You may love the piano chops of Elton John or Billy Joel, but if you’re just venturing into pop music on your keyboard you might find it hard to duplicate their adroit fingering. It’s better to begin with some easier tunes and build your confidence. Here are five first songs to learn when you’re starting out.
You can buy sheet music for these tunes, or you might prefer to watch an instructional video clip and imitate what you see and hear. As with any piece, you can add complexity and make it as difficult as you like, but they all have a straightforward structure that make them good starter songs.
This Beatles hit was written by Paul McCartney. The melody came to him in a dream, and he wrote it down when he woke up. It has a distinct and creative chord progression. It starts in G, then goes to F sharp minor seventh, then B, E minor and back to G. It’s best played arpeggio – chords played one note at a time.
Another way is to play each phrase of melody with the right hand and with transpositions of the chord progression with the left.
A haunting tune by the other half of the great Beatles songwriting team, John Lennon, was penned after the Fab Four broke up. A big part of its appeal is that it’s beautiful but simple.
It’s not hard to learn. A tonic and fourth, C and F, anchor the song in the left hand. The right hand can follow the melody and optionally sneak in the little riff at the end of each line.
3. Unchained Melody
This was written by Alex North and Hy Zaret in 1955 and has been recorded repeatedly, but the most famous is the Righteous Brothers 1965 rendition. One way to play it is to follow the chord progression – D, B minor, G, A – with the left hand while arpeggiating the chords with the right. You can also do the arpeggios in the left hand and play chords that include the melody note on the right side.
4. A Thousand Miles
This Vanessa Carlton song begins with the famous and widely recognized riff. It might be a little tricky to master, but once you have it, you have it for the whole song. The harmonies are easier and they also repeat. There’s a bit of syncopation is this number, which may take some getting used to. However, the technique carries over to many songs, and once you start syncopating, you may want to do more of it.
5. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Tuneful melodies are nice, but every pianist ought to be able to crank our something with a little soul. This classic, recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell among others, has an easy melody and a rhythm that is essentially simple but begs for syncopation. In some arrangements, the left hand drives. It’s a good introduction to playing jazzy music.