Introduction: How to Pick Your First Classical Piano Piece
The first things that we learn when we start playing the piano aren't pieces, they are notes, counting, finding our notes on the keyboard, key signatures, and then scales.
Once we've reached the place that we can play some easy scales with both hands, count them, and can recognize a few different key signatures, we're ready to learn our first classical piano piece!
There are a lot of them...have you noticed?
In this lesson, we're going to go over a couple of things to be on the look out for in your first classical piece as well as 3 different ones that I highly recommend that will be great for you to start with.
First, let's go over what you need to know before starting on your first classical piano piece.
Step 1: What You Need to Already Know First
Make sure that you can already play with both hands.
- If you can play a simple song with both hands together then you're good to go. Many exercise books will have easy songs like this in it that you can play; such as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", or "Jingle Bells".
Make sure that you can play with your hands in C position and G position.
- These are two common placements for your hands to play in specific keys.
Make sure that you know at least a couple of scales.
- You don't have to know every single scale that there is, but at least know your C, G, and maybe D scales as many pieces are written in these keys, especially beginning ones.
Now that we know what we need to know...let's find out what we need to look for in our first classical piano piece.
Step 2: What to Look for When Choosing Your First Piece
Pick up a classical piano piece...and just look at it for a few seconds.
Do you recognize things in there like:
- the key signature
- the rhythmic patterns
- the time signature
- the different types of notes in the piece
If any of these things look too complicated for you or are things that you just haven't quite learned yet, then you know that this piece is not the one that you need to start working on.
Instead, look for key signatures that you do know, rhythms and counting that is familiar to you and easy to play, notes that read in the music and that you can easily find on the keyboard.
Although we do want to challenge ourselves, picking a piece that has technical aspects that we just haven't mastered yet will slow down our growth. So start with what you know, and build from there.
Now, let's look at the Number 1 classical piano piece that I recommend for all beginners to start with.
Step 3: The #1 Classical Piano Piece for Beginners
J. S. Bach's "Prelude in C Major" for Piano is the piece that I recommend the most for beginning pianists to start with.
Here's why I recommend this piece to everyone:
- the rhythmic structure is very easy to understand - the tempos are even and there aren't any sudden changes throughout the whole piece
- each measure is very similar to the one before it...
- it's in the Key of C which is usually the first key signature that we pianists learn
- the left hand is simple and steady
There's one neat challenging aspect to this piece and that is getting to add in dynamics, which will give you practice doing that if you've never done it before.
Make sure you check out my video at the end of this lesson to hear me play this all the way through for you - including dynamics!
Let's see what the next classical piece is that I recommend for beginning pianists.
Step 4: #2 "Minuet in G Major" by Christian Petzold
This Minuet in G by Petzold is the best piece to learn after you've completed the Prelude in C.
Notice that we're in a different key signature with this one, and how nice to have the key signature in the title of the piece!
This piece is great because:
- the rhythms are again, easy...which is important for beginners
- the patterns of notes and rhythms repeat throughout the piece
- the left-hand patterns repeat
I play this one in the video at the end of this lesson too, so make sure to take a look at that and see how quickly you can learn this one.
Now let's look at the third beginning classical piano piece that I recommend.
Step 5: #3 "Fur Elise" by Beethoven
This is the most highly requested piece that students ask to play when they start learning classical piano pieces.
This one is definitely the most advanced of the 3 which is why it's placed as it is.
In fact, you may just want to work on the first page of it until you get a little more advanced in some more difficult counting and rhymic patterns that you'll run into after the 1st page.
Here's why I think this is such a great piece for beginners to learn:
- most younger students can handle this piece even though it is more challenging than the other 2
- the notes are a bit farther apart, teaching you how to stretch your hand into new hand positions
- the melodic line is pretty repetitive throughout the 1st page
- the left-hand repeats as well, mirroring the right hand
This piece teaches beginners how to use the foot pedal, recognize the symbol for it in the music, and how it can help connect notes together when we have to spread out our hands farther to play chords.
Remember to start with just the first page of this one and you'll be able to move onto the next pages as you progress in your piano studies.
Just like the other two pieces, I play this one in the video lesson too so let's see next how all of these great beginning classical piano pieces sound on the piano!
Step 6: Come Practice With Me!
This video will show you what these pieces look like and how they sound on the piano.
There are also helpful tips on how to approach each one when you're just starting out and the benefit of a video is that you can return to it anytime and get some extra help with your practicing.
The best way to reinforce what we've gone over here is to do it at your piano with me so you can make sure you're getting started on your first classical piano piece the right way...so are you ready to Come Practice With Me?