5 Intermediate Piano Pieces for Adults (by living composers!)

One of the biggest challenges faced by intermediate-level adult pianists is finding repertoire that's both accessible and sophisticated.  Easier pieces—frequently written for children—can lack depth, and the challenging music adults long to play can feel frustratingly out of reach.  Add in complications such as small hands, mobility issues, or limited practice time, and the search becomes even more difficult.

These five pieces by living composers are ones I know well.  They’re short and sophisticated.  They contain no reaches larger than an octave.  They’ve all been recorded and can be listened to on streaming services or YouTube.  They all have a tune and a beat.  They’re gems that, once learned, can be enjoyed for a lifetime. 

Children’s Song No. 4

Composer: Chick Corea (b. 1941)

From: Children’s Songs, 20 pieces for keyboard

Publisher: Schott

Description: Corea is best known for his jazz works, but this collection is one that he wrote to convey the spirit of the child.  “Children’s Song No. 4”, with its repeated left hand pattern and haunting right hand melody, is hypnotically beautiful and has the benefit of sounding much more challenging than it is.  

Für Alina

Composer: Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)

Publisher: Universal Edition

Description: This haunting piece is justifiably one of Pärt’s most famous. It’s empty, haunting, and almost more a celebration of silence than the few notes written in this spare score. Performing this piece requires the pianist to settle into stillness, accept the beauty in simplicity, and play the space around the notes more than the notes themselves.

Gossamer Moon

Composer: Dave Deason (b. 1945)

From: Postcards for Piano

Publisher: Composer

Description: The evocative title describes the piece well.  “Gossamer Moon” is atmospheric, free, and a one-page example of modern notation (no bar lines, no time signature, lots and lots of pedal) that pianists can tailor to their own interpretation.  It’s the natural choice for pianists who want to co-create a piece with the composer.

Metamorphosis 1

Composer: Philip Glass (b. 1937)

From: Metamorphosis 1-5

Publisher: Hal Leonard

Description: Philip Glass is one of the best-known Minimalist composers and “Metamorphosis 1” is one of his better-known piano pieces.  With a repeated LH pattern and RH melody, this piece’s hypnotic evolution through chord changes is a crowd-pleaser that’s deeply satisfying to play. 

My Tree

Composer: David von Kampen (b. 1986)

From: 12 Very Short Pieces for Solo Piano

Publisher:  Composer

Description: Looking for a jazz piece that is accessible, short, and sophisticated?  “My Tree” is just one of twelve perfect jewel-box pieces in this collection.  This is grown-up real jazz, not typical student fare.  It’s perfect for the player who wants an authentic jazz sound but isn’t advanced enough to play transcriptions.


Unknown said…
These are wonderful pieces! While I know of all the composers, I hadn't known any of these pieces. Thank you for sharing!

On a related note: My living situation currently does not allow me to own a piano, so I use an electronic (full-spread) keyboard. A fine tool, but terrible for music making. Most of these pieces, sadly, wouldn't be nearly as satisfying on it.

On another related note: Back in the early 2000s, pianist Alan Huckleberry (now at the University of Iowa) self-published a collection of works for piano at the intermediate level by University of Michigan composers. It was a nice little collection of about 20 short works in various styles (full disclosure: I'm one of the composers). As far as I know, it's never been published by a "real" publisher, sadly.
Rhonda Rizzo said…
Thank you! Is the Alan Huckleberry collection available for purchase online? It sounds intriguing...
Tom Schnauber said…
Hi Rhonda,

This is Tom Schnauber. For some reason, my first comment was listed under "Unknown." Anyway, I forwarded Alan the link to your blog after I read it and asked him what happened to the collection. I have yet to hear back. I'll let you know if he has any more info.
Rhonda Rizzo said…
Thanks, Tom. I knew from your first comment that I knew you, but didn't know which of "my" composers you were.
Tom Schnauber said…
I love the fact that you have "your" composers. And I'm happy to be one! :)