Valentina Jotovic 4 min read

Pop Song Piano Arrangements: Pros and Cons (Drew Spradlin

By Drew Spradlin, Piano Instructor, YOUniversity of Music and Arts
Probably the most basic and important purpose music serves is enjoyment. Pop songs are a great incentive to get pianists, of any age, to practice because - of course - what’s more enjoyable than playing your favorite song. Personally as a teacher I am rather flexible and try to respect my students’ tastes and opinions as much as possible. I will extract educational value from any song/work in order for the student to always learn.
Some pieces of music, however, hold significantly more educational value (and provide much more pianistic benefits) than other pieces. Pop song piano arrangements can often end drew up being a detriment to one’s learning, or progress, depending on the student. Please keep in mind I am specifically referring to piano arrangements, not the genre itself. I will discuss briefly below a few pros and cons of these piano arrangements.
As for the pros, I’ve already mentioned one above: fun! While it is true that not everyone enjoys pop music, those who do are likely to get enjoyment from playing their favorite song.
Performing a pop song may also serve a positive social function. Others recognize the song and share a moment of commonality. In a similar way, these songs may be conducive to collaboration with other musicians because of the familiarity and often repetitive nature of the music.
The most apparent con is that these pieces are in fact arrangements. Often times the original piece of music is played by an entire band with a vocalist as well. The voice undoubtedly is the focal point of pop pieces and therefore must be incorporated into the piano arrangement. Singing along to a pop song is one thing, but recreating this melody on the piano can be tricky. I’ve noticed many vocal rhythms to be quite difficult especially when the emphasis of the song is on the lyrics. For beginner or younger students these complex rhythms and musical approximations cause confusion and can hinder the learning process.
Of course, there are many more pros/cons and topics to discuss regarding pop song piano arrangements. My opinion on this matter is pretty clear: these pieces often are detrimental to the learning process. The ideal pieces of music for educational value are ones such as classical, jazz, or pieces written specifically for the piano. As I said before, possibly music’s most important purpose is enjoyment. If a student wants to learn a pop arrangement every now and then, I am perfectly fine with this.