Resources for Understanding Classical Music

The websites, blogs, and books listed on this page should serve tyros well in their pursuit of learning about classical music and keeping up with what’s happening in the classical world. As I’m always looking for good resources I welcome any recommendations that I could add to this page. Send me a message via Twitter
(@NMJim), and I’ll consider adding it to the list.

Classical Archives
Billed as "The Largest Classical Music Site in the World," this subscription site provides a streaming and downloading service for classical music. Classical Archives also offers apps for a variety of devices.

Classical Cat
Free classical music recordings from almost any composer of significance.

Classical Music Navigator
A terrific compilation of information about composers and their works. Highly recommended as a tool for discovering new music from your "point of familiarity."

Classical Net
A site that offers information and news about classical music.

Classics for Kids
Information about classical music for children from Cincinnati Public Radio.

Covers all types of music, mostly classical it seems.

Good Music Guide
Associated with Amazon, this site is billed as a "Beginner's Guide to Classical Music, Composers, and CDs."

I Care If You Listen
Devoted to contemporary classical music

The one website for those who love classical music to go to every day. Highly recommended.

A wealth of information about classical music and an exhaustive catalogue of recordings.

NPR Classical
A great site from National Public Radio about what's going on in the world of classical music.

Slipped Disc
Interesting and offbeat articles that provide “the inside track on classical music.”

A collection of the best classical composers, performers, and conductors, past and present.

Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
Always worth reading. Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, is one of today's best writers on music.

Tom Service on Classical Music
A classical music blog from The Guardian.

Classical Music on Reddit
Not necessarily a "blog." Nevertheless, this page offers a great way to keep up with what people on Reddit are saying about classical music.

(Click on a book's icon for a link to its page on Amazon.)

Who’s Afraid of Classical Music? by Michael Walsh
An entertaining, sometimes irreverent book that you will want to read from cover to cover. This book may be the best place to begin a classical music education.

The Story of Music: From Babylon to the Beatles by Howard Goodall
An easy-to-read one-volume history of music. Chock full of great information to get you started on your journey into the world of classical music

How to Listen to Great Music by Robert Greenberg
A book based on Dr. Greenberg’s popular
Great Courses lectures. Dr. Greenberg provides a scholarly approach to understanding classical music that is tremendously entertaining, making him the "Elvis" of music historians. For some, his Great Courses lectures might be expensive. However, the book summarizing much of what he says in those lectures is inexpensive and should be an essential addition to the Tyro’s library.

What to Listen For in Music by Aaron Copland
A standard book in the music appreciation genre since it was first published in 1939. You can't go wrong with this book.

The Complete Classical Music Guide edited by John Burrows with Charles Wiffen (DK Limited)
A readable and colorful reference book for those who are just entering the world of classical music.

The Vintage Guide to Classical Music by Jan Safford
A book containing terrific information about composers and the historical styles their music represents.

All You Have to Do is Listen and What Makes It Great? by Rob Kapilow
Two essential books for Classical Tyros. I know of no one right now who is better than Rob Kapilow at writing books designed to explain classical music to beginners. His books are even accompanied by a website that provides free samples of the music he discusses.

The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Classical Music by Tim Smith
An excellent guide to the history of classical music and the terms for understanding that music. Provides an outstanding introduction to the great composers and their masterworks.

The NPR Classical Music Companion by Miles Hoffman
An easy-to-understand dictionary of musical terms.

The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians edited by Don Michael Randel
A more extensive and technical dictionary of terms than Hoffman’s NPR companion.

Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works by Phil G. Goulding
A book that provides provocative information about music history and the composers of great music — a book that will make you think.

The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg
The best reference book for those seeking information about composers.

The Lives and Times of the Great Composers by Michael Steen
Another great reference book for those seeking information about composers.

The Rest is Noise and Listen to This by Alex Ross
Two books for Tyros who are ready to graduate to more “advanced” literature. Alex Ross is a great music critic — possibly the George Bernard Shaw of our time

A History of Western Music by J. Peter Burkholder, Donald J. Grout, and Claudia V. Palisca
A standard textbook for college survey classes in music history. It would be difficult to find anyone who has majored in music in the last fifty years who does not know about A History of Western Music.