What are some piano songs that are more evocative than complex?
January 27, 2020 7:18 PM   Subscribe

My wife likes to play piano to relax. It is satisfying for her when she gets it right, but it's not primarily a technical exercise for her; she hasn't had (piano) lessons and it's not mostly about the challenge. The main criterion is that it's pretty and relaxing. So, for example, the first movement of Moonlight Sonata = very yes! Third movement, no. She also likes the Emperor Concerto. What else should she play?

As far as I know, she's not interested in working out a song by ear; she wants to play from sheet music (which she can read from her past life flouting the law as a flautist). So an additional criterion is that the song(s) be available (for purchase or for free) in sheet music form.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
posted by a snickering nuthatch to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
How about a couple of the easier Chopin Preludes Op. 28? I would suggest numbers 4 and 6 in e minor and b minor respectively.
posted by bkpiano at 7:29 PM on January 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

So much good stuff, and all available free on IMSLP.

To start with,
Eric Satie, Gnossienes
Schumann, Kinderszenen, Op. 15, No 1.
Shostakovich Prelude No 1

Here's a Spotify playlist : https://open.spotify.com/album/0CbYsxZFzoweT644eNvOnH?si=Nd2wO4w_RHupBE1tUbkg8w
posted by dum spiro spero at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bach's Prelude in C major is what made me finally decide to tackle piano. It's not too technically challenging, it's lovely to listen to and it never fails to make me smile.

Also seconding the Chopin.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:38 PM on January 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Debussy Reverie and Clair de Lune

June and November from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:54 PM on January 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can get “Classics for Easy Piano” books! She might like a simplified version of “Clair de Lune,” etc.
posted by verbminx at 8:20 PM on January 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

"Evocative but not complex" describes some but not all gorgeous video game music, which I used to love playing as a piano-noodler. Piano arrangements of certain songs from the Final Fantasy series come to mind. Here's a starting place.
posted by Zephyrial at 8:21 PM on January 27, 2020

Anything by Ludovico Einaudi or Johann Johannsson.
posted by matildaben at 8:42 PM on January 27, 2020

Best answer: I'm currently trying to learn Gymnopedie #1 by Eric Satie -- seems pretty easy and it certainly doesn't have to be played full speed to be enjoyable.
posted by mmoncur at 9:31 PM on January 27, 2020 [7 favorites]

I always thought of Fur Elise as Moonlight Sonata lite. Beautiful but easy to learn and play.
posted by Candleman at 10:34 PM on January 27, 2020

Best answer: I feel similarly about playing piano (and like the same pieces - I listen to the Emperor Concerto quite a lot) but my music reading/piano proficiency is not strong. Some examples of calming, pretty piano music that I listen to regularly, and wish I could play (most of these are pretty popular and you might recognize them):

Chopin - Piano Concerto No. 2 in F min, Op. 21, II: Larghetto in A-flat maj (the sound quality on this one has some spotty moments but it's worth it to see Rubinstein play it)

Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 8 in C min, Op. 13 (Pathetique), II: Adagio cantabile

Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 in C maj, K467: II. Andante in F maj starts about 15:39. (The soloist in this one is Maria Tipo, one of my favorite underrated pianists. The solo piano part in 2nd movement here starts at around 17:18)

Chopin - Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 in E-flat maj (my personal favorite Chopin nocturne)

Chopin - Etude Op. 10, No. 3 in E maj (although the middle part might be too conflicty/not calming)

John Field - Nocturne No. 5 in B-flat major: Andantino - John Field is the father of the nocturne and he wrote some really lovely piano pieces; this is one of my faves.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 11:26 PM on January 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

Edvard Grieg: Åse's Death; and there might be some other nice ones in the Peer Gynt suite.
posted by inexorably_forward at 11:55 PM on January 27, 2020

There are some lovely pieces in Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words.
posted by Standard Orange at 1:51 AM on January 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

My next-door neighbour used to play George Winston's Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel which, despite the thin walls, was always nice to hear and seems to fit the bill of being relaxing and kinda uplifting. Sheet music is out there.
posted by sagwalla at 2:47 AM on January 28, 2020

Grieg's Lyric Pieces vary in difficulty from very easy to moderate. There's loads of them and they're all very pretty.
posted by spielzebub at 4:17 AM on January 28, 2020

David Lanz plays beautiful music. It's not exceptionally hard to play, and all of his stuff is available as sheet music. I played the hell out of my Lanz books in college when I was mostly alone; those books became the foundation for my niece's piano education.
posted by notsnot at 5:09 AM on January 28, 2020

I think Tiny Dancer is a great piano song.
posted by conscious matter at 5:14 AM on January 28, 2020

Lang Lang's "Piano Book" is worth a look. The CD and sheet music version is really nice. (Most of it isn't easy for me yet. But, she sounds more advanced.)
posted by eotvos at 7:23 AM on January 28, 2020

For something modern, try Yann Tiersen. He did the lovely soundtrack to the movie Amelie.
posted by storybored at 8:58 AM on January 28, 2020

Many of the pieces mentioned above are in my repertoire! I would add:

Debussy - La fille aux cheveux de lin

Tchaikovsky - Andante Cantabile

Godard - Berceuse de Jocelyn
posted by rekrap at 10:08 AM on January 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Whether or not she's a Tori Amos fan, she might enjoy some of the sheet music books that have been released over the years. The Bee Sides is my favorite of the Tori Amos piano books and you can apparently buy it used dirt cheap.

There's also sheet music floating around out there from the Final Fantasy video games, composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Some (not all) of it is on the easier side and very pretty. I used to play it a lot when I was going through some stressful times. My favorites come from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and VIII.
posted by bananana at 11:07 AM on January 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Arvo Pärt.
posted by miles1972 at 4:01 PM on January 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

I Guirni, by Ludovico Einaudi
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:46 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Lots of suitable pieces listed above, though note that some of them are technically closer to the third movement than the first of Beethoven's moonlight sonata! Here are some more ideas, mostly available on IMSLP and youtube:

Liszt: Nuages Gris, Consolations, En Rêve
Badalamenti: Twin Peaks theme
Schubert: Impromptu in A flat, D935/2
Backer-Grøndahl: Sommervise op.45/3
Bach: Sarabandes from Partitas #1 in B flat and #4 in D
Brahms: Waltz op.39/15
Scriabin: Prelude op.67/1
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 11:53 AM on January 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've been playing some pretty easy pieces, and many of them have come from the Music for Millions series, like Easy Classics to Moderns and Intermediate Grade Classics to Moderns. There are also collections like Essential Keyboard Repertoire (here's Volume 2).

It was a big help to me to discover the University of Iowa Piano Pedagogy Youtube channel. They've posted hundreds of videos of piano instructors playing all these pieces that are part of the piano curriculum - the learners' repertoire - and there's a huge overlap between this set of videos and the books I linked to above. It's a great way to preview a piece that might be of interest.

I've been finding myself a fan of the Kabalevsky pieces lately, personally, but there are all kinds of pieces that sound nice but aren't a huge challenge to learn.
posted by kristi at 6:53 PM on February 1, 2020

I suggest getting a Methodist or Episcopalian hymnal. You can pick them up at used bookstores or garage sales. Hymns are fairly easy, melodic, and many are just lovely. I collected them as a young pianist, and at 57 I got a PT job as a church pianist. I never tire of playing hymns, along with classical music.
posted by Mayree at 10:04 PM on February 2, 2020

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