Classical vs. Pop

Kids naturally like the music that they hear around them, on the radio, on the TV, and on the internet. It’s the music of their culture, the music their friends like, and it can be a lot of fun to learn to sing and play songs that other kids will recognize and love to hear. But as musically-minded parents, we want to make sure our kids become familiar with a wide range of great music from all different cultures and time periods. That’s why I encourage kids to listen to and learn classical pieces as well as pop music.

Why do I want my music students to be familiar with classical music?

Number one, classical music is generally more complex than the pop music of today. Kids love a simple meal of mac’n’ cheese, but we hope they will eventually develop a taste for a variety of great cuisine from around the world so they can enjoy more complex flavors and complete nutrition. It’s the same with their musical diet.

Classical Vs. Pop

Here’s a quick comparison of Classical and Pop Music:

  • Chord progressions: In pop music, chords are much more predictable and repetitive than in classical music. I’d estimate that 80% of pop music uses only four chords. A typical Bach piece uses dozens of different chords in amazingly unique combinations.
  • Melody: Pop tunes generally use a lot of repeated notes, short repeated melodic phrases, and very simple melodic lines. Songs are easy to learn, easy to remember, and simple and fun to sing or play. Classical melodies have a much more complex structure, tend to have longer repeated phrases, and can be much more challenging, and more rewarding, to learn and perform.
  • Rhythm: The main advantage pop music has over classical music is that pop music tends to be more rhythmically sophisticated. Drum patterns in pop music layer different rhythms for bass drum, snare drum, and hi hat, and when you put all those together it really makes you want to tap your foot! Most classical music isn’t as rhythmically interesting. For instance, some Bach pieces consist of nothing but straight sixteenth notes.

The Benefits of Pop Music for Piano Lessons

One of the main benefits of studying pop music in piano lessons is that kids love it. They feel a connection. It’s their music. One way to find popular music that’s more complex is to go to movie soundtracks. Orchestral composer and conductor John Williams has created the music for over eighty major films. Kids recognize and love his themes from movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars. There’s also some good video game music out there that can be fun and challenging to learn.

A well-rounded music education encompasses the sounds of the past and the present. Make sure your child has a chance to listen to and enjoy both great classical music and great pop music.

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