What songs make you want to learn/practice the piano?
January 2, 2015 4:08 PM   Subscribe

I want to put together a playlist that will motivate me to practice. What are piano songs/pieces that make you say "I'm going to go practice!" or "I wish I knew how to play piano!"? I'm looking for specific songs rather than artists or genres, please.

My dear husband bought me a piano a couple of years ago and gave me a year's worth of lessons. That instructor wasn't a good fit and I lost my motivation after about eleven months. Periodically, I hear piano music that makes me want to practice again. I'm thinking if I put together a playlist that I hear regularly, that might help me sit down at the piano more often. (I don't necessarily intend to learn all these types but just hearing them I think will help.)

If it matters, I'm 47 years old, never learned any instrument as a kid, never had lessons except for aforementioned the twice a month for eleven months. I only want to learn to play for my own edification - maybe play a few carols at Christmas, play simplified versions of classical music/jazz/whatever, just because I think having a creative hobby is good for me. A few artists/genres I like already: Harry Connick, Jr., ragtime/stride, Jessie Colter, western swing, big band, Dave Brubek (and I'm sure I'm forgetting others).

Thank you as always for sharing your knowledge!
posted by Beti to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: "That's Enough" by Ray Charles
posted by 4ster at 4:19 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: I'm going to count a Fender Rhodes as a piano (it has strings and a steel soundboard, as anyone who has helped move one can attest) and give this Twin Peaks piece as described by the composer. Makes me want to drop my guitar and take another crack at learning the keyboard.
posted by thelonius at 4:22 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: Pachelbel's Canon
posted by ainsley at 4:29 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: I've taken piano lessons on and off since childhood. The last time I took piano lessons as an adult, my goal was just to learn to play J. S. Bach decently. My piano teacher and I decided on a piece and this kept me super-motivated and practicing for the three months I had time for lessons.

Given your goal of wanting to play a few carols at Christmas, how about J.S. Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring?
posted by needled at 4:53 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

My brother learned Gymnopédie No.1 by Erik Satie as his first (and likely only) song on piano. It's not too difficult but doesn't scream EASY either and it's beautiful.
posted by saul wright at 4:53 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin) - fun to play because it encompasses many tempos, melodies, and moods. Plus, it's long-ish, so you really feel like you've Accomplished Something at the end. I played piano for many years, and this was by far the most satisfying piece for me to learn. Have fun!
posted by JubileeRubaloo at 5:01 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

The only piece I ever learned really well on the piano was Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and to this day I miss having a piano just because that one made me so happy (I play another instrument now).
posted by janey47 at 5:39 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: Moonlight Sonata, especially the first movement.
Layla (second part)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:48 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm approaching this from the "playlist that'll inspire love/awe for the piano and its possibilities and make me strive to develop my own relationship with the instrument" side, as opposed to the "playlist that'll make me say - I can play these songs!" side.

Oscar Peterson (Autumn Leaves, Chicago, Night Train, Bag's Groove, Caravan)

Thelonious Monk (Monk's Dream - the whole album is classic!, Straight No Chaser, Bemsha Swing)

Art Tatum (Tea for Two, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Deep Night, Tiger Rag)

Bud Powell (Collard Greens & Black-Eyed Peas , Cleopatra's Dream, Un Poco Loco , Celia)

Bill Evans (Midnight Mood, Gloria's Step, Alice in Wonderland, All of You, Like Someone in Love)

Herbie Hancock (Cantaloupe Island, Maiden Voyage, Dolphin Dance, Watermelon Man)

Chick Corea (Sometime Ago > La Fiesta*, Song For Sally, Tones for Joan's Bones, No Mystery)

*this is long, but please give it at least one full listen - once the theme kicks in around the 8 minute mark you'll be transported!

