning on the keys and moving their torso, this is a sign that they are feeling the music and translating those feelings.
With all the above in mind, we can safely say that learning to play the piano will give anyone a strong musical foundation. Here are 10 songs that beginners can learn to play without difficulty; some of them sound more difficult than they really are, and that is part of the charm of piano performance.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Some parents may know this tune as “the alphabet song;” it is essentially the same, and it is a melody that many children grow up with because of devices that play lullaby melodies. There are various advantages to learning this song on the piano:
- The catchy melody is easy to visualize on the keys.
- The note progression requires just one hand, but it can be augmented to performing with two hands.
- All fingers can be engaged if the student is encouraged to play in arpeggio mode.
- Twinkle, Twinkle can be played at different tempos and even in reverse.
Finally, the alphabet version of this song makes it easier to learn as a mnemonic device.
A couple of years ago, the famous FAO Schwarz brand of toy stores was rescued by a business consortium that decided to stick to the brand’s roots as much as possible; this plan included opening a flagship store in Manhattan, complete with the giant piano mat upon where Tom Hanks danced while playing Chopsticks in the 1988 film “Big.” Chopsticks is a staple of piano instruction written by British composer Euphemia Allen in 1877. This is a simple waltz based on a polka tune, and it was a hit on the dance floor during the final quarter of the 19th century; the reason it is named Chopsticks is because Allen included performance instructions that the hands should be placed almost vertical to the keys in order to achieve a striking motion.
With Chopsticks, you can start out slow and with just two fingers, but the fun part is gaining coordination in order to play faster and with as many fingers on the keys as possible. It certainly helps to watch “Big;” however, the film’s original PG rating has not aged well and may fall short these days. You can still watch the FAO Schwarz piano scene on YouTube if your students are under the age of 12.
By the time your child starts getting around to following the Prodigies Music method, chances are that they have already learned to sing this song, thus making it ideal for piano instruction. As students learn to play on the keys, parents and siblings can help by singing along; this would provide a nice confidence boost to young learners.
The songs of Cuban-American pop star Camila Cabello often play on children’s television channels, but not her videos because they are often racy. Her most popular song, Havana, features a few catchy piano sections that beginners may find reasonably easy to play. Since the piano hooks of Havana are based on Cuba son, which forms the basis of Latin jazz and salsa, there is an emphasis on rhythm more than on notes. The song plays on G minor, and the range goes from G3 to D5; it is a bouncy rhythm that is not very difficult to play by ear, but you can also watch YouTube tutorials to guide you through this simple arrangement.
Lean On Me
The amazing Bill Withers sadly passed away in late March 2020, just a few weeks after the coronavirus pandemic was declared. Among his extensive body of work, Withers left the soulful Lean On Me, which is suitable for piano beginners because the introductory chord structure is simple and explicit. Students can almost play along with this song, and they can challenge themselves to perfect the chord changes.
This is an American classic that children around the world are familiar with because it reminds them of a holiday season filled with cheer, presents, treats, and family time. Composer James Lord Pierpoint of Massachusetts possibly wrote this as a Sunday choir song for Protestant church services, but it ended up becoming a Christmas classic because it was recorded over the 1889 holiday season on an Edison cylinder. The introductory melody and hook of EEE EEE EGCDE is something that just about anyone can play; things may get a bit more complicated when you get to the verse, but most learners are already encouraged by knowing the song and the melody.
It is amazing that many children enjoy this Coldplay song from late 2002. Clocks was born from a guitar riff that was inspired by the songs of fellow British rockers Muse. Jonny Buckland liked the idea, but he thought repeating the riff on guitar would have been a bit unnerving for listeners; for this reason, Chris Martin adapted the melody on piano. The hook may sound difficult on the radio version of Clocks, but when you see a live performance you can tell it is not difficult. This is a great song to learn how arpeggios work.
The entire ballet composition by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is highly complex and requires extensive rehearsal, but the piano pieces are actually quite simple. Unlike the other songs listed herein, this is a piano learning exercise that will take longer than a day to get right, but it is certainly worth learning because it is part of one of the most beautiful pieces of classical music in history.
The irresistible bass line and the keyboard rhythms of this 80s pop classic sound great on piano! Four chords are all you need to play the bass line at mid-tempo; you will likely mess it up as you try to play faster, but a little practice will get you there. As for the rhythm, it is just a few notes.
There is absolutely no shortage of sheet music for this Beethoven piano masterpiece, and the same goes for recorded tutorials. It may sound like a complex song to play, but that is not really the case because it is a bagatelle meant to be unpretentious. An interesting tidbit about Fur Elise is that it was discovered decades after Beethoven passed away. It is unclear whether it was ever performed in public; something else that is unclear is the woman to whom this song was dedicated to. Beethoven was a womanizer whose dalliances with married women often landed him in trouble, but music history researchers believe that Elise was actually a young girl who was receiving piano lessons from Baroness Therese von Droßdik, a friend of Beethoven but not a lover.