Learn to Play These Piano Styles with Hoffman Academy

By Hannah Kendall
Learn to play various piano styles with Hoffman Academy.

Piano music encompasses a vast array of styles, each with its own unique characteristics and techniques. Each piano style has different harmonies, chord progressions, rhythms and structures. From classical to blues to pop music, at Hoffman Academy we encourage our students to learn many different piano styles! By playing in different piano styles from the beginning, pianists have the techniques and skills to play any style, without limitations. In this article, we’ll explore different piano styles and the styles taught at Hoffman Academy. 

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What are the different styles of piano playing?

There are many piano styles! And while most people think of the piano as a solo instrument, depending on the style, the piano is often heard alongside many other instruments. In jazz, pianists play alongside instruments like the bass, drums, and saxophone. In classical music, the piano can be featured alongside an entire orchestra. In pop music, the piano is often featured alongside drums, guitar, or electronic sounds. Here are a few of the most popular styles of piano:

  1. Classical: One of the most popular and widely-recognized styles of piano is classical. Classical music features intricate melodies, complex harmonies, and precise technique. This style emphasizes accurate interpretations of compositions from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary periods. Classical pianists focus on mastering technique, dynamics, and expression to fully capture the true intent of the composer. Famous composers from this style include Bach, Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff. Discover famous classical composers and pieces here!
  2. Blues: Blues piano is characterized by its use of repeated patterns, chords, syncopated rhythms, and improvisation. In most blues songs, pianists use the 12-bar-blues. Blues originated in southern Black communities in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The style features themes of struggle and hardship, and pianists like Pinetop Perkins, Otis Spann and James Booker are known for playing blues piano with great emotion. 
  3. Jazz: Similar to the blues, jazz piano is known for improvisation, syncopation, and swing rhythms. Famous pianists like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Bill Evans have greatly influenced the development of jazz piano. Other well-known jazz styles include ragtime, swing, bebop and Latin jazz. Check out our article on learning jazz piano chord progressions
  4. Gospel: Gospel piano is energetic and soulful, and the style features intricate chord voicings and embellishments. Gospel pianists play a central role leading the music in church services and providing accompaniment for choirs and congregational singing. 
  5. Pop/Contemporary: This style includes everything from rock, pop, R&B, to hip-hop. Pop music often has simple, repeated chord progressions, making it an easier style for beginners to learn. Artists like Elton John, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, and Adele are known for their distinct piano-driven compositions. Interested in learning pop piano? Begin by exploring our pop piano tutorials!

What piano styles are best for beginners?

The best piano style for beginners depends on personal interests, goals, and preferences. If you want to focus on jazz piano, start by building your understanding of chords and learning how to read lead sheets. If you want to study classical piano, practicing scales and arpeggios will help beginners with coordination and dexterity. Most students taking traditional piano lessons begin by studying classical piano. Students often learn classical piano from a structured approach that teaches fingerings, rhythms, and musical notation. Classical piano helps students develop a strong foundational understanding of expression and technique which will help pianists in any style they choose to explore.

Learning contemporary/pop music is another great style for beginners because many pop songs use simple chord progressions and follow repetitive patterns. If you’re interested in learning songs with easy pop chord progressions, check out our video here!

Regardless of the style you want to learn, beginners need a strong understanding of technique, musical notation, scales, and music theory. And of course, be sure to listen to music from the styles you’re interested in! Listening to music will inspire and guide your personal musical pursuits.

Piano playing styles taught at Hoffman Academy

Learning a new style of piano can be like learning a new language. If a pianist only learned to play classical music, jazz piano might feel puzzling because of its emphasis on improvisation. We encourage our students to be well-rounded musicians from the start, so at Hoffman Academy we teach classical, contemporary pop, blues, and jazz! Here are a few examples of styles you’ll encounter at our academy.

  1. Hot Cross Buns Improvisation. From the very first lesson, students are encouraged to improvise alongside our jazz-style backing track. This helps students learn how to listen to other instruments while exploring their own creativity. 
  2. Ode to Joy – A staple in classical piano, Ode to Joy teaches how to play expressively by using crescendos. 
  3. Down by the Bay – Taught in the blues style, students learn how to swing their eighth notes and play a classic left hand blues pattern.
  4. Sonatina in F – A fantastic classical piece for intermediate students, Sonatina in F teaches students sonata form. Sonata form is a musical structure composed of 3 main sections: an exposition, development and recapitulation. Many composers from the Classical and Romantic eras used Sonata form to create a sense of continuity and structure.
  5. Let It Go – A favorite contemporary pop piece for many of our students, this version of Let It Go teaches students the right hand melody. For an intermediate version, check out our arrangement in Mr. Hoffman’s Popular Hits for Piano

We hope this article will inspire you to expand your repertoire and explore playing different piano styles! Happy playing!

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