From … how to enjoy classical music, step 3:

Find a Genre and start listening!

Did you know that classical music, like modern rock and jazz, was and is an ever changing form? You can really tell the difference between, say, Beethoven and Samuel Barber because their music is 2 centuries apart! Below is a list of some of the more famous composers out of each of the periods of classical music and my own preferences:

Medieval (500 – 1400)
* Please don’t waste your time with this era. If you’re already bored with classical music, this will make you bang your head against a wall.

Renaissance (1400 – 1600)
* See note above.

Baroque (1600 – 1760ish)
– Bach
– Pachelbel
– Vivaldi
* I still think this period is boring with the exception of some of Bach’s dark organ music – scary!

Classical (1730 – 1820)
– Mozart
– Haydn
– Early Beethoven
* Still yawning. They’ve got good stuff, but beginners just can’t handle it yet. Keep reading.

Romantic (1815 – 1910)
– Middle and Late Beethoven (YES!)
– Brahms – Check out Symphony #4
– Tchaikovsky – Check out 1812 Overture
– Dvorak – Check out Symphony #9
– Wagner (good operas)
*This is by far my favorite era. This is when the size of the orchestra expanded, the piano became widely used, and composers were using music as a revolutionary outlet in protest of their various governments.

20th Century (1900 – 2000 but you already knew that!)
– Prokofiev – Excellent!
– Samuel Barber – Check out Violin Concerto
– Stravinsky – Check out Firebird and Rite of Spring
– Shostakovich – Check out 5th Symphony
– Gershwin – Check out Rhapsody in Blue
– Debussy – Check out Clair de Lune
– Copland – Check out Billy the Kid
– Orff – Check out Carmina Burana
* There are so many, I can never hope to list them all! The last century had some really revolutionary music – music that spawned Jazz, Blues, Rock and Roll, and even Hip-Hop. This is where the action is folks!



  1. Everyone has their own preferences, but I’m amused by how the author is so dismissive. 🙂

  2. No kidding! I was rather surprised that someone who is trying to interest others in “classical” music would be so limiting.

    And of course when one dismisses all Mozart, most Bach and only cares for later Beethoven I tend to dismiss the dismisser. 🙂

  3. It is dismissive, but honestly, I thikn if you;re introducing someone to classical music who doesn’t even know so much about it to tell you what kinds they like, that those are pretty good guidelines to follow. Then if they don’t respond to the Romantics, branch out!

  4. I have to disagree, Rachel. When you are making suggestions like that you prejudice your listener straight off. And you aren’t giving a newbie any chance … telling someone so skip something merely because you (whoever “you” are in this instance) think Mozart of a yawner? Please! It just tells me that “you” (not you, Rachel … but you know what I mean!) don’t understand Mozart.

    But then I could be wrong. I just wish the person wouldn’t totally dump entire eras and composers. Sigh.