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10 Christmas Songs Anyone Can Play on Piano

December 21.2016
Christmas is a lot of things to a lot of people. A time to give. A time to receive, and...

Christmas is a lot of things to a lot of people. A time to give. A time to receive, and a time to cultivate closeness. It’s also a time to reflect on the fortune of family, and the misfortune of those who are struggling, less blessed.

Whatever the holidays mean for you, Christmas songs are a noble tradition. Everyone knows them, but each of us has a special history with them. They are deeply tied to our oldest and most powerful memories.

A large group of American WWII soldiers gathered around an old piano

And there’s no better way to spread cheer than clustering around a piano and lifting our voices together in the warmth of our friends and family. It’s how we best express all the emotion that presents, and tinsel, and traditions are meant to get across.

So don’t skimp on the nog when you bust out these classic Christmas tunes on the old tinkle-box! Because, no matter how you feel about them, these songs hold powerful feelings. And with a little practice, anyone can learn them, and bring on the true joy of the season!

Here Are 10 Interactive Tutorials of Popular Christmas Songs on Piano

Let’s dive into some interactive tutorials. You can learn these songs in no time at all, ready to play with friends and family. Also, we’ve introduced a selection of both great beginner Christmas songs on piano and slightly more advanced and impressive options.

Currier and Ives lithograph of Central Park Christmas

1. Let It Snow

First, a classic American portrait of Christmas at its wintry best, “Let It Snow” was actually composed during a Hollywood heatwave in 1945. Written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, both children of Jewish-American immigrants, “Let It Snow” became an instant success upon its first recording.

Since then, the Christmas standby has been recorded by everyone from Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and Doris Day, to Kylie Minogue, Jessica Simpson, and Sarah McLachlan.

Silent Night - Caravaggio Mother and Child

2. Silent Night

Second on the list is a historic classic. Nobody can deny the refined beauty of this hymn-like Christmas masterpiece. Composed by the young priest, Joseph Mohr, and church organist Franz Xavier Gruber in 1818, it is a paragon of pious adoration. While many Christmas classics focus on the fanfare of the season, “Silent Night” is a moving meditation on the intimate early moments between mother and child.

Composed in the humble Austrian town of Oberndorf, “Silent Night” has been celebrated by artists as diverse as Josh Groban, Mariah Carey, Elvis Presley, Klaus Nomi, and virtually every Christian choir the world over.

Silent Night can be played quite slowly, and it isn’t too complex, so it is a very good option for those who are relatively new to piano.

A winter Wonderland of hundreds of snowmen

3. Winter Wonderland

Jaunty as all get out, Richard Smith had the idea for this holiday standard after seeing Central Park blissfully carpeted in snow. He wrote the lyrics in a sanitarium, suffering from tuberculosis, and then Jewish-American musician Felix Bernard was enlisted to compose the music.

Since its original recording in 1934, the song has been recorded by innumerable artists, including Artie Shaw, Johnny Mercer, Johnny Mathis, and even Radiohead.

Image of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie Jingle All the Way

4. Jingle Bells

You may know it as the most classic of Christmas songs. You may also know it as the song people love to point out isn’t really a Christmas song. That may be true, but tradition has made “Jingle Bells” synonymous with Christmas.

The story goes like this: James Lord Pierpont wrote this song about the sleepy Massachusettes hamlet of Medford in 1857. Any good Medfordian will tell you the song was composed in a little tavern there.

But, it’s clear the song was written during a snowless winter in Savannah, GA. For starters, Pierpont was newly married to the mayor of Savannah’s daughter. Also he was living there. Also, the song was first performed in Savannah. And it was published there too.

Regardless of the controversy, one thing is certain: “Jingle Bells” was not a hit. Not until many, many years later when Bing Crosby joined forces with the heavenly Andrews Sisters in 1945, elevating “Jingle Bells” to a central place in the American holiday songbook.

*BONUS: Pierpont’s father was an outspoken abolitionist, and it seems the heralded composer rebelled by becoming a noted bigot, adopting an anti-black stance through writing minstrel songs. Really, really gross.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett singing Baby It's Cold Outside

5. Baby, It’s Cold Outside

A sensual meeting. A crackling dialogue. A sizzling fire. While it may at first hit modern ears as uncomfortably insistent, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is one of the most deeply romantic, socially progressive Christmas songs around.

Written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, the child of Jewish immigrants, the song is a scintillating back-and-forth between a couple caught in a wintry tryst. We love a yuletide duet. This is the best of all of them!

