Greatest Pianists Of All Time – What Level Can We Reach?

Greatest pianist of all time

To learn to improve we get inspiration from others and then work hard to have the ability that they do. But we should always try to be realistic. To be a pianist of Mozart’s ability would be incredible. He was one of the great pianists of all time composing hundreds of pieces of work including sonatas, symphonies, masses, chamber music, concertos and operas. Mozart began playing when he was only three years old being taught by his father Leopold Mozart who was a composer, conductor, music teacher and violinist.

Yes, wouldn’t it be amazing to be as good as Mozart one of the greatest pianists of all time but as I said it would be wise to set my sights a lower so that I can continue to face the challenge of learning to play the piano better. Maybe be happy to just to be able to play a little of one of Mozart s pieces of music. If this is achieved then set the bar higher.

Realistically, I’ll start by aiming to play something by Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Alicia Keys or Billie Joel. All are great musicians but I think that they too would admit not quite of Mozart’s standard.

But they’ve not done so badly have they?

How they became so good

Well I would say that they set small achievable goals. Treated playing the piano like they did learning the fundamentals of life.

Learning to walk for example. First they had to stand up. Then they had to hold onto things to get their balance and then they fell over again and again before they could stand up without falling down. One foot had to then be put infront of the other and this was repeated until the muscles had developed perfectly as had balance and their motor skill became second nature. Small steps!

But we can’t all play like great pianist.

Elton John started to learn to play at three years old and must have been hooked immediately. Few of us have a piano to practice learning. Elton John, however did have a piano at his home and was a performer at school and at the age of eleven won the Royal Academy Music Scholarship to study classical music. Elton John, whilst having an understandable appreciation for the indisputable classical greats such as Bach and Handel also had disdain for the stuffiness of this music organisation.

It wasn’t long before, at only fifteen, Elton John was performing in pubs at the weekend and playing music on his terms.

But Elton John trained at first as a classical musician. Is that an important concept?

Classical Music Will Help Me

Many would say that to become a great musician classical music is very important to learn. Many argue that classical music is the key to all genres and without it your piano play won’t have the building blocks required to become a great musician. Your ability to build music in any genre will be limited. Furthermore, understanding the classical techniques then only makes it easier to perform in other styles.

The Advantage of Classical Music

Practicing classical music helps to improve your “chops”. This is your physical ability and the mastery of techniques, much like learning the motor skills necessary to touch type. Likewise, learning the chops found in classical music helps your hands to move magically and play fantastic solos or your favourte song. Technical control of your hands starts with classical training.

One thing then leads to another. Without first studying classical music it is more difficult to learn the songs you wish to play. It becomes part of the equation and gives, as it gave Elton John, more options. Not only will a tune be more easily learnt but a more comprehensive technical ability will have been gained and the ability to now read music.

Am I just dreaming?

The reality is I will never be the standard of Amedeus Mozart. That is fact. I can except that. It is also extremely unlikely that I will ever be on par with Elton John. I am aware of that too, but I would love to play some of his songs.

So by continually using the right learning tools available to me. Through learning the components of music theory as listed below:

  • melody, harmony, rhythm, scales and chords

By putting the these elements of piano play into practice, well I can only get better.

But how do I learn to play quickly. I don’t want to waste time and I’m no longer eleven! The answer, though it does

perhaps sound a little crazy sound is actually to play slowly.

Let me explain. Speed is not necessarily an indicator of mastery but it actually just shows that you can move your fingers from key to key at high speed.

By playing slowly it is possible to:

  • More easily identify a trouble spot and avoid continually hitting incorrect keys.
  • Establish the correct fingers to use for keys that are to be played.
  • Sit better with good posture preventing long lasting aches and pains.
  • Develop precision and accuracy avoiding mistakes made repeatedly.
  • Play with emotion rather than always simply playing to the end.
  • Understand the dynamic of the music deconstructing the elements of the piece. Happy and sad delicately parts
  • Learning to play with absolute focus and concentration.

