Asian music was based on the pentatonic scale.
This was true for Chinese music, at least.
I spent hours copying characters in Chinese school, and although the same pen strokes require more effort now, I can look back to that time of utter dedication for filling the square boxes with unending characters. It was like drilling music.
On Chinese New Years’ Eve, I’d booked a string of meetings by mistake and my family waited waited for me, to start dinner at 10pm. Which was kind of sweet, because the family doesn’t believe in “wasting time.”
Here are 12 pretty Chinese piano solos– composed by Chinese musicians, or best interpreted by Chinese performers.
Sunflowers by Wang
Played by Yundi Li. This piece sounds more advanced than it really is, I think.
Piano Battle from The Secret
This is my favourite piano movie, ever. The battle always strikes me how there’s always something new to add to your music. Also, it’s an advanced mashup of a Variation on Chopin’s Black Key Etude Op. 10 No. 5 and a Variation on Chopin’s Waltz, not your traditional chinese movie piece.
Secret by Jay Chou (周杰倫)
A modern piece composed in Bach’s style for the above movie, Secret. The composer also directed the movie, so it fits perfectly.
Beautiful Fresh Flower arr. Percy Grainger
I have a hunch that the title was misinterpreted, but it’s based on a traditional Chinese melody called the Jasmine Flower (茉莉花). The playing in the video could be improved (is there a mute filter for the left hand?) but the arrangement speaks for itself.
Longing for Spring Breeze
I can’t find the sheet music for piano, for this traditional taiwanese melody. Lang Lang has a recording and Tyzen Hsiao has an arrangement for piano and violin.
Yellow River Piano Concerto
Not a solo, but a classic– there are probably solo transcriptions out there.
Eight Memories in Watercolour by Tan Dun
Girl’s Lament arr. Joseph Johnson
There are 24 pieces in this collection and all of them are short and oriental-sounding.
Sad Rainy Day arr. Joseph Johnson
Another piece from the Chinese Folk Song Collection, above.
Butterfly Lovers (梁祝)
One of the more modern Chinese pieces, but you can still hear the pentatonics. (This is based on a violin concerto; although I’ve found a piano arrangement, I haven’t seen the sheet music and can’t comment on the edition. There’s also a duet piano arrangement for four hands.)
Autumn Moon Over the Calm Lake (平湖秋月) by Lü Wencheng
Composed in the 1930s on a visit to the West Lake. How do I know this? There’s a Wikipedia page for this piece.
Here are 16 Beautiful Contemporary Piano Solos.
What’s your favourite piece of piano music, these days? Leave a comment below to join the conversation!
Want more of this?
Get exclusive music tips and fresh stories in your email inbox by signing up below. It's Free!