SkooveLearn PianoDownload on the App Store
Install Now

What is the hardest piano song? Top 10 hardest piano pieces

hardest piano songs

Many beginning pianists wonder what is the hardest song to play on the piano. The truth is, if you ask 10 pianists, you might get 10 different answers!

From rock to pop to classical to soul and RnB, we have compiled this list of 10 of the hardest songs to play on piano. Whether you favor the rhapsodic passages of composers like Ravel, the enigmatic intricacies of Scriabin, or the powerful chord work of Alicia Keys, each of these 10 songs offers a worthy challenge to pianists everywhere. Read on the check out 10 of the hardest piano songs to play!

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” 

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” a magnum opus by Queen, stands as a musical enigma and a challenging piece for pianists. Its structural complexity, characterized by distinct sections ranging from ballads to hard rock, demands a seamless transition between diverse musical styles. Intricate vocal harmonies, notably in the operatic sections, add a layer of difficulty, while Freddie Mercury’s virtuosic piano parts, featuring rapid arpeggios and dynamic shifts, test the technical skill of pianists. 

The song’s emotional depth, from introspective moments to bombastic crescendos, requires a pianist’s nuanced expression. Successfully tackling “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the piano is a feat that demands not only technical prowess but also an understanding of the song’s diverse and emotive musical landscape.

Learn the song

Liszt – “La Campanella” (Paganini Etude No. 3) 

Liszt’s ‘La Campanella,’ the third of his six Paganini Etudes, stands as a pinnacle of virtuosity among classical piano songs and is among the hardest classical piano pieces. Renowned for its technical challenges, this piece demands extraordinary precision and agility from the pianist. 

The composition is inspired by Niccolò Paganini’s violin piece, and Liszt’s piano adaptation is marked by rapid octave passages, intricate fingerwork, and a relentless tempo. The complexity lies not only in the sheer speed required but also in the delicate balance needed to maintain clarity and musicality amid the whirlwind of notes. 

Successfully navigating the challenges of ‘La Campanella’ is a testament to a pianist’s mastery of piano technique and musicality, making it a celebrated but formidable entry into the repertoire.

Billy Joel – “Prelude/Angry Young Man” 

Billy Joel’s ‘Prelude/Angry Young Man’ is a dynamic showcase of rock-infused piano virtuosity. A challenging piece that blends classical elements with Joel’s signature rock style, it demands a pianist’s versatility and technical finesse.

The composition is marked by rapid, syncopated rhythms, intricate hand coordination, and dramatic shifts in dynamics. ‘Prelude/Angry Young Man’ requires not only agility but also a keen sense of expression to convey the emotional intensity embedded in Joel’s musical narrative. 

Successfully mastering this piece involves navigating through its diverse textures, from thunderous piano chords to delicate melodic passages, making it a compelling and challenging addition to the pianist’s repertoire.

Chopin –Nocturne in E Flat Major

Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major stands as a jewel in the crown of the composer’s lyrical and intimate piano works. Renowned for its exquisite beauty and emotional depth, this Nocturne is a delicate yet demanding piece that requires a pianist’s nuanced touch and sensitivity. 

With its gracefully arpeggiated chords, intricate ornamentation, and tender melodies, the Nocturne unfolds like a poetic reverie. Chopin’s characteristic use of rubato and expressive phrasing challenges the performer to convey a sense of spontaneity and heartfelt emotion. It is a great piece to learn as you develop and progress with learning how to play piano

Successfully interpreting the Nocturne in E Flat Major goes beyond technical proficiency; it requires an artist’s ability to evoke the sublime and capture the ephemeral beauty inherent in Chopin’s lyrical creations and is among the most difficult piano pieces.

Start free trial

Rachmaninoff – “Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor”

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor stands as a titan in the realm of piano concertos, renowned for its sheer technical demands and emotional depth. Comprising three movements, this concerto unfolds with a relentless virtuosity that requires the utmost skill from the pianist. It is one of the hardest songs to play on the piano. 

The intricate fingerwork, sweeping arpeggios, and rapid octave passages epitomize Rachmaninoff’s signature style. Beyond the technical challenges, the concerto demands a profound understanding of musical expression to convey the rich emotional tapestry embedded in its grandeur. 

Successfully navigating the nuanced interplay between the soloist and the orchestra, while maintaining the concerto’s delicate balance of power and lyricism, is a formidable task that places the performer on a grand stage of artistic mastery.