It’s been lovingly covered by such esteemed pairings as Dinah Shore and Buddy Clarke, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, and Lady Gaga with both Tony Bennett and Joseph Gordon Levitt.

*BONUS: In response to the outmoded sexual politics of the original, this year Minneapolis based singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski have cleverly updated the lyrics for a more progressive era.

Image from Frosty the Snowman The Movie, leading Children through the streets of town

6. Frosty The Snowman

A truly eccentric addition to the holiday rotation, “Frosty The Snowman” was originally recorded by Gene Autry after his mammoth holiday hit from the previous year “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

The weirdly sad ballad was written by two country music veterans, Walter E. Rollins and Steve Nelson in 1950.

Like many entries on this list, it is a staple of the Christmas canon, despite never referring to any holiday. However, the animated television special based on the song solidified its place as a Christmas classic.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and his friend

7. Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Another beloved, bizarro masterpiece from the era of high advertising, “Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer” reins supreme in the Christmas pantheon. He was created by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward in 1939. The son of an affluent Jewish family, it was Robert’s Jewish brother-in-law Johnny Marks who immortalized the corporate caricature in song.

With a lengthy, eclectic list of celebrity enthusiasts (most unusually, Jackson 5, Merle Haggard, Destiny’s Child, and Rupaul), nobody explored the song’s endless lyrical possibilities like The Simpsons.

Image of Bing Crosby

8. White Christmas

Nothing represents the commingling of nostalgia, cautious hope, impassioned longing and aesthetic sensitivity as “White Christmas.” The song was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish refugee from Tsarist Russia, in 1942 while he was living in Hollywood.

Bing Crosby was attached to the song from the beginning, although it was initially a flop. It wasn’t until the next year that the song caught fire, and it kind of never stopped. This is the best-selling single of all time. Ever. So, what more can you say? “White Christmas” is solid gold, and it made Bing Crosby the undisputed king of Christmas.

One of the great things about this song? It isn’t too hard for beginners to play, partially because it is quite a slow song. There are a few easy Christmas songs for beginners to play, and this is a suitable option.

Joy to the world

9. Joy to the World

By far the most uptempo Christmas tune on our list, this Joyful relic is officially the most-published Christmas hymn in North America. Originally composed by English writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98, the song was first published in 1719 in Watts’ collection The Psalms of David.

Everybody knows Joy to the World, and it is a great Christmas song on piano to play with friends and family.

Still from "Meet Me In St. Louis" featuring Judy Garland, singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Let’s round out the list with one of the most tender Christmas songs of all time. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane composed a timeless work of art that perfectly encapsulates every conflicting yuletide emotion. With a plaintive, lilting melody that blends with gently ironic lyrics, the canny chord progression protects the whole affair from melodrama. “Have Yourself” walks a delicate tightrope between nostalgia and knowingness that encapsulates our own complicated histories with the holiday.

It’s no wonder then, that it was flawlessly introduced to the world by Judy Garland, the perfect image of youthful world-weariness. Her delivery in the film “Meet Me In St. Louis” is paradoxically tear-jerking, and restrained.

A perfect blend of all the season promises and demands. Simply gorgeous.


What are the easiest Christmas songs to play?

Easy songs include a lot of the classic hymns and carols of the season. Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Silent Night, Deck the Halls, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas are all simple to learn as melodies. Also, our interactive tutorials above are great to learn songs in your browser.

What key are Christmas songs in?

There isn’t on specific key that all Christmas songs are in, but a lot carols are in the keys of D and G. They often have repeated high notes. There are more characteristics of Christmas chart hits. For instance, many of them use 7th chords to achieve a festive feel.

What makes a song Christmassy?

As well as the 7th chords mentioned above, there are other characteristics of Christmassy songs. For example, you’ll notice a lot of chart hits have bells in them. Also, diminished chords and a smattering of the odd minor chord make for a Christmas vibe. It is hard to pinpoint why, but it works.

Where to find Christmas sheet music?

If you can sight read, or read music, you can have endless fun gathered around the piano at Christmas. Musescore, the biggest collection of sheet music, has a great Christmas selection.

Conclusion – Playing Christmas Songs on Piano

No matter how you celebrate the season, these songs are a history of America’s valiant struggle to establish its own traditions through judicious borrowing, and visionary invention. Undeniably, that history is undeniably defined by the creative contributions of the immigrant experience.

This is just a small sample of the splendor of holiday and ritual music. Of course, if you don’t see your favorite in this humble list, please let us know what holiday songs move you on facebook or twitter!

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