I don’t know about you but when I hear a great piano riff, I have to learn it. When I hear a song on the radio that features a piano in the intro, I feel more inclined to stop and listen. I suppose I am biased being a piano player myself, but there’s something so inspiring about the thought of a person sat at a piano playing the notes. It always fills me with joy to find a new, expertly crafted musical lick played on the ivories. Like many of us, lockdown gave us the opportunity of time somewhat and so with a few extra hours in the week, I decided to delve into my record collection, ear first, and now thought I’d share with you my top 5 fave piano riffs (in no particular order):
Ain’t Nobody – Chaka Khan
You can almost feel the groove pulsing within this riff before the drums even begin to make an appearance. It moves so percussively, and is such an ear-catching rhythm, all it does is make me want to boogie! Now I know it’s strictly not a ‘piano’ riff (and actually played on a clavichord!) but I had to feature it because it actually sounds awesome on a piano too.
For anybody interested, the new Yamaha DGX670 has a voice that matches it perfectly. You can read all about it here
Another Love – Tom Odell
Another Love by Tom Odell is one of my all-time favourite songs, regardless of its captivating & brilliant intro riff. The lyrics alone are beautiful and encapsulate love and heartbreak so perfectly, all while existing alongside the moody chord progression.
If you play this riff at a party, I guarantee you’ll turn heads and I’ve no doubt by the first verse you’ll have everybody singing along – It’s a real crowd-pleaser.
Despite how it sounds, in essence, it’s actually quite a simple riff to play. The chugging rhythm with the chord pushes just makes it all the more exciting too.
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
It would be a crime to talk about piano riffs without mentioning Bohemian Rhapsody. It is arguably one of the most famous & memorable riffs in all of history (in my humble opinion anyway). The Bb opening piano line is iconic and the whole song is an aspirational musical feat, that has been heard by the ears of generations and will continue to be.
This is definitely another one for your party repertoire and the cross-hand technique Mercury uses when playing it just makes you look even more impressive!
Apparently, Freddie Mercury’s keyboard was positioned at the foot of his bed, and he wrote the introductory riff to Bohemian Rhapsody laying on his back, playing upside down! Isn’t that so cool?
Prelude/Angry Young Man – Billy Joel
This is probably one of the lesser-known Billy Joel records amongst his mind-blowingly extensive catalogue, though nonetheless an absolute must-listen-to piano player. In fact, I think if you play the piano, at whatever stage of ability, Billy Joel is a great reference to just how beautiful and colourful the instrument can be. In this track in particular, he demonstrates incredibly how much you can ‘do’ with the piano… and with a bit of practice (and by the looks of it a whole lot of arm muscle!), you can make the piano roar with excitement.
I’ve actually tried a few times to play this, and as you’ll be unsurprised to hear having listened to it, I struggled. Though I keep trying because I am determined to nail it… I can’t imagine the feeling of playing that song live. It must fill him with fire!
Someone Like You – Adele
Someone Like You by Adele is possibly one of the most memorable riffs/intros to a piano-based song since the beginning of the 2000s. When it was first released, it was an instant hit and is definitely one of the most popular songs amongst piano players.
I recently used the chord looper function on the SX900 to loop the chords of Someone Like You and then played the melody over the top with a lovely Violin sound – it was really fun!
Have a piano riff you can’t stop playing? Send us a video playing your favourite to email@example.com for a chance to be featured in our next newsletter!