Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Imagine if you were watching your first Shakespeare play but weren't familiar with the language, style or storyline. You probably would be utterly confused and might walk away feeling like you just don't like Shakespeare. When in reality you simply lacked the knowledge to translate one of the greatest English writers of all time.
With Classical music it's the same way - you don't like it because you don't understand the language thats being spoken.
If you do sincerely WANT to like classical music but just can't seem to stop yourself from dying from boredom or find yourself falling asleep during a live symphonic performance here are FIVE tips.
1. Listen Actively
There's a reason why the top grossing songs are all pop music. They are repetitive, short three minute songs that require no active listening (and did I mention dull?). Okay, oookay don't get me wrong, I like a good pop song where I can tune out and just let it happen to me. BUT! Classical music takes active listening.
Classical music often tells a story and to really get the most out of it you need to devote time. Your attnetion span will quickly develop once you start listening actively. Take for instance this stunning piece by Smetana. Go ahead play it and then read below the story it tells...
This piece evokes the image of a slight rippling river growing slowly into a larger river. Notice that the beginning of the piece starts very light, soft, imitating rippling water - slowly the music grows and the imagery of the mighty river becomes evident. The river then continues its journey and passes jubilant hunters, a village wedding and a village polka dance. You'll notice the mood then gently changes again to a dream like sequence - the river enters a gorge where water nymphs come out to bathe in the moonlight. The mood changes again, and with the morning light, the main river theme returns once more! Finally the river reaches Prague, where it flows past churches, castles and we feel the power through the regal sound. However, our journey comes to an end as the music begins to fade, as does our river, and it ends with two loud cadences.
2. Understand the BASICS
I find that many of my friends and family who DON'T enjoy classical music have the same complaint, "It all just sounds the same to me!". The first step I would suggest is start listening for the differences between these five main classes of music: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionism and Modern.
Being able to differentiate between these eras of music can greatly enhance your understanding and enjoyment of classical literature. I recommend beginning listening to this video on the difference between Classical and Baroque music by clicking here.
3. Listen Live!
Listening to classical music live is something truly special. It's the way it was intended to be listened to PLUS you have a far greater appreciation of just what it takes to perform these works. Take for instance this stunning vocal chamber piece, Miserere mei, Desus:
Listening to a recording is one thing - but seeing these performers for yourself takes it to another level. Go to as many live performances as you can, and if there aren't a lot of options near you don't worry - there are plenty of free options online! You can find free opera, symphonic works and much more.
4. Listen More Than Once
When you listen to a classical piece if might seem overwhelming or underwhelming at first... but if you listen to it again, and again you'll begin to notice new ideas or discoveries that you hadn't before. There is so much to observe and take in with classical literature that often times it takes more than just one listen to truly appreciate what is going on.
Take for instance Bach's Cello Suite in G Major. Yo-Yo Ma has probably played this piece a million times over but he still plays it. Why? Because within even this three minute piece there is SO much to discover and notice. As you listen notice the subtle ways the dynamics change, the moments Yo-Yo Ma chooses to push and pull the tempo, the natural rise and fall to the music. Once you're done listen again, where are your favorite moments? Where does it climax? What makes it so beautiful?
5. Find your favorites
On your Spotify app start making a playlist collection of the classical pieces that really hit you. Start compiling them and make a point to research into each of the songs to find the deeper meaning to each of them. Remember the more you know about each of these pieces the far more you're going to get out of them.
Spotify is a great service too because often times they can suggest other music you might like in addition to the playlist you made. Explore the new songs and start learning!