Music Styles

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Classical Music

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 Classical 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.

Famous Composers

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.

Quick facts:

  • Born in Salzburg, his father Leopold Mozart was a composer & musician
  • Leopold taught Mozart to play piano at the age of 3
  • Mozart began composing at age 6 (Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
  • At age 17 Mozart became a professional composer

Mozart's extensive catalogue of compositions includes:
  • 22 operas
  • 41 Symphonies
  • 27 Piano Concertos, 5 Violin Concertos, 4 Horn Concertos
  • 17 Mass settings, 1 Requiem Mass (finished by Franz Xaver Sussmayr after Mozart's death)

Mozart Bio

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Mozart Opera: The Magic Flute - "Queen of the Night" Aria

The Queen of the Night sends a young prince named Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from the evil Sarastro.


Mozart: Symphony No. 40, in G minor


Mozart: Lacrymosa

From Mozart's Requiem Mass, written while he was dying.

Lacrymosa (Mozart's Requiem)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ( )

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.

Quick facts:

  • Among Beethoven's teachers were his father Johann Beethoven,Christian Gottlob Neefe and famous composer Joseph Haydn.
  • In his early life Beethoven performed as a virtuoso pianist

Some of Beethoven's compositions include:

  • 9 Symphonies
  • 5 Piano Concertos
  • 32 Piano Sonatas
  • 16 String Quartets
  • 1 Opera (Fidelio)
  • 1 Mass (Missa Solemnis)

Beethoven Bio

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Beethoven: 5th Symphony
( )

Beethoven Piano Sonata: Moonlight Sonata

Beethoven: 9th Symphony

Mozart & Beethoven in Modern Rock Music

Some songs in modern rock music use themes or elements of Classical music.

Falco's 1980s Austrian Rock song "Rock Me Amadeus" uses historical facts about Mozart and the chord structure of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 as a basis for its song.

"Lacrymosa" by Evanescence uses the Chorus from Mozart's Lacrymosa as a backing part with a new solo vocal line with Amy Lee's lyrics.

Beethoven's 9th Symphony "Ode to Joy" also featured in the 1993 movie "Sister Act: Back in the Habit" with new English lyrics in a Hip Hop rendition of the Classical song.

Have a listen to new spins on these old "Classical Classics".

Falco: "Rock Me Amadeus" - 1985
Rock me Amadeus

Rock Me Amadeus English translation:

Ooh, rock me Amadeus. Rock me all the time to the top.

He was a Punker and he lived in the big city. It was Vienns, was Vienna where he did everything. He had debts, for he drank but all the women loved him.

And they shouted: come and rock me Amadeus. He was a Superstar, he was popular. He was so exalted exactly that was his flair. Because he had flair he was too big for all. He was a virtuoso, was a rock idol. And everyone shouted come and rock me Amadeus.

Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus, oh, oh, oh Amadeus.

Vienna Symphony: "Rock Me Amadeus" - 1986
Evanescence: "Lacrymosa" - 2006
Sister Act 2: "Joyful, Joyful" - 1993

Orchestral Instruments

String Family

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.

Woodwind Family

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).


Other Woodwind Instruments

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.

Brass Family

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.



Click on the links below to practice for the Instrument component of the Music Styles Quiz