Why is Piano Music Sad?

Jan 13 · 4 min read

Have you ever listened to a song on piano and it has made you sad? This is a common occurrence. Lots of time my students have asked me, why is piano music sad? I decided to write this article to answer that question.

Piano music is sometimes sad because we have been conditioned to think it is sad. From TV show and movies we have learned that piano is associated with sad events.

If you are in the mood for a good cry, check out these recordings of sad piano music:

Piano music has a long-standing reputation for evoking feelings of sadness and melancholy. This is due to a combination of factors, including the instrument's unique sound and its historical association with certain musical genres and composers.

One of the primary reasons why piano music is often considered sad is the instrument's sound itself. The piano is a percussive instrument, meaning that the sound is created by striking a string with a hammer. This results in a sound that is often described as "hollow" or "resonant," which can evoke feelings of emptiness or loss. Additionally, the piano has a wide range of dynamics, which allows for the expression of a wide range of emotions, including sadness.

Another reason why piano music is often considered sad is the historical association of the instrument with certain musical genres and composers. For example, the piano has long been associated with classical music, particularly the works of composers such as Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Both of these composers wrote music that is known for its emotional depth and expressiveness, and their piano works are often considered some of the most poignant and sorrowful in the classical repertoire. Additionally, the piano has been a prominent instrument in jazz music, particularly in the genre of "blues," which is known for its melancholy and introspective qualities.


Rachmaninoff is one of my favorite composers. His music is certainly emotional and sad at times. He also wrote some incredible difficult piano music. That will make pianists cry by itself!


I once read that the piano's capability to express dissonance, which is the use of notes that clash and create tension, can add to the melancholic feeling in the music. This dissonance is usually resolved in the end of the phrase or melody, creating a sense of resolution, but it can also be used to enhance the feeling of sadness.

Another thing a teacher told me once is, the piano's capability to sustain notes and chords, which is the ability to hold the notes after they have been played, can also add to the melancholic feeling in the music. This ability makes the piano sound like it's lingering on and on, creating a sense of longing or sadness. If you want to learn how to play some beautiful piano music, check out our piano lessons in Plymouth and Canton.

A Brief History of Sergei Rachmaninov

Sergei Rachmaninoff, also known as Sergei Rachmaninov, was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He was born in 1873 in the village of Novgorod, Russia and began studying music at a young age. He quickly established himself as a prodigy and began to gain recognition for his talents as a pianist and composer.

Rachmaninoff's early career was marked by success and acclaim, but in the early 1900s, he experienced a period of personal and creative crisis. This was partly due to negative reviews of his Symphony No. 1, which was premiered in 1897. This setback caused him to lose confidence in his abilities as a composer and to suffer from depression. He underwent therapy with a hypnotist and later claimed that the hypnosis treatment helped him to overcome his crisis and regain his confidence.

After this difficult period, Rachmaninoff embarked on a successful career as a concert pianist and composer. He composed several successful works, including his Symphony No. 2 (1907) and his Piano Concerto No. 2 (1901). Both of these works are considered among his most popular and enduring compositions. He also composed several other works such as his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Isle of the Dead and the Symphony no. 3.

Rachmaninoff's compositions are marked by their emotional depth, virtuosity, and technical brilliance. His music is known for its lush harmonies and rich melodies, as well as its strong sense of Russian nationalism. His piano works, in particular, are considered some of the most challenging and technically pieces in the repertoire.

In 1917, the Russian Revolution forced Rachmaninoff to flee his homeland and seek exile in the West. He settled in the United States, where he continued to compose, perform, and conduct. He also became an American citizen in 1943. During this period, he composed several works such as his Symphony No. 3, his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.


Rachmaninoff's 2nd Symphony

Sergei Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 is a work of extraordinary emotional depth and musical complexity. It is a symphony that showcases Rachmaninoff's unique voice as a composer, blending elements of Russian folk music and Orthodox Church music with a highly virtuosic and dramatic orchestral style.

The first movement, marked Largo, opens with a theme that is both melancholic and yearning, played by the cellos and basses. This theme sets the tone for the entire symphony, which is marked by a sense of longing and nostalgia. The movement then builds to a powerful climax, featuring sweeping melodies and intricate counterpoint.

The second movement, marked Allegro molto, is a scherzo that is full of energy and vitality. It features a lively main theme that is passed around the orchestra, and is characterized by its syncopated rhythms and playful melodies.

The third movement, marked Adagio, is a slow and contemplative movement that serves as the emotional heart of the symphony. It features a beautiful and evocative melody played by the cellos, which is then taken up by the other sections of the orchestra. This movement is a showcase of Rachmaninoff's skill as a melodist, and its haunting beauty has made it one of the most popular and recognizable sections of the symphony.

The fourth movement, marked Allegro vivace, is a fast and lively final movement that brings the symphony to a thrilling conclusion. It features a main theme that is both energetic and celebratory, and is characterized by its driving rhythms and powerful orchestration.


I hope you have learned a little bit about piano music and why it is so sad sometimes. I hope you have also learned about Rachmaninoff and all of his sad music. Thank you so much for reading this article I hope you learned a lot.

Karen Flores
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