The Most Famous Piano
Composers In History

Famous Piano Composers

Since the inception of the pianoforte in 1709, there have been many famous piano composers who have had a direct impact on the history and development of piano music over the past three centuries.
At the dawn of the 18th century, the piano was still in its’ infancy having recently evolved from other musical instruments like the “Harpsichord” and the “Clavichord”.
Therefore, keyboardists of that time, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, born in 1685, composed keyboard works that were never actually intended for the piano.
Sebastian Bach was an organist, who developed a unique keyboarding style called “fugue”, which is a polyphonic composing method where each hand plays separate melody lines that are harmonically interwoven.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in 1756, was a child prodigy by the age of 5, and is probably the most celebrated piano composer of the 18th century.
The early 19th century gave rise to the term “classical music”, and of all the famous piano composers of that era, Franz Liszt was the undisputed heavyweight champ of classical piano composers.
Born in 1811, it was said that Liszt would lock himself away to practice his piano regimen for up to fourteen hours a day, pushing the piano instrument to its limits, and eventually creating over 1300 piano compositions during his lifetime!
In fact, many piano historians of today still refer to Franz Liszt as the greatest technical keyboardist to ever lay hands on a piano. (Too bad there were no phonograph recordings at that time)
And apparently, Liszt was a bit of a “Don Juan” in his day. His astonishing showmanship on the piano was said to produce an almost feverish enchantment with the female listeners in his audiences.
The late 19th century would see the first innovator of Jazz music, (which was just being invented in New Orleans during the 1890’s).
Born in 1868, Scott Joplin was a classically trained African-American pianist who combined the early sounds of Jazz with syncopated piano rhythms, creating what would become known as “Ragtime”.
Joplin’s “stride piano” would not only influence the future of contemporary jazz, but also led to the emergence of swing, bebop, and boogie-woogie.
At the beginning of the 20th century, famous piano composers like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum would become the innovators of these dynamic keyboarding styles.
The mid 20th century would see yet another marriage of genres that would shift the course of popular music for decades to come.
Born in 1930, the legendary Ray Charles became the first classically trained piano player to combine the distinctive sounds of gospel music with the often “spicy” lyrics of rhythm & blues, creating a new brand of music called “Soul”.
Ray’s use of blues, gospel, country and folk music would also shape the direction of Rock and Roll.
With the 1950’s emergence of rock n’ roll pianists like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, the wild side of rock music was only just beginning!
Ray Charles would become the musical inspiration for many other famous piano composers such as Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, and countless other musical heavyweights of today.
So let’s take a closer look at some of the most important and famous piano composers in history, review a brief biography of their lives, and highlight the unique contributions they’ve each given to the world of music ...
Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi was born on July 17, 1928 in San Francisco, California, USA. He was a jazz pianist who described himself as
"a reformed boogie-woogie piano player", although his fellow band mates used to refer to him as "Dr. Funk" during the late 1950's and early 1960's.
Vince Guaraldis' Christmas music inspired many other famous piano composers after him, such as David Benoit, who went on to continue scoring the Peanuts series after Guaraldi’s untimely passing.
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan to Lula Mae Hardaway on May 13, 1950. He has undoubtedly been one of the most beloved and famous piano composers in R&B and popular music over the past four decades.
Despite being blind from the time he was an infant he was an accomplished singer and musician all by the time he was just nine years old.
Billy Joel
Billy Joel was born William Martin Joel on May 9, 1949, in the Bronx, New York, and was raised in Hicksville, Long Island.
Enrolling in classical piano lessons at an early age, Joel would become one of the best selling and most famous piano composers of the mid 1970's, 80's and early 1990's.
Ray Charles
Ray Charles Robinson was a musical genius who changed the direction of all music during his 50-year career, winning dozens of Grammy Awards along the way.
Born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, Charles overcame tremendous hardships in his early years to become one of the most innovative and famous piano composers of the 20th century.

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