There are some classic pop songs which almost all piano students, no matter their age or stage, will love learning. These great pop songs can all be taught by rote and are an awesome way to give any student a quick win when they need it.
If you have a piano student who would like to learn some pop music, my number one recommendation is to ask them what specific songs or artists/bands they would like to learn.
Sometimes, however, students really don’t know what they would like to learn or are too shy to tell you at first. So it can be useful to have some classics in your back pocket which everyone will recognise and be happy to show off to their mates.
These 8 classic piano pop song options are all great songs to teach and they meet my top criteria:
- Almost everyone knows them.
- A basic beginner arrangement will sound full and not like a watered-down poor imitation of the original.
All the songs below fit this bill, so let’s dive in.
Psst…If you’re not quite sure how to incorporate pop music into your piano studio, you can get some great ideas from the ‘Repertoire and Resources’ section of my Planning Lessons hub page.
Classic Pop Song 1: Let it Be
This Beetles classic has been one of my standards to teach at the first lesson with a beginner adult student for years.
It’s a basic I-V-vi-IV pattern and, if you play it as minims (half notes) in the right hand, it instantly sounds authentic. You can add a little more pizzaz to the transitions later if you like, but it sounds pretty great straight-away!
Classic Pop Song 2: Imagine
From John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band comes another one of the best pop songs to play on the piano.
The main broken chord pattern here can be done with 2 hands if needed and – even if you leave out the A Bb B pattern – it’s such an iconic song that everyone will know it right away.
Classic Pop Song 3: Piano Man
My friend Tim Topham explains this much better in this YouTube video then I can in writing. Check out his tutorial below and then have some fun teaching this to your students!
Classic Pop Song 4: Stand by Me
You don’t even need the chords for this one from Ben E. King, although you can add them if you wish. The bass line alone is instantly recognisable.
While you can teach this one by rote, I think it’s a great opportunity to get your student to play by ear. Just give them the starting note and little nudges and hints as they figure it out. 🙂
Classic Pop Song 5: Heart and Soul
I might be playing fast and loose with the term ‘pop song’ on this one, but Heart and Soul is certainly a classic and an essential one for all piano students to learn. Make sure to teach them both parts and play the duet together!
The great thing about Heart and Soul is that, while it’s great for beginners, you can also use it with your intermediate students to work on concepts such as transposing and variations.
Classic Pop Song 6: Clocks
This one from Coldplay is tricky to do up to speed…but it still passes the test because even a slow version is convincing and you only really need the right hand pattern to make it sound like the real deal.
Classic Pop Song 7: Another One Bites the Dust
A single note in the left hand and an open fifth in the right hand will sell the intro of this song from Queen. Once they get the rhythm of this classic pop song right (and they easily will,) the rest will follow.
Try it with your students and see the magic unfold!
Classic Pop Song 8: Stay with Me
Going a bit closer to present day with this last one from Sam Smith.
You can add fancy twiddly bits and some melody later if you like, but to make this sound good all you need is this right hand chord pattern:
- F major (first inversion)
- C major (second inversion)
Easy as pie and almost as sweet. 😋
Which classic pop songs do you love to teach your piano students?
Share your favourites and the teaching approach you use for them in the comments below or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook.
9 thoughts on “Best Classic Pop Songs for Piano Students”
I love to teach Believer. Either in original key or transposed. I have them use open fifths in left hand and either they read or figure out by ear the melody.
I have 16 students of which only 3 are teens, and those are young teens. Like me, I truly doubt they would know all of these. I know most of them but not all. Also, the song Imagine, as popular as it has always been, is not a song I would teach to any of my students as I totally disagree with its’ theology. I truly appreciate the time & effort you put into this article, but not every article is going to fit every teacher. I will delve into it a bit deeper as there are some ideas I can take & re-route to fit my teens. Thank you.
I don’t feel it’s appropriate to discuss what I or a student believes – in Scotland we tend to accept people. Personally, I may not agree with the theology of a song eg Imagine, or the philosophy of a composer eg Wagner, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t write good music or thought provoking lyrics. Also by introducing a child to accept, even if they don’t agree with, a stance, will make them more open to & respect people of all faiths and none, who they will meet later in the real world. Explain or better still elicit why the composer believes a certain thing eg Lennon “Imagine” & compare with own beliefs – if necessary.
It will make for a more empathetic world. If they are Jewish/ Christian/ Muslim – they need to remember two main things. God is love (not criticism!!) and wo/man was made in God’s image. So our job as people is to love every other human being. It helps to start to look for the God’s likeness/bit in everyone else!!
I appreciate you saying this. I also would not initiate teaching it, but if a student asked to play it, I would help them play it without asserting my own opinions. It’s the same as I would like to see everyone just let music be what it is within the context it was created. I am opposed to recent movements that are “cleansing” and removing certain historical music and other types of art. My own objection to this particular song is its political overtone, more so than religious, for me.
There are some great Adele songs that my beginners have done well
Tabitha I am interested to hear what Adele songs your beginners found managable? Some of my students would love to learn Adele , Naturally her big ones of a few years ago like Hello or Someone like you are big favourites. But if you would not mind sahring with me the songs your students found possible, I would be really keen to hear from you.. Thank you
I like to teach ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ because it follows the same pattern as ‘Heart & Soul’ – so I teach that progression (C-Am-F-G) for newbies. Same progression is used with ‘Blue Moon’ so that follows on with then teaching inversions of the same progression.
Back in 2015, when my son was 14, he introduced me to the funny Aussie band called the Axis of Awesome with the caveat, “Mum, please don’t be offended, but this fun video uses the ‘F-word‘”. They are real musicians who write observant, comic lyrics for a more grownup audience.
The attached compilation clearly demonstrates, using excerpts from some of 100s of popular songs, how effective and easy it is to use the basic “four chord trick” I-vi-IV-V-I (or these same four chords in different patterns) to create a bass line or harmony for simple melodies.
Depending on local customs and use of language, you, like my son’s class music teacher at school, may feel comfortable to introduce this to your students. However, I ask my students aged 18+, if they would be offended by an occasional swear word in a song, so I don’t upset any sensibilities with this useful and funny teaching aid! Enjoy!!
How funny, a student of mine actually brought this to lesson only a week ago wondering if I had seen it! It’s such a great example.
Gemma – Community assistant