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.