Classical Music is a term used to describe music from a broad range of periods usually including the Baroque (1600-1760), Classical (1730-1820) and Romantic periods (1815-1910).
The Orchestra we commonly see today was developed during the Romantic period.
Many styles of music were popular at different stages of these periods; including Symphonies, Concertos, Sonatas, Operas and Ballets.
A Symphony usually has 4 movements of different tempos. It is almost always played by an Orchestra.
A Concerto usually has 3 movements. There is a solo instrument accompanied by an Orchestra. The 1st movement was generally in Sonata form. The 2nd movement is slower and the 3rd movement is faster in Rondo form.
Sonata is a term used to described a piece of Clasical Music that is written for piano or harpsichord either as a solo instrument, or as a duet.
An Opera is a story which is entirely sung by the actors. It is accompanied by an Orchestra. Operas usually have large sets, costumes and sometimes dance. There are the principal (or main) actors, minor actors and a chorus who all help to tell the story.
A Ballet is similar to an Opera, except the story is told entirely through dance.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was an Austrian composer who was arguably the most famous composer of the Classical Period. He was a prolific composer, despite his short life of 35 years.
Mozart: Symphony No. 40, in G minor
From Mozart's Requiem Mass, written while he was dying.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist who is considered a leading figure in the cross-over between the Classical and Romantic periods. Beethoven began to lose his hearing around the age of 26 and was completely deaf by the age of 44. He continued to compose until his death at the age of 57.
Beethoven Piano Sonata: Moonlight Sonata
The String instruments commonly used in the Orchestra are known as the Violin Family. They are (in order of smallest to largest) the Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass.
The Violin and Viola are both held under the chin to play, while the Cello and Double Bass stand upright in front of the player.
All members of the Violin Family have 4 strings, a fretless fingerboard, 2 f-shaped holes and a peg box containing 4 pegs.
There are 2 main ways to play the Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass: by plucking the strings or by drawing the bow across the strings to produce sound.
The bow is a wooden frame with hairs stretched between either end.
There are 5 main Woodwind instruments used in the Orchestra. They are (in order of smallest to largest) the Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet, Oboe and Bassoon. Other Woodwind instruments are also used from time to time to create different effects. These are the Cor Englais (English Horn), Bass Clarinet and Contrabassoon (Double Bassoon).
These instruments are called Woodwind because they were all originally made from wood. Nowdays the Piccolo and Flute are made from metal, while the Clarinet and Oboe are usually made from plastic.
The Piccolo and Flute are held horizontally to the right of the player, the Clarinet and Oboe are held in front of the player and the Bassoon is held vertically to the right of the player.
The Clarinet and Saxophones have a single reed (a thin piece of cane) clamped to the mouthpiece. The player blows air between the mouthpiece and the reed which makes the reed vibrate, producing sound. The Oboe and Bassoon have a double reed (2 canes held together at the end of the mouthpiece).
Saxophones are members of the Woodwind Family. Saxophones were invented in 1846 by Adolfe Sax. They come in four different sizes. They are from highest to lowest: Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone and Baritone Saxophone.
Saxophones are usually found in Jazz bands, Rock 'n' Roll bands, sometimes even marching bands.
There are 4 main Brass instruments commonly used in the Orchestra. They are (in order of smallest to largest) the Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone and Tuba. All members of this family are made from brass.
The Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone and Tuba all have a flared end called a bell at one end and a mouthpiece at the other. The Trumpet, French Horn and Tuba each have 3 valves which is used to produce different pitches. The Trombone has a slide which is used to create different pitches.
The Trumpet and Trombone are played held directly in front of the player, the French Horn is held to the right of the player with the right hand resting in the bell, while the Tuba is held upright in front of the player.
A mute can be placed in the bell to muffle the sound the instrument produces to create a 'nasal' sound.