Originally posted May ’15, updated June ’17.
Hello fellow music lovers!
In today’s post we will listen to the 13 best piano rock songs of all time. Obviously, most of the songs in rock are based mostly on guitars and only about 3% of songs in classic rock and modern rock feature piano as the main instrument that drives the song.
However, when the piano is indeed used as the main instrument and the song is being driven successfully by it, (like in the examples below) we can almost say that more often than not, those songs can become hits thanks to the special touch, vibes and beautiful sounds that this huge instrument brings with it.
These are songs that were mostly seen as milestones in the way that the piano is perceived and the different range of emotions it can evoke in the listeners. Let’s star
The 13 Best Piano Rock Songs of the Modern Era
13 – Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
The song that turned Queen into such a symbol is our list opener. The classical piano influences here (Freddie Mercury grew up playing classical piano) are very prominent and mixed hard with a lot of rock n’ roll, incredible vocal harmonies and Brian May’s famous electric guitar solo.
The piano moves from touching hymn arpeggios in the verses into a very jumpy classical style in the bridges. A big challenge for the amateur piano player – chords can be grabbed here.
12 – Elton John – Levon (1974)
The British king of rock piano makes his first appearance on the list with this beautiful song that shows just the right way to play “chords piano” while remaining captivating in your playing during the whole time.
Jon Bon Jovi covered Levon in a “guitar fashion” for the 1991 tribute album that contained 16 different Elton John covers by different artists. Bon Jovi claims Levon is his “favorite song of all time”.
11 – David Bowie – Changes (1971)
Another British diva kicks in at number 11. Beautiful runs all over the piano keyboard, hard bassy smashes on the low notes, enticing piano buildups before the chorus. A great showcase of different piano techniques, enjoy.
10 – Alicia Keys – Fallin’ (2001)
The debut single from the debut album of Alicia Keys that entitled her for the song of the year grammy award. You can classify this song more of an R&B than rock but it still deserves the spot on the list thanks to the beautiful calm arpeggios that clash beautifully with Keys’ soulful voice that’s going all over the place. All coming out from her own petite fingers. Such an impressive performance!
9 – Styx – Come Sail Away (1977)
“I’mmmm sailing away”… A true prog-rock beauty that also provides great piano training exercises (click here for the chord sheets) with a lot of different chord spices – maj7, sus 4, sus 2 that you can clearly hear in the recording and imitate yourself.
The “prog-rock” thing kicks in when the piano is abandoned in the second part of the song and in comes the heavy drums and the electric guitars. Personally, I like the piano part much more but nevertheless, it is still an excellent piece.
8 – Adele – Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan cover) (2008)
Adele took an unfamiliar Bob Dylan song from 1997 and turned it into a sad lovers hymn hummed by millions and millions all over the world. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the song would have had such an impact with a different main instrument. Some songs just demand a piano to get fully delivered and this one is one of them…
7 – The Beatles – Let It Be (1970)
As much as Let It Be is so overdone by now, give it another listen. I have truly never heard another way of making only 4 chords sound so good. C-G-Am-F is still where it’s at apparently… (:
6 – Joni Mitchell – River (1971)
Joni Mitchell in an interesting christmas mix jingle bells and a heart tearing folky ballad about a gone lover and the longing for home in Canada, written presumably from California.
Mitchell Plays the piano parts herself in all of her songs which is something I appreciate a lot.
5 – Billy Preston – Nothing From Nothing (1974)
It’s just like piano virtuoso Billy Preston came and said: “It’s about goddamn time someone will show people how a piano can be a lively, happy and funky instrument that can bring smiles to faces and not just tears”. Enjoy this one!
4 – Billy Joel – New York State of Mind (1976)
Billy Joel, New York native, in one of the most recognizable New York City classics, up there with Sinatra’s New York. I don’t have any words to add, just watch and judge for yourself. There’s also a beautiful sax solo like a lot of other Billy Joel songs, he has a great sax player and those two instruments seem to go very well together. This live version with Bruce Springsteen is my favorite.
3 – Neil Young – After The Gold Rush (1970)
A British friend I met on my travels in New Zealand named Sam told me that this is going to be his funeral song. This one and not any other. Funny considering he’s only in his 20’s… Listen to it and you might understand why. Neil Young in a sad and peaceful performance backed up by a very hearty (yet simple) piano playing.
2 – Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
Eargasm. One of the songs that I am sure that even a 100 years from now our great grandchildren are still going to look up to when they think of what a true music masterpiece really is – one that has no expiration date. The piano here is on a whole different level of beauty, especially when it’s backed up by a section of violins and a stellar vocal performance.
1 – Elton John – Tiny Dancer (1970)
Coming into the first place is one of the most epic songs I know. The lyrics talk about the bandwagon groupie girl who’s the “tiny dancer”, one that came to life 30 years later in Almost Famous with Kate Hudson. The verses that travel back and forth and seem like you can fly along with them, the huge build up before the chorus, and the chorus… That falsetto! Damn!
Surprisingly enough for a piano song, (hold on…) this one became such a hit after Almost Famous that almost everybody knows the words to it, and thanks to that, have made it to the Best GUITAR Campfire Songs list as well.
That’s it friends, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the list. You’re welcome to use the share buttons below and to add more opinions in the comment section below. Best.
A Note for Those Interested in Learning How to Play the Piano Themselves:
I learned without a teacher but with an online course, and I highly recommend the course that I learned with. It focuses on playing songs, instead of focusing on classical music, so if you like the songs above you’re going to deeply enjoy that method.
Read more about it here. If you want to read more about why it’s so good to focus on songs and chords instead of on classical pieces so this post is for you: Piano For Beginners – Learn Piano EASILY By Avoiding The Biggest Learning Mistake!
What’s your favorite piano rock song? Tell us in a comment below. Thanks for participating in the discussion!
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