About this Course
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Approx. 45 hours to complete

Suggested: 9 weeks, 2 - 3 hours per week...


Subtitles: English, Spanish

Skills you will gain

Art HistoryMusicChordHistory

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Approx. 45 hours to complete

Suggested: 9 weeks, 2 - 3 hours per week...


Subtitles: English, Spanish

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

3 hours to complete

What Is Music?

Every day around the world, billions of people listen to music of one sort or another, and millions listen to Western classical music. Why do we do it? Because it’s fun? Because it energizes or relaxes us? Because it keeps us current, allows us to understand what’s happening in past and popular culture? The pull of music--especially classical music—has never been explained. The aim of this course is to do just that: To explicate the mysteries and beauties of some of Western cultures greatest musical compositions—among them masterpieces of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Puccini. We begin with the elements of music, breaking classical musical into its components of pitch, duration, and sound color, allowing us to better understand how music works. Next, we proceed to the compositions themselves, starting with the Middle Ages and Renaissance, to show how Western music developed in ways unique to the West. Ultimately, we reach the masters, commencing with Bach. What makes his music great? Why does it move us? What should we listen for? And so we proceed down through Western musical history, visiting virtually the people who created it and the places where they did so. By the end, we hope all of us have become more human (enriched our personalities) and had a rollicking good time!

9 videos (Total 55 min), 7 readings, 3 quizzes
9 videos
1.1 - Introduction5m
1.2 - Popular Music and Classical Music Compared6m
1.3 - Music and Emotions4m
1.4 - How Do We Hear Music? Sound Waves and the Ear6m
1.5 - Music Thrills Us, Music Chills Us1m
1.6 - Why We Like What We Like? It's Nurture2m
1.7 - It's Nurture: The Syntax of Western Music5m
1.8 - Why We Like What We Like? It's Nature8m
7 readings
Begin Here10m
Suggested Readings [Update]10m
Spotify Playlist10m
Course Certificate10m
Grading and Logistics10m
Pre-Course Survey10m
3 practice exercises
Popular Music and Classical Music Compared4m
How Do We Hear Music? Sound Waves and the Ear10m
Why We Like What We Like? It's Nature12m
4 hours to complete

How Music Works, it's Magic.

What is Music? Is music simply the organization of sounds and silences passing through time? Or is it more? Poet Victor Hugo believes music is "what feelings sound like." In this first module, we’ll take apart Hugo’s seemingly simple statement by spending some time asking how and why music induces strong emotions in people across different cultures. We’ll begin with a look at the inner workings of the human ear to determine how our brains process sound waves. Then, we’ll travel to different parts of the world, comparing and contrasting both traditional and popular Western music with sounds from various regions and cultures. You’ll find that it is both culture and the physics of music that determine why we like the music we like! From there, we’ll be ready to take a look at the basic elements of musical composition; rhythm, melody, texture, etc. We’ll also learn how classical composers used these elements in some of their most famous works and how modern artists are still using them today. Finally, we will see how the elements of musical composition have evolved over time and how they have been translated to a universal language enjoyed and understood by millions.

18 videos (Total 147 min), 10 quizzes
18 videos
2.2 - Introduction to Musical Notation5m
2.3 - Rhythm: What is It?10m
2.4 - Hearing the Downbeat, Feeling the Emotion11m
2.5 - Tempo (and How We Feel About It)5m
3.1 - What is Melody?3m
3.2 - Melodic Notation and Scales9m
3.3 - Major and Minor Scales6m
3.4 - The Chromatic Scale4m
3.5 - How We Feel About the Music: Mode and Mood4m
3.6 - Melodic Structure: The Tonic2m
3.7 - Modulation: Changing the Tonic (of the Key)8m
3.8 - Phrase Structure in Music: Beethoven's Ode to Joy14m
4.1 - Harmony: A Distinctly Western Phenomenon12m
4.2 - Chord Progressions and Cadences10m
4.3 - Melody and Harmony Working Together7m
4.4 - Major and Minor Triads8m
4.5 - Hearing the Harmony11m
10 practice exercises
Beat, Meter, and Rhythm10m
Hearing the Downbeat, Feeling the Emotion10m
Tempo (and How We Feel About It)8m
Melodic Notation and Scales14m
The Chromatic Scale10m
How We Feel About the Music: Mode and Mood6m
Phrase Structure in Music: Beethoven's Ode to Joy2m
Harmony: A Distinctly Western Phenomenon10m
Chord Progressions and Cadences4m
Major and Minor Triads8m
3 hours to complete

