How to Analyze Classical Music

By Chad Hagy

Classical music is a great way to calm your nerves and "soothe the savage beast" within you. If you are just listening to it for pleasure, it can have some therapeutic effects. There are also students of classical music that must analyze pieces for class or for performing. For them, classical music has a completely different meaning because they are using it for more than just pleasure.

Find a quiet place to listen to the music you want to analyze. With classical music, every note is important and vital to understanding the piece. Composers put each note in a piece of music for a reason.

Research the history of the piece of music. The culture and the time period from which a piece of classical music came has a great influence on the composer and the reason for creating it. It could be a sad piece of music resulting from a particularly rough time (such as a time of war in the composer's country) or a happy, upbeat piece from a time of prosperity or more positive times.

Know about the composer's life. Music is one of the greatest forms of self-expression. When you know about the composer's life, you can get a better perspective about the feelings they were trying to create when they composed the particular piece of music. Mozart, for example, wrote one of his most recognized pieces of classical music on his deathbed. Because of his circumstances, this particular piece was very slow and saddening.

Study music theory. The technicalities of music and theory are essential to analyzing any piece of music. You will need to know how to recognize themes, structures and other elements of music. A theme, for instance, is typically composed of a "question and answer" section of the music in much the same way there is a chorus and a verse in modern music.

Listen to the piece of music several times. You won't be able to analyze an entire piece of music the first time you listen to it all the way through. In fact, you may need to listen to it five, ten or even 30 or more times to get the most out of it. Even after that many times, you might still catch something you missed each and every time you listen to it.

Use a compact disc or a digital copy of the music. In addition to bringing you crystal-clear quality, these formats also allow you to pause the music without missing a note. You can do this with a cassette tape, too, but the quality isn't as good and they get worn much sooner.

Tip

Learn to play the music you are trying to analyze. Playing the music will give you a better feeling about what the composer was feeling when they wrote it.

Give everything a second thought. Ask yourself, "Why did the composer put this into the music? Why did he choose this chord instead of another chord?" Trying to think of what the composer was thinking helps you analyze the piece of music.

About the Author

Chad Hagy is based in southern California and he has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in writing from the University of Michigan and his articles have been published on several prominent websites including eHow and others.