Piano Street Magazine

Can you figure out these Piano Puzzles?

April 24th, 2012 in Piano News by | 7 comments

Every Wednesday, composer and pianist Bruce Adolphe joins APM:s radio program Performance Today for a classical music game called Piano Puzzler. Bruce takes a familiar tune – a popular song, a children’s tune, a Broadway hit or something from the classical repertoire – and rewrites it in the style of a classical composer, often using direct quotes from famous classical masterworks. After the performance, Bruce and host Fred Child talk to a listener on the phone, whose task it is try to guess both the popular tune that Bruce has hidden and the composer whose style he has imitated.

The Piano Puzzler Turns 10

The first “Piano Puzzler” was broadcast exactly 10 years ago, on April 24 2002, but the idea was hatched one week before that, on April 17: Bruce Adolphe had come into the radio studio for an entirely different interview, but ended up improvising a “Keyboard Conundrum” based on some sheet music he happened to carry in his shoulder bag at the time.
During those 10 years, Bruce Adolphe has composed no less than 400 Piano Puzzlers, or “about13 hours’ worth of insightful, delightfully clever, cunningly educational, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny musical wizardry”, as Fred Child describes it. The Piano Puzzlers have also taken on a life outside the radio broadcasts, since Bruce is regularly invited to music festivals to do Puzzlers on stage.

Piano Street would like to join in the celebration of Piano Puzzler. Listening to Bruce Adolphe’s witty compositions is an interesting and fun way of learning about the characteristics and distinct voices of the great composers of classical music. And because of the fact that the Puzzlers often focus on keyboard style and the core piano repertoire, all piano music fans should be able to find a lot to amuse and interest them in the program’s archives.

In the audio player above you find some examples where you can test your knowledge of some of the great themes and tunes from the piano repertoire and below, links to archived Piano Puzzles.

Piano Puzzles birthday selection: 26 of their best puzzles
Archives 2007-2012
Older episodes of the Piano Puzzler

Piano Puzzlers – Sheet Music

For years, people had been begging for the sheet music and in 2006 Wannacracker Music published a collection of piano puzzler scores. Play them in student recitals, in the classroom, at parties, as encores, or just to drive your neighbors crazy!

Piano Puzzlers: Thirty Familiar Tunes Disguised in the Styles of Famous Composers
This collection presents 30 of Bruce’s “recompositions,” printed exactly as he plays them on the radio.


  • zezhyrule says:

    The pieces he ‘imitates’ seem to be pretty popular from that composer, at least in the few examples here. I thought it would be more of a ‘style’ he imitates instead of actual pieces by the composer.

    As for the hidden tunes, I couldn’t guess any of them except for the one labeled Feb 29th. Sound of Music ftw n_n

    He’s a great pianist from what I’ve heard!

  • Fran Smith says:

    I got them all except the Mendelssohn style, but I did hear the “jingle bells.” Of course, if I were trying to answer on your program, I probably would NOT be able to do it! It’s easier sitting here in my own home.

    VERY enjoyable. Bruce is a genius!

    I noticed you didn’t have any females on these snippets…???

  • DAvid Millsom says:

    Can I get a copy of that piece with the Hungarian dance embedded inthe Moonlight Sinata?


  • Chris215 says:

    Great fun, especially for us of more mature years who were fans of the Beatles!

  • Vaughn Edward Hathaway Jr says:

    In 1965, two piano performance majors at Bob Jones University performed a somewhat similar exercise with two pianos playing an ad. lib. variations on the theme of “Three Blind Mice.” They entertained the student body of the university at one of its bi-weekly Saturday student-body gatherings. It’s been forty plus years since it was done and my memory does not serve me as well as it might. The male pianist was Dale Anthony; but I’ve forgotten the name of the woman. Again, the passing of years has fuzzed the recollection; but, as I recall, their performance was around ten minutes in length. Dale was quite a pianist. The same year, he won the Southeastern College Music Teachers’ Convention Concerto Competition which was judged at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. I still have a cassette recording of his performance concert with the Symphonic Orchestra of his alma mater, Bob Jones University, which was conducted by Dwight Gustafson, the dean of the University’s Fine Arts Department. WMUU AM/FM may still have a copy of the recording.

  • Daniel Dunn says:

    I too ,composed a piano puzzler that I named ” Love Story Fantasia ”
    Inspired by Chopin’s Etude in C Minor , This unique rendition of
    Love Story ( right hand ) and quick and somewhat violent runs in the
    left hand sound like something that Chopin could have created .
    I guess I am not the only one doing these unorthodox things with
    modern tunes !

    Daniel Dunn ( accomplished Pianist )

  • william biermaier says:

    Are the puzzlers always new or repeated?

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