Bonus Recommendations:

Bruce Hornsby (White-Wheeled Limousine, Preacher in the Ring, China Doll)
Tedeschi Trucks Band ft. Herbie Hancock (Space Captain)
posted by stinkfoot at 6:23 PM on January 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

If you want cheesy, there's always Billy Joel's best song. No not THAT song, Summer Highland Falls.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:24 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Many of these jazz songs are great but you'll never (ever) learn to play like Thelonius monk or art Tatum. But you could learn to play Regina Spektors Us or Hey Jude or Tori Amos' cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit or Professor Longhairs Tipitina.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:30 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: stinkfoot, that's exactly the kind of suggestions I'm looking for! Thanks for clarifying my question.
posted by Beti at 6:49 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "All Dead", by Queen.
posted by alex1965 at 6:54 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: The song that makes me wish I could play piano is Comptine D' un Autre Ete from the movie Amalie. Not being a piano player at all I have no idea how difficult it is. Probably very.
posted by jcworth at 7:06 PM on January 2, 2015

I switched to guitar in adult life after learning piano as a kid, but I try to learn a piano song from time to time. Love Song by Sara Bareilles is an easy one, there are lots of tutorials on Youtube. It was easy to learn but made me feel like I was playing a real song.
posted by mmoncur at 7:06 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: I took piano lessons as a kid, stopped for a long time, then started again in high school just because I realized something was going to be missing from my life until I could play the Maple Leaf Rag. Since you list ragtime as an interest, this may already be on your list, in which case I'll add another Joplin, The Easy Winners, which was almost as motivating.
posted by escabeche at 7:53 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another vote for Professor Longhair. I love "Big Chief."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: Chilly Gonzales' "Kenaston"
posted by hellojed at 8:22 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: Vienna Teng: Gravity, Harbor, and City Hall

(the sheet music for these is available on her website, too)
posted by sarahnade at 10:26 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: Those who fight from the Final Fantasy movie / game series really captured my imagination when I heard it for the first time. I never got bored of playing it or listening to it, so much variety in the song, so much joy. Loud / soft, slow / fast, melodic / atonal. Playing it is not just an achievement in technique but physical strength as well!

(it's from this fight scene)
posted by xdvesper at 11:48 PM on January 2, 2015

Best answer: Seconding Bill Evans
Chopin's Nocturnes
Seconding Herbie of course
This Lizzy cover to revisit rebellion. Another piano acoustic cover . The original.
posted by benoit at 1:30 AM on January 3, 2015

Best answer: Chopin's Preludes.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 1:49 AM on January 3, 2015

Best answer: Brazilian piano virtuoso João Donato's bossa nova album Muito à Vontade (1962) (translation: "Very comfortable"). After about a year of it I kinda naturally had to start playing along, I like it so much.

As a piano teacher, I'd like to add that I just wished you could experience what it's like when you have a teacher that inspires you... It's a world of a difference.
Can I tell you about my client A. where I think I have been useful to her? She had taught herself to play pieces but she had been "reinventing the wheel" with a lot of the necessary technique and it had sapped her confidence in being able to learn. Because she is a PhD I was able to explain the nuts and bolts in like five sessions and she started to see it was totally doable and to trust me to have her back for any obstacles to come. When I came to the sixth session she had bought all these extra piano books : ) ... This is not to say there aren't many really good threads here on AskMe about self teaching!
posted by yoHighness at 5:20 AM on January 3, 2015

Best answer: Pixies - Where is my mind (Maxence Cyrin, piano)
This British pianist and composer (who I want to make a post about at some point)
Lenny Tristano solo jazz piano
Oscar Peterson
This Chinese kid playing "The Crave" (;
posted by yoHighness at 5:32 AM on January 3, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone! I appreciate y'all taking the time to post links, too, which are giving me even more ideas.

Except for the link to that Chinese kid, yoHighness. Dammit. Watching little kids pound out songs like it's nothing makes me want to through my computer and piano out the window. :-)
posted by Beti at 9:04 AM on January 3, 2015

Best answer: Bumble Boogie
posted by Gymnopedist at 10:36 AM on January 3, 2015

sorry beti ( :
posted by yoHighness at 3:34 PM on January 3, 2015

Somewhere Only We Know - Keane. Here's one piano tutorial.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:15 AM on January 4, 2015

Almost forgot! When I was a freshman in high school, Alone by Heart was the song to know how to play on piano - at least among the girls I knew who played.

A couple others:
Steppin' Out - Joe Jackson
Captain Of Her Heart - Double
posted by SisterHavana at 1:44 PM on January 4, 2015

I took piano for two years until recently and one song I liked doing near the end was REM's Nightswimming.

With the advent of YouTube, any song you can think of has been fully broken down and is featured in a video there, so I'd say find your personal favorites that way.
posted by mathowie at 9:21 PM on January 4, 2015

Best answer: I made a playlist
posted by bq at 10:26 AM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Chopin Prelude Op. 28, No. 4 in E
posted by xorry at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2015

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