The Modern Period: Music History, Composers and Pieces

Music really started to split into different categories during the Modern era (1910-2000). This is where you get styles like Impressionism, Modernism, Ragtime, Jazz, Musicals and more.

The Modern Period




One aspect of modern (20th century) music is Impressionism. This style talks about composers such as Debussy, and goes through some history and examples of this style of writing.

In the 20th century, Western music began to fracture into many different styles. Modernism is one such style, which can be described as very odd and discordant. People who wrote in this genre definitely threw away the traditional rule book.

Ragtime music is such a fun and lively genre from the early 20th century, marked by composers such as Scott Joplin. This genre was exclusively for piano, and was a bit of a precursor to jazz.

Opera was a big part of the modern era, so it seemed important to plant this video here. The second video discusses opera in the romantic and modern eras of music.

American music is a vast topic, so this video serves as an overview on how American music developed from the 1700s to modern times.

Modern Composers




Claude Debussy, composer of Claire de lune, is one of the best-known Impressionist composers (though he hated that classification).

Though not a composer, Glenn Gould is one of the world’s most famous piano performers. He recorded some monumental Bach, and was a Canadian legend.

Rachmaninoff was a late-Romantic, modern-era composer from Russia who spent many of his adult days in America. He was a piano virtuoso and pioneered an original sound.

Modern Music




This is one of the few videos on this channel that discusses pop music. The topic is key changes, and I play through some of my favorites as examples.

Clair de Lune is one of the most famous Classical pieces of all time, written by the composer Debussy. This exploration is free of musical jargon, so you can enjoy it regardless of what level you’re at.

This video is a concise tour of Impressionist composer Debussy’s best music (according to me, not biased at all).

This video provides an overview of the development of Blues music, from its origins in the early 1900s to where it has ended up in the 2000s.

This video is a concise tour of early Modern era composer Rachmaninoff’s best music (according to me).

A look at one of Classical music’s most loved compositions of all time, the wildly difficult Piano Concerto no. 2 by Rachmaninoff.

These two piano compositions are favorites among piano students (especially the dreamy first one). This video takes you on a tour through both of them.

Modern Tutorials





This is one of the oldest tutorials on this channel, and therefore one of the easiest. It’s an arrangement of a very famous folk tune, and is playable at a beginner level.

This is a Canadian folk song – and, as a Canadian, I had to adapt it for easy piano. It’s very haunting and expressive, and quite different from other beginner-style pieces.

This lovable, sweet piece is made simpler with the addition of basic chords, appropriate for preparatory-level students.

Bartok wrote tons of keyboard music for beginners and advanced students alike (he was a piano teacher, among other things). This is one of his beginner-level pieces, teaching the use of staccatos (light playing).

Another beginner-level study from Bartok’s beginner collection. This time the focus is on the two-note slur, a technique that you’ll be using throughout your piano playing life.

Greensleeves has somehow solidified itself as a Christmas tune (What Child is This), though it started out as a folk song. It’s a very well-known melody, and this piano adaptation is suitable for those in their first year of lessons.

This sad and somber folk song is one of my favorites for this level, and I love teaching it. It’s a preparatory-level arrangement, though it’s two pages and involves some leaps and broken chords.

Another Canadian folk song! This one is suited to those in their first year – it’s not particularly easy, so attempt the previous tutorials in this section first.

This album by Bartok is suitable for beginners through a grade 1 level. In this tutorial, I play through the pieces and give a detailed learning plan on the accompanying blog posts.

At around a grade 1 level, this familiar American folk song is fun to learn, and tends to be featured in many beginner-level books.

The Entertainer is a ragtime piece by Scott Joplin, and is very well-loved. This adaptation is approximately at a grade 2 piano level.






This famous prelude has been simplified to be playable by a student at around a grade 4 level.