I’ve had a lot of students over the years who tell me point-blank, “I don’t like Classical music”. They want to learn pop songs, and music that feels relevant to their lives. To them, Classical music is this stuffy, academic thing, devoid of emotion. Maybe they think it sounds neat, but it doesn’t mean anything to them.
I am making today’s video for them. Or, for you, if you’re not a fan of Classical music. Chances are, if you’re subscribed to my channel you probably have a half-decent appreciation of Classical music – in that case, share this with your friends who don’t.
Problem #1: Classical music is boring
Technically and objectively, this is a false statement. A good chunk of Classical music is significantly more complex than modern music, and therefore less “boring”.
But that’s not what you mean. You mean that Classical music is boring because it all sounds the same, and because there’s nothing in it that grabs your attention. It doesn’t make you jam out, it doesn’t hit you in the feels.
Non-complex, immediately catchy Classical music
You probably accept that there’s plenty of boring modern music too, right? “Classical music”, in its broad definition, encompasses music from 300-400 years. Surely there’s something in that huge time span that you wouldn’t consider boring.
So let’s get into something fast and exciting, that you can tap your toes to, something awesome that’ll get stuck in your head.
I’m talking about the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Yes, we all know the slow, somber first movement, and I’ve added that to my Spotify playlist below as well – but the third movement is just pure, fun adrenaline. And it’s not too weird either.
Problem #2: Classical music lacks soul
When Jimi Hendrix jams his guitar solos, or Taylor Swift croons her boyfriend problems, we can instantly and emotionally connect to it. We “get it”. We don’t have to invest any time or energy into trying to get it.
A common complaint of Classical music is that it doesn’t give an emotional connection the way modern music does. It’s a good point. Modern music is often presented very simply, and uses lyrics or emotive chord progressions to move us.
For us to feel like music “gets us”, it sometimes has to feel like it belongs to our generation. I will never jam out to music from the 80s the way my parents did, or music from the 50s like many of our grandparents. A 50s ballad that could bring my Granny to tears would leave me shrugging my shoulders.
Solution: highly-charged and emotional classical pieces
That being said, plenty of classical music is highly emotive, and even though it’s not fresh or generational, we can still get something from it. You might not be able to belt it out at karaoke when your heart is broken, but that doesn’t mean Classical music can’t have an emotional impact.
Let’s take a listen to a Lyric Piece by Grieg, op. 47 no. 3, Melodie. I love Grieg’s Lyric Pieces because they’re all very short and expressive, and very listenable as an everyday modern person.
Classical music concerts aren’t exciting
When you go to a classical concert, you’re expected to dress up, be quiet and polite during the performance, and sit back and listen. This is exactly the opposite of a modern-style concert, where you’re encouraged to yell and scream, wear your finest street clothes, and jump around.
Have you ever listened to a band’s recordings, thought to yourself “this is okay but not special”, and then you see them live and they blow your mind, and they become one of your favorite bands?
Live music is so often the gateway to falling in love with an artist, composer, band, whatever. You get to hear it up close and personal. You get to have a life experience. Some of my fondest memories are of concerts I’ve attended.
Solution: Pop & Classical Concerts are Apples and Oranges
If you’re not going to classical concerts, you’re depriving yourself of one really good opportunity to fall in love with classical composers. No, they’re usually not wild – you’re not going to be drinking and sweating and all that – but you get to play dress-up and possibly go on a really great mental journey.
If you allow yourself the idea that live music doesn’t have to fit into a specific definition (like a crazy party night), you’ll open the door to what could be a really cool experience if you have an open mind about it.
I think Shostakovich is one of those composers us modern people could really get into. He’s fairly modern, and wrote a lot of emotional music related to wars and living in communist Russia, such as this one we’ll listen to – the String Quartet in C minor – which was written when Shostakovich was on the brink of suicide.
This one is very metal, very unsettling, and gives me goosebumps.
Problem #4: Classical music is too complicated
Whenever people tell me they listen to Classical music to relax, it throws me off. I guess if you’re listening to super mellow Debussy stuff, I can see it. But the idea of relaxing to a Beethoven Symphony or a Bach Concerto just throws me for a loop.
(If you want some good playlists for relaxing, check out No Sleepless Night’s post about Classical music to relax to.)
So when people complain that classical music is too complicated, believe me, I get it.
We’ve become accustomed to songs with 4 chords, repetitive melodies that can be learned by listening to a song just once, and lyrics. I’m not judging you. Not all modern music is so simple, but I dare you to find me a popular song that’s 15 minutes long, that isn’t Rush or Tool or some metal song.
I like simple songs just as much as the next person. It’s nice to hear something and immediately be able to grasp it.
Listen to Simple Classical Music
This answer is easy in theory, but finding simple classical music can be an endeavor.
You’ll probably best enjoy Classical music with 1-4 instruments, and a good bet would be short romantic pieces that use the piano, or piano and an expressive instrument like cello.
Alternately, sometimes you get music that doesn’t sound complicated, even if it’s extremely difficult to play. I really like Albeniz’s Asturias from his Suite Espanola, especially when it’s played by a guitar. What I love about this one is it doesn’t do really wild and crazy things – it picks a mood, and envelops you in it.
Problem #5: Classical music is too long
With an average sonata clocking in around 20 minutes, and an average symphony much longer than that, classical music can get long.
Solution: Listen to shorter Classical pieces, not entire works
Avoid symphonies, sonatas, concertos and quartets. Those tend to be the big beasts. Instead, look for individual one-off works, or a song in a category like “nocturne” or “prelude”.
A really (REALLY) short, really groovy Prelude is George Gershwin’s first prelude. This is from the early 1900s, and Gershwin does a lot of awesome jazz-classical hybrid music.
The first prelude is from 0:00-1:40
Problem #6: Classical music doesn’t have a consistent melody to grab on to
In pop music, you can hear a melody once or twice, and be able to sing along to it. There has been music like that probably since forever – you’ll find the same thing in traditional folk music. It’s highly singable, and is generally simple with just vocals, or vocals and a secondary background instrument.
Classical music is an entirely different breed. It started in the church and moved into the homes of rich people who had the time and leisure to study music and develop an appreciation for more complexity. It wasn’t music for the everyday person.
Not to mention that a lot of classical music is instrumental, whereas folk music (or pop nowadays) is largely vocal. Instrumental music doesn’t always have a catchy tune, because it’s not written for people to sing along to.
Solution: Try listening to classical duos
Look for some duos. Think piano + violin, or piano + cello. It’s more approachable than, say, opera, but you’ll get a similar effect – a background part (the piano) and the lead melody.
As an idea for solo instrument with a strong melody, I’ve got tons of suggestions – guys like Grieg, Chopin and Liszt will all be on the playlist. But I want to show you a very melodic piece by Faure.
It’s called Apres un reve, op. 7 no. 1. It is scored for piano and a string instrument, is extremely melodic, simple and profound.
Classical Music Playlist
For this video, I’ve put together a short-ish playlist on Spotify. You’ll find the tunes we talked about on the playlist, as well as some others that I thought you might like. There’s a pretty diverse range of genres, so I’m hoping you’ll find something that piques your interest!
Thanks for checking out today’s video/blog post. My main goal today was to show you that not all Classical music sounds like Mozart, and there are all kinds of sizes and styles out there. There’s something for everyone!