Looking for a challenge? Or maybe you are just searching for some inspiration or seeing where your piano journey might take you. In this article, we’re exploring the hardest piano pieces to play. As classical pianists have mastered their craft, a lot of them have ended up creating some songs that us mere mortals think look utterly impossible. So what are the absolute hardest songs to play? What makes them so difficult?
In this guide, we’re looking at some of the most mindblowing piano pieces. Be warned, if you’re brand new to playing, these might come across as a little bit scary, so it is best to focus on our easy beginner pieces in terms of what you are trying to play. Still, there’s no harm in aiming high.
What Makes a Piano Song Difficult?
To a beginner, most songs are difficult. So what makes a song one of the hardest piano pieces?
There are a few things that notoriously make compositions hard to learn and replicate:
- Speed. Songs that can be played at a slower tempo suddenly get a lot harder if you speed them up. Even if you have learned a very simple song you can experience this by trying to play it at double speed. It’s tough.
- Constant changes. Changes to tempo, time signature and key all need to be remembered. Not only are they technically hard to implement, but they are also incredibly difficult to store in your memory. Having to learn every key change and time signature change in a concerto that is hours long can be very daunting.
- Difficult time signatures. This is the counting a musician is doing in his or her head while playing. Counting rhythms like 4/4 and 3/4 are easy, even for beginners. Start counting 17/4 and things get challenging.
Hardest Piano Pieces
Some of the most difficult pieces include…
Gardner Read – Pennsylvaniana Suite. This doesn’t sound like it is overly hard to play, but in some parts of it, the time signatures go into halves! For instance, a section in 3.5/4. Many pianists don’t know that this is even possible, let alone know how to follow along.
Liszt – La Campanella. Some of the most difficult compositions are written by the infamous Liszt. La Campanella is incredibly fast, and uses some unbelievably difficult techniques, as well as the full range of the keyboard and multiple tempos and time signatures. It verges on incomprehensible at times!
Sorabji – Opus Clavicembalisticum. Good luck if you plan to learn this. Not only does it have strange and discordant sections, it lasts for over four hours. This 10-minute section displays just what a challenge it is for musicians. It’s avant-garde, and that’s being kind, but the whole composition is unsettling and virtually impossible to get to grips with.
A Bigger List
There is a full list of hardest pieces for piano compiled by a Reddit user here. 100 pieces are on the list including some huge, famous names in the world of classical music.
Stravinsky- Trois mouvements de Petrouchka
Brahms- Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Beethoven- Hammerklavier Sonata
Rachmaninov- Piano Concerto No.3
Almost all of the household names in the world of classical music have, at some point, created a song that feels totally out of reach for new, beginner pianists to play. However, marveling at the abilities of these incredible musicians can be an amazing inspiration.