Most of us have heard about the benefits of listening to classical music. There have been studies done that show that listening to the classics boosts mood, intelligence, and memory. Classical music supposedly relieves stress as well (for those listening to it, playing it may be another matter.)

But what about learning to play classical music? Does that still have value for our students?

When I was a kid taking piano lessons, classical music was pretty much it. My first teacher let me play some popular songs but when I decided to major in music and switched teachers, popular music was pretty much out. At University, no one played popular music. We all focused on learning, classical piano repertoire.


Things have definitely changed. There is more and more interest in pop, blues, and jazz music. I believe this is a very good thing. However, I am encountering more and more students who only want to learn popular music and have no interest in the classics. There are now apps. YouTube channels, and courses devoted to teaching only popular music. Some teachers teach only popular music.

As a disclaimer, I must say that I think popular music is great. I play it and teach it. Folk music is a form of popular music that has existed since the beginning of humanity.

I do not consider Jazz popular music as it is another whole game. Jazz is a sophisticated genre that encompasses many sub-genres.

There is some crossover between pop and jazz music.


I am going to make the case for teaching and learning classical piano. Here are 10 reasons I teach my students to play classical music.

1 –It’s classic!

Merriam-Webster defines classic as, serving as a standard of excellence: of recognized value. traditional, enduring.


2 – Studying classical music builds an understanding of rhythm. Popular music is often syncopated. Arrangements of popular songs found in books often ‘straighten out’ the rhythm to make it easier to read and understand. This causes confusion for students trying to learn to count properly.


4 – Classical music teaches strong note-reading skills. From Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook to Beethoven’s Sonatas. Note reading can be presented sequentially, helping aspiring pianists learn to read and sight-read complex music securely and competently.


4 – Classical music establishes good fingering habits and is essential for teaching proper, safe piano technique.


5 –Standard piano repertoire builds what jazz players call ‘chops’ The ability to play with speed, strength, and accuracy.


6 – Classical music fosters an understanding of the foundations of harmony and the progression of music throughout music history.


7 – When studying the classics students learn about musical markings such as expressive text, dynamics, tempo marks, articulation, and ornamentation.


8 – Playing classical music is about precision. The notes and rhythm in a piece of classical music are meant to be played as written. The directions of the composer are to be followed. I believe there is great value in this for many reasons.


9 – Classical music is rich in history and stylistic variation. Learning to play music by various composers teaches pianists how versatile our instrument is. The tones, colors, and emotions that can be rendered from the piano are endless.


10 – Classical is beautiful, exciting, and inspiring. Many students who have not heard a lot of classical music don’t understand this. But I have found that as they experience classical music most grow to love it.


There you have it. In my opinion, there is no substitute for classical music. There is a lot of great new music around and a lot of fun and inspiring popular music as well. If you have followed me for any length of time you know that I am a composer and I love all styles of music.

Teaching Students to Play by Ear

In fact, I believe that popular music has a place in piano education. I have found many benefits to learning popular music. But, as a compliment to classical studies not necessarily as a substitute.


“Classical piano totally helped me to be a better songwriter and a better musician. The dedication that it took to study classical music is a big reason why I have anything in this life, I think. It opened a lot of doors because it separated me from the rest. And it did help me structure my songs.” Alicia Keys



Paloma Piano has a lot of classical music for your students. Freshly engraved and enlarged for easier reading.

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