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Top 10 Piano Sections in Rock

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Ross Cunningham Whoever said pianos were just for classical music? Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 Piano Sections in Rock. For this list, we're looking at those bits from songs that rocked the classic piano sound. Special thanks to our user Godslayer79 for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Ross Cunningham



Top 10 Piano Sections in Rock


Whoever said pianos were just for classical music? Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Piano Sections in Rock.

For this list, we’re looking at those bits from songs that rocked the classic piano sound. Any part, intro, solo, or otherwise goes! We are excluding keyboard sections, however, as those are for another list. So, sorry Van Halen, we will jump another day.

#10: “November Rain” (1992)
Guns N’ Roses

Talk about classic rock! With a commanding sound, the piano section of this power ballad stays true to the hard rock sound of Guns N’ Roses and also has a rock and roll feel. The section itself is especially impressive with its chord-driven melody and true piano technique, both of which leaves the audience wondering, “Did we just hear that from a Guns n’ Roses song?” Yes you did, and we will come back to it time and time again - or at least we will every November.

#9: “School” (1974)
Supertramp

You want peaceful? Here’s peaceful. With a piano part so tranquil, we want nothing more from this song than to close our eyes, and think of space, much like what we see on the cover of “School”’s parent album, “Crime of the Century.” Building a comfortable listening environment for the audience, the track delivers without being boastful about its piano abilities. It stays true to piano’s role in rock, and we are grateful to have the Supertramp number on our playlists whenever we want to lay back and relax.

#8: “Clocks” (2002)
Coldplay

Of course, we’ve got to mention this! The Coldplay classic speaks to music fans everywhere, whether you’re into rock, pop, or another genre. Embracing a consistent arpeggio style in a relaxed key to fit the mood, the intro to “Clocks” grasped at our hearts from the first time we heard it and inspires us to think about time. Although initially coming into the song on its own, the piano ultimately takes over the intro even as the drums and bass come in. Without a doubt, this is a powerful piano section that rocked its purpose!

#7: “Walking in Memphis” (1991)
Marc Cohn

Cohn can play! Need we say more? Embracing its moving arpeggios, this song is serene, soothing, and enjoyable to listen to. Thanks to his incredible piano abilities, “Walking in Memphis” certainly delivers. It also allows Cohn to stay true to rock as a pianist who can emotionally impact his audience while making them feel comfortable about the impact as well. We’ll return to this song over and over again when we feel blue; and, it will make us want to travel to Tennessee because of it. Thanks, Cohn! You give us a reason to like piano music!

#6: “Piano Man” (1973)
Billy Joel

We could have undoubtedly chosen any of the other numerous Billy Joel piano classics, like “New York State of Mind,” but this is the one that takes the cake! Though all of “Piano Man” is one big piano masterpiece, it’s the introduction and solo interludes that make this song a rocking classic. With impressive techniques using scales and chord pauses, Joel’s soft rocking tune is the definition of musical perfection. You can sing us a song because you’re the piano man; but keep rocking that piano, Billy, and never change on us!

#5: “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1981)
Journey

When you are an eighties band that wants a hit that distinguishes itself from other songs of the time, what do you do? You write a commanding, chord-pounding piano section that inspires and directs your melody. “Don’t Stop Believin’”’s piano section builds the foundation for its ‘this is my ticket out of this town’ theme through its widely used and heralded I-V-Vi-IV chord progression. Thanks to its unforgettable and anthemic nature, the piano-based rock ballad will be played for generations to come, and it will always make a sitting audience stand up.

#4: “Let It Be” (1970)
The Beatles

Remember that inspiring chord progression that we just mentioned? Well, this song empowers itself by using the pattern as well. With an unassuming melody that playfully catches the audience off guard considering it’s a rock song, “Let It Be” is simple, yet soothing. By keeping it simple in the Key of C with its peaceful message, much like in John Lennon’s “Imagine,” what more can we ask for from the Fab Four? How about some moving lyrics to compliment the soothing melody?! When we find ourselves in times of trouble, this Beatles classic will always get re-played.

#3: “Great Balls of Fire” (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis

It may not be simple, but it sure catches our ear! Jerry Lee Lewis’ incredible piano prowess is evident in his multiple piano sections that command the melody in this track. He also insightfully provides context to the 1950s 12-bar blues pattern by actually breaking free of it. This results in a masterpiece to remember for audiences. Meanwhile, hat opening riff… it builds the suspense, and boy, does it deliver! Thanks to its piano section, this is a timeless classic, and we shall not forget it any time soon.

#2: “Layla” (1971)
Derek and the Dominos

It’s hard not to think of that classic “GoodFellas” scene when this tune plays, right? And why is that so? Piano, piano, piano. So mellow and simple, and yet its melody plays an active part in moving the audience emotionally; all while providing a playful contrast to the guitar-driven first part of the song. With succinct chord boundaries to close off the melody, the blues rock band could not have ended the song any better or stayed true to rock and roll in any better way. Rock on, Derek! And rock on, Dominos!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Changes” (1972)
David Bowie

“Nothing from Nothing” (1974)
Billy Preston

“The Way It Is” (1986)
Bruce Hornsby and the Range

“After the Gold Rush” (1970)
Neil Young

“Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)
Queen

#1: “Tiny Dancer” (1971)
Elton John

Could it have been anyone else? Elton John is one of the most talented musical legends of all time, and this classic delivers on his piano-driven rock and roll mission. With the use of impressive arpeggio and chord-pounding riffs to open the song and back up his vocals, one wonders how he is able to musically multitask so well! We may never know, but what we do know is that “Tiny Dancer” will forever have a spot on our playlists for as long as we have musical taste. Elton, play us out if you will…

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite rocking piano song section? For more emotionally soothing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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