Many singer-songwriters choose guitar as their instrument because, well, it tends to be the primary singer-songwriter instrument. It’s portable, great for simple chordal accompaniment, and just as at home on the beach as it is in the concert hall. But the piano (or keyboard if you’re hoping for portability), treated in the right way, can be just as effective an instrument for singer-songwriters. The piano is one of the most versatile instruments, excellent for plaintive blues sounds and quirky chordal patterns alike. To illustrate my point, here are 10 piano-based singer-songwriters you’ve probably heard of.
1. Sara Bareilles
From playful pop songs to blues-tinged ballads, Sara Bareilles writes most of her music on the piano.
2. Billy Joel
Who can forget the piano man himself?
3. Regina Spektor
Regina is the queen of quirk, and the piano is the perfect instrument for her light-hearted, but thoughtful take on life.
4. Elton John
Elton John is one of the most iconic piano-based singer-songwriters out there, so we couldn’t leave him out!
5. Sarah McLachlan
The famous Lilith Fair founder writes her unforgettable melodies on the piano.
6. Norah Jones
Norah Jones’s distinctive controlled breathy voice works beautifully against the mournful piano.
7. Ingrid Michaelson
Like some of the others, Ingrid Michaelson plays both piano and guitar, but many of her songs are piano-based.
8. John Legend
John Legend music is some of the first to be requested by piano students, and it’s easy to hear why.
9. Emeli Sande
One of the only belty female vocalists on this list, Emeli Sande has some stunning piano-based repertoire.
10. Fiona Apple
Piano is integral to the soulful, borderline theatrical songs Fiona Apple sings.
Molly is the founder of Molly’s Music. She is a dedicated singer and pianist whose musical journey spans 2.5 decades, with stops along the way to sing for the pope, pass Certificate of Merit at the highest level, study with Gwen Verdon and Ben Vereen, and record an original album.