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Learn Classical Music Quickly
by Alex Cosper (10/8/14)

Classical music is usually thought of as a complex mystery that's too hard to understand. Where does this perception come from? A lot of it comes from schools that don't have the budgets to teach music properly. The result is either boring and unqualified or underpaid teachers or sometimes knowledgeable teachers that simply don't know how to reach a common ground with students. But it's not all the fault of the education system. The music industry is mostly to blame for sweeping classical music under the matt. They'd rather pitch three minute pop songs than lengthy sophisticated orchestra music to children. Radio shares some of the blame because not much of the dial offers classical music.

It's a viscious cycle that contributes to why classical music has been the least popular musical genre in terms of annual music sales, according to RIAA music industry reports. Some of it has to do with the history of the recording industry. For about the first 60 years of the recording industry, records could only hold about 3 minutes of playing time. Then in the late 1940s Columbia Records introduced the long playing album, which could deliver about a half hour of music. The time eventually extended to about 45 minutes on each side of a vinyl record, although about 20 minutes was much more common.

The idea of listening to long passages of orchestra music can be boring to young people who are raised at an early age to accept the 3 minute pop song format as the code for cool music. It's much easier to keep up with 40 short catchy songs than several long symphonies. Television and radio have both contributed to shortening attention span or pop culture, which has been one another key factor as to why classical music has been pushed to the dark in the American mainstream. Interestingly, classical is more popular in many other countries about the world.

Despite the fact that the pop culture industry and the education system treat classical music as either too complex or too boring, there are still many people who love it in any given major city. A love for classical music usually accompanies higher education or a more sophisticated and worldly sense of art. Luckily, in the internet age, people are no longer trapped in the narrow mainstream of pop music that is dictated by a few big companies. Music lovers have a more adventurous sense of exploration as multiple genres and musical menus are now at their fingertips. So forget about how complicated or sleepy classical music is supposed to be and follow the tips below to expand your knowledge quickly about classical music.

The Main Eras of Classical Music

The first thing to learn about classical music is that it is divided into eras, which makes it an interesting history lesson. After the Greek philosopher Aristotle established the basic principles of music theory around 400 BC, music began to evolve with musical notation, which took centuries to develop. There had been music for thousands of years already but now it could be documented and understood better both artistically and scientifically. The Medieval period was from 500 through 1400, in which music still had not reached a level of sophisticated orchestration yet, but was moving in that direction. By the 11th century, families of instruments were grouped together, marking early orchestras. During the Renaissance period from 1400-1600 many modern instruments such as the violin began to take shape.

The four broadest periods of classical music are known as the Common Practice period (1600-1750), the Classical period (1750-1830), the Romantic period (1804-1949) and the Contemporary period (1900-present). The Common Practice period coincided with the Age of Enlightenment, in which many major scientific discoveries opened new doors for culture. It included the Baroque period, in which Sebastian Bach was considered the undisputed top composer, adding a lot of complex harmony to music, developing a very sophisticated sound. The Classical period coincided with the Age of Reason and the formation of the United States. It was dominated by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Then Ludwig van Beethoven led society into a more simplistic era of Romaticism in which music became more dramamtic and focused more on melodies that harmonies. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are considered the top composers in classical music history.

Types of Classical Music

The rise of the orchestra led to the possibilities of large ensembles (music groups). A small ensemble of 50 or less musicians is sometimes called a "chamber orchestra" while a large ensemble of 100 musicians or more is often called a "symphony orchestra" or a "philharmonic orchestra." A symphony tends to comprise four groups of musical instruments: woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings. A fifth group might include a piano or celesta. Many classical pieces are expressed in a series of sections called movements, which usually reflect a beginning, middle and end.

Here are the most noted forms of classical music with descriptions:

Allegro - an opening or closing movement that establishes the theme of a piece
Concerto - three movements with one solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra
Etude - short complex musical composition used mainly for practice
Fugue - a dual voice musical passage that forms a theme and is repeated thoughout a composition
Opera - dramatic piece sung and integrated with a musical score and spoken word art
Sonata - organized large scale work with multiple movements
Suite - a collection of movements performed by an orchestra as a concert or extracts for theater
Symphonic Poem - a movement associated with a poem, story, painting or other form of art
Symphony - a lengthy musical composition scored for an orchestra consisting of 1-4 movements

Classical Playlist

01. Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C Minor
02. Johann Sebastian Bach - Air on the G String (2nd movement of Orchestral suites No. 3 in D Major)
03. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major
04. Antonio Vivaldi - The Four Seasons
05. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty
06. Gioachino Rossini - William Tell Overture (1829)
07. Ludwig van Beethoven - Fur Elise (aka Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor) (published 1867)
08. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture
09. Rimsky-Korsakov - Tale of Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumblebee
10. Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 in D Minor
11. Ludwig van Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata aka Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor
12. Johann Sebastian Bach - Brandedburg Concertos No. 3 in G Major
13. Johannes Brahms - Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G Minor
14. Richard Wagner - Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)
15. Richard Strauss - Also sprach Zarathustra
16. Johann Pachelbel - Canon in D Major
17. Claude Debussy - Suite bergamasque
18. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Requiem K. 626: Lacrimosa Dies Illa
19. Edward Elgar - Pomp and Circumstance
20. Felix Mendelssohn - Midsummer Night's Dream: Wedding March
21. Georges Bizet - Carmen: Les Toreadors
22. George Gershwin - Rhapsody In Blue
23. Johann Sebastian Bach - Cantata 147: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
24. Johann Strauss II - On the Beautiful Blue Danube
25. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Serenade No. 13 in G Minor
26. Ravel - Bolero
27. Frederic Chopin - The Funeral March aka Nocturne No. 2 in B Flat Minor
28. Richard Wagner - The Valkyrie: Ride of the Valkyries
29. Carl Orff - Carmina Burana: O Fortuna
30. Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings
31. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Symphony No. 40 in G Minor
32. John Philip Sousa - Stars and Stripes Forever
33. Johann Sebastian Bach - Double Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins
34. Ludwig van Beethoven - Minuet in G Major
35. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - The Magic Flute
36. Aaron Copland - Appalachian Spring
37. Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
38. George Frideric Handel - The Messiah: Hallelujah Chorus
39. Johann Strauss I - Radetzky March
40. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet
41. Gustav Holst - The Planets
42. Giuseppe Verdi - Nabucco: Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
43. Erik Satie - Gymnopedie No. 1
44. Jules Massenet - Thais: Meditation
45. Dukas - Sorcerer's Apprentice
46. Ponchielli - La Gioconda: Dance of the Hours
47. Jacques Offenbach - Orpheus In The Underworld: Infernal Galop
48. Ludwig van Beethoven - Egmont
49. Jacques Offenbach - The Tales of Hoffmann: Barcarolle
50. Antonin Dvorak - Symphony No. 9 in E Minor

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