Alicia Keys – “Fallin’” 

Alicia Keys’ ‘Fallin” is a dynamic showcase of soulful expression and piano prowess. Released as her debut single, the song immediately set the tone for Keys’ unique blend of R&B and neo-soul. The piano plays a central role, driving the melody with a series of impassioned chords and intricate progressions. ‘Fallin” demands a pianist’s dexterity and emotional commitment to capture the intensity of Keys’ vocals translated onto the keyboard.

The syncopated rhythm and seamless transitions between delicate verses and powerful choruses add layers of complexity, requiring a nuanced touch. Successfully interpreting ‘Fallin” involves not just technical skill but an innate understanding of the song’s emotional depth and the ability to convey the soul-stirring narrative through the piano.

Start free trial

Ravel – “Gaspard de la Nuit” 

Maurice Ravel’s ‘Gaspard de la Nuit’ stands as a masterpiece of pianistic virtuosity and vivid storytelling. Comprising three movements – ‘Ondine,’ ‘Le Gibet,’ and ‘Scarbo’ – this piano suite is a formidable challenge for any pianist. ‘Gaspard de la Nuit’ is known for its technical demands, intricate rhythms, and the need for precision in execution. This makes it one of the  hardest piano songs to play.

The third movement, ‘Scarbo,’ is particularly notorious for its relentless demands on the performer, featuring fast piano scales, complex ornamentation, and dramatic contrasts in dynamics. Successfully capturing the mystical and evocative qualities of ‘Gaspard de la Nuit’ requires not only technical prowess but also a keen artistic sensibility to convey Ravel’s vivid and fantastical musical imagery.

Chopin – Etudes: Op. 10 No. 4 (“Torrent”) and Op. 25 No. 6 (“Thirds”) 

Chopin’s Etudes, Op. 10 No. 4 (‘Torrent’) and Op. 25 No. 6 (‘Thirds’), exemplify the composer’s genius in crafting technically demanding yet profoundly expressive piano works. ‘Torrent’ from Op. 10 presents a cascade of rapid notes, challenging the pianist’s agility, precision, and dynamic control. 

The perpetual motion of the piece demands a delicate balance between speed and clarity. Meanwhile, Op. 25 No. 6 (‘Thirds’) introduces a unique challenge, requiring the pianist to navigate intricate sequences of thirds with rapid hand movements. 

Chopin’s etudes transcend mere technical exercises, inviting performers to infuse each note with emotion and musicality. Mastering these works not only demands technical virtuosity but also a deep understanding of Chopin’s Romantic ethos, making them enduring pillars of the pianist’s repertoire.

Scriabin – “Sonata No. 5, Op. 53 “

Scriabin’s Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, stands as a testament to the composer’s innovative and mystically charged style. This piano sonata, composed in a single movement, presents both technical and expressive challenges for the performer. Scriabin’s harmonic language, characterized by lush and often dissonant chords, requires a pianist with a keen sensitivity to tonal colors. Many consider this piece to be the hardest piano song in the world.

The intricate polyphony, rapid passagework, and dynamic contrasts demand not only technical precision but also a deep understanding of the sonata’s expressive intent. As the music unfolds, it takes the performer and the audience on a journey through a landscape of evolving moods and textures, making Sonata No. 5 a captivating and challenging exploration of Scriabin’s visionary musical language.

John Legend – “All of Me” 

 

John Legend’s ‘All of Me’ is a modern-day classic that captivates audiences with its heartfelt lyrics and soulful melody. While not as technically intricate as some classical pieces, its simplicity is deceptive, demanding a pianist’s finesse and emotional depth. 

The piece revolves around a recurring piano motif that anchors the song, requiring delicate phrasing and dynamic control. The challenge lies in conveying the emotional resonance of the lyrics through the piano, translating the tenderness of Legend’s vocal performance into nuanced keystrokes. 

‘All of Me’ exemplifies the fusion of contemporary pop piano composition and emotive piano artistry, inviting pianists to infuse the music with their touch and convey the intimacy and vulnerability at the heart of the song.

Learn the song

Here are some tips for beginners to learn challenging piano pieces effectively

  • Know the score before: Understand the context of the piece by doing background research, listening critically to recordings, and analyzing the form and character of the music.
  • Choose your fingering: Determine a suitable fingering for both hands and stick to it during practice sessions, adjusting as needed.
  • Work on small sections at a time: Break down the piece into manageable sections to avoid overwhelming your working memory, focusing on each part before moving on.
  • Deconstruct and simplify: Break down the music into separate strands and simplify by playing only specific elements like bass notes or arpeggiated patterns.
  • Practice at the “speed of no mistakes”: Slow down difficult passages to ensure perfect execution of notes, rhythms, and fingerings before gradually increasing speed.
  • Use mindful repetition: Plan each repetition with a specific goal in mind, evaluate your performance, and carry forward improvements to subsequent repetitions.
  • Tackle weak links: Identify challenging sections that consistently cause issues and focus on improving them separately to strengthen your overall performance.
  • Start anywhere: Begin practicing different sections of the piece rather than always starting from the beginning, ensuring a well-rounded mastery of the entire composition.

