If you are taking up the piano, you probably have something in mind other than entertaining yourself with your new skill. And one excellent goal to have in mind, especially when you are starting out, is to learn some popular songs that you can play at parties and get-togethers. What better way to put your musical abilities to use than to get family and friends singing together and bonding over the songs they love?
With that in mind, here is a quick top-ten list of pop/rock and R&B songs that sound great on the piano and get people engaged with the music. The best of them will almost certainly get the party actively singing along. If you would also like to polish your piano skills specifically for learning to play popular songs, you can take an online piano course designed to develop your skills by learning to play this kind of music.
10. Brick – Ben Folds Five
It may not be great form to start off with the slow number, but this ballad penned by alt rocker Ben Folds deserves a spot on the list. Not only is this tune one of the most well-known piano songs from the late 90s, but it also sounds great as a solo piece, and it will get you to work your basic arpeggios and chord skills. If you have friends or relatives that came of age in the last years of the 20th century, they are likely to know this one pretty well.
9. Respect – Aretha Franklin
Originally written by Otis Redding in 1965, this song took on a whole new life under Aretha Franklin and her golden pipes. Filling the tune with a healthy dose of attitude and empowerment, Aretha created an instant classic that still gets people moving today. Aretha’s music was rooted in gospel, and if this is a style you are interested in learning, you can take an online piano course specifically in the gospel style.
8. Take Me Home, Country Road – John Denver
Often considered John Denver’s signature song, this anthem has remained popular worldwide since its release in 1971. It’s straightforward chord structure makes it particularly fun to play with a small group, where members can take turns improvising melodies. If you would like to work on your improvisational piano skills, you can start learning from day one with a course in improvisational piano.
7. Sweet Home Chicago – Standard/Robert Johnson
A traditional anthem in the twelve-bar blues style, Sweet Home Chicago is sometimes credited to Robert Johnson, who is the first to have put it on recording. As a song for you to learn, it has a lot going for it. It is a great choice for learning the twelve-bar blues pattern, it is universally known and liked (thanks in part to the Blues Brothers), and particularly if you can play it in a small group, its a perfect format for learning blues improvisation.
If you are interested in blues piano playing, there is no need to hesitate on learning the style. You can take an online course in beginners’ blues piano.
6. Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da – The Beatles
Who doesn’t know this Beatles classic? Originally released on The Beatles self-titled 1968 album (popularly known as The White Album), this rollicking tune is great for turning up the energy at a get-together. With it’s instantly recognizable bassline It’s also a good choice for working out your left hand.
5. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Do you happen to be a vocalist ? Or perhaps you have that friend with great pipes? If so, Bohemian Rhapsody could be a lot of fun to perform, and guests will love it. Emphasizing the operatic vocal performance, this monumental piece by Queen also carries some interesting melodies on the piano, and the accompaniment should not be too difficult to master.
4. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
Although the original recording voices the melody on guitar, Van Morrison’s most well-known song works very well as a solo piano number. It’s perfect for creating a laid-back atmosphere and still getting people engaged with the music. Fair warning: you may fill the whole house with sha-la-las and La-di-das.
3. Build me up, buttercup – The Foundations
If for no other reason than it’s being a lot of fun to play, this R&B classic by The Foundations deserves a place high up on this list. If you want to work your chops, you can even play it as an instrumental piece, carrying the melody on your right hand and bass on the left. However, thanks to its regular appearance in pop-culture (famously in the film “Something About Mary”) you will almost surely have some vocal participation.
Especially as a solo piece, you may be most comfortable playing this song when you have reached an intermediate level. If you want to quickly get yourself up to speed, you can try a comprehensive course that will take you all the way from beginning to advanced piano.
2. Tiny Dancer – Elton John
Want to leave everyone with a party favor? Play this Elton John ballad, and you will have the chorus melody stuck on the whole party’s hit parade. And in between, the song’s long and reflective verses will do well for striking up a mood. Including some basic melodies and chordplay, this one shouldn’t be out of reach for most beginning to intermediate players.
1. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
It’s a phenomenon. Set off on the first chords of this arena rock epic, and people will get excited. Regardless of whether you planned it as an instrumental, you will no doubt have vocalists. It’s a fun number that’s almost universally loved, a great one to launch in to once the party is going, and certainly not too tough for beginning players to master.
Hopefully, these top-ten recommendations give you some ideas for songs to learn, regardless of whether you ultimately choose one on this list or not. Take a look at some of the recommended learning resources if you want some guidance getting some tunes under your fingers, and most importantly, have fun!