A Guide to Piano Songs for Beginners

A Guide to Piano Songs for Beginners

Are you looking for piano songs for beginners? For most, the first things that very likely come to mind are nursery rhymes and basic folk ditties. Truth be told, a lot of piano teachers really will suggest such songs initially. However, the actual range of the term ‘beginner’ is sufficiently large enough to permit more complex options than that.

That is partly due to how many sub-levels there are within the “beginner” category. Even those who have been playing for several weeks are often still beginners. Yet they can take on more songs than those who have literally only played their first notes in the last 24 hours — and who are also described as beginners.

That said, all piano songs for beginners will share certain traits. Those are the things you should look for when seeking good songs with which to sharpen your own nascent skills as a piano player.

What Do Songs for Beginners Have in Common?

First of all, songs for beginners are within the simpler range of songs compared to the general body of musical pieces. That usually means that a lot of their parts restrict themselves to 4 chords or less, that there’s usually a lot of sustained pedal action (which really just means limited footwork), and that they tend to focus on ‘white keys’ instead of ‘black ones’. They will also involve shorter stretches, if they involve them at all.

All of those things translate to simpler mechanical effort on the part of the player’s body. Less physical strain means beginner-worthiness, naturally.

Most piano songs often chosen as practice pieces for beginners are also ones not composed with a view to achieving technical complexity. Keep in mind that this in no way suggests a composer’s dearth of technical adeptness if his compositions qualify for beginner use.

Lizst’s works are definitely not beginner material, for instance. On the other hand, some of Chopin’s and Beethoven’s are. Yet all three were undoubtedly technically-skilled composers. Still, Lizst often strove to produce technically-challenging pieces consciously, whereas the other two did not (or, at least, considered it a secondary, if not tertiary, concern in their composition).

Piano songs for beginners also tend to be generally memorable. This may in fact be related to their simplicity, as simpler tunes may also be processed and retained more easily by the mind. Songs that a person already knows are also largely advised for piano students, as it makes it easier for them to tell if they got a note right or not (they know how it sounds, after all).

Most beginner pieces tend to stay around the middle C. A superb example is the ever-popular Für Elise from Beethoven. It sounds impressive, especially once you get into the slightly more challenging runs in the second portion, but a look at the notes reveals that it is actually simple enough for beginners. Played at a modest, easy pace, it is suitable for many students.

Things to Keep in Mind

There are caveats to remember when choosing beginner piano songs, as noted earlier. Individual skill levels and preferences will always play a part in the selection. One beginner can be slightly more skilled than another, for instance, or will have more of an aptitude for learning arpeggios than adagios.

The teaching style the piano student has followed is also to be taken into account. Moving into Für Elise at some stage of the beginner level is expected of people studying piano the traditional way, but for those following other techniques, other songs may be more appropriate.

Consider the teaching technique of Robin Hall, for instance: in his Piano For All courses, he starts students off with classic rhythms drawn from works by Lionel Ritchie and Elton John instead. Because of the manner in which his lessons progress, those works end up being more suitable. If you have learned through the traditional method, though, these may prove a bit unmanageable.

Selecting piano music — even for expert players — is actually a skill in itself, particularly if you want to nurture a talent for public performance. Some people just naturally play certain compositions better because they suit their natural playing styles.

Clair de Lune is a popular beginner’s song, for example, but not every beginner tackles it well. Those with more fluid touches handle it better from the start, while heavier-fingered students struggle. After a while, you will very likely get a feel for which pieces seem to suit your own touch, and start making selections based on that.

Keep in mind too that even if your natural touch fits the tenor of a song, you will still need to work on your performance of it. Not even the best play songs perfectly the first time. Beginners in particular will need to go over a song again and again in order to find their best interpretation of it.

Some Good Songs You Can Try

There are a lot of compositions that qualify as beginner’s piano songs, but if you want some of the most often recommended ones, there are a few below. Some belong to the category of music known as Classical Tunes, but others are actually in the Pop category. Either way, you can give them all a try to see which one seems to be most appropriate for your current skill level and personal style.

  1. Ghostly Conversations, by Paul Harris – This weirdly wonderful little piece about two ghosts talking gives you some simple bass notes holding a continuous dialogue with a melodic treble. Simple but enchanting, it can be a very good piece to play for Halloween or dark nights at the piano hall.
  2. In a Landscape, by John Cage – Cage actually made some soothing melodies in his time, and this one is a great beginner’s piece, with its slow sound and extremely simple footwork.
  3. Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – Instantly recognizable and gaining in interest later on, this is a fine selection if you want to spice up a very familiar tune.
  4. Clocks, by Coldplay – A distinctive song with a lot of arpeggios but relatively uncomplicated once you get all the sections properly broken down.
  5. Someone Like You, by Adele – Relies on a lot of arpeggios with a simple melody, and dominated by a simple quartet of chords.

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