Classical Music/Listening to music


 I,m learning piano and I love classical music. I almost listen to it everyday for both pleasure and developing my hearing. but I wanted to know:HOW TO LISTEN TO MUSIC? in order to improve my hearing and playing skills(for example to which things should I pay attention more and etc.) and also I wanted to know WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST ME TO LISTEN TO?
i also wanted to mention that I'm interested in music of romantic era (specially chopin) and i listen to it a lot but I don't know how to listen like a musician!

I'm sorry if this took way too long, I'm new to all experts and I don't think I'm getting an e-mail notification.

I'm not a great pianist, my main instrument is the trombone.  But I have taught some elementary piano. I happen to LOVE Chopin.  I have listened to him from the beginning when I was in elementary school.  

Your first question: "How to Listen to Music?"  There's a book called "What to Listen for in Music".  It's by Aaron Copeland, composer of "Fanfare for the Common Man", "Rodeo", "Appalachian Spring".  He describes three levels of listening.  It sells for about $5.00 on  

What things to listen for in music kind of depends on your training,background, and amount of music theory and if you are just sticking to listening just to piano or other instruments, orchestra, concert band, etc.  I guess I would need to know more about your theory background, can you hear chords, the quality whether major or minor, or if you listen to orchestral music, listen for counter-melodies, or accompaniment figures.  Once you get the melody in your ear, try to listen to what ever else is going on.  And of course you can get very advanced in what you recognize in music by listening to it.

And try to remember these quotes by Igor Stravinsky: "I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it."   And, "I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge."

I'll send another reply with some listening suggestions.  Also if you could describe more what your music theory, playing, listening skills are, I can go more in depth.  Also are you just listening to piano music, or do you want orchestral suggestions to listen to.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

First of all thanks for your answer. It was really helpful.
I do listen to orchestral music, but as I play the piano I'm really more interested in piano music and I also like the sound of cello very much and I will be glad if you give me some suggestions of piano and cello music.
among the pieces you suggested there were some pieces which I had heard and some which I didn't knew the composer.(because I'm not so familiar with modern music and I'm more familiar with romantic and classic eras)
but unfortunately I have not found them yet.
about my music theory knowledge: I know the scales and chords to some degree and if I hear a piece I guess I can understand if it's major or minor but I don't think I can say exactly which scale it is.
and I'm in the medium level of learning the piano I guess!
(to explain more now I'm playing moszkowski etudes, czerny etudes,a chopin nocturne, and Bach)
so,in this level what are the important things I should pay attention to when I listen to music?
thanks a lot,

Hi NA,

I need to do a little research on the cello thing.  Off the top of my head I love Bach's cello suites.  Particularly the one in G Major.  I play it on trombone--almost have it down by memory.  Awesome piece, just love it.  I'd like to check out the other ones.  You might have heard it already.  YoYo Ma plays it just magnificently.  It's been in some movies and TV, can't recall which, though.
If you type a composer and cello or piano or even the instruments and Romantic Period into, you can get some nice results and type them in a different order and get other results.  Sometimes someone will have the written music showing while it's being played.

Ok, my favorite Chopin Nocturne is probably the most famous and you probably have heard it.  It's the one in Eb.  I love it.  What to listen for ----um---check out how good the artist is really gentle with the left hand accompaniment even when the melody in the right hand is quiet.  Maybe you know this but the melody comes out better and you really need a good piano to pull this off.  I myself can't do it very well.  I'm a trombone player remember.  exquisitely quiet is not in the trombonist's vocabulary--unless you are one of the greats.
ANYWAY, listen to the melody and how an artist or composer adds a little more on a repeat of a motive.  A lot of romantic piano composers will put in notes out of the chord or even the scale itself on the strong beats and go to a chord tone or scale note right after on an upbeat or "weak" part of the measure.  It adds variety.  Tension and release.  Notice the use of chromatic scales in each hand played a minor third or major third apart.  Kind of a flourish to increase tension and relax after or to end the piece.  My knowledge here is a little limited.  I'm more of a chord guy and scale guy than actual performance tips.
Also notice that Chopin in the Eb one uses a tiny little transition twice that's a sequence.
You find it in all music--particularly in Classical Period and in Romantic.  A sequence is hard to explain in words.  Repeating rhythms and using the "next notes up" and the same intervals exact or transposed. The song " do a deer, a female deer, re a drop of golden sun...." from the musical, "the sound of music".  That's a classic sequence.
On a larger scale you can hear some pianists play aahhh---I think it's Nocturne op 62 no.2?  I hope I'm right---it sounds like the whole piece is a large arch as far as dynamics and tension.  Then there are two tension and release "bumps" in the end.
I will give you more listening suggestions later, maybe tomorrow.  I would be very happy to help you some more what to listen for in a specific piece that you give me the name to.

So, a listening list tomorrow, and give me a couple days rest, and give me a couple specific pieces and I'll give you a "guide" what to listen for.  Can I ask you how old you are? only so I can give age appropriate answers.


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R the music nerd


I can answer most questions about music and composers compositional styles of the Romantic Style Period and 20th Century style period. I try to keep up with current composers of "classical" music. In these periods I know more about the orchestral aspect. I know a fair amount of keyboard music and other chamber music. I am coming from a low brass perspective as the trombone is my main instrument.


I have history classes in college under my belt, however I believe in lifelong learning so most of my knowledge comes from reading and listening to music for the last 20 years after graduation. I found I didn't really know a subject very well until you try to teach it. I have taught students in schools and at home in lessons about all aspects of music.

Bachelor of Music in Education: Cum Laude

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