Category Archives: 31 Days of Homemade Music

Listening Activities: The Carnival of the Animals (Day Twenty-one of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.


If you and/or your little ones enjoyed Peter and the Wolf, you may also enjoy The Carnival of the Animals. Written by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886, this suite portrays a wild mixture of animals (and other creatures) through fourteen movements. From a royal lion to an enormous elephant to fossils and a swan, this piece is definitely a musical menagerie.

In 1949, Ogden Nash wrote short verses to accompany the pieces, and the two are often performed in tandem. This piece is just plain fun! Have a listen to it here:

Suggested listening activities:

  • Improvise along with the recording on your instrument of choice.
  • Have children imitate the different animals, taking their cues from the music.
  • Discuss: How does the music make you think of different animals? (i.e., can different instrumental characteristics remind you of different animal characteristics, etc.?)
  • Write your own animal poems to accompany the music.
  • Try reading an accompanying children’s book like this one.

Which animal is your favorite from the Carnival?

I’ve also been posting additional resources and videos on my Facebook page as I find them. Join me there to share more musical resources! (As well as homesteading/parenting/homeschooling resources once this whole 31 Days thing is over. Whew! :))

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!

Artwork credit: “Gray Elephant Drawing” by published by Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London – page Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.



Beginner Piano Resources (Day Nineteen of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

You now know the basics of reading rhythm and pitch. Are you ready to take that to the next step? Since we’ve been talking so much about ways you can play with music in your own home, I thought I would include here some resources for a common foundational instrument: the piano.

piano 001

I am by no means a pianist. I can play block chords and simple arpeggios, but I have very little technical skill. I attribute this to beginning piano later in life and not practicing as much as I should have after I stopped taking lessons. That being said, what I can do on piano is enough to (roughly) accompany my vocal students and play simple songs for my kiddos or my own enjoyment.

Why think about studying the piano? It gives you a strong foundation in reading music and playing instruments. Even if you have intention of ever really picking up the piano, it can be a great reference for playing other instruments too. For example, I often check my vocal pitch against the piano for accuracy, and you can always use the piano for tuning your other instruments. Plus, it’s nice to be able to read at least part of a piano accompaniment to a song so you can hear the other parts in a song.

There were several books that I found particularly helpful during my own time studying the piano under a few different teachers. I have tried to select the most tasteful, beautiful, and efficient books that I have used to share with you.

Keyboard Musician for the Adult Beginner (Frances Clark Library for Piano Students)This is a progressive course for adults that gradually build your skills and technique. I like that this book goes a long way- you don’t need to buy 5 different “levels” as you work your way up, since the book has multiple levels in it.

Hanon – Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises – Complete: Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics– This book is a standard for developing dexterity of the fingers through daily exercises of increasing difficulty. Good if you already know how to read music and know where the notes are on the piano, but not for the complete beginner.

Masterwork Classics, Level 1-2 (Alfred Masterwork Editions)– Beautiful, simple pieces for beginners with the help of finger markings throughout. This book includes classic repertoire that is worthy of the attention of the professional, but easy enough that the newbie can give them a go.

Piano Pieces for Children: 1 (Kalmus Classic Editions)– I played out of a Bartok beginner’s book when I was studying, and the pieces were so pretty and enjoyable that I simply must share this book. Once you get past some of the beginner method books, this one or any other by Bartok provides alluring music for the novice pianist.

Children’s Beginner Piano Books– There are too many children’s method books to count, though I have left you a link here for your perusal. Check the reviews to find out what piano teachers did and didn’t like about each method book. Then pick your favorite. With most children’s beginner books, even if you are not a pianist yourself, you will be able to follow the lessons and help your child understand the basic concepts. We have used this Music for Little Mozarts book for J.

I remind you again, I am not a real pianist myself, so if any of you piano teachers have suggestions that you would like to give, please list them below in the comments.

What have you enjoyed trying the most during this series? Is there anything in particular you would like to see covered before 31 Days is over? I appreciate hearing your thoughts and wisdom. 🙂

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!


Note Reading 101 (Day Eighteen of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Yesterday you learned a bit about reading rhythms (and hopefully you’ve been practicing). Today, you’ll learn the basics of how to tell which notes are which on paper.

First, let’s start with the staff.

treble clefThe musical staff is simply five horizontal lines used to mark particular pitches on paper. Just like each letter of our alphabet stands for a certain phonetic sound, each line or space on a staff stands for a certain pitch.

