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Is Pop or Classical Music Better for Learning the Piano?



When we think of the piano, we may tend to recall great classical pianists like Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, and Claude Debussy. Associating great piano playing with these classical composers could lead one to pick learning classical music as a beginning pianist. But there are also many learners out there who cannot wait to play their favourite pop songs on the piano. Is pop music or classical better for learning the piano?


The advantage of learning to play pop music on piano


The advantage to starting to learn to play the piano with pop music is that most of your family and friends would be more familiar with pop. It wouldn’t be difficult for someone to hum the chorus of a number one Billboard 100 chart hit compared to recalling a piece of tune from Debussy. Therefore, learning to play pop music on the piano can be a great motivation.


You can perform the piano in your school’s pop concerts or play and sing along with friends and family. Moreover, the chords of pop songs are much simpler than classical piano pieces that you will be encouraged to keep playing. Most pop music relies on basic chord progressions and strong melody lines, which makes pop songs easier to memorise and play by ear compared to classical music.


Why learn the piano with classical music?


While pop music is fun and much easier to play at the start, the world of classical piano can be inspiring for piano learners. A beginner piano player who is able to play a piece of Beethoven’s Fur Elise will feel proud and great motivation to keep learning the piano.

Since classical music tends to be more complex and technically challenging to play – with its complex structures, chords, dynamics, and tempos – chances are, it will improve your piano skills tremendously if you keep practicing. Some music students think classical music is more spiritual and contains more emotional depth than pop music. Playing classical music will enrich your emotional sensitivity and enhance your knowledge of the piano and your appreciation of music in general.


Comparison between pop music and classical:

  • Melody: Pop music use a lot of repeated notes, short repeated melodic phrases, and very simple melodic lines. Classical music has a more complex structure, longer repeated phrases and can be more challenging, but more rewarding to learn and perform.

  • Chord progression: Chords are more predictable and repetitive in pop music than in classical music. Around 80 percent of pop music uses only four basic chords. A typical Bach piece uses dozens of different chords in amazing combinations.

  • Instrumentation: Pop music is often performed in a small group – the keyboardist, drummer, bass and lead guitar players. Classical music on the other hand, can be played solo or a full orchestra of fifty to a hundred musicians.

  • Rhythm: Pop music tends to be more sophisticated in rhythm compared to classical music. Most classical music are not as rhythmically interesting. For instance, Bach’s pieces consist of only straight sixteenth notes.

With so much to learn, where should you start? Beginning piano players can learn “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven, “Minuet in G” by Johann Sebastian, or Bach’s “Anna Magdalena Notebook”. You can explore classical music on your Spotify playlist and find out which composers and periods inspire you the most.


Learning to play pop music on the piano is straightforward. You can just search on YouTube for a variety of simple piano lessons to play along to your favourite pop song. Or else, you can attend a piano trial lesson. At Ritmo Music Studio, we offer keyboard lessons for kids and adults.

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