What’s Special About the Classical Era?

Each music era begins with a reaction to the music of the previous era. They strive to make things simpler and to move away from the “problems” of the previous era and return to something seen as more “genuine”. 

After a while, this new era develops its own problems and is replaced by a new era and way of doing things. 

By the end of the Baroque Era, music was so complex and fancy with several melodic lines going at the same time.

Composers of the Classical Era wanted something more simple and graceful. A single line of melody with an accompaniment behind was now preferred as well as following specific rules and patterns.

Classical Era Structure

The Classical Era focused on structure, patterns, and being direct. 

This is an important era because a lot of composition and styles were developed. These include: the style of the four movement symphonies, motifs, themes, and variations.

The music of this era was usually easier to play (than music in the Baroque Era) and was meant to be enjoyable for regular people like you and me. Composers paid more attention to music theory (rules) and techniques than any previous era.


A movement is a major, self-contained, unit of a larger piece of music. There are four movements in a symphony in the Classical Era of classical music.

Each movement goes together to make one whole symphony and often to tell one story, but they each have their own tempo (speed), key (different scales or notes used), and rhythms.

Let’s listen to an example of movements in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major performed by Benny Goodman and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Allegro ~ Brisk and lively ~ Movement 1


Larghetto ~ Somewhat slow ~ Movement 2


Menuetto ~ Stately pattern dance in 3/4 time ~ Movement 3


Allegretto con Variazioni ~ Light, graceful, and moderately fast with variations ~ Movement 4
This is my favorite movement of this symphony.



motif (MO teef) is a small, recognizable unit of music. Motifs are usually two to eight notes. A motif is a building block that is restated throughout the music.

Below is an example of a famous motif. It is repeated throughout the music we are about to listen to.

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor by Beethoven ~ The conductor is Leonard Bernstein, my favorite conductor of all time.


Theme and Variations

A theme is a main idea. It can be as short as a single phrase or as long as a full tune.

A variation happens during the piece of music when the theme is repeated with some changes.

Let’s listen to an example with the String Puppies playing “Jurassic Park Theme and Variations” on Violin and Bass.

This isn’t from the Classical Era, but is a great and fun example of theme and variations. Just ignore the fact that they are playing in a public bathroom. It’s probably for the acoustics.   LOL


If you missed it, check out my post about the Difference Between Classical Music and the Classical Era.


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