music history playlists printables

Listening Homework; Bach

Students will be learning about concertos for a bit in my piano studio. We will be using this book (pictured) and picking pieces therefrom. To start, we will be listening to the Bradenburg Concertos by J.S. Bach. There are six concertos, so it’s a fairly long listen, but some of them are quite short. Notice the use of the harpsichord instead of the piano as well as other instruments common at the time of composition.

The Concerto by Michael Steinberg

Below, you can read about the Brandenburg Concertos, listen to a playlist of the complete set, and download a general listening sheet for students of the intermediate level.

Excerpts on Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto from Steinburg’s The Concerto.

Performances by the Freiburger Barockorchester from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

And here’s an accompanying listening worksheet that I give to students of the intermediate level. I would recommend filling one worksheet per piece concerto.

Listening Worksheet – General

Let me know in the comments if you used this worksheet or have any thoughts or questions about anything related to this!


Classical Playlist for Young Students

classical music lessons

Today I’m sharing a Spotify playlist that I use as background music for when my young students do activities such as games and worksheets. It’s basically a classical pops playlist, which I think is good for young children because, a) the music is very accessible and b) there’s a chance they are familiar with some of the melodies from cartoons, etc and will therefore respond to them.

For those of you who aren’t teachers, this is just a great classical playlist to play for your kids whenever they are playing, studying, or otherwise not watching TV.  Who knows, you might enjoy it too 🙂

The playlist isn’t ordered with any sort of intent or thought to it – I just added files as they popped into my head, so I will often play it on shuffle to make sure that not too many of the same type of thing plays in row.  Also, in case you are curious, the playlist is named after the 5 year old student for whom I initally made the playlist.


piano lessons

music history playlists

George Gerswhin, remembered

English: George Gershwin, 28 March 1937 Azərba...
English: George Gershwin, 28 March 1937 Azərbaycan: Corc Gerşvin, ABŞ bəstəkarı, 28 mart 1937 Español: George Gershwin, 28 marzo 1937 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gershwin died this day (July 11) in 1937.  In his honor, I’m going to be doing some heavy duty, Gerswhin listening.  To start off, here is a playlist from Spotify:

In case the embed code is acting up (which it seems to be), here’s the actual link:  Gershwin

George Gerswhin was the son of Jewish immigrants to the US, born in New York in the 1890s.  His family name had been changed from Gershowitz to Gershvin sometime after immigrating.  Gershwin began piano studies sometime after his parents purchased a piano for lesson for his older brother (and eventual lyricist) Ira.  Ira wasn’t interested, but Gershwin took to it early on.  However, interestingly, George wasn’t the first in the family to make a living with music; his sister Frances made money as a performer but gave it up in favor of being a housewife.

George got his start in music working in music publishing in Tin Pan Alley.  He published his first song at the age of 17, earning him $5.  He wrote many songs, including his first national hit, during this period.  He also composed numerous piano rolls – music for player pianos – during this time.  From there, he moved into writing musicals such as Lady Be Good and Funny Face.

It wasn’t until 1924 that Gershwin composed his first classical piece, Rhapsody in Blue, which ultimately turned out to be one of his biggest hits.  After this, he moved to Paris, where he attempted to study with Nadia Boulanger and Maurice revel, who both rejected him as a student, apparently for fear that study with them would spoil his jazz-influenced style.  During this period, he also composed An American in Paris, before returning to the US.

Gershwin’s most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess (1935). Gershwin called it a “folk opera,” and it is now widely regarded as one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century. “From the very beginning, it was considered another American classic by the composer of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ — even if critics couldn’t quite figure out how to evaluate it. Was it opera, or was it simply an ambitious Broadway musical? ‘It crossed the barriers,’ says theater historian Robert Kimball. ‘It wasn’t a musical work per se, and it wasn’t a drama per se — it elicited response from both music and drama critics. But the work has sort of always been outside category.”[20]


Baroque playlist

When teaching students about music history, I find it helps to have musical examples already at hand.  For my adult students, I’ve started making playlists of music from the particular period for them to listen to while they do other things.  That way, after they’ve spent some time immersing themselves in the sound, we can discuss what features of the music are particular to the period.