Now, the thing is that you have to know which clef you are in to know which lines and spaces are which notes. The swirly symbol on the staff above is a treble clef, or the G clef. (The swirl circling the second line from the bottom marks the pitch “G.” ) The symbol on the staff below is the bass clef, or the F clef. (The second line from the top – the one between the two dots- is the pitch “F.”)

Bass_ClefWhat do I mean by G and F? Just as each phonetic sound in our language has a letter to represent it, each pitch in the musical language has a letter to represent it. The musical alphabet goes from A-G and then repeats again.

Next, let’s figure out how to put these notes on the staff. Various mnemonics have been imagined to help folks remember the names of the lines and spaces.

Here’s the note names on the treble clef:

treble clef linesspacesThe most common memory phrases for these lines and spaces are “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and, simply, the word, “FACE.”

Here’s the note names on the bass clef:

bass clef linesspacesSome favorite mnemonics for the bass clef are “All Cows Eat Grass” and “Grizzly Bears Don’t Fly Airplanes.” Clever, right?

To me, however, it seems almost simpler to think of lines and spaces in alphabetic succession. For example, we know that in the bass clef, the line between the two dots is F. So the space above the F is G. (Now remember that the musical alphabet starts over after G!) The line above G is A. The space above A is B. And so on and so forth, in alphabetical order.

This chart makes that idea a little clearer:

grandstaff2Make sense? (If it doesn’t, please let me know!)

You’re ready to start quizzing yourself now. Try the Note Identification Game and other great exercises from If you’re doing this with kids (or you like colorful displays that play the notes), try the Note Name Game on Classics for Kids.

Next, you must learn where these notes lie on any given instrument. It can feel tedious at first, but don’t worry- with time, note reading becomes second nature.




Rhythm Reading 101 (Day Seventeen of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Perhaps you enjoyed goofing off with percussion a bit and decided that you would actually like to learn to read rhythms. If you plan to pursue music to any extent, you will eventually need to learn it, so let’s start by identifying the notes:

note-values(Thank you to Emily Clark Music for making this chart and many other music theory worksheets available for free download. I tend to only use the note value names on the left, but Emily also uses the British names, listed on the right.)

Just FYI, Emily has her eighth and sixteenth notes shown in groups of two and four, respectively, for the sake of clearly seeing how a beat is divided. It should be noted that they can come in various other groupings, or they can come alone. The stems on a note can also go up or down, depending on where it sits on the staff. The important thing to pay attention to are the “flags” or lines at the end of the stem. Eighth notes always have one flag or line, sixteenth notes have 2 flags or lines, thirty-second notes always have three, and so on.

If you have no idea what “flag” or “stem” means, here’s an eighth note all by its lonesome just waiting to demonstrate for you:


So, as we can see in Emily’s chart, when we are in 4/4 time (you will find out what that means if you continue studying!), the quarter note gets the beat. That means that the whole note gets 4 beats, the half note gets 2 beats, the quarter note gets one, the eight note gets 1/2 beat, and the sixteenth note gets 1/4 of a beat. Think math with me here and it will all make sense.

Let’s practice. Pretend you’re about to march. Count off at a steady tempo: “1, 2, 3, 4! 1, 2, 3, 4!” etc. Each of those counts is now a beat. If the quarter note gets the beat, then each of these counts is one quarter note. Try clapping quarter notes while you count (one clap with each number.)

Now try clapping half notes. Since half notes will get two beats, You will only clap when you say “1” and “3.” Here’s what this would look like:

Clap ————- Clap————-

1          2             3            4

A whole note gets 4 beats, so you will only clap on “1” and hold it for four beats, like this:


1           2              3             4

Try eight notes. Remember that an eighth note only gets half a beat, so that means that you can fit two eighth notes into every beat. (Now the “clap” is represented by “C” for space’s sake.)

C    C    C    C     C    C     C     C

1           2           3            4

And for fun, sixteenths- fitting four sixteenth notes into the space of one beat:


1            2            3           4

Want to try some more? Vic Firth has a free progressive online course in reading and playing rhythms. Once you get the basic concepts, you can try the rhythm tool at Practice Sight Reading, or you can give the free Flash player-based Rhythm Trainer a try.

Rhythms are not just for percussion- they’re for every instrument! So tomorrow, I will give you a note reading 101 course in case you want to pursue playing something else. Enjoy counting in your head all day long… 😉


Playing with Percussion (Day Sixteen of Homemade Music)

I often look to singing as the first general introduction to music because, well, it’s an instrument that everybody already has! What’s the next most available instrument? Some sort of percussion.


