Music is a personal choice, but a recommendation can be a good way of discovering a new artist or style of music.
This is only opinion and only serves as a guide, but I hope you find useful. I’m happy to add any recommendations you may have.
A greatest hits is a good place to start, but sometimes I’ll mention a good album as a guide. There wouldn’t be enough room to include every hit these masters have released, so I’ll try to highlight those songs with a piano or keyboard emphasis.
Pop, Rock and Modern
Elton John – a benchmark in piano playing and writing music. Your Song, Don’t let the Sun go down on me and Candle in the Wind are prime examples of expert piano accompaniment. A master of adding music to the lyrics of Bernie Taupin or Tim Rice amongst others. His use of four and five finger chords in various inversions are worth studying.
Billy Joel – Another huge talent with an immense catalogue. Piano Man, She’s always a Woman to me, New York State of mind and Just the way you are.
Paul McCartney – Three classics from The Beatles era – Let it Be, Hey Jude and Lady Madonna. “Here there and everywhere”, mostly guitar, is a good song to learn on piano as is any Beatles tune.
John Lennon – Imagine, Jealous Guy and Beautiful Boy.
Rick Wakeman – Although, I’m not huge fan of “Yes”, there is no doubt this man is a genius. Just look here for his credits. He played on Bowie classics like Life on Mars, Space Oddity, T Rex’s Electric Warrior and Elton John’s Madman across the Water. A quick look on You-tube highlights his expertise. His books are worth a read.
Freddie Mercury. The first Queen Greatest Hits has good examples with Don’t Stop me Now, Bohemian Rhapsody, Seven Seas of Rye, We are the Champions, You’re my best friend, Killer Queen…. The list goes on….
Carole King. At the time of writing I saw her play the entire Tapestry album live at Hyde Park, London. This classic album is no better place to start with – I feel the earth move, You’ve got a Friend, So Far away, It’s too late and Will you still Love me tomorrow.
Stevie Wonder – Has overlapped a few styles. His album Song in the Key of Life is a classic. His acoustic piano on the song “Lately” is a rare step away from his electric keyboard expertise. Elsewhere Superstition, You are the Sunshine or my Life, For Once in my Life and his funky keyboard on Higher Ground is genius.
Neil Sedaka – A legend who’s been active since the 50’s with over 500 writing credits. Laughter in the rain and A Fool in Love are two piano songs that stand out. The Album – The Music of my Life is worth a listen.
Randy Newman – a prolific songwriter and pianist. Famous in recent years for his Disney films (Toy Story, Cars, Monster Inc etc), but has written many other film scores. His three greatest hits albums- Songbook volumes 1 to 3 are a good place to capture some of his huge catalogue.
Bruce Hornsby – The Anthem “The way it is” has a great riff, solo and is an excellent song in its own right. Mandolin Rain and The Valley Road are other highlights. He also wrote Don Henley’s “The end of the Innocence”. Has a distinctive sound. He also played piano on Bonnie Rait’s “I can’t make you love me” – also covered by George Michael.
Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind, If I aint got you, Falling.
Tori Amos – a cool version of Nirvanna’s “Smells like Teen spirit”. A sorta Fairytale, Winter.
John Legend – All of me, Dreams, listen to his live version of “Bridge over troubled water”.
Emile Sande – Read all about it part III, Clown, Hurts.
Chris Martin – A giant in the current music scene with Coldplay. Too many to choose from but don’t miss Clocks, Trouble, A Sky full of Stars, The Scientist, Viva la Vida.
Larry Knechtel – a session musician working with Phil Spector, Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello – member of the Wrecking Crew and Bread. He won a Grammy for his piano on “A Bridge over troubled Water”.
Steve Winwood – I first heard him in my teens in his “Higher Love”, “Valerie” era. But this multi-musician was part of Clapton’s Blind Faith era and previously was part of the Spencer Davis Group and later Traffic. Gimme some Lovin, Keep on Runnin (more of a guitar track – but I included it). I can’t get enough of it, I’m a man. His piano on Traffic’s “Feelin’ alright” is worth a listen. Dare I mention “Hole in my Shoe”?
