10 Awesome Piano Solos
If you’ve been hard at work practicing your piano skills, why not show them off a little? These solo pieces put the beauty and versatility of the piano on full display.
by Michael Lane
Alone at the piano. Whether playing for yourself or for an audience, it’s a wonderful place to be. All you need is the right music.
A great piano solo should be one that was written specifically for the piano. Of course, this includes the countless Classical pieces, and we have another article to give you a solid grounding in the genre. But if you want to play solo piano songs from pop, rock or jazz styles, there is so much more at your fingertips.
Here, we go through ten examples of piano songs available in the flowkey app, and give you a way to get yourself to the next level of solo piano: improvising.
Pop and Rock Piano Solos
“Your Song” - Elton John
This pure, innocent love song was Elton John’s first hit and it would be hard to find someone who can’t identify it from the first few notes of the opening. Famously, the words were written at his mum’s kitchen table by his lyrical partner Bernie Taupin.
“A Thousand Miles” - Vanessa Carlton
An equally distinctive opening melody, but a little faster and trickier to master. It’s worth it to nail down this uplifting song with a message about lost love and the lengths we will go to get it back.
"Mad World" - Gary Jules
This walking-down-the-aisle favorite was written by Pachelbel as chamber music in the late 1600s, but lost popularity for centuries. It was rediscovered in the 1960s, and since then, the distinctive recurring progression has been taken on countless forms, while the original version can be heard at some point during many weddings.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” - Queen
This isn’t just a song. It is the ultimate rock opera. A six-minute suite that goes from a piano ballad, to full operatic interlude, into a full-on rock section before the reflective coda. It might take a while to learn this, but it will be worth it to feel the spirit of the late great Freddie Mercury playing to a stadium
“Don’t Know Why” - Norah Jones
You will probably know this hit from Norah Jones, but it was written and released by Jesse Harris, a member of her band, before they even met. There are strong jazz and blues influences in Jones’ melting, luxurious version, so this can form a great bridge between pop and our next selection of songs...
These are an important part of any serious piano repertoire, and a great way to ease yourself into a looser jazz style, especially if you want to try your hand at improvising.
“The Pink Panther” - Henry Mancini
Mancini wrote this piece to accompany the film of the same name, with the animators creating the action around the specific accents and features in the music. The result is a simple, playful theme that is often taught to starting pianists as an easy way into jazz.
“My Baby Just Cares for Me” - Nina Simone
Originally featured in the musical comedy “Whoopee!”, we know this better as sung by Nina Simone, The High Priestess of Soul. This is the version that begins with the iconic descending back-and-forth piano riff, and shuffles along through a progression of jazz chords.
“Caravan” - Duke Ellington
An example from the more exotic side of jazz, with influences from latin and swing. Duke Ellington himself preferred to think of his music as “beyond category”. But it’s not beyond your abilities. It’s tough, but you can do it.
“Autumn in New York” - Vernon Duke
This is a more low-key choice. A lonesome piece that evokes falling leaves, or the interior of a smokey piano bar.
“Take Five” - Dave Brubeck
This is cheating a little as the melody for this was originally played on the saxophone, but there are plenty of classic piano versions. Play this to expand your idea of timing, with the rare five-four time. Plus, the blue-scale melody will give you a taste of what you can do when you start improvising.
Improvising allows you to move beyond other people’s music entirely, to sit alone at the piano to play whatever comes out of your fingers, your own unique melodies.
Starting is not as hard as you might think. In the flowkey app we have a selection of courses called “Improvising with Chords”. These courses take you step-by-step through basic accompaniments, to adding color with four-note chords, to more advanced accompaniment patterns, then finally to improvising in various pop styles.
Give it a try. Stick with it and you’ll get to a place where you can keep playing for hours. No limits, letting loose on the piano and creating something truly your own.
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