(Photo Credit)

But wait, you say, I don’t own drums! No matter. People everywhere and in all times have had some sort of percussion available. You have tons of percussion instruments already lying around your house. You have hands, legs, feet, and a floor. The band I play with has used cardboard boxes, suitcases, chains, and I can’t remember what else to provide rhythm for the group. Any surface will do to produce a beat. If you have a minute and a half, this will provide some inspiration for you:

If this is your very first time playing with percussion, don’t be intimidated. For all my years in music, I’m still very clumsy when it comes to actually playing a drum (as my musical friends can well attest), but it’s fun to try regardless. Try practicing thumping an even, steady beat on a table top with your hand.  Work to keep it even, and avoid getting faster and faster (rushing) or slower and slower (dragging) for now.

A great way to jump in on percussion is to make a drum circle with friends or your kids. It’s low pressure, encourages your group playing skills, and helps everyone let their guard down a bit.

What is a drum circle? Everyone grabs a drum or some other sort of percussion (drum, shaker, wood block, triangle, hand clapping, etc.). One person picks a starting rhythm and plays it over and over, keeping it steady and even. If you’re all new, you can all try playing the same rhythm together. As you get more comfortable, gradually add different rhythms that complement the first. You’ll most likely be able to tell quickly whether it feels right or not. Keep it going for a little while, then start over with someone else giving the first rhythm.

Don’t know how to pick a rhythm? No worries- just try saying a sentence. How about introducing yourself? “Hi, my name is Abi.” Repeat it over and over til it falls into a steady pattern. Now, try striking your drum (or table top, or knee, or whatever) with each syllable. You may be surprised how easy it is to fall into a groove.

Check out some of these great examples of beginners joining in a drum circle:

Anyone can try a drum circle, no matter his age or ability. Even toddlers will enjoy joining in, even if they are less than accurate! 😉 No drum circle? That’s okay, you can still get in a lot of practice yourself until you can find some willing victims eager participants to join you. Happy grooving to you!



Call & Response (Day Thirteen of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To see more posts in this series, click here.

Call and response is an old- yet still common- form of singing pervasive in gospel, blues, and folk music. What is it? Exactly what it sounds like- one group of singers (or a leader) “calls” out a phrase, and a second group of singers (or an individual) responds with another phrase. Classical music uses “antiphony”- the same idea, where two group sing alternating phrases.Sometimes the two phrases are exactly the same, and sometimes they are different. It can be quite simple or more complex. Let’s listen to some examples.

Here’s a simple call and response children’s song that you may recognize from your childhood- The Littlest Worm. It starts with a phrase sung by the leader (call), then repeated exactly by all the children (response). The chorus is always sung all together. Sorry for the silliness. 😉

Here’s an example from the famous movie Casablanca.
Call: “Who’s got trouble?”
Response: “We’ve got trouble!”
Call: “How much trouble?”
Response: “Too much trouble!”

Here’s another famous movie example- Oh Happy Day from Sister Act (wait for the introduction to pass):

You get the idea, though there are lots more examples to be had.

What do I like about call and response songs? It’s a great musical teaching tool for kids and newbies alike. Think of the simplest call and responses that are essentially echos. When we hear a phrase and try to copy it exactly, it makes a song easy to learn. It gives the responder a chance to practice his rhythm and pitch accuracy. It helps him to develop his ear and skill.

Try a simple call and response song with your child! Don’t know one? Make one up, or have them echo you on a simple song you already know. (Try “Row, row, row your boat” from yesterday!) If you’re already an old pro, try using call and response to practice your improvisation skills (more on improvisation later in the series).

What’s your favorite call-and response song?



Let’s Get Singing Rounds! (Day Twelve of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from music making. To see more posts in this series, click here.

Now that you have some motivation to get making music, let’s start with a very basic form of singing together: singing rounds.

What is a round, you may ask? It’s simply several people singing the same simple melody, but starting it at different times. You may remember singing “Row, row, row your boat” this way when you were a child.

