A Beginner’s Guide to Classical Music

2 hours a week for 8 weeks

Curtains opening

Interested in classical music but don’t know how to start? Been listening for a while but need some guidance? This course provides a framework for understanding classical music, examining the major periods of music history, the music of the great composers, and the main classical genres. Each week we will listen to some works and examine their historical, social and musical context. You will be able to explore your own taste in music and learn how to find more of what you like. No musical knowledge is necessary.

Course Outline

Session 1

  • Introduction
  • The Elements of Music: what to listen for, and how to talk about it

Session 2

  • The Symphony Orchestra: families of instruments, learning to listen, and what the conductor actually does
  • The Middle Ages: the birth of music notation

Session 3

  • Symphonies, Sonatas and Concertos: what the composer is trying to achieve, what you’re supposed to get out of it, (and when to clap)
  • The Renaissance: the richness of musical texture

Session 4

  • Choral Music: how composers write for choirs, and how they achieve such magnificent music
  • The Baroque Period: more is more

Session 5

  • Chamber Music: what it is, how to listen, and why it’s worth exploring
  • The Classical Period: elegant simplicity

Session 6

  • Opera: singers and singing, and how stories are told through music
  • The Romantic Period: passion and drama

Session 7

  • Vocal Music: an introduction to the loveliness of lieder and song
  • The Late-Romantic Period: pushing the boundaries

Session 8

  • The Twentieth Century: innovation and exploration
  • Outside the Boundaries: how to find more of what you like

Classical Music we will listen to

  • Bach: Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 1
  • Britten: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
  • Handel: Zadok the Priest
  • Liszt: Fountains at the Villa d’Este
  • Mozart: Bassoon Concerto
  • Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli
  • Philip Glass: Closing Piece from Glassworks
  • Ravel: String Quartet in F
  • Schumann: Dichterliebe
  • Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite
  • Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
  • Verdi: Rigoletto
Book cover A Beginner's Guide to Classical Music

Buy the course notes for this class

In hard copy book form, through Lulu Press
$22 + postage


“Susan has a deep knowledge of classical music and she presented the course with great love and enthusiasm. The music was a pleasure to listen to. A wonderful experience which I highly recommend”

“Was simple, clear, well thought out. Loved handout. The level – assuming no prior knowledge was great. Pace – great – enough time to reflect and think about things. Encouragement to be open and accepting – great. Really good”

“I enjoyed every aspect of the course and looked forward to each lecture”

“Susan is an exceptional teacher. She made the course extremely interesting and covered a vast amount of info in a short time in an extremely interesting way. 10/10 for Susan!”

”Excellent, informative, enjoyable”

“The course was exactly what I hoped it would be. Susan was an excellent educator for the content and I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in an introduction to classical music”

About Susan Deas

Susan Deas is a professional musician, lecturer and teacher. She has been teaching music appreciation courses for more than twenty years, through Sydney University's Centre for Continuing Education, WEA Sydney and at other venues. Her training includes a Bachelor of Music with a major in Performance (Piano) and Musicology, a Master of Music Studies (Studio Pedagogy), a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), and an A.Mus.A in Musicianship. Susan teaches piano and music theory to adults and children, and plays piano and organ at various venues around Sydney. Susan is an accredited piano teacher and musicianship teacher, and is on the Council of the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW.

More about Susan’s qualifications

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Susan’s other music courses