The top 10 piano songs of all time may be more a matter of personal preference than anything. Ask any piano student though, and he’ll likely name at least five of these 10. This list contains many of the “staples” of piano instructors worldwide:
1. Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” Take piano lessons a few years and you’ll certainly encounter this classical piece. Most every young piano student requests Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” early in his or her career.
2. Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” Joplin managed to capture audiences during an era when “Negro music” was still controversial. Classical musicians of the early 20th century would have balked at Joplin’s name appearing alongside the likes of Beethoven and Mozart. Today, few would exclude this ragtime song from a top 10 piano songs list.
3. Pachelbel’s “Canon in D major.” Simply referred to as “Pachelbel’s Canon,” it often gets left off of favorite piano songs lists. That’s because it was originally written for stringed instruments. Nevertheless, the piano adaptation is one that most every intermediate to advanced piano student plays during his or her career.
4. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Beethoven had one of the most prolific musical careers in history. It’s little wonder that his name appears more than once on the popularity list. His “Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor” is probably more widely recognized by its common name, the “Moonlight Sonata.”
5. Brahm’s “Hungarian Dance.” Brahm may be known better in mainstream culture for his “Lullaby.” Every piano student learns both his “Lullaby” and the “Hungarian Dance.” The “Hungarian Dance” typically refers to his “No. 5 in F sharp minor.” The “Hungarian Dance” is actually a series of 21 songs. A great many of them were simply adaptations of existing songs. “No. 5 in F sharp minor” was one of a few originals.
6. Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” This song appears as one of four movements in Claude Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque.” The suite was probably based on Paul Verlaine’s poem of the same name. Its soft, lilting sounds contrast beautifully with the rest of the suite’s joyful parts.
7. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Ludwig van Beethoven cracks the list again with this song from his last complete symphony: “Symphony No. 9.” It was unusual in regard to many of his works, as well as others of the time. It was based on Friedrich Schiller’s poem of the same name and included human voices as orchestral instruments.
8. “Minuet in G.” This familiar piece is somewhat controversial. It is historically attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, having appeared in Bach’s “Notebook for Anna Magdalena.” The book was a series of compositions dedicated to Bach’s wife. The authorship of “Minuet in G” and another work was called into question hundreds of years later. Many musical historians now attribute it to Bach’s contemporary, Christian Petzold. Controversy aside, it remains a loved favorite of pianists everywhere.
9. Mozart’s “Turkish March.” No top 10 piano songs list would be complete without a nod to Mozart. His “Turkish March” or “Turkish Rondo” is a difficult piece to play, usually only attempted after several years of piano lessons.
10. Billy Joel’s “Root Beer Rag.” It’s fitting to include at least one contemporary artist in a top ten piano songs list. Billy Joel’s career is often reduced to his influence on pop music. But soulful ballads like “The Piano Man” only provide a glimpse into his musical talent. Billy Joel is considered one of the most proficient pianists alive today. His “Root Beer Rag” is attempted by many advanced piano students. Most agree, however, that few execute this lightning-fast number quite like the master himself.