An Introduction to Appreciating Classical Music [Ted Talk]

You can't begin to appreciate different whiskies or wines until you learn what the differences are – the major and subtle variations in flavor, body, production – it all factors into developing your own palate and discerning what you like and don't like.

Classical music is no different. To many it can appear boring when listened to on the surface without any guidance in what to look for. But you can't appreciate Slash's music-changing solo in Sweet Child O' Mine until you've heard how other musicians play lead guitar.

Here, Benjamin Zander, a conductor from the United Kingdom, breaks down Prelude in E Minor – Op. 28 No. 4 by Frédéric Chopin (pronounced sho-pan), which you'll no doubt recognize. He dissects different subtleties in instrumental music and offers a simple, and emotional, exercise.

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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.


  • Reply June 24, 2015

    Jerron Jorgensen

    Yes, I remember this TedTalk when it first come out; such an excellent “primer” into a genre that has existed for centuries (and for good reason)! Thanks for sharing with your audience, Andrew.

  • Reply June 24, 2015


    Fantastic video. I was fully expecting to be bored out of my mind but I wasn’t and I actually did learn something.

    Thanks for posting this.

  • Reply June 25, 2015


    He and his wife wrote a book about leadership called The Art of Possibility, which I’d highly recommend as a way of understanding how real leadership works where you can’t just give orders and expect people to do what you tell them. He’s also known for his Beethoven’s 5th, which has a much more aggressive first movement (per Beethoven’s actual notation for tempo) than Leonard Bernstein’s more deliberately slowed down version most people are familiar with.

  • Reply May 5, 2016

    Jeremy David

    Elegant. I recently returned to playing the piano. Now that I’m older I have a different appreciation for music. This video was very encouraging and enlightening. Great post Andrew.

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