Exploring the Classical Period of Music in School Lessons

The Classical period of music, spanning from 1750 to 1820, is a pivotal era in the history of Western music, marked by the works of legendary composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Joseph Haydn. Teaching the Classical period of music in school lessons presents an excellent opportunity for students to delve into the evolution of musical forms, the refinement of the orchestra, and the emergence of new styles and genres that have shaped Western music. In this blog post, we will explore effective strategies and activities for introducing students to the elegance and innovation of the Classical period, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of its significance.

Understanding the Classical Period of Music

The Classical period is characterized by a shift towards clarity, order, and balance in music composition, moving away from the complex counterpoint of the Baroque era towards homophony—where a clear melody is supported by chordal accompaniment. This period also saw the development of major musical forms such as the symphony, sonata, and string quartet, alongside the expansion of the orchestra and the rise of the piano as a popular instrument.

Teaching Strategies for the Classical Period of Music

  1. Historical Context: Begin by setting the scene, explaining the sociopolitical and cultural changes of the 18th century that influenced the development of Classical music. Highlight how the Enlightenment ideals of clarity, order, and balance were reflected in the music of the time.
  2. Key Composers and Works: Introduce students to the master composers of the Classical period, focusing on their life stories, major works, and contributions to music. Listening sessions featuring iconic pieces such as Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5,” and Haydn’s “The Creation” can provide students with a taste of the period’s diverse repertoire.
  3. Musical Characteristics: Discuss the defining features of Classical music, including the use of clear melodic lines, the importance of harmonic structure, and the development of musical forms. Use score analysis and active listening exercises to help students identify these elements in practice.
  4. Instruments of the Classical Orchestra: Explore the evolution of the orchestra during the Classical period, noting changes in instrumentation and the role of different instruments. Demonstrations by visiting musicians or virtual instrument tours can offer students a closer look at instruments typical of the Classical orchestra.
  5. Comparative Analysis: Encourage students to compare and contrast music from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods to understand the evolution of musical styles and expressions. This can be facilitated through listening exercises or multimedia presentations.
  6. Composition and Performance: Engage students in composing or arranging simple pieces in the style of the Classical period. Additionally, organizing performances of Classical works, whether through live concerts or virtual presentations, can provide practical experience with the period’s music.
  7. Cross-Curricular Connections: Link lessons on the Classical period to broader curricular themes, such as art, literature, and history, to illustrate the interconnectedness of cultural movements. Discussing how Classical music influenced, and was influenced by, contemporary artistic and intellectual movements can enrich students’ understanding.

Resources for Teaching the Classical Period of Music

  • Online Libraries and Databases: Utilize online resources that offer access to Classical music scores, recordings, and educational materials.
  • Documentaries and Films: Screen documentaries or films about the Classical period or its composers to provide visual and auditory insights into the era.
  • Guest Speakers: Invite musicians or musicologists specializing in Classical music to share their expertise and experiences with students.


Teaching the Classical period of music in school lessons allows students to explore an era of profound artistic achievement and innovation. By employing a mix of historical context, listening activities, and practical experiences, educators can inspire an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of Classical music. Engaging with the Classical period of music not only enhances students’ musical knowledge and skills but also deepens their understanding of the broader cultural and historical narratives that shape our world.

For resources to support your music classroom click here to browse the full list.

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