The Sound of Music

Have you ever wondered what it is that makes music sound sometimes rich and luxurious and sometimes strange and mysterious? Well, you’re in luck because this module, we’ll explore what the nature of simultaneous sounds and textures. We’ll start off with a look at chords, specifically how the three types of triads– tonic, dominant, subdominant– build a foundation upon which a melody can be constructed. Once we understand the rules of musical syntax, we’ll be ready to learn about musical progressions including the three types of cadences.We’ll also look at major and minor triads and how they work. Then, we’ll learn how to hear the bass and focus on the harmony of a song. Finally, I’ll talk you through the four families of musical instruments–brasses, percussions, strings, and woodwinds---and the various musical textures, forms, and styles that they can create. How exciting!

8 videos (Total 142 min), 1 reading, 6 quizzes
8 videos
5.2 - Musorgsky Makes a Wagon Move in Music10m
5.3 - The Four Families of Instruments18m
5.4 - Building a Symphony Orchestra12m
6.1 - Musical Texture13m
6.2 - Musical Form34m
6.3 - Musical Style14m
Office Hours I 27m
1 reading
Module 3 YouTube Playlists10m
6 practice exercises
Why Do Instruments Sound Differently, One From Another?6m
Musorgsky Marks a Wagon Move in Music6m
Building a Symphony Orchestra8m
Musical Texture6m
Musical Form8m
Musical Style2m
3 hours to complete

Music Back in the Day

We will cover a thousand years in musical evolution during this modules lectures! We'll start with the Middle Ages taking a look at its functional chants and dance music, then we’ll move to the period of the Renaissance, and finish off by listening to the ornate melodies of opera heard throughout the early Baroque period. From this, you’ll begin to see how advances in musical notation allowed compositions to become both more specific and more complex. These advances are ultimately responsible for focus being shifted away from the performers and towards the composers themselves.Along the way, we’ll highlight some of these musical inventors and innovators, such as Hildegard of Bingen and Johann Pachelbel. We’ll also have the unique opportunity to see (and in some cases even hear) many of the instruments that were popular during these different time periods. This will be a real treat, made possible with help from Yale instructor, Grant Herreid. Many thanks are owed to him!

13 videos (Total 125 min), 1 reading, 6 quizzes
13 videos
7.2 - Gregorian Chant7m
7.3 - Monasteries and Convents6m
7.4 - The Chant of Hildegard of Bingen4m
7.5 - Early Polyphony7m
7.6 - Polyphony at the Cathedral of Reims: Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame8m
7.7 - Dance Music of the Court12m
8.1 - Introduction to the Renaissance4m
8.2 - Humanism in Music5m
8.3 - Musical Instruments and Dances20m
8.4 - The A Cappella Motet12m
8.5 - Reformation and the Counter-Reformation15m
8.6 - The Madrigal14m
1 reading
Module 4 Youtube Playlist10m
6 practice exercises
Gregorian Chant10m
The Chant of Hildegard of Bingen6m
Polyphony at the Cathedral of Reims: Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame8m
Musical Instruments and Dances10m
The A Cappella Motet14m
The Madrigal10m
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Top reviews from Introduction to Classical Music

By SLMar 7th 2019

Really appreciate Prof. Wright give us such rich content and sophisticated course. I really enjoy and love it. I am looking forward to seeing more high-level courses from Prof. Wright if there is any.

By ERMar 8th 2016

This course has a lot of information. It is well organized, and so many music illustrations. I am really enjoying this course, and will freely recommend it to anyone interested in classical music.



Craig Wright

Henry L & Lucy G Moses Professor of Music
Department of Music

About Yale University

For more than 300 years, Yale University has inspired the minds that inspire the world. Based in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale brings people and ideas together for positive impact around the globe. A research university that focuses on students and encourages learning as an essential way of life, Yale is a place for connection, creativity, and innovation among cultures and across disciplines. ...

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