The other day I started thinking about my personal favorite songs that feature the piano in some way. Songs that I’ve loved at one point in my life or other, songs that I’ve listened to dozens and dozens of times.
So I decided to create this entirely subjective list of my top 10 favorite songs featuring the piano. In general I enjoy alternative rock, but there are some pop and rock songs here too.
When I was thinking about what songs use piano, my list ended up over 30 strong, so it took some work to narrow it down. So please forgive me for the awkward choice of “11” songs instead of 10. I really tried to get rid of one to round it off to 10, but couldn’t.
We’ll start from 11 and count down to my number 1 favorite. Let’s get started!
11. Crash Kings – Mountain Man
Crash Kings is probably a band you’ve never heard of, but they have great music and put on a great live show. They’re unique in the fact that they don’t actually have a guitarist in the band (they use a little in their recordings) – their singer plays the keyboard. Despite this, they definitely rock, especially with the help of their strong rhythm section.
10. Half Moon Run – She Wants to Know
Half Moon Run is another alt-rock band that puts on a great live show. They were fairly popular in the early 2010’s, and I remember catching them in Kingston, Ontario back when we used to live in Toronto. Don’t try to sing and play this on the piano at the same time, though, unless you like pain and hardship.
Most of Half Moon Run’s songs are guitar-based, but there’s an occasional keyboard gem hidden amongst them. The whole album Dark Eyes is really worth a listen.
9. Alanis Morissette – Uninvited
Do you guys remember when the movie “City of Angels” came out? I was still a kid, and Alanis Morissette was still cruising along her mid-to-late 90s explosion of popularity. Her album Jagged Little Pill is obviously fantastic, but Uninvited was one I listened to over and over and over when I was on the cusp of teenager-hood.
8. Gary Jules – Mad World
Speaking of movies, do you guys remember the movie “Donnie Darko”? It was released a few years after “City of Angels”, and it was so cool with it’s 80’s setting and weird time travel storyline. Plus, it had Jake Gyllenhaal.
Now, Mad World wasn’t written by Gary Jules – it’s originally by an 80s song by Tears for Fears. But obviously using 80s music fit the theme of the movie.
Mad World has since been meme-ified, used as a joke for when a character in a show is having some type of sad moment or existential crisis. Still, it’s a great little piano song.
7. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
My parents were minted in the 80’s, and as such I need to give them a shout-out with this one. Don’t Stop Believin’ is the one random song that, when it comes on the radio and I’m at a bar, pub, or other public place, I can’t stop myself from belting it out. This was also a song I sang and performed at my uncle’s wedding, adding an extra-special layer of fondness.
6. Rihanna – Stay
This is a really easy piano piece, and it’s also really easy to sing along with it. As such, I’ve taught it countless times and it’s a good ol’ reliable fallback for when I want to sing and play something, but I don’t want to remember something more complicated.
It’s a great piece for chord study. It does mainly stick to four chords, but there are some detours along the way to keep it interesting for the student. If you’ve never played/sang before and you like pop ballads, give this one a go!
5. Alicia Keys – Fallin’
Fallin’ is a great song that became hugely popular when I was a young teen. It was cool too because Alicia is a piano player, and as such her songs are piano-based. There are many songs by her I could’ve chosen, but Fallin’ ultimately made this list because it was the one I sang all the time and learned to play (it’s quite easy).
This is one of those with a simple piano part, but a more complex vocal part – it’s tons of fun. You’ll sometimes catch me karaoke-ing this one from time to time.
4. Nine Inch Nails – Right Where it Belongs
“Right Where it Belongs”, from the Nine Inch Nails album With Teeth, is definitely a more obscure choice. Not to mention there are many NIN songs with piano. But I listened to this album – and this particular song – countless times during the summer of 2005 as I finished grade 12.
“Right Where it Belongs” is a 1am kind of song, and that was my favorite time to listen to. Of course, being an adult with a family now, being up at 1am means something is very wrong – but I have a special place in my heart for those days, and for this song.
3. Sia – Breathe Me
I had to include Sia’s “Breathe Me” on the list – I’ve done an entire video on my love of this song. I was introduced to Sia in 2005 when I watched the finale of my (still) favorite show of all time, Six Feet Under. I’ve since obsessively listened to her back catalogue (Some People Have Real Problems and Colour the Small Ones would make a list of my all-time favorite albums), but Breathe Me was the one that hooked me in, and one that remains a favorite.
2. Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
Speaking of Six Feet Under, that show introduced me to another great song and band – Transatlanticism by Death Cab. Since then I’ve listened to both Transatlanticism (the album) and Passengers dozens of times, and it’s one of those bands my husband and I have bonded over, since he likes them too.
The piano part is super easy in this piece but played with a band it’s really quite nice. It’s long, repetitive, and you just get into this lovely zone.
1. Radiohead – Sail to the Moon
And finally, my number one choice – it had to be Radiohead. Since I’m slanted to music I obsessed over in 2005, you’ll have to cut me a little slack. Now, Hail to the Thief was released in 2003, but it was really the winter of 2005 when I put this CD in my little boombox on repeat.
There are other great Radiohead songs that use piano – Pyramid Song and Karma Police come to mind – but Sail to the Moon is probably my favorite. It’s got some gorgeous 7 chords and it’s just overall a very beautiful piece. I’ve taught this before, because even my adult students who would never otherwise listen to Radiohead tend to enjoy this particular song.
There’s my totally biased list of my favorite songs featuring piano. I thought about doing a Top 10 list of some general favorites, but then it seemed wrong to judge which songs are objectively “best”. I don’t know which music is objectively best – does anyone? I only know what music I personally enjoy. Hopefully you enjoyed this list as well, and I’d love to know what songs featuring piano you really enjoy!