(These young girls actually did a pretty nice job of singing this in 5 parts, and added a fancy little ending too! 🙂 )

The keys with getting a round right are:

  • Everyone singing in tune (no one wandering higher or lower than the rest of the group).
  • Everyone singing at the same tempo (no one going faster or slower than the rest of the group).
  • Everyone coming in at the right spot. Person 1 should start, then person 2 should come in singing the beginning when person 1 is at the second phrase of the song, then person 3 should come in when person 1 is at the 3rd phrase and person 2 is at the second phrase, and so on and so forth.

Here’s a visual guide if that verbal description wasn’t clear:

rowrowrowyourboatMake sense?

A round can be sung with as many or as little parts as you like. Try practicing the melody all together at first, then try practicing it in only two parts. Progressively add more parts as you get more comfortable with singing the round.

Any number of simple melodies can be turned into a round. Here’s the song “Kookabura” set as a round:

And here are photos of a few of my favorites:

The first two are from one of my favorite children’s songs collections: The Fireside Book of Children’s Songs.

rounds 002 rounds 004

The next two are from The Choral Warm-Up Collection, a really helpful teaching and learning tool for teachers and students alike.

rounds 005 rounds 006

Do you enjoy singing rounds? If this is your first time trying it, let me know how it went for you. 🙂

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and make any purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!


Instruments That You May Already Have (Day Eleven of Homemade Music)

What do you really need to make music? A $300 guitar? An upright piano? While I would encourage you to make an instrument purchase at some point if you really want to start playing music, it turns out you probably don’t actually need that to get started. Just look at what you already have!

You have a whole percussion section in your house:

October 2014 005Pots, pans, spoons, 5 gallon buckets, and tin cans can all stand in for drums. Try boxes of pasta, oats, or nuts for shakers (or dry some gourds for the same purpose). Your options are fairly limitless to get going on rhythms! (The thing in the front is some sort of funny bamboo decorative piece… J likes to use it for a washboard.)

You probably have bells in your house:

October 2014 006(An upturned Kitchen Aid makes a very nice ring when held up and donged upon with a spoon. Try different sized metal bowls for varying pitches.)

You may have kid’s instruments laying around that may actually be passable for playing (like this set that we have):

October 2014 007

And you may have real adult instruments that have been laying around, neglected for years. Pull them out and dust them off. Maybe you have a relative’s old instrument sitting in storage. Maybe you have a yard sale instrument or a consignment shop find like this one:

October 2014 008We picked this pretty little thing up for $60 at a local variety shop. It’s actually got a beautiful resonant tone, and far cheaper than buying new. I also inherited my grandfather’s violin, which turned out to be a rather nice one, and my mom let us use her old clarinet. There are probably old instruments lying around somewhere in your circles that are just begging to be picked up and played again.

Think about other possibilities in your home- do you have crystal glasses? Try filling them to varying heights with water and lightly running a wet finger around the top in a continuous circle to make them sing out clear, high notes. How about rubber bands? Stretch them and pluck them with a finger to experiment with how different tensions produce different pitches. Go, explore, be creative, and see what you can come up with.

Finally, the most obvious instrument of all- YOU!

dancingj(My dear mom in law, little J, and me dancing at a wedding two years ago.)

You’ve got feet for tapping, hands for clapping, and a voice for singing. Think about the possibilities that this instrument- your very own body- can have. Beat-boxing, finger drumming, a variety of percussive swishes, slaps, claps, and thumps, and a range of vocal possibilities from pop to folk to country to rap to opera. You, yourself, may be the most versatile instrument you will ever own.

What do you have laying around that can be used as an instrument?



Tips for Actively Listening to Unfamiliar Music (Day Ten of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from music making. To see more posts in this series, click here.

Sometimes when someone gets a resolve to study music, he will become overzealous and work to understand every detail of a symphony and know the composer’s full background before attempting to play a little excerpt from it. While it can be good to memorize these types of details for your own edification, it is certainly not necessary for enjoying the music and can help lead a person to musical burn-out before he even really begins.

Today, I want to give you some tips to help you begin actively listening to music in a painless and enjoyable way.

October 2014 060

For Beginners

Think about how a child learns to read and write. Do mothers sit with their infants and guide their hands to trace letters? Do they sound out phonics to them at 2 months old? Not usually. A mother speaks to her child, and the child relishes in the sheer love and affection of her words, even before he fully understands his mother’s meaning. Have you even seen a baby burst into laughter at the sheer delight of hearing its mother repeat the same silly phrase over and over?

