Whether you are an artist, a pianist, or just a fan of music, piano songs can touch a special part of our soul. Piano music creates a deep connection between the music and the listener, and it speaks directly to us with every tender note.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of fantastic piano music to choose from. The piano is one of the largest and most versatile instruments out there and has created incredible art for centuries.
So what are the best piano songs ever written? Today, we share our picks.
1) Moonlight Sonata – Ludwig van Beethoven
The beautiful solo work of Ludwig van Beethoven, Moonlight Sonata, is the most famous of his works and admired particularly for its gently arpeggiated and mysterious first movement. Composer Hector Berlioz even described this work as a ‘lamentation.’
The piece offers a dreamy first movement, a more lively second movement, and an outright tempestuous final movement, with an epic technical workout for the fingers. Overall, the Moonlight Sonata’s style is a joy to the ears and has been for centuries.
2) Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel
Canon is a music piece with an imitation of melody and layering of counterpoint voices. It is technically an ‘accompanied canon’ because it has other melodies to create a rich music texture, even when it is played solo using the piano.
Johann Pachelbel’s Canon became popular in the late 1600s, but it lost its popularity until it was rediscovered in the 1960s. The unique eight-bar progression has been improvised in many forms by many rock and pop artists today. However, the original form has become the most well-known song used during weddings and has been featured in many popular films.
3) Für Elise – Ludwig van Beethoven
Für Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most famous piano songs known for its short and light composition and beautiful lyrical melody. It also became the standard repertoire piece for beginners who want to start to learn substantial music.
Ludwig Nohl, a Beethoven researcher, discovered this score, and it was only published in the year 1867, 40 years after Beethoven’s death. Nohl found the dedication ‘Für Elise’ on his original autograph, which has been missing ever since. Thus, there were some speculations on the identity of the mysterious Elise. Some claimed that she was an old flame of Beethoven, while others believed that she was a soprano to whom the music piece was dedicated.
4) Piano Concerto – Clara Schumann
Clara Wieck began composing Piano Concerto in A minor at the age of thirteen. She orchestrated the work herself with the help of her future husband, Robert Schumann.
After three years, she then completed the three-movement Piano Concerto. This beautiful music piece shows her amazing musical imagination and talent.
5) Rondo Alla Turca – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Rondo Alla Turca, also known as the ‘Turkish March,’ is the third movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11. However, it is always heard on its own and considered one of Mozart’s most famous piano pieces. The piece is witty, fast, and playful. It is very famous as a party piece.
6) Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy
Clair de Lune also means moonlight in French. It is the third segment of a four-movement piano composition by Claude Debussy. It is one of the composer’s early compositions, yet the most readily recognizable piece among his works.
The simplicity of the piece must not fool you because Debussy took 15 long years to create this third segment of his composition.
7) Minute Waltz – Frédéric Chopin
Minute Waltz, also known as Valse du petit Chien or Waltz of the puppy, is dedicated to Countess Delfina Potocka by Frédéric Chopin. It’s a vivacious piece with a joyous mood.
This piece conjures images of a dog chasing its tail in a twirling and never-ending manner. Minute Waltz is a famous encore and is one of the best-known piano pieces of Chopin.
8) Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff is one of the greatest pianists of all time. He composed Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor at the start of the 20th century. This piece established Rachmaninoff as an elite composer because it is challenging to play, yet it is very beautiful and full of emotion.
9) Piano Trio – Rebecca Clarke
Rebecca Clarke was a British composer in the 20th century. She trained in London prior to living in America for the remainder of her life. She is known for her thrilling, powerful, and experimental music. Her work Piano Trio is extraordinarily beautiful with striking originality. Her craft reflected some of the modern influences of the time, including Bloch, Ravel, and Debussy. It was even suggested that this music reflected World War I with its violent devastation and renewed hope.
