Easy piano classics
August 22, 2013 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Hi pianists of Metafilterland! I'm looking for suggestions for easy classical piano pieces to learn.

I've picked up the piano again after, oh, 20 years or so. I was never that good back in the day, so I'd like to learn some pieces in the "Fur Elise" difficulty level. I just learned Satie's first Gnossienne, which was satisfying, and about the difficulty level I'm hoping for (it was pretty easy so maybe I could go A LITTLE harder).

Also I wish to improve my sight reading ability. Got any ideas about that?

How about related reading that might be helpful or interesting?

thank you Metafilter!
posted by hollyanderbody to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Chopin's Prelude in A Major is a lovely, easy piece.

I'd also recommend Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
posted by essexjan at 1:59 PM on August 22, 2013

Chopin's Prelude in E-Minor op.28 no. 4 is easy to sight read but I would consider it about the same level as the Satie piece so it might be too easy.
posted by spec80 at 2:02 PM on August 22, 2013

Get a book of early Haydn or Mozart Sonatas. (little known fact: HAYDN IS BETTER) I've been using them for sightreading practice for the past few years and they are fantastic. Both composer's earlier work is both easy to pick up quickly and rewardingly musical after a few go-troughs. Then you can work up to their later, more technically challenging stuff. I'm snobby about these things so I always try to get the Ur-text (or unedited) edition, but those are more expensive and probably unnecessary for you. Otherwise I'd recommend a specific edition for you.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 2:03 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Debussy's Arabesque No. 1 is simple, fairly slow tempo, and has the advantage of being one of those pieces that gives you a lot of headroom to improve the expressiveness even after you've got it learned and playable.
posted by invitapriore at 2:13 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Alfred Applause books have a nice variety of easy-to-intermediate classical piano works (Baroque through 20c) that are fun and high-impact in performance. Plus they've got quite a few pieces by lesser-known composers included, which is great for broadening the horizons.

If you're looking for single-author stuff, may I recommend: Burgmuller. A Romantic, and a seemingly bottomless source of fun, short, easy dramatic pieces.
posted by Bardolph at 2:36 PM on August 22, 2013

The second movement of Beethoven's "Sonata Pathétique" is quite beautiful and quite easy.

(Also, when essexjan mentioned the Moonlight Sonata, she meant -- I assume -- the first and maybe second movements. The third movement is wonderful but a somewhat challenging.)
posted by pont at 2:42 PM on August 22, 2013

Good question. Most of my favorite pieces written for the piano are technically simple, spare, elegiac. They've usually got much more emotional impact than the dazzling piano-competition level stuff. Check out:

• The second part of Schubert's Moment Musical Number 2. Louis Malle had the two leads play it in his heartbreaking film Au Revoir Les Enfants, here's the scene.

• Schumann's Traumerei. Horowitz playing it in Moscow. Slightly harder than Fur Elise, but it is so slow, you basically have time to work out the chords as you go.

• About the same difficulty: Scott Joplin's haunting Solace.

• Debussy's Children's Corner: The Little Shepherd.

• Shostakovich's Romance (from The Gadly)

• Moonlight Sonata, of course

• If your tastes run to the more sentimental and film score-ish, check out Ludovico Einaudi. Eg this one.

• Don't forget there's lots of wonderful popular stuff, from Kurt Weill to Kander-Ebb to Tori Amos, that can sound brilliant in a simple transcription.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:01 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not demanding amazing dexterity, but at the same time absolutely marvelous way to focus on tone, sustaining notes with plenty of room to infuse personal interpretation:

Mompou "Cants Magics"
posted by VikingSword at 4:33 PM on August 22, 2013

The first movement of the moonlight may be easy, the rest isn't. Seconding Haydn.
posted by Namlit at 6:14 PM on August 22, 2013

The Schubert Impromptu in G flat major is one of the simpler pieces I played when I was a teen.
But some "easy" pieces take an emotional maturity to play well.
Here is a beautiful explanation of that by Valentina Igoshina.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:29 PM on August 22, 2013

If you can get used to playing 3 over 4 (triplets over eighth notes) then Debussy would be a good next step up from Satie. Especially:Reverie. Children's Corner Both sound harder than they actually are.
Mozart Fantasy in D minor
Many of Chopin's preludes and nocturnes.
Seconding Schumann's Traumerei. I love sight-reading that piece.
Yann Tiersen (Amelie soundtrack if you were in to that)
posted by 2ghouls at 8:31 PM on August 22, 2013

Here's a couple of tips for sightreading.

It really does come with practice, so practice. Get a sightreading book and work your way through it. To kill 2 birds with one stone, try the various pieces/excercises by Czerny which are practically all scales so will also help your technique, and I think would be mostly at the level you're looking at as well.

If you're just getting started with sightreading, try sightreading pieces you're familiar with but haven't played before. I'd say to do this with pop songs, even if your interest is more classical, as these tend to be easier.

Before you start playing, look at the music and figure out roughly how it should sound. If you can't do this with a song you haven't heard, then try it with simpler music. If you still can't hear it in your head, then take some time to learn how the main intervals sound. To do this, relate them to a familiar song - eg a 5th sounds like the first 2 notes of the Star Wars theme.

Then visualise the fingering, or even play some air piano (you can probably skip this step as you improve).

Related to intervals - learn chords and chord structure, and look at recognising them in the pieces you play. You want to be able to look at the notes G, B, D, G and think "oh, an arpeggiated G chord" and play that, rather than picking your way through each individual note.

Good luck - sightreading is an awesome skill. It's fun to be able to play any old music someone puts in front of you, instead of being limited to the pieces you've learned :)
posted by pianissimo at 8:34 PM on August 22, 2013

Got a little more time now for some more answers.
Get the collection "kleine praeludien und fugetten" by Bach (mine was fom Henle, still need to get a new one, was lost in a divorce...). These are pieces assembled from various exercise books Bach wrote for his second wife and his youngest son, and various loose pieces from other sources. There's something for everyone in this book, and it's largely pedagogical material.

Sight reading: verbalizing is important, make sure you know which key the piece is in, and what sharps you're gonna need; look through the piece before playing for the mayor modulations that occur and establish the keys of those; look at passagework and other possibly difficult spots and make a plan in your head of how to play them.
Never start too fast. Try keeping the rhythm stable. If it gets too hard to play underway, shift down, but try keeping a stable pulse.
Train yourself to read ahead. Read the line of your dominant hand first, even if it is the left hand. (In practice, your eyes will zigzag between the upper and lower line a lot. Always start with that of your dominant hand. It gives you extra security).
Read some music away from the keyboard and try to hear the piece with your inner ear before actually trying to play it.
posted by Namlit at 6:31 AM on August 23, 2013

Another recommendation which isn't strictly classical, but is lovely to play and not too difficult is the music from the Pride and Prejudice movie. There are different levels to pick from (Big note, Easy) in addition to this version, so you'll need to explore what feels comfortable. If you're not familiar with it, it may be worth getting a copy of the soundtrack to listen to first.
posted by apcmwh at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2013

Thank you everyone!
posted by hollyanderbody at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2013

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