Looking for a piano piece for your primary school child to play? From various composers’ loving pedagogical compositions to fun and spritely pieces, this list will offer a variety of styles, difficulties and techniques that your child should learn as they pursue their musical journeys.

  1. Christian Petzold – Menuet in G from Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPpfXF4RYXA)Formerly attributed to J.S. Bach, this piece was written by German organist and composer, Christian Petzold. Minuet in G is a piano classic that almost every pianist has learnt once in their musical journey. This piece can be found in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, a compilation that J.S. Bach made for his 2nd wife, Anna Magdalena. The notebook served as a family journal as well as a medium of instruction.Minuet in G is one of many accessible pieces in this collection. In our current day, these selections have become a set of fundamentals that impart the traditions and style of the Baroque era. The Minuet is a nice and dainty introduction to this dance style and its gentle melody is popular amongst many. In fact, its familiar tune was used in pop music!
  2. Muzio Clementi – Op. 36 no. 3 from Six Progressive Sonatinas

    Sonatinas are a great precursor to sonatas as they are often shorter and less demanding than the latter, making it a useful learning experience for younger students. Towards the end of the 18th century, Clementi was a strong advocate for the piano, which was new at that time. He started a piano school and wrote a set of pieces titled, “Six progressive Sonatinas”, which ascend in order of difficulty for students of varying skill levels. Till today, these pieces remain a staple in piano pedagogy.Zooming into the third sonatina of this set, each movement presents a learning journey. Thanks to the scale-like movements and spirtuoso style in the first movement, it will require light and delicate fingerwork from the player. Though short, the second movement offers so many opportunities to practice nuanced phrasing even with simplicity in the notes. Finally, the third movement returns back to the lively pacing, introducing a few more octaves and arpeggio movements that conclude the 3-part movement with a striking finish.
  3. Friedrich Burgmüller – No. 4 “Petit Reunion” from 25 Progressive Pieces (Op. 100)
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPKE9Jw_ncQ)German pianist and composer, Burgmuller, is well known for his three collections of children’s etudes for the piano, namely op. 100, 105 and 109.The “25 Easy and Progressive Studies” (Op. 100), which consists of short compositions with descriptive titles, has been widely used to expose younger students to different technical challenges of the romantic era with each piece.Zooming in to “La petite réunion” (no. 4), it is a piece that uses many thirds. This teaches students how to approach a string of white key thirds, including both finger turns as well as jumping with the hand. Another spritely piece, this has a delicate yet playful sound that brings joy to the listener and the player.
  4. Ludwig van Beethoven – Écossaise WoO 23
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk5yyf_LAik)Based on the popular social dance in the 18th and 19th century, Beethoven wrote this piece for a wind band but the score was lost after the performance. Thankfully, one of the performers remembered the melody and passed it on to Carl Czerny, who was an etude composer and a former student of Beethoven. He arranged the current piano piece based on the melody and it has been played by many beginner piano students.The piece carries a tune that dances lightly, offering players a chance to explore the smaller, intricate phrases. This piece also shines with proper application of dynamic contrasts. Finally, this piece also introduces the concept of syncopation as it is used in the main melody of the piece.
  5. Johannes Brahms – Waltz in E Major, Op. 39 No. 2
    (https://youtu.be/qkV13y0ILbU)Brahms was a German pianist and composer during the Romantic period. He wrote a set of 16 short waltzes which were originally composed for four hands, but he ended up condensing them to piano solos – one difficult and one simplified.The Waltz in E Major (No. 2) is a more intermediate selection for older kids. The rhythmic pattern rocks with syncopation as a gentle melody floats above. It will be a fun challenge for students to voice the top line with elegance and poise. Overall, it is a lyrical piece that allows students to experiment with the fluidity and freedom of musical expression for music of this era.
  6. Edvard Grieg – No. 2 “Grandmother’s Minuet” from Lyric Pieces Book IX, (Op.68) (https://youtu.be/GLDIJnEH7K0)The Lyric Pieces by Grieg are a set of pieces that possess descriptive titles that help the players understand his musical intentions. These pieces reflect the rhythms and harmonies of Norway’s traditional music as Grieg wanted to help develop the international consciousness of his nation.“Grandmother’s Minuet” (no. 2) would be a great piece for intermediate players to try. Students will have to learn how to create detached and short sounds in a very subdued manner. Thanks to the pianissimo markings used for most sections, students must play fast moving notes lightly, yet quietly, which will be a learning point for some.
  7. Frédéric Chopin – Prelude in e minor (Op 28 no. 4)
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHBF4k6Ewsw)This Chopin prelude in E minor is an anguishing piece to perform. German pianist and composer, Hans von Bülow, called the prelude “suffocation”, due to its sense of despair.As the piece’s melody continues to descend throughout its one-page duration, it prolongs the resolution and creates tension through its suspensions and chromatic movements. This prelude is a good chance for students to try to evoke intense emotions through their playing. It will also be a learning point to allow the single-voiced melody to shine above the repeated chords in the left hand.
  8. Robert Schumann – Melodie from “Album fur die Jungen”
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNS_n25JQkg)Schumann composed the Album for the Young (Album für die Jugend), Op. 68 for his three daughters. The album consists of 43 short works that can be played by children or beginners. As such, it is another collection of piano pieces that most pianists have tried in their learning journey.These pieces are Hausmusik, music made to be played at home, as opposed to the concert hall. Hence, students should view these pieces as music to be enjoyed while they familiarise themselves with the romantic era nuances in the pieces. The first piece, Melodie, will be a great one to apply beautiful legato phrasing to the lovely melody.
  9. Vladimir Rebikov – “The Bear” No. 4 from Christmas Gifts
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrxgqscGdMI)Rebikov was a late romantic 20th century Russian composer and pianist. He wrote many suites that were dedicated to children, such as 25 Songs for Children and Christmas Gifts.In Christmas Gifts, the fourth piece, commonly known as “The Bear”, is a fun piece for students to learn. As Rebikov’s musical style borders closer to contemporary music, he uses more advanced harmony and polytonality. Particularly in this piece, students may find that the harmony is “odd”. This is because the piece uses a whole-tone scale, which is often a new concept for beginner to intermediate musicians. Hence, this will be a great learning point as students gain familiarity with more complex and contemporary sounds in music.
  10. Dmitry Shostakovich – Clockwork Doll (No. 6) from Children’s Notebook (Op.69)  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlzKUbdwuN0)Shostakovich wrote the Children’s Notebook (Op. 69) which is a set of seven solo pieces for piano for his daughter, Galina Shostakovich.The sixth piece in the set, “Clockwork Doll”, is another piece that offers several learning points. The piece alternates between detached and suspended lines in both hands. Hence, a student would need to have hand independence to achieve the contrasting effect. As there are also several melody lines in the left hand, the student will also need to bring that out. Interestingly too, Shostakovich echoes the motif used in his first composition, Scherzo for Orchestra in F# minor.