Playing each hand individually also helps until familiarity with the melody and harmony is recognised. A metronome also helps to prevent you from increasing the speed and losing focus on the purpose of the reason for practice.

Putting In The Practice

  • Set yourself a schedule to reach your weekly goal then make daily tasks towards the goal.
  • Maybe keep a log of times played and level reached.
  • If the schedule is realistic, your goal will be reached. Remember the practice small steps.
  • Playing depends largely on muscle memory – repetition is one key to fast progress.
  • Enjoy yourself.

When all is said and done if you do not enjoy doing something it is hard to have the enthusiasm to continue. So my final point is critical. Do enjoy learning and love playing.


11 thoughts on “Greatest Pianists Of All Time – What Level Can We Reach?”

  1. Hi – what an interesting article on how to learn or better yourself at the piano. I can’t agree more with your “Do enjoy learning and love playing”, music should be fun and enjoyable. I remember learning to play the flute, I just didn’t have it within me to push myself to first learn to read music, and then learn what key sequence made what notes. Your article makes perfect sense in that you need to “Play with emotion rather than always simply playing to the end”. Good luck with your music talent.

  2. Hi Mike

    Classical music is an important genre to learn to play the piano with proficiency or any other style I agree. Having lessons and daily practice, like any other skill you want to improve is a must.

    Most modern musicians that have had classical training in their younger days are most likely to be much better later in their careers as you have pointed out.

    Thank you for some your key insights on how to become a better pianist. 



  3. Hi Mike,

    What a fantastic niche idea! Your tips on taking it slow, setting goals, practicing daily to get just a bit better, and enjoying what you are doing are all spot on. I have to say, whether you are 49 or 99, it is never too late to tap out a tune on the piano. I am a memory care director. The residents in my community love hearing and singing to piano. Music touches the soul and brings back memories long past. 

    “Greatest Pianists Of All Time…” was thoughtfully and well written–it’s apparent you are passionate about playing piano and  truly want to help others find and feel accomplishment in their lives. 

    As far back as I can remember, my parents always made sure we had a piano. The first, was a big, bulky, ancient, out of tune job. It was left in the basement of the house I grew up in because it was too large to move. I practiced 15 minutes a day on it and learned the basics. 

    Later, after a move to the country (16-acre farm with cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, fruit trees and garden), a beautiful dark wood model came to live in our family room. My mom used to pay our piano teacher with fresh eggs and vegetables (which he loved)! 

    My love for and skills increased through the years. Like you, I will never be Mozart or Elton John talented, but enojoy playing the songs by favorite artists. 

    I lived without a piano for a couple decades, but now have one in my home again. My young adult children tinker on it–have taught themselves how to play. I personally haven’t sat down to play anything for quite a while. But after reading your post, have decided to make time to play every day–even if it’s just 5-10 minutes. 

    The piano is an amazing instrument! Thank you for reminding us how important it really is.


  4. Great presentation here. I know of Mozart as a piano legend. Yea, he is human after all. It doesn’t take anything away from his achievements. One can get better when to aim at the best. Why not? To improve, one need such a model and has to imitate some great works and efforts of legends like Mozart. Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Alicia Keys  and Billie Joel are all great but to be near perfect to any of them, one must put great work through practice, in all genre. But I agree with you that classical music helps you to improve more. Piano is one of the best musical instruments one could be proud of learning. It is a joy to be a good pianist.

    Great article. Thanks for the hints and tips. These are success secrets i must say.

  5. Hello there, thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful piece of information here with us. I must say i really did enjoyed going through your article because it contains useful information’s one could hold on to. Your article makes perfect sense in that you need to Play with emotion rather than always simply playing to the end. Thanks for sharing

  6. awesome review you have here on greatest pianist pianos of all time,  growing up as a kid I always love to play musical instrument and Piano was what I was really intrigued on learning how to play very well, but at a point in time I lost interest when I couldn’t get an instructor to pull me through.. I look forward to getting one soon cause I really do want to pick up from where stopped… I will never love Stop Loving to play the piano

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