Tony Banks – The keyboard maestro and one of the founding members of Genesis. No son of Mine, Land of Confusion, Turn it on again, Mama.
Keith Emerson –
Ray Manzarek – The Doors wizard of the keys. Re-light my Fire, Riders of the Storm, Break on Through, Hello I love you, People are strange.
Carly Simon – Nobody does it better.
Sara Bareilles – Love Song, Gravity, Brave.
Gary Barlow – the main songwriter behind Take-That and has written many successful pop songs in his solo career. Rule the World, Patience and Greatest Day.
Christine McVie – The Rumours album has a few Fleetwood Mac Classics. Songbird is a great song, re-released by Eva Cassidy. You make loving fun, Don’t Stop and Go your own way are timeless. The live album “The Dance” highlights her playing very well.
Mike Oldfield – a multi-instrumentalist. Tubular Bells.
Marc Cohn – Walking in Memphis, True Companion, Ghost Train.
Barry Manilow – Can’t Smile without you, Mandy,
Oleta Adams – Get Here, Rhythm of Life
Christina Perri – A thousand years, Jar of Hearts,
Blues, R & B, Rock and Roll.
Jools Holland – His piano doesn’t always appear high in the mix with his various collaborations, but have a listen to “The A-Z Guide to piano” which highlights his talent.
Ray Charles – Mess around. What I’d say.
Jerry Lee Lewis – A showman but also an expert in Rock and Roll. Great Balls of Fire, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, High School Confidential.
Dr John – I first heard him play Big Chief on the Martin Scorcese presents the Blues directed by Clint Eastwood (a pianist and blues fan himself). Down in New Orleans and Iko Iko are also worth a listen.
Nina Simone – A lovely version of “Here Comes the Sun”. I want a little Sugar in my Bowl – listen to the live version. My Baby just cares for me.
Little Richard – Good Golly Miss Molly.
Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill.
I’ve only a basic knowledge and appreciation of jazz, but the following are notable. There’s a huge list of jazz pianists out there – here’s a good source.
Oscar Peterson. Check out some of his work on youtube. Amazing.
Duke Ellington – Prelude to a kiss.
Jamie Cullum. A modern talent with a huge knowledge and appreciation of the genre. His Radio programme is worth a listen if you want to expand your knowledge.
Diana Krall –
Scott Joplin – The Entertainer, Maple Leaf Rag, Pineapple Rat, Solace.
Art Tatum – features in the Piano Blues Documentary which is worth watching if you are a blues or Jazz fan. Tea for two,
Fats Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin, Handfull of keys.
As with Jazz, I have a very basic appreciation of this genre.
Frédéric Chopin – If you are new to classical music and would like to hear examples of a master pianist, this is a good place to start. Nocturne in Eb major. A good CD would be Chopin: Favourite Piano Works (2 CDs) by Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Ludwig van Beethoven – Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sergei Rachmaninov – I first became aware of his works after seeing the film “Shine” with Geoffrey Rush. A good cd is another by Vladimir Ashkenazy – Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1-4 (London Symphony Orchestra) conducted by André Previn.
Claude Debussy – Claire De Lune, Reverie, Abaresque in E.
Bach – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Pelude in Cm “The Well Tempered Clavier”.
Satie – Gymnopedie # 1. A good cd is Satie: Piano Works performed by Klara Körmendi.
Modern classical pianists
Vladimir Ashkenazy – two CDs already mentioned above. A good CD covering several composers is “The art of Ashkenazy”
Leif Ove Andsnes
Film & TV
John Williams – a giant of a film composer and pianist. Scores include Star Wars, Superman, Jaws. ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Harry Potter.
Dave Grusin – I first heard his music on “The Firm”, but he has written and won Oscars for other scores. Tootsie, On Golden Pond, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Graduate and The Goonies!
Jim Cox – A session player – has played with many musicians from Elton John, Barry Manilow, Mark Knopfler, Leonard Cohen, Barbara Steisand…. The list goes on and on. I’ve listed him under movies as I first heard him play a mean version of Boogie Woogie Stomp from the Jim Carey film – The Majestic. Has been involved with many other films.
Michael Nyman – The Piano.
Jan Hammer – Miami Vice theme, Crockett’s Theme.