5 Practical Steps to Play Pop Songs on the Piano
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Choose the right pop song for your skill level
  2. Learn the song structure
  3. Practice the chords and melody separately
  4. Combine chords and melody
  5. Play along with the original song

So, you've been bitten by the music bug and are raring to learn how to play piano for pop? That's fantastic! Your love for pop music and enthusiasm for the piano can take you on an inspiring journey. But, before you jump right in, it's important to take the right steps to make your learning process smooth and enjoyable

Choose the right pop song for your skill level

While it might be tempting to dive into playing your favorite pop melody right away, picking a song that aligns with your current piano skill level is key. Choosing the right song can make your learning experience more fun and less frustrating. It also helps you progress steadily on your journey of learning how to play piano for pop. Here's how you can do that:

Know Your Skill Level

Firstly, it's important to be honest with yourself about your current piano skills. If you're a beginner, you might not want to start with a song that has complex chords or rapid note changes. Instead, opt for a song with a simple melody that you can easily follow. Don't worry, even some of the greatest pop songs out there have simple melodies — so you're not missing out on the fun!

Research Song Difficulty

Now that you're clear about your skill level, the next step is to find out how difficult a pop song is to play on the piano. You can do this by looking at the sheet music or using piano learning apps that classify songs by difficulty level. Remember, your goal at this stage is to learn, not to be perfect. So, choose a song that challenges you, but doesn't overwhelm you.

Consider Song Tempo

Another factor to consider is the song's tempo. Slow-paced songs are generally easier to learn and play, particularly for beginners. Once you've mastered slower songs, you can gradually move on to pop songs with faster tempos. This way, you're giving yourself the chance to grow at a pace that suits you best.

Choose a Song You Enjoy

Lastly, but most importantly, choose a song that you love. The more you enjoy the song, the more motivated you'll be to learn it. Plus, you'll have a blast when you finally get to play your favorite pop song flawlessly!

Remember, the journey of learning how to play piano for pop is as exciting as the destination. So, take the time to pick a song that matches your skill level and makes your heart sing. Happy playing!

Learn the song structure

Now that you've picked the perfect pop song to get started, let's move onto the next important step: understanding the song structure. The song structure, or the particular order of sections in a song, forms the backbone of any pop song. Learning it can give you a solid framework to base your piano playing on. Let's break it down:

Identify the Song Sections

Pop songs typically consist of various sections such as verses, choruses, a bridge, and sometimes, a pre-chorus or a post-chorus. Each section has its unique melody and rhythm. Therefore, it's important to listen to the song carefully and identify these sections. Doing so will give you a roadmap of the song, making it easier to learn how to play piano for pop songs.

Understand the Chord Progression

Chord progression, or the series of chords played in order, is another crucial aspect of a pop song's structure. Once you've identified the song sections, pay attention to the chords played in each section. You'll often find that many pop songs use the same chord progression throughout, which can simplify the learning process for you.

Look for Repetitions

Pop music is known for its catchy, repetitive sections. These repetitions can be your best friends when learning how to play piano for pop. The chorus, for instance, is often repeated several times in a song. Once you've mastered playing the chorus, you've essentially learned a significant part of the song!

Break it Down

Learning to play a whole song can feel overwhelming. That's why breaking it down into smaller sections can be very helpful. Try learning one section at a time, starting with the simplest one. This step-by-step approach can make the process more manageable and rewarding.

By understanding the song structure, you'll have a clearer picture of how the song flows and how the different parts connect. This knowledge can provide a solid foundation to build your piano playing skills on and bring you one step closer to playing your favorite pop songs on the piano.

Practice the chords and melody separately

Once you've got a good grasp of the song structure, it's time to dive into the actual playing. But hold on, don't rush into playing the whole song just yet. A smart strategy to learn how to play piano for pop is to practice the chords and melody separately first.

Get Familiar with the Chords

Begin with the chords. These are the building blocks of any song and provide the harmonic structure. Identify the chords used in your chosen pop song and practice playing them. Here are a few pointers to help:

  • Focus: Concentrate on one chord at a time. Master it before moving to the next one. This way, you'll build confidence and ensure you're playing the chords correctly.
  • Repeat: Repetition is key in mastering anything, and chords are no exception. Repeat the chords until they feel natural under your fingers.
  • Slowly but surely: There's no need to rush. It's more important to play the chords accurately than quickly. Speed will come with time and practice.

Learn the Melody

Next, turn your attention to the melody. This is the tune you hum or sing along to, and it's typically played with the right hand on the piano. Here's how to approach it:

  • Listen: Listen to the song multiple times to get the melody ingrained in your head. You can even try humming or singing it to ensure you've got it right.
  • Break it down: Just like with the chords, break down the melody into smaller parts and learn each part separately before putting them together.
  • Take your time: Remember, there's no rush. It's better to play the melody slowly and accurately than fast and sloppy. Patience is key!

By practicing the chords and melody separately, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the song, and it'll be easier to put the two together later. This is an efficient way of learning how to play piano for pop songs.

Combine chords and melody

Now that you've mastered the chords and the melody separately, it's time for the magic to happen. Let's combine them to create the full sound of your chosen pop song on the piano.

Start Slow

Combining the chords with the melody might feel like juggling at first. It's okay, you're not alone. Start slow, giving your brain and fingers time to adjust to this new challenge. Here's how you can ease into it:

  • Break it down: Start by combining the chords and melody for a small section of the song. Once you're comfortable, move on to the next section.
  • Repeat: Repetition is your best friend. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel.

Build Up Speed Gradually

As you get more comfortable with combining the chords and melody, you can start to increase your speed. But remember, speed is not the ultimate goal—playing accurately is. Try this:

  • Use a metronome: A metronome is a device that helps you keep time. Start at a slow pace, and as you get more comfortable, gradually increase the speed.
  • Stay relaxed: It's easy to tense up when trying to play faster, but this can lead to mistakes. Keep your body and fingers relaxed to play smoothly.

Once you can play the chords and melody together, you're well on your way to mastering how to play piano for pop songs. It's both a challenge and a thrill, so enjoy the journey!

Play along with the original song

You've come a long way, and it's time to put your skills to the ultimate test. Playing along with the original song not only allows you to practice the rhythm and timing, but it also helps you to feel the vibe and understand the nuances of the song—just like the original artist.

Start with the Recording

Listening to the song as you play will give you a clear idea of the rhythm, timing, and the overall feel of the song. Here are a couple of strategies to help you get started:

  • Listen First: Before you start playing, listen to the song a couple of times. Pay attention to the rhythm, the speed, and the way the melody flows with the chords.
  • Play along: Now, try to play along with the song. Don't worry if you miss a note or two in the beginning; it's a part of the process.

Adjust and Adapt

Every pop artist has a unique style, and it might not always align perfectly with your playing. So, feel free to adjust and adapt. Here's what you can do:

  • Slow it down: If the song is too fast, use music software to slow down the playback speed.
  • Make it your own: Feel free to add your personal touch to the song. After all, music is a form of self-expression.

Remember, the goal is not to play the song perfectly, but to enjoy the process. So, put on your headphones, hit the play button, and start playing along with your favorite pop song on the piano. You're not just learning how to play piano for pop songs, you're also becoming a part of the music itself!

If you enjoyed learning the practical steps to play pop songs on the piano and want to further improve your music production skills, check out the workshop 'Ableton Live Quick Tips To Make Your Music Better' by Tom Glendinning. This workshop will provide you with useful tips and tricks to enhance your music production using Ableton Live, allowing you to create even more impressive piano covers of your favorite pop songs.