If you're a new piano player or a returning pianist who hasn't practiced in a while, it can feel like all the good songs are just too difficult to play right away. Maybe there's a pop song or classical piece that you've always dreamed of performing, but it sounds way beyond your skill level. You'd probably have to practice for ages before you could even think about playing it properly, right?
Not quite. In fact, there are plenty of piano songs that sound complex and beautiful but are pretty straightforward to learn. So, how do you tell a truly difficult piece of music apart from an easy piano song? All it takes is a little detective work.
If you're ready to start investigating, read on to find out how to spot the signs of piano pieces that are suitable for novice players. And if you're itching to try out some easy tunes yourself, there's also a list of nine impressive yet simple piano songs for beginners that you can start playing today.
How to recognize easy piano pieces
When it comes to figuring out if a piece of piano music will be easy for a beginner to play, there's bad news and good news. Bad news first: you're going to have to read some sheet music. The good news is that this isn't tricky at all, once you know what you're looking for.
A simple page of sheet music tells you everything you need to know about a song's difficulty level. In general, you should look for songs that are relatively short, with a steady tempo and simple rhythm. When you're starting out on the piano, it's also best to avoid music that has you stretching to reach large intervals or hitting lots of chords.
Now, if you're thinking that spotting these signs in a piece of sheet music seems more like deciphering hieroglyphics, don't worry! Here are four specific factors that help you identify an easy piano song and how to look for them in sheet music.
1. Level of hand independence
Hand independence is all about getting your hands to do different things at the same time when playing the piano. Most of the time, your right-hand plays the melody and your left hand adds accompaniment. Easy piano songs tend to have a simple accompaniment in the left hand that uses single notes or a few basic chords.
When you look at sheet music, the top staff shows you what notes are played with the right hand and the bottom staff shows you what should be played with the left hand. Look for songs that have few notes or chords on the bottom staff: these will be easier for beginner piano players to learn.
2. Range of hand movement
The more your hand has to jump around or stretch throughout a song, the harder it is to play. You can identify hand jumps by looking at how notes are spaced on sheet music. Are they close together or are they widely spread apart? As a beginner, aim to find songs where the notes you have to play aren't too far apart from each other.
Here's an example of an easy piano song: it has a low range of hand movement and simple chord patterns.
And below is an example of a difficult piano song with a broad range of movements in both hands.
A piece's rhythmic pattern is another factor that sets easy piano songs apart from difficult ones. Tricky rhythms contain lots of off-beat notes or odd note values, such as dotted notes or triplets (as seen in the example below.)
Easy piano pieces usually don't require you to play at a fast tempo. As a beginner your fingers are still getting used to quick movements, so it's best to start slow and pick up the pace as you get more comfortable with a song.
How can you tell if a piece contains finger movements that would be too quick for a beginner? As a rule of thumb, you should avoid songs with many sixteenth notes or higher. To spot them in sheet music, look for notes with two or more flags or that are connected with two or more beams (like those highlighted in the image below.)
If you're looking for an even easier way to spot simple piano songs, then head to the flowkey app. There you can find all kinds of songs, from classical to pop, chosen by professional pianists to be ideal for beginners. Just set the song filter to "Beginner" and away you go!
Sign up to discover more songs.
Nine simple piano songs that you can start playing right away
Now that you know how to spot an easy piano song for yourself, how about some musical inspiration? Here are nine great piano songs for beginners to play.
This sea shanty is quick and easy to pick up, but be warned: its lyrics will get stuck in your head! The song was originally sung by sailors as they went about their work on ships. Its steady rhythm set the pace for repetitive tasks and the simple, jolly melody helped lighten the burden of hard labor—two features that make this tune perfect for piano beginners.
All the Pretty Little Horses
Not only is this traditional lullaby perfect for soothing fussy babies, it's also an easy piano song that you can learn in no time. Whether you use the tune to put little ones to sleep or entertain an audience is up to you. With its steady beat, repetition of melody and small range of hand movement, it won't take long for this piece to start rolling off your fingers.
Take your audience to church with a timeless hymn that's easy for piano beginners to master. This simple arrangement of "Amazing Grace" keeps things short and sweet. The right-hand melody flows along gently and is accompanied by soft broken piano chords in the left hand.
Musette in D Major, Johann S. Bach
Ready for something a little more classical? This lively piece from Bach is ideal for novice pianists seeking a bit of a challenge. "Musette in D Major" features simple rhythms, but its brisk tempo and frequent use of sixteenth notes take the difficulty up a notch. Going slow and steady will be your key to conquering this song.
Red River Valley
From Westworld to Red Dead Redemption, the old West has been making a big comeback lately. What better time to familiarize yourself with this cowboy song that's both easy to learn and fun to play. In this simpler arrangement of "Red River Valley" your hands stay centered on C, so the song falls nicely under your fingers. You also mostly play white notes, with just a few black notes near the end. Easy as apple pie!
Swan Lake Theme, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The title theme from Tchaikovsky's famous ballet is instantly recognizable—and easier to play than you might think! The beautiful, flowing melody uses a fair bit of repetition, so you should be able to get into the rhythm of things quickly.
The piece is pretty evenly divided between the right and left hand. Although you will need to play with both hands simultaneously in a few places, the notes flow into each other so smoothly that you'll be breezing through them before you know it. Once you've mastered the rhythmic patterns in this song, it's a great piece for showing off your emotional expression.
Barcarolle, Jacques Offenbach
Barcarolles were traditionally sung by Venetian gondoliers and they typically follow a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier's stroke. Offenbach's piece is no exception, sticking to 6/8 meter at a moderate tempo. Both of your hands stay busy throughout this song, but always remain anchored on C, so you don't have to worry about making big moves.
The "Barcarolle", also known by its full name "Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour", is considered the most famous barcarolle ever written, making it a memorable and impressive addition to any beginner's repertoire.
Clair de Lune, Claude Debussy
"Clair de Lune" ("Moonlight") is one of Debussy's best-loved piano pieces, and it's easy to understand why once you hear its hauntingly beautiful melody. While the song gets fairly complicated from the middle section onwards, its famous introduction is much more straightforward. You play a slow, gentle melody in the right hand and some simple broken chords in the left. There are only a few moments where both hands are working at the same time, leaving you free to focus on the notes and rhythm.
In the Hall of the Mountain King, Edvard Grieg
If you're looking for a beginner piano song with some drama, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is as intense as it gets. This iconic theme by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg is a masterclass in escalating musical tension, rising from tentative opening to crashing, feverish conclusion.
The first two sections of this piece are the most straightforward. You'll be playing with both hands independently and covering quite a few notes, so keep things slow until you're completely comfortable with the melody. Then you can start speeding things up to replicate that infamous, wild motif.
Do any of these easy piano songs have your fingers itching to hit the keys? Well, you're in luck—they're all available in the flowkey app and you can even play some of them for free!
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