Many people think of the piano as a classical instrument, meant for nursery rhymes and old compositions. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as it is an integral part of rock, jazz, and music history as a whole.
Piano rock is a genre unto itself, boasting some of the funkiest, hardest-hitting, and best tracks of all time. In this article, we’ll go over the 31 best piano rock songs of all time.
1. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Free Bird might seem like an interesting choice for this list since it has some of the greatest guitar solos of all time, but the intro for the song is pure piano rock. One of the most iconic tracks of all time, it was first released on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album and would go on to become a signature song for the band despite lasting for over 14 minutes when played in full.
2. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody ranks pretty high up there in any list of the greatest songs of all time and is an absolute masterpiece. Rather than a standard rock track, it goes through progressions and sections the way a classically-composed song would, from soft piano rock to opera and hard rock to ballad. It’s Queen’s signature track and one that has been immortalized in several halls of fame.
3. Hey Jude – The Beatles
Hey Jude is another one of those tracks that will forever remain one of the best of all time and showcased the simple yet effective songwriting of The Beatles. Just about everyone has heard this comforting piano rocker and it has just enough of an ethereal quality to it, coming from its beautiful piano instrumental, to make it dreamy and spacey.
4. Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
Rock music didn’t start with the guitar at the forefront, it was the piano and jazz instruments that helped the genre get started. Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the progenitors of rock music and Great Balls Of Fire is a fun little bop to this day. It even had a resurgence in popularity after being featured in the film Top Gun: Maverick.
5. Piano Man – Billy Joel
Billy Joel spent the early part of his career playing piano in bars, clubs, and hotels, and Piano Man was based on his experiences during that time. He was heavy on piano rock throughout his career, and this was the song that gave him his nickname. It’s an all-time classic rock track that leans into his piano skills in the best way possible and is still one of his most-played songs in concert.
6. Changes – David Bowie
Changes is one of the easiest piano rock songs to learn to play and one of your best options to accelerate your learning. It goes through several changes—pun, I know—throughout the track, alternating from a piano ballad to a dance number. David Bowie went through a lot of changes himself as he tried to find a sound that would earn him fame, with this serving as a bit of a retrospective of those transitions.
7. Riders on the Storm – The Doors
The Doors’ short career together would fundamentally alter the landscape of rock music. Their keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, should be on any list of the best rock pianists, and his presence ensured every one of their songs had an amazing piano part included. In Riders On The Storm, he makes his keyboard mimic the sound of falling rain in one of the band’s best-ever tracks in a twinkling and falling tune.
8. Tiny Dancer – Elton John
Elton John was another brilliant pianist that leaned into the instrument for his signature rock sound. It’s one of those classic tracks that always seems to find its way on major publications’ lists of the greatest songs of all time. One cool fact about it, despite never being released as an official single in the UK, Tiny Dancer was certified platinum over there.
9. House Of The Rising Sun – The Animals
House Of The Rising Sun likely originated as an Appalachian folk song long before The Animals recorded their version of it. It’s the perfect example of blending lyrics and music together, creating something hauntingly beautiful yet anxiety-inducing at the same time. It would go down in rock history as one of the best tracks ever and The Animals’ signature single.
10. Come Sail Away – Styx
Come Sail Away leans into, perhaps more than any other song on this list, classical piano compositions for its piano sections rather than just normal keyboard rock. An uplifting track about sailing away and going in search of your dreams, it remains one of the best Styx songs ever and is a reasonable choice for beginners that are learning to play the piano.
11. The Great Gig In The Sky – Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig In The Sky almost feels like a funeral song, led by the piano and backed up by their signature vocals and a strumming guitar. If I’m honest about it, the track reminds me of the music they played at my grandmother’s church when I was growing up, at least in terms of vibe if not structure or substance.
12. Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
A heavy metal band like Metallica probably seems like a strange entry for a list of the best piano rock songs, but absolutely no one can debate how incredibly easy it is to swap out the guitar chords for the keyboard. In fact, listening closely, you can hear the keyboard backing up those chords.
13. New York State of Mind – Billy Joel
The Piano Man returns to this list with New York State Of Mind. Another classic song from Billy Joel, this one was inspired by his move back to New York from Los Angeles, eventually becoming a fan favorite and one of the tracks he played most often in concert. In the years since it was released, it’s been covered by numerous other artists and won quite a lot of different awards.
14. Let It Be – The Beatles
The Beatles were obviously going to feature on this list with more than one track, they were masters of piano rock. One of their biggest hits of all time, Let It Be was simple, catchy, and a pretty easy piano rock song to pick up to play yourself. It really allows the piano to shine, featuring very few vocals in comparison to the instrumentals, making it the ideal track to listen to if you really want to get a feel for pure piano rock.
15. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
The title track of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970 album helped mark a turning point for the duo stylistically. They shifted away from their early music style into something with more elements of rock, gospel, and jazz, but never lost their beautiful piano-rock sensibilities. Bridge Over Troubled Water won five Grammy Awards in 1971 and was covered by more than 50 artists, with the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Aretha Franklin being on that list.
16. Hit The Road Jack – Ray Charles
Here’s another one of those classic tracks that just about everyone has heard once or twice. Hit The Road Jack is an iconic blues piano rock song that’s become so iconic it’s used in sports arenas, commercials, and movies all the time. It’s also a great track for beginner piano players to learn.
17. Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Thunder Road was a high feature on our list of the best Bruce Springsteen tracks as well. It wasn’t released as a single but still found its way onto Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and became one of his best. Energetic, upbeat, and a classic power ballad, this is led by quite an excellent piano part.
18. Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac’s best-selling album was Rumours, combining the massive talents of songwriters Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks and a huge turning point for the band as they went through relationship-based upheavals.
Don’t Stop was the piano-driven single of the album that held tight to the sound they were developing and reshaping at the time, a snapshot of the band at the peak of their powers.
19. Walking In Memphis – Marc Cohn
Walking In Memphis holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the songs I grew up listening to on the tapes my mom played throughout the day in our house. That version was probably the cover by Lonestar, but still. It’s Marc Cohn’s signature track, earning him a Song of the Year nomination at the Grammy Awards and cementing his place as an up-and-coming artist.
20. November Rain – Guns N’ Roses
November Rain was as close to a ballad as Guns N’ Roses ever got. A piano-driven power ballad, it featured both an incredible guitar solo from Slash and some of the best keyboarding in the band’s history.
A very long song, running almost nine minutes for the album version, it was the longest track to break into the Top 10 of the Hot 100 at the time when it peaked at number three on the chart.
21. Butterflies and Hurricanes – Muse
Butterflies And Hurricanes stood out quite a lot on Muse’s Absolution album, especially since it was one of two songs on the record that made use of a full studio orchestra for the instrumentation. Drawing on famous composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, the piano interlude of the track is sublime. It was a big hit in the UK as well, rising to number two on the UK Rock and Metal chart and number 14 on the UK Singles.
22. Clocks – Coldplay
Clocks is one of the standout piano-rock songs of the modern era, mainly owing to its signature riff that makes use of unusual progressions. It was an insanely popular radio track when it was released and it remains one of the better piano-rock songs for beginners to learn to play.
23. My Immortal – Evanescence
If you’re a fan of Evanescence, you know that you’re going to get some of the most chillingly beautiful vocal performances in rock, but you should also expect some exquisite piano parts. In what may be the band’s prettiest song, My Immortal is a modern take on the piano rock genre that compliments Amy Lee’s goosebump-raising voice in the best way imaginable.
24. Firth of Fifth – Genesis
One of Genesis’ longer songs, totaling around nine minutes, Firth Of Fifth starts off with a cheery piano section to get it started before exploding into the experimental sounds that made them one of the best progressive bands of all time.
Recommended Next: Our list of our favorite Genesis songs
25. Your Song – Elton John
More than anywhere else in Elton John’s catalog, Your Song puts on a piano spectacle. It was his first-ever international Top 10 single and was one of the tracks responsible for launching his career as a whole.
26. Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin
Stairway To Heaven is often regarded as one of the best rock songs of all time, making its way onto numerous lists of the best rock tracks ever and an epic piano-rocker that was one of Led Zeppelin’s brightest moments.
27. Tutti Frutti – Little Richard
Here’s another entry from the very early days of rock and roll. Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti remains a classic rock song from the infancy of the genre with an immortal introductory vocal and a peak rock piano to carry the track through. It’s one of those songs you’d let your kids listen to at an early age because it seems innocent, but it’s actually a fairly explicit track.
28. Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx
Richard Marx came up with Right Here Waiting while his wife was away shooting a film as sort of a love letter to her that said he would be right where he was waiting for her return. It was a Billboard Hot 100 number-one in 1989 and a huge international hit.
29. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sweet Home Alabama is another entry from Lynyrd Skynyrd that retains that southern rock vibe the band was so well known for. Making use of the piano, guitar, and drums, they produced an all-time classic song that still sees plenty of play throughout the Southwestern US today.
30. Layla – Derek and the Dominos
Perhaps a strange choice, a song conceived by one of the greatest guitar players of all time makes its way onto our list. Eric Clapton was inspired to write Layla after reading an Arabian love story and his love for a fellow musician’s wife. Two different versions have been released, both finding fairly solid success, but the piano parts of the track are superb.
31. Numb – Linkin Park
I realize it may be cheating a bit to include any kind of nu-metal on the list, but I can’t leave off Numb by Linkin Park. It has an absolutely epic intro and piano chord that serves as the perfect background for the emotional, pained lyrics to create one of those perfect high-energy complaint songs that’s also ridiculously relatable.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.