If you are just beginning to learn piano, you may think that classical music is ‘too hard’ for someone at your skill level. When you think of classical music, you may think of sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven or fugues by Bach that are pages long and are full of difficult techniques, but there are many beginner-level classical pieces as well. Many classical composers taught as well and wrote simpler pieces for children. In addition, many classical pieces can be ‘simplified’ to be played with less notes, so that you as a beginner can appreciate playing certain pieces now until you have the skill level to play the full piece.
Before we dive into the list, let’s make sure to understand the term ‘classical music.’ Classical music is technically defined as ‘conventional music following established principles.’ The true Classical Era of music lasted from 1750-1830 and included composers such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven towards the end of the Classical period. This period technically excludes Bach, who dominated the Baroque Era. Today classical music is used broadly to describe conventional Western instrumental, orchestral, and choral music, even if it is not from the Classical era. This is how we will use the term since few of the songs here fall outside of this time period.
That being said, these pieces are all by well-known and respected composers. They will be great additions to any beginner’s repertoire.
1. Minuet in G Major, KV 1 by Mozart
Mozart was a musical prodigy and known as one of the greatest composers in history. This simple piece is documented as Mozart’s first composition at the age of just five years old. It provides great insight into the mind of young Mozart and the understanding of melody and harmony that he had already developed. The song is recorded in Nannerl’s Book, a collection of easy piano songs that Mozart’s father compiled for his children. It is simple but true to the classical style, which is the kind of music Mozart was likely exposed to extensively. The piece is in G major which has F-sharp in the key signature and is written in 3/4 time.
2. Arietta by Mozart
This delightful arietta by Mozart is another lovely piece for beginners. Arietta means ‘little aria,’ which is a song for voice. This means the melody is meant to be played expressively as if someone were singing it. It is in F major which has B-flat in the key signature and written in 3/8 time.
3. Ode to Joy by Beethoven
Ode to Joy is the name attributed to the renowned melody from Beethoven’s choral Symphony No. 9, which has been called one of the composer’s greatest accomplishments. ‘Ode to Joy’ is actually the name of a poem that Beethoven used as lyrics towards the end of the piece. It has been arranged numerous times for numerous instruments and is a widely recognized melody. It is in the key of C with no accidentals and is written in common or 4/4 time.
4. Fur Elise by Beethoven
Fur Elise is one of the most well-known classical songs in history. Fur Elise means ‘for Elise’ in German and was likely dedicated to a woman who had captured Beethoven’s interest. While the original piece may be slightly advanced for beginners, there are numerous arrangements of the piece that have been simplified for beginners while preserving the original expressiveness of the melody. The piece is in A minor with no accidentals in the key signature and is written in 3/4 time.
5. Allegretto 1 by Czerny
Car Czerny was an Austrian composer and teacher who composed hundreds of songs and studies for piano. His works provide numerous examples of beginner-level classical music, but this simple Allegretto is a great introduction to classical music especially for young pianists. This piece is in C major with no accidentals in the key signtature and is written in 3/4 time.
6. The Happy Farmer by Schumann
This piece by Schumann is upbeat, expressive, and quite fun to play. The infectious melody and harmonies are oddly satisfying for an easy piano piece. The work is from a collection of works he titled Album for the Young which he composed for his daughters. This piece is good practice for becoming more comfortable with changing rhythms and left-hand independence. The piece is in F major which has B-flat in the key signature and is written in common or 4/4 time.
7. Minuet in G Major by Petzold
This Minuet in G Major is often incorrectly attributed to Bach because it was included in a collection of works called Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. However, this compilation included works by Bach as well as other composers, and it was later found that this popular minuet was written by the German composer Christian Petzold. The simplicity of its melody and structure make it a popular minuet for beginners. The piece is in G major which has F-sharp in the key signature and is written in 3/4 time.
8. Minuet in G Minor, BWV 822 by Bach
This minuet which was truly composed by Bach is a lovely melancholy dance song that carries the essence of Bach’s musicality while being accessible to beginners. You may see several of Bach’s works with a BWV number. BWV stands for Bach Werke Verzeichnis, or Bach Works Catalouge. It is simply a number assigned to the piece when Bach’s pieces were systematically cataloged in the 1950s. This piece is a great introduction to the music of Bach. It is in the key of G minor which has B-flat in the key signature and is written in 3/4 time.
9. Prelude in C Major by Bach
Bach’s famous Prelude in C Major is a very popular beginning piano song. It is the first prelude in a series of preludes and fugues contained in the first Well-Tempered Clavier book. It may look like a lot of notes, but almost every section consists of a broken arpeggio that can be condensed into a single chord. It is a great example of harmonic progression throughout the piece and is the perfect balance of simplicity and musiclity. The piece is in C major with no accidentals and is written in common or 4/4 time.
10. Morning Mood from Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg
This song by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg is from the Peer Gynt Suite, a work composed to accompany a play by the same name. This particular song was for a scene depicting the rising of the sun, and the melody certainly evokes the ascending spirit of sunrise. Even a simplified version of the song sounds like the brightness of morning. The simplified version of the piece is in C major with no accidentals (the original key is E major) and is written in 6/8 time.
Hopefully this list gives you some ideas to expand your repertoire as a beginner. It is important as you are progressing on your piano journey that you find songs within your skill level that you also enjoy. If you ever find a song you like that seems beyond your ability, there is likely a simplified version of it somewhere on the internet. Just remember to find something that keeps you motivated and keep practicing!