Music is the same way. You do not need to understand the composer’s intention behind the work in order to take pleasure in it. Even without any background at all, you can understand strains of emotion in the music. Is it sad, dramatic, light and airy, exuberant, reverent, energetic, or pensive? Just as a child can understand the tone of its mother’s voice before he knows the words, so you too can understand much of the music before you know the instruments playing, the melodic motives, etc.

So, when you are first listening to music, just listen. Turn up the speakers and take in the sounds. Let it speak for itself. You don’t need to read anything into it.

After having a listen, you can allow yourself to make some basic observations: What is the overall tone of the piece? Does it change at all during the course of the piece? How does it make you feel? What instruments do you think you hear? (It’s okay if you’re wrong!) About when do you think this music was composed? (You can use Part 1 or Part 2  of Listening through History to try to make an educated guess!) Try writing or drawing while you listen to the music. You’ll find that the piece you are listening to will influence what you want to write about or the style of your drawing. Feel free to explore the music subjectively. Just absorb it into your system and enjoy it.

For Parents

Just like the overzealous pupil that was described at the top of this post, it can be tempting for parents to want to over-manage their children’s musical education. For some reason we have to infuse every listening session with factoids about each piece- Little Johnny, do you hear how the that violin just held out a note that didn’t sound right over the rest of the orchestra? That wasn’t a mistake, that was what we call dissonance. Or worse, for those of us who have studied music, we stand over our three year old at the piano and point out each time they are holding their fingers wrong or how they should change their posture…. before they have even had a lesson! (Nope, I haven’t done that, not me.)

The best piece of advice I can give you as a parent is this: Let your child explore the music. Don’t tell him how to feel, and don’t limit the music to its mere make-up of black jots on staff paper. Let him turn it up (reasonably) and listen to it over and over. Let him dance, let him draw, let him talk about it. Let him beat on a pot with a spoon while he listens.

Let small children get familiar with instruments you have in the house, even if they’re playing them wrong for now. Teach them to respect the instruments, but allow them freedom to get acquainted how they feel most comfortable at first. Let them laugh at parts they think are funny. Let them react differently to the music than you would.

If you have older children and you don’t usually listen to classical music, you may fear they will find it to be “lame.” Don’t worry. Don’t force them into an overly educational experience at first. To begin, simply let classical music become part of your household. Turn it on in the car or in the mornings while you’re getting ready for your day. You could even purchase an inexpensive beginner’s instrument and start practicing yourself. Sure, they may think you’re wonky in the beginning, but over time, the music will begin to subconsciously become a regular part of their day- and they just may start to enjoy it.

For Everyone

When you’re just beginning to listen to music more purposefully, try to listen to the same piece of music several times over the course of a week. (We like to get one CD from the library each week and listen to it every day at nap time.) Like great literary works or masterpieces of visual art, great music doesn’t grow old. Rather, the more you listen to it, the more you appreciate it. It’s complexities grow on you and fascinate you more. You hear new things each time you listen to it, yet the increasing level of intimacy with a piece will charm you.

Over time, you will gradually get to understand the music more and more. Remember the infant who listened to and enjoyed its mother’s speech? Well, after so long, a babbling baby will begin to repeat its parent’s words. The child’s speech may be jumbled and hard to understand, but nobody minds. Everyone delights in the little one’s attempts. After much practice and gentle repetition, the child begins to gain a progressively larger vocabulary of clearer and clearer speech. It is only after the child already can speak very well that he is taught to read and write, and then after that when he is taught rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Again, music should be the same way. Don’t force your child (or yourself) into reading and writing music without giving him some experience of making music first. Listening to music should be a gateway into making it yourself, even in some small capacity. While you listen to music, try tapping along to the beat, or humming the melody, or picking out the notes on a keyboard.

Once you’re feeling a little more comfortable, try getting an instrument and begin to get accustomed with it. Pluck up and down the neck of a guitar for a while. Practice drawing a bow across the strings of a cello. See if you can buzz into the mouthpiece of a trombone. Sometimes we feel awkward picking up an instrument we don’t know how to play, but isn’t that the only way to start playing? Don’t feel like you have to wait for formal instruction to begin to love on your instrument.

As you listen to and begin to play music yourself more, you will gradually increase in knowledge of reading and writing music. You will become a music theorist of sorts as you discover various compositional elements and begin experimenting with creating and performing your own. But all of this comes later. Don’t feel any need to rush yourself into understanding every little detail about what you are listening to.

How do you listen to music? How do you enjoy it with your family? Do you play music too? Come back tomorrow to find some basic tools that you already have to start playing music together.