How to stay motivated while learning challenging piano pieces

When tackling challenging piano pieces, staying motivated is key. Here are some strategies to help.

“Start playing piano even when you don’t feel like it; this action itself can spark your motivation. Enjoy each little achievement and the process of learning, as it’s the joy of playing that truly keeps you going.”

By Jeeyoon Kim, pianist 

  • Set up your piano in a prominent location: Place your instrument in a visible area to encourage spontaneous practice sessions throughout the day.
  • Establish a consistent warm-up routine: Develop a warm-up routine with a familiar piece or exercise to prepare your fingers and boost confidence.
  • Take breaks and listen to your body: Recognize when you need a break to stretch, hydrate, and relax to maintain physical and mental comfort during practice.
  • Address mistakes promptly: Embrace mistakes as part of the learning process, identify recurring errors, and correct them to avoid forming bad habits.
  • Dissect and analyze the music: Understand the purpose behind learning a piece, identify challenging sections, and mentally prepare for difficult parts to enhance comprehension.
  • Learn in segments: Focus on small segments of music rather than starting from the beginning, mastering one measure at a time.
  • Play music you enjoy: Incorporate pieces that resonate with your taste alongside classical repertoire to maintain a connection with music.
  • Set mini-goals: Challenge yourself with achievable goals like mastering specific passages within a week.
  • Stay flexible with repertoire: Switch to something new if you struggle or lose motivation with a particular piece.
  • Take breaks when needed: If overwhelmed or demotivated, it’s okay to step away from the piano for a short period to recharge.

Across the forums: piano pieces that resonate with challenge

Many piano players on the internet share what they consider to be the most musically challenging compositions for piano. Many of these pieces come from the late Romantic and early 20th-century repertoire, but there are some pieces from the early Classical and Baroque eras as well. These suggestions are great and are worth checking out – even just to expand your knowledge of musical repertoire and history!

Posts from the piano
community on Reddit

  • Chopin’s 4th Ballade
  • “Le Gibet” from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit
  • Brahms compositions
  • Some of Chopin’s Nocturnes
  • Chopin’s Etudes Op. 10 No. 3, 6, 9 and Op. 25 No. 1, 5, and 7
  • Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words”
  • Mozart compositions
  • Schubert Sonatas D.958, D.959, D.960
  • The third movement of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier
  • The second movement of Beethoven’s Op.111
  • Brahms Op.76
  • Brahms Op.116, 117, 118, 119
  • Schumann Davidsbundlertanze, Kreisleriana, Humoreske
  • Chopin Mazurkas
  • Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie

Timeless piano challenges

As you develop on the piano, it is important to continue to challenge yourself with difficult music. But, that doesn’t mean you need to spend time playing music you don’t enjoy! As we have seen in this list, there are plenty of difficult songs in many different styles to choose from. Whether you favor the complexity of Listz, the rhapsodic passages of Ravel, the rock harmonies of Queen and Billy Joel, or the soulful intricacies of Alicia Keys, this list of the 10 hardest piano pieces has something for every style. Plus, you can learn all of these pieces and more with online piano lessons

As we have seen, there is not one simple answer to what is the hardest piano song. Keep these pieces in mind as you progress along your piano path and enjoy the views when you reach the top!

Start free trial


Author of this blog post:
Susana Pérez Posada

Susana Pérez Posada

With over seven years in piano education and a deep passion for music therapy, Susana brings a unique blend of expertise to Skoove. A graduate in Music Therapy from SRH Hochschule Heidelberg and an experienced classical pianist from Universidad EAFIT, she infuses her teaching with a holistic approach that transcends traditional piano lessons. In her writings for Skoove, Susana combines her rich musical knowledge with engaging storytelling, enriching the learning experience for pianists of all levels. Away from the piano, she loves exploring new places and immersing herself in a good book, believing these diverse experiences enhance her creative teaching style.

Edited and fact-checked by Eddie Bond, multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor
Published by Lydia Hovan from the Skoove team

Share this article

Share this article

Unlock the magic of piano!

Start your 7-day free trial and let the music begin!

Don’t leave empty-handed

Get a 7 day trial of Skoove Premium piano lessons