Here is the playlist that I recently provided an adult student to familiarize him with the sounds of the Baroque Period of music (1600-1750).  Hope you enjoy!

music history playlists

Playlist for Monday: The soothing tones of Spanish guitar playing

Narcisco Yeppes

Lately I’ve been very into listening to Classical guitar playing while working. Today, I’m discovering the playing of Narcisco Yepes, a guitarist from Spain who followed Andres Segovia (and often got compared with him). Yepes’ playing was often described as well delineated, suitable for counterpoint (positive view) or mechanical (negative view) and served as a foil to the “flowing” style of Segovia.

Notably, he expanded his guitar from the 6 string set up common to classical players to a 10 string set up. I know little to nothing about guitars, but this seems interesting at least.

He also popularized Spanish guitar playing through his work on the soundtrack of 1952’s Forbidden Games (Jeux Interdits), one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful films that I’ve ever had the pleasure and misfortune to see.

Anyway, hope you enjoy listening. This playlist is actually nothing more than one of his albums, “The Beginning of A Legend,” a compilation of his studio recordings from 1953 and 1957. Happy Monday.


Spotify Playlist

Hallelujah!  I’ve figured out how to embed a Spotify playlist on my site and blog.  Here’s a playlist of 12 bar blues songs which I use to teach the concepts of tonic (I), subdominant (IV), dominant (V).

The pattern essentially goes like this:

I | I| I | I| IV |IV | I | I| V | V |I  | I

Or some other variations:

So here’s the playlist.  Hope you enjoy:


A playlist for a beautiful Thursday

Hi everyone!  And hello to all my new viewers from Color In My Piano.  Great to meet you!

This is just a quick post because my day is pretty packed because I’m leaving town this weekend and have to get everything wrapped up tonight.  Anyway, the weather is stunningly gorgeous here in New Orleans, albeit a little warm ( but of course that’s always the case), so I’m listening to some really great upbeat music.

This week I had an adult student who was unfamiliar with the gypsy jazz movement, so I introduced her to it and created her a playlist.  It’s absolutely perfect for such a nice day.  I hope you enjoy it.

A little background:  While jazz began in New Orleans, gypsy jazz is indigenous to Europe.  When the musicians in Europe started hearing the exciting sounds coming out of New Orleans, they wanted to give it a try too (obviously).  However, unfortunately for them, at least so the story goes, there was a higher proportion of the population that played stringed instruments like violins, upright basses, etc than musicians who played trombones, trumpets, and saxophones.  This was at least in part because in Europe at the time, the symphonies as organizations were stronger and I suppose there was more demand for Western Classical music from those who funded musicians.  So anyway, the upshot is that the gypsy sound comes, at least in part, from the Europeans’ need to adapt the sounds New Orleanians were making with their brass players with stringed instruments.  That and of course the fact that the father of the movement, Django Reinhardt, had only three fully functional fingers and therefore played his guitar in a style adapted to accomodate his disability.

Funny enough that now there are Hot Clubs (aka gypsy jazz) players here in surprisingly large numbers.  Came full circle.

Anyway, here’s the playlist and below is a sample.

I always think it is vital to play music for my students, no matter their age.  Listening is one of the most important things that we do as musicians and sometimes it gets neglected in the everyday learning of scales and memorization of music theory terms.  I like to include some listening element in almost every lesson.  For the younger students, I will play the same piece for them multiple times in a row and I will always have playlists running in the background while we play various learning games.

Maybe I’m just superstitious, but my mother heard Pavarotti in concert with me in utero and she almost went into early labor – I think that has at least a little to do with my love of opera and music.  At least a little.  So expose your children early and often.