The Christmas period is well-known for its huge catalog of varied music. Whatever our tastes, there is something for everyone, and the great news for pianists is that so much of this music works very well in solo piano arrangements. From classical to modern pop, here are 10 Christmas songs anyone can play on the piano.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
The first in our list comes from the English tradition of singing carols on the doorsteps of neighbors, usually for money or small gifts! The melody is an old English folk tune that has been arranged countless times for various instruments and vocal ensembles over the years. At the piano, the carol’s rhythm is found in the melody itself. Therefore, it can be accompanied by simple chords in the left hand. The tune in the right-hand moves mostly by step and includes only a few jumps between notes.
In contrast, the German carol (originally “Stille Nacht”) is a peaceful hymn that is easy to play based on its slow speed alone. In its most simple form, it can be played using just three chords in the left hand, and the melody has repeated segments which make it easy to practice. Composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Grüber, it has been recorded by many popular singers, with Bing Crosby’s performance now regarded as a Christmas classic.
Of the numerous Christmas songs which have no reference to Christianity, yet have become firmly associated with the holiday season, “Jingle Bells’ is perhaps the most widely recognized across the world. Despite being, like others in our list, a song about the wonder of winter, it is equally loved in the warmer climates of the Southern Hemisphere. First appearing in 1857, this light-hearted American hit was composed by James Lord Pierpont, a popular musician in Massachusetts. Its many repeated notes make it an easy song for beginner pianists to learn.
Frosty the Snowman
First released in 1950 by the song-writing duo Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson, this is a hugely popular song for children at Christmas time. It tells the story of a snowman who came to life, but only in the presence of the children! Whilst it is normally played at a fairly brisk speed, the Christmas song has a simple structure of chords. The ‘bridge’ section becomes a little more complicated, but the famous chorus is easily achievable.
This popular Christmas song, originally from 1934 and written by Felix Bernard and Richard Bernhard Smith, might sound quite complicated in various arrangements for bands and orchestras. However, the song has a basic harmonic structure. The chords don’t change very quickly, and the melody is all found within one small range on the keyboard. The dreamy, snowy landscape which the song depicts is accessible to all pianists!
Baby It's Cold Outside
This is another song that might sound difficult to play, particularly as it is a duet and we must therefore play the melodies of two singers at the piano. However, the two voices rarely sing over each other: one long melody is enough for us on the keyboard. The main fragment of the tune is played in just one hand position and is repeated many times with only small changes. The song has a steady tempo throughout, and pianists can accompany the melody with whatever level of light jazz chords they are able to. Composed in 1944 by one of the 20th Century’s leading songwriters, Frank Loesser, this is an amorous duet that will bring some light-hearted charm to your piano playing at Christmas.
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Written by Johnny Marks and first recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, this musical tale of a red-nosed chauffeur for Santa has become an American classic. There is an introduction to the song which can be omitted. The melodic fragments generally repeat with only some simple changes of hand position required. A simple, light pop style accompanies this chorus-bridge-chorus Christmas favorite, which should be easy to learn.
Most songs you can play at Christmas, especially dating from the twentieth century, have been performed and recorded by famous singers. These are also songs which children and adults enjoy singing themselves. “White Christmas” is a little different, as Bing Crosby’s recording of the Irving Berlin classic is as iconic as the song itself. It is the world’s best-selling single, and whilst this is indeed a Christmas song that is listened to (far more than sung) by the general public, it works very well as a piano solo. The harmony is a little more complex than in some of the others mentioned here. However, its gentle tempo and mostly scalic melody make this a playable song with a little practice.
All I Want for Christmas is You
Moving into a more modern pop genre, this huge 1994 hit from American singer Mariah Carey has cemented itself as the most popular upbeat Christmas song of the last few decades. Selling millions of copies around the world, the single is also undoubtedly the best known Christmas song to be written and sung by a female artist. The simple pop chord structure will pose few problems when learning to play this at the piano. We then just need to work out how we will achieve the upbeat accompaniment to the song. Most of us have probably heard the single so often in recent years that its familiarity will help when learning this one.
Certainly, a song that works well for the piano, this 1984 Christmas hit from Wham!’s lead singer George Michael is a melancholy love song and a reminder of some of the less happy realities of the Christmas period. The accompaniment can be played as a series of simple, repeated chords. The melody is also straightforward, and the song is a popular piano choice for both young and old players.
About the Author
Paul Howard is the owner and creator of the website note store. The site offers a huge selection of sheet music in a number of electronic formats, and also includes different versions of the same song, in order to suit different standards of playing.