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How to Actually Enjoy Classical Music

How to Actually Enjoy Classical Music

Written by Millionaire’s Digest Team Member: Aubrey Leaman

Founder & Owner of: If Mermaids Wore Suspenders

Millionaire’s Digest Team, Contributor, Books and Writing Writer


Classical music can be pretty boring.  Why would you choose to listen to something that long and that abstract? Lots of people try to figure out how to “understand” the music, but understanding is definitely not always the same as enjoying.

Of all people, I was perfectly primed to love classical music. I grew up with a professional classical musician as a father, was taken to numerous concerts, took piano lessons constantly ever since I was seven years old, and participated in chorus and band in high school. I even became a classical music major in college and had extensive formal training. And while I didn’t hate it or anything, I certainly didn’t love it.  Like so many people, I just didn’t “get” it.

So forget understanding.

How can you actually ENJOY classical music?

Believe it or not, it is possible.  As a book lover, I found the secret…

Books take you on adventures that spice up the monotony of everyday life.  They entertain us and spark our creativity.  You can curl up with a great book on a rainy day.  You can (or more accurately, absolutely have to) stay up late to find out what happens next.

But classical music tells stories, too.  They can suggest Harry Potter exploring Diagon Alley, Jane falling in love with Mr. Bingley, or Daisy frantically driving home with Gatsby.

Think of it this way:

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Photo Credits: Pixabay

When we describe characters we use adjectives: Victor Frankenstein is ambitious, Lizzie Bennett is prejudiced, and Gatsby is, among other things, rich. But we also use adjectives to describe music: it’s light and happy, or dark and foreboding, or triumphant and powerful. By using those types of words, we give the music characteristics like we would give an actual literary character. Similarly, we use verbs to describe actions: Peter Pan flies to the Neverland, Claudius murders Hamlet’s father, and Alice falls down the rabbit hole. But again, music also consists of actions in that it seems to skip away at times, or plod along at others.

When descriptions “match” between literature and music, then, you can imagine that character and/or that action as you listen.

The idea here is that at the beginning of a piece of music, you connect the musical character to a literary character or musical action to literary action by matching the descriptions. As the piece progresses and the music changes, you continue to connect to different characters or events from the same book.

The simplest way to think about it is to imagine that the piece you’re listening to is actually the score of a movie adaptation of a book. I know, I know—books turned into movies aren’t always the best…but here’s your chance to do it correctly inside your head. Who would be on the screen? What would they be doing? You’re basically reverse engineering the story.

Bonus Tip: It’s best to start with short pieces and work your way up to longer ones (only if you want).


Article Credits: Aubrey Leaman

Millionaire’s Digest Team, Contributor

(Tagged: For Book, Writing, Journal Bloggers & More)

43 thoughts on “How to Actually Enjoy Classical Music”

  1. Wow! Great article. Aubrey, that is similar to how I came to like classical music! Actually, I listen to music with my whole body or being, if you will. So I feel music, all kinds of music. In fact, most kinds of music tells a story in my opinion. I didn’t really need to start with shorter pieces myself, but I think that may have had something to do with my love of prog rock, so by the time I “got” classical, I was already used to 11 minute songs and such.
    I never got into all the different conductors and detailed info on the composers and each movement, etc. In fact, that is a terrible starting point for anyone. I think feeling the music is where its at. I used to try to listen to classical sitting all stiff and what have you and that was so wrong. I finally “got it” when I just relaxed and let the music carry me along, not caring about how the violinist is playing a certain note or all that nonsense. My favorite composers are Beethoven and Mozart. I’m not a fan of Tchaikovsky and don’t care for Bach either, but that’s my preferences.
    Another benefit of classical music for those of us into vinyl records is that one can pickup box sets for less than a song, used and they are usually in pristine condition and sometimes very good pressing from Germany and such.

    1. That’s so interesting! I definitely agree that connecting to the music on a more relaxed and personal level is the way to go. And I like Beethoven and Mozart, too! You might also be interested in checking out your local library’s website to see if they have “Freegal,” a free and legal music downloading service that you can access with your library card. It’s one of my favorite ways to find new music! 🙂

      1. Good idea on the library, I’ll check that out. I also use Spotify to research music, but not to listen to it as the sound quality is not too good. It’s great for research though, then if i really like something I get it on CD or vinyl depending.
        What is odd is that I’m not into opera. You would think one who likes classical would have no problem with opera. I just don’t understand it. I appreciate the abilities of good opera singers, but I just don’t get it. Weird huh? I’m heavy into all kinds of genres though except rap/hiphop and the sad excuse for country music they push now days (I prefer the real stuff).

  2. Do you have any examples? What piece would you match with which character or book? Just last night I told a friend I thought Mahler would be a William Faulkner novel if his music were a book.

  3. I’ve been playing piano for almost 5 years now and didn’t understand how classical music is loved by tons. Thanks for this! I get to appreciate classical much more now.

    1. In my experience it can at times be hard to intuitively connect with the emotions in music. By connecting to it with a story, then, the music may become more easily understood and accessible. Obviously people have different ways of listening, though! This is just one way that I have found useful and intriguing.

  4. Hi I’m new to the blogging life and was wondering if you could read my work and follow me I’d appreciate it as i am interested in literature and spoken word and lack a bit of confidence Thank you for your time and have a nice dayyy

    1. Welcome to the blogging world! Probably the best way to get involved and build a community is to explore other people’s blogs that you like and comment on their posts, letting them know what you liked and other responses you had while reading. It’s really helped me find some amazing people to interact with! Good luck and enjoy!! 🙂

  5. I enjoyed reading your post. In fact, it has given me some ideas about how to approach writing my fiction novel. I was a musician once upon a time and have played lots of classical music from Wagner to Verdi, to Mahler, to mention a few. But I never thought about the link between classical music and developing characters in a novel. Thanks for the very interesting blog. Van.

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