The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday October 15th


A guide to classical music: Whose symphony number what?

If you're like me, you have no idea what is going on when people talk about Bach and Beethoven and symphonies and numbers. I have heard a lot of people recently say that they find classical music "boring." 

Is it possible that we are not bored when we listen, but that we don't like what we don't understand?

It's never too late brush up on your knowledge of classical music. This quick guide will prepare you for the next time you find yourself at a symphony/dinner party/fancy music school:

1600s and 1700s: Baroque

  • Think Bach
  • Creation of tonality, which is basically differences in scale or key that it's played in
  • Sounds very ordered/formulaic

1700s and 1800s: Classical

  • Think Mozart
  • Here, classical is referring to a specific part of the overall history of classical music instead of just the general classical music
  • Introduction of the symphony, for which ensembles developed a much more standardized set of instruments
  • An example of an ensemble is a woodwind quartet or string quintet

1800s: Romantic

  • Think Beethoven
  • Expression! Piano! New instruments added to the symphony!
  • This period said #bye to conventions from the classical period

Source: Giphy

20th century composers and on:

  • Getting more modern, which means more modern instruments
  • Electric sounds, synthesizers, electric guitar, bass, etc.
  • Think Sergei Prokofiev and Philip Glass.

Familiarize yourself with this Spotify playlist that was made especially to enter a beginner into the world of classical music. 

You'll feel more sophisticated and perhaps more educated. And you will certainly feel that classical music is not only for pretentious old men.

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