When you think classical piano, do you imagine impressive, dramatic performances at a formal concert hall? We often think of classical music as complex and difficult, but there are plenty of beautiful, easy classical piano pieces in this genre.
When we say “classical” today, we tend to mean a wide genre of music that uses instruments you’d find in an orchestra. But technically, the Classical Period of music actually refers to a narrower era of time, roughly 1750 to 1820.
Interestingly, simplicity, elegance, and sparseness were trendy during this period. So, no, not all classical music is complex—in fact, classical pieces are often intentionally simple!
Classical music is also more similar to pop music than you may think. And learning classical pieces will help you develop sight-reading, theory knowledge, and hand independence. After all, many beginner piano classical pieces were composed with students in mind.
Here are a few to get you started.
Composer: Unknown, possibly Leopold Mozart
Why Learn It: Nannerl was the nickname given to Maria Anna Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older sister and an accomplished pianist in her own right. The Minuet in F comes from a collection of pieces by a variety of composers called Nannerl’s Notebook. It was compiled for his children by Nannerl’s and Wolfgang’s father Leopold, so it’s designed for beginner piano players.
The Minuet in F Major is short yet delightful, and if you get your hands on the entire Notebook, you’ll find plenty of beginner-friendly pieces to toy with. All in the elegant, minimalistic style of the Classical Period.
Composer: Christian Pezold, but often attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach
Why Learn It: The Minuet in G Major is often associated with kids learning the piano. But as you can see in the video we’ve embedded, even piano masters like Lang Lang can have fun with making this simple minuet interesting and expressive.
The Minuet in G Major only uses one sharp, so there are few black keys to worry about. This song is perfect for folks learning how to cross over and tuck under while playing scales. It’ll also familiarize you with changing hand positions all over the keyboard.
The Minuet in G Minor has two flats and one sharp, but its slower pace still makes it beginner-friendly. The yearning melody is also very beautiful, making it a rewarding piece for all ages.
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Why Learn It: The density of notes in the sheet music for Prelude in C Major may seem daunting, but it’s actually a very accessible piece that appears on many “easy classical piano song” lists.
This prelude is essentially an exercise in broken C major chords. Supplement your practice with our lessons on piano chords, and you can learn a lot! See if you can identify Bach’s chords and chord progressions.
The way this piece is written is quite predictable, so you can easily look ahead and prepare yourself for the next chord. Once you master it, the Prelude can be an ideal warm-up or prelude (see what I did there?) to your practice sessions.
Composer: Johann Friedrich Franz Bürgmuller
Why Learn It: “Le Candeur” is the first étude in Bürgmuller’s collection 25 études faciles et progressives. An étude (French for “study”) is a short piece designed around essential techniques like scales, chords, jumps and so forth.
Études are helpful because, while practicing technique like scales and arpeggios is important, many pianists find them boring. So, études are a way to help folks develop technique without yawning at the keyboard.
Bürgmuller’s collection was a favorite from my childhood, but don’t worry—these pieces aren’t childish at all! Many can stand alone in their own right as beautiful pieces.
Composer: Muzio Clementi
Why Learn It: Clementi wrote a number of beginner-friendly sonatinas that are a joy to play—they’re very accessible yet sound grand at the same time. With three movements and some modulations into different keys, the Sonatina No.1 sounds at home in a concert hall.
Once you master this sonatina, check out Clementi’s other sonatas and sonatinas, many of which are in C, G, and F major with minimal sharps and flats.
Composer: CPE (Carl Philipp Emanuel) Bach, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons
Why Learn It: CPE Bach’s Solfegietto is more advanced, but I’m including it here because it sounds so cool, especially the speed metal versions on the electric guitar.
Another neat thing about this song is that for the majority of the time, your hands take turns, so you don’t have to worry about hand independence too much.
Challenge yourself to play this song as fast as you can—it’s truly fun and it’s one of those songs that looks very impressive without being too difficult. The dark, minor key further gives this piece an epic, dramatic mood that reminds me of speed metal.
Classical music has a reputation for being stuffy and serious, but it’s a very diverse genre. If you do enough digging, you’re likely to find something you like. Classical music also informs the jazz, blues, and pop genres. It’s all connected, and it’s all very fun to play.
One convenient thing about playing classical pieces is, thanks to copyright expiration, you can access the majority of classical sheet music for free. The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) has a vast, online database of free classical sheet music.
Learning classical pieces will help improve your sight reading, hand independence, and theory knowledge.
But remember: just because all the notes are already written on a page, doesn’t mean you can’t add your own creative flair! Don’t fall into the trap of overly strict classical piano lessons. As Jordan Leibel wisely says, “Suspend your training from time to time, and just let your mind wander the keys.”
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Learning chords is a great way to improve your piano skills without any music theory. And Lisa Witt’s “Chord Hacks” series will show you how to play the most popular chords, so you can play many of your favorite songs on the piano!
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