Listening Through History, Part 2 (Day Nine of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from music making. To see more posts in this series, click here.

Yesterday I gave you a representative list of historical pieces of music from Ancient times up through the Renaissance to listen to and enjoy. Today, we will listen from the Baroque Period through the Twentieth Century. I have been using my seventh edition copy of A History of Western Music to help me create this list. It is a brilliant and fascinating history for anyone studying music, or for anyone wanting to see how music related to world events and politics of the past.

renoirgirlsatthepianoRenoir, Girls at the Piano (Source)

Today, I will be giving you more playlists to listen to than I did yesterday. This is simply because more people have created “Best of” lists (a.k.a. Best of Beethoven, Best of Bach) out of “modern” music than from ancient music. I have yet to see a “Best of Perotin” playlist. Anyone up for the task? 😉

Remember, the purpose of this list is not to create an exhaustive (or exhausting) listening assignment. Rather, it’s to give you a place to start listening to great music of the past and create a context for your own musical experience. You can also use these lists as resources for your own edification as you listen to and create your own music.

Here we go!

Baroque Period (1600-1750)

  • L’Orfeo (By Claudio Monteverdi, 1567-1643. Monteverdi’s music evolved from late Renaissance into a new style that later came to be part of the Baroque period. He wrote only vocal and dramatic works, including the some of the first operas.)
  • Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643, helped to raise instrumental music up to the same level as vocal music.)
  • Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687, born Italian but lived in France. He created French opera, French overture, and helped to form the orchestra.)
  • Henry Purcell (1659-1695, a great English composer who wrote for the courts and the church.)
  • Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741, an Italian composer who wrote music for children in the orphanage where he was violin master. You will recognize the familiar melody in “The Four Seasons,” the first example in the selected medley.)
  • Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764, a French composer and music theorist.)
  • J.S. Bach (1685-1750, a German organist and composer who worked for the church and court.)
  • George Frederic Handel (1685-1759, invented the oratorio. Perhaps the most famous is The Messiah.)
  • Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757, a keyboard composer and contemporary of Handel.)

The Classic Period (c. 1750-1825)

  • Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787, managed to bring together the operatic styles of France, Italy, and Germany.)
  • Franz Joseph Haydn (1739-1809, best known for his string quartets and symphonies.)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791, a child prodigy and famed composer of instrumental music, operas, piano music, and church music.)
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827, a highly influential German composer who left a legacy to this day. He began to go deaf in his later years, but continued on composing through it.)

Romantic Period (c. 1825-1900)

Twentieth Century (1900-2000)

  • John Phillip Sousa (1854-1932, The famous American march composer.)
  • Richard Strauss (1864-1949, a German conductor and composer.)
  • Jean Sibelius (1865-1957, composer of “Finlandia”- now the text “Be Still my Soul” is set to this tune.)
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958, an English composer of various musical genres.)
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943 a Russian pianist whose pieces always seem to speak drama and passion.)
  • Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971, a Russian composer. The link is the infamous and energetic Rite of Spring, which was so poorly received at its premiere that it provoked a riot. This video talks about the piece and why it was so infuriating.)
  • Charles Ives (1874-1954, an American composer whose work was not recognized until much later in his career.)
  • Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951, known for his atonal and twelve-tone composer.)
  • Bela Bartok (1881-1945, a virtuoso pianist & ethnomusicologist from Hungary with a passion for folk music.)
  • George Gershwin (1898-1937, The American composer responsible for Rhapsody in Blue and a plethora of popular movie songs that we love to sing along with.)
  • Aaron Copeland (1900-1990, an American composer with a lot of “Appalachia” feel.)
  • Benjamin Britten (1913-1976, an English composer who enjoyed writing music for amateurs and children. We will revisit him later in our 31 Days Series.)
    English, 1913-1976
  • Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990, American, composer of the popular musical West Side Story.)

And that brings us pretty close to the present day. But even in this long list (or at least it felt long to me putting it together!), we have barely scratched the surface of all the great music we could listen to. I’ve skipped a lot of composers that I would love to add to this list. And keep in mind- this is only western art music. I haven’t even glanced at music from other parts of the world, folk traditions, pop music, etc.

It’s impossible to touch everything (especially not in two days), but it IS possible to start somewhere. And that’s just what we’re doing.

Happy listening folks. Come back tomorrow for some tips for listening to music as a family and get ready to start creating some music yourself! 🙂

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