10) Maple Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin
One of the most famous classical piano songs is the Maple Leaf Rag, one of Scott Joplin’s earliest works. It is an early ragtime piano music composition. Although it is regarded as a precursor to Jazz music, it still falls in the ‘classical music’ category.
Maple Leaf Rag is actually the most famous of all ragtime pieces. It is carefully constructed by Joplin and challenging to play. One must have excellent coordination in their left hand to play this piece successfully. This piece gave Joplin a steady income for the rest of his life.
11) Liebestraum No. 3 – Franz Liszt
Liebestraum, also known as ‘Dreams of Love,’ is a set of three solo piano pieces by Franz Liszt. Each of the sections is connected by a fast cadenza that requires a high level of technical ability.
This magical piece was derived from a poem by Ferdinand Freiligrath, which was put to music by Franz Liszt.
12) Swan Lake – Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Tchaikovsky is a famous Russian composer known for his great operatic works and ‘sensual opulence.’ His composition, Swan Lake, is one of the most popular ballets of all time despite its initial failure at gaining popularity.
It is a ballet about a princess who turned into a swan due to an evil sorcerer’s curse.
13) The Well-Tempered Clavier – Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier was extremely innovative for its day. It is a set of 48 preludes and fugues that were published in 2 books. It is the most significant undertaking for a solo keyboard in the Baroque era. It even paved the way for other composers writing for keyboard instruments for the next hundred years.
The ‘Well-Tempered’ refers to the application of a tuning system that works equally well in all keys, which was a rare circumstance in Bach’s time.
14) Piano Concerto No. 5 ‘Emperor’ – Ludwig van Beethoven
The ‘Emperor’ is the last great piano concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven. But, it has a powerful claim as the most incredible piece of piano music ever written. This piece was dedicated to Beethoven’s patron and pupil, Archduke Rudolf.
15) Piano Sonata in B Minor – Franz Liszt
Piano Sonata in B minor by Franz Liszt is a sonata for solo piano. He completed the piece in 1854. Following its completion, he performed this piece for a private gathering and discovered that another composer and pianist, Johannes Brahms, was in attendance.
He started to play the piece, and when he came to the part that he was extremely proud of, he found Johannes Brahms snoozing. His work was also attacked by a music critic who said that anyone who finds it beautiful is beyond help.
Because of its initial negative reception and technical difficulty, it took some time before the sonata became commonplace in the concert repertoire. Despite this unfortunate event, the sonata became the crown jewel in Liszt’s works.
16) Waltz No. 2 – Dmitri Shostakovich
Waltz No. 2 is among the most popular piano songs and is the best-known work of Dmitri Shostakovich.
This piece is brought about by his hybrid style, which combined various influences from across many eras. This piece is very light and romantic, which serves to create a profound piece of music.
17) Scenes from Childhood – Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen, also known as Scenes from Childhood, is a bittersweet collection of thirteen music pieces covering themes such as bedtime stories, night-time terrors, games of chase, and sleep.
In 1840, Schumann described them as more melodic and cheerful as compared to his earlier works. The best-known piece is Movement No. 7 of the collection. It even became the opening and closing theme song of the Hollywood film ‘Song of Love’ in 1947.
18) One Summer’s Day – Joe Hisaishi
One Summer’s Day by Joe Hisaishi is described as weightless and pure sunlight. Hisaishi worked on almost all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films and released more than 100 film scores throughout his career.
The score to the film ‘Spirited Away’ is a sweeping aural adventure, and the most important and crown jewel of it is the opening track – One Summer Day. Although it’s not about romantic love, it perfectly captures a bittersweet story, even though it’s full of fun adventures.
19) Cristofori’s Dream – David Lanz
To round out the list, Cristofori’s Dream is David Lanz’s 7th studio album and is the perfect title because this piece can pull you into your dreams. It has a light and eerie right-hand melody which sounds like a music box from your childhood, while the stronger parts of the music piece remind you of lost love.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.