What to Listen For In The 'Classical Music' Genre, and Why

When I mention the words ‘classical music’ to some people, I sometimes get an immediate negative response. The usual comments include: “Why would I want to listen to that stuff?”, “That stuff’s just old – why would I bother with it?” or even “Give me good old _____________ instead”. Fill the blank space with “Country”, “Rock”, “Blues” “Metal” or any number of other options.

In this post, I will be showing all you non-classical music buffs that classical music is indeed worth your time and effort. I will also hope to show you what to listen for in classical music, and how to make it more accessible and a part of your musical life.

Classical Stigmas

When you analyze why many people prefer any genre but classical, it’s easy to understand why. Firstly, most classical music does not have a guitar in it, unless it’s a concerto or solo piece for the said instrument. Secondly, at first listen, there often isn’t a recognizable, foot-tapping beat issued by a resident drummer. Thirdly, a lot of classical music is instrumental, so no song to sing, no words to sing along with. So the inevitable combination of all three would never suggest the classical genre at all.

Another factor would be your upbringing and background, which often dictate your musical interests and desires. For example, If you had parents who were into heavy metal and that’s all you ever heard as a child, then you’re unlikely to be listening to classical music in your spare time. If your music instruction at school was sparce or non-existent, and you didn’t learn to play a musical instrument, then again, there would be no exposure to the classical music genre, and for you, it would not be part of your life.

In addition, if you are used to searching for music to listen to that encompasses and reflects your current mood or emotional state, looking for more pop-related genres would seem normal, while seeking a classical piece would be completely foreign to you. Incidentally, I am by no means an advocate of only the classical genre – that would be really blinkered thinking on my part. There’s room for all musical genres to suit all tastes including pop, jazz country, and more spiritual music – they all have their place. My point is that there is also a place for classical music in everyone’s life, however small that place might be.

What Should You Look For?

If you have never been exposed to classical music, then to start with you need to seek out what are called ‘popular classics’. These are classical pieces that thousands of people love to listen to again and again, and are proven to be easy to listen to and comprehend. There are hundreds of pieces that fall into this category but.....

I will list 12 to get you going:

  • Hall Of The Mountain King – Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite #1 – orchestral

  • Moonlight Sonata – Ludwig van Beethoven – 1st movement – piano

  • Four Seasons – Antonio Vivaldi – Spring - orchestral

  • Carnival of the Animals – Camille Saint Saens – any track – orchestral

  • Symphony #5 – Ludwig van Beethoven – 1st movement – orchestral

  • 1812 Overture – Peter Tchaikovsky – orchestral

  • Fur Elise – Ludwig van Beethoven – piano

  • A Little Night Music – Wolfgang Mozart – first track – orchestral

  • O My Beloved Father – Giacomo Puccini – Gianni Schicci – opera (song)

  • Toreador’s Song – Georges Bizet – Carmen – opera (song)

  • Messiah – George Handel – oratorio (choir, soloists and orchestra)

  • Canon in D major – Johann Pachelbel – Canon and Gigue – orchestral

Although this is far from a complete list, all of the above are very accessible, easy to listen to, and they all have great and recognizable melodies that will live forever. In fact, you may have heard some or all of them before but not realized what they were. Remember that composers such as John Williams (Star Wars, Harry Potter etc.) would not have written all those memorable movie themes if they hadn't been exposed to classical music themselves.

In fact, it matters not whether you are musically trained or know anything about the structure of music, you can still enjoy these pieces as you would any other music – without preparation or lengthy research. You can appreciate them for what they are – famous classical pieces written by brilliant composers of different eras, that have become ingrained in our society.

Musical Sources

You can find any of the music listed above as follows:

1. On YouTube. Simply type in the name of the piece and it will come up as a video.

2. On one of the radio stations. If you have Apple TV then you can access the stations that way or if not just Google ‘free radio stations’ and you’ll have hundreds to choose from.

Make sure you select the classically oriented ones that don’t focus on just one composer.

Download your own free copies of the music you like from websites such as

a) ‘Classical Cat’, b) ‘Musopen’, c) ‘Free Music Archive’ or d) Last.fm. Remember that the music will be in mp3 format mostly, so it is compressed, which could affect the sound quality.... but at least it’s free.

Visit your local thrift shop or garage sale and purchase used CDs and vinyl records. Sometimes you can pick up an amazing bargain or two at these locations.

Your local library often has a reasonable selection of popular music classics.

The Beat Goes On


or those of you who prefer to actually play a musical instrument or to vocalize, you can still pick up music related to your instrument or voice at a thrift shop or a garage sale for next to nothing. Sometimes people, such as retiring music teachers, will just donate the music to your local library – another great source of written music.

Because of so many varying levels of skill in playing and singing, it would be impossible for me to suggest a list of musical possibilities. However, I will say this: virtually every composer (even Franz Liszt) has written music at different levels, and so if you find a composer that you like and can play or sing, then do some research to find his/her easier pieces, and build from there. I am confident that you will have success, and more importantly will have added a high quality music genre to your life.

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