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“River Flows in You” Piano Tutorial (Yiruma)

Lisa Witt  /  Song Tutorials / Nov 12

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Our long-awaited “River Flows in You” piano tutorial is finally here!

If you’re a piano player of either the pop or classical bent, you’ve probably heard this song. It’s famous for a reason — it’s SO beautiful! And learning how to play it will knock the socks off your family and friends. It’s pretty and impressive!

Now, “River Flows in You” can get challenging. Which is why we’ve broken it down into little sections over a 20-minute tutorial. For the best fingering suggestions, follow along with our video. The hand independence required for this song can get tricky, so START SLOW. It’s okay to use your ears instead of exact counting. Whichever works for you.

  1. The Iconic Intro
  2. The Main Theme
  3. The “Bedazzled” Section
  4. Ending!
  5. Closing Thoughts

This song has three sharps. So, warming up with your A Major and F-sharp Minor scales before you play will help.

Pianote members can access the sheet music and a practice-along feature. Not sure whether to become a member yet? Check us out behind the scenes!

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“River Flows in You”: The Iconic Intro

The intro gently ushers in the main theme of the song.

The right hand simply rocks between a few select notes. Meanwhile, the left hand outlines the F#m and D2 chords. What’s a D2 chord? It’s a D chord (D-F#-A) with an added second note from the root (+E).

Playing slow here is okay. This song builds. Like a flowing river, it’s a journey 🙂

(Later, I’ll talk about adding some drama with rubato and dynamics.)

🎹THE “CLAIR DE LUNE” OF THE 21ST CENTURY? Yiruma’s “River Flows in You” has been described as “the ‘Clair de Lune’ of the 21st century.” The tune was originally released in 2001 but got its first big boost of fame for its similarity to “Bella’s Lullaby” from the Twilight movies. It then received another resurgence in popularity during the 2020 lockdowns, when people apart connected with each other through the song.

The Main Theme

The main theme of “River Flows in You” sounds complicated, but as you’ll see in our piano tutorial, it’s actually pretty similar to the intro. The biggest difference is the rhythm. And once you get familiar with this rhythm pattern, it shows up throughout the song.

To help make sense of the main theme, you can break up the counting into “1 e and a 2 e and a…” with each syllable worth one sixteenth note.

1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a
Each syllable = 1 sixteenth note

Remember to hold the notes that are tied. Counting out loud can help with this.

However! Not everyone thrives off this counting method. To be honest, I learned this rhythm by listening to the music and playing what I hear. If this method works better for you, by all means, use it!

If writing in the counting works better for you, use that! Celebrate your strengths 🙂

🔥🎹 HOT TIP! Learn the left hand first 🙂 It can help you with lining up the notes and matching your counting. Some piano players also find it helpful to practice hands separate first.

The “Bedazzled” Section

I call this next section the “bedazzled” one because we start introducing more flourishes into the main theme, such as grace notes and extra “frill” notes.

Here are some tips!

In this section, you’ll need to tuck your thumb under right after the grace note.

And when it comes to those running sixteenth notes, stay loose, don’t tense up, and pay attention to the tucks and crossovers. Tucking under and crossing over at the right time will set your hand up for your next move without running out of fingers.

Now, when it comes to 32nd notes, don’t freak out! I know all those lines (beams) look scary. But I suggest not even counting them. Rather, just think “fast”! You can also think of two 32nd notes as fitting into the space of one 16th note.

From here, there are many repeats of similar things we’ve been doing. With some extra bling thrown in.

The Ending

Finally, we’ve come to the ending! Here are some new symbols you may catch in this section. They’re not hard, just extra things to look out for:

  • Arpeggiated chord (vertical squiggly line): this means roll through the notes of the chord.
  • Fermata (half moon eyeball): this means you linger on the notes here juuuust a tad longer than usual. Like overstaying a welcome.
fermata
arpeggio example: C major chord with the arpeggio symbol and broken apart into 16th notes.

Remember: this song is all about emotion. Explore dynamics and rubato. Think of where you can push and pull emotion and don’t worry so much about being precise with tempo. Let the emotions floooow through you…like a river!

🔥🎹 HOT TIP! “Rubato” comes from the Italian rubare, which means “to rob.” Rubato means to play with time, slowing down and speeding up the music as your expression dictates.

“River Flows in You” Piano Tutorial: Closing Thoughts

I want to be honest with you: I practiced for a while before I felt I was ready to perform and teach this song.

It’s not an easy song, and beginners may struggle, but believe me: the challenge is worth it!

River flows in you piano tutorial: Lisa Witt (woman with short light blonde hair and loose white sweater) sitting at piano and smiling up at camera against backdrop of vines and flowers.

That being said, if you need some extra support, consider becoming a Pianote member. As a member, you can use our practice-along feature that lets you play along with the sections of the song at your own pace.

If you’re not sure whether you want to become a member yet, check us out behind the scenes.

Finally, it’s worth repeating: START SLOW. Be gentle with yourself, accept that you’ll make mistakes, and pick a learning method that aligns with your strengths. Most of all, have fun playing!


Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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