Classical Music 101: A Situational Playlist

Congratulations! By clicking on this article, you have accepted the fact that perhaps you want to venture outside of your Top 40 musical comfort zone and enter the wide world of classical music. If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. You too can be a classical music buff. And what does that entail? Well, it could be a lot of things. Classical music is more than just what some deem to be a lot of instruments going everywhere, typically played in hotel lobbies and fancy elevators. It’s carefully constructed music crafted by geniuses of the past that have ultimately set the tone for much of what we listen to today. And yes, it’s difficult to navigate the genre, which leads to many outliers never fully investing in it. We’ve decided to change all of that and give you a few pointers on classical compositions to check out from legendary composers. We’ve also given you an activity for each piece. So the next time you’re at a dinner party, you can say “I always listen to Beethoven when cook.” Your life will never be the same again.

Beethoven – “Symphony 5”

So here’s a weird fact: “Symphony 5” opens with something like Morse Code for #5. That’s a valuable bit to share in mixed company. Beyond that, this symphony is full of life with many ups and downs. It can really get you pumped if you allow it to.

Activity: Showering
…because every superhero needs theme music and this will pump you up for the entire day ahead.

Beethoven – “Ode to Joy”

You might know this one for the melody used in the song “Joyful, Joyful,” popularized by Lauryn Hill in Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit. Okay, okay it was popular before then, but we needed a solid reference point. This Beethoven composition is equal parts mellow and beautiful.

Activity: Reading
That’s right, flip through a newspaper, check out your e-reader, and vibe out to some Beethoven instead of downloading a bunch of psychological thrillers on audio book that you’ll never actually listen to.

Beethoven – “Für Elise”

One of the most popular Beethoven compositions, as well as the song people almost always pretend to know how to play on the piano. This one serves a number of different functions.

Activity: Cooking Dinner
Reason being, you rarely ever cook so the event has to be monumental and beautiful and heard ’round the world. Even if you’re just barbecuing some steaks on the grill.

Mozart – “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”

Mozart makes you move. Believe that. This composition is so full of life, and will probably be familiar to some, especially those who recall scenes in movies where people are chasing each other around to this very song.

Activity: Outdoor Cardio
Maybe you’re in the park running or just randomly doing jumping jacks and then shadow boxing on the street. Whatever it takes to keep you fit, man. But this is the music to jam while you’re doing it.

Mozart – “Symphony 40”

More moving to Mozart. This guy really knew how to get people on their feet. “Symphony 40” was probably a club banger back then. Come on, you know it was.

Activity: Cleaning
You already hate cleaning as it is, so you might as well turn it into some major classical music-induced physical activity. With each shift in the composition, you can move to another room and keep on cleaning. Try it!

Bach – “Toccata & Fugue In D Minor”

Haunting, ain’t it? You know this one. Now own it and make it yours.

Activity: Getting ready to go out with the guys
Apply your Scotch Porter products, throw on your best outfit, dab some cologne, and then get ready to turn up. Play this one as you’re getting ready, before giving yourself one last glance in the mirror and then you’re out the door.

Chopin – “Nocturne op.9 No.2”

This gentle lullaby has a really dark and twisted story, one fueled by attempted murder and unrequited love. Look it up, but don’t let it deter you from listening.

Activity: Napping
Ignore that whole murder mention or else you’ll never get to sleep.

Chopin – “Minute Waltz”

Chopin takes us on a real ride with his waltz, as the song moves through hills and valleys of sound, all in one composition.

Activity: Driving
This one will certainly keep your Road Rage at bay, while simultaneously having you driving fast and slow at any given turn.

Tchaikovsky – “Dance Of The Reed Pipes”

You might know this fan favorite from the Nutcracker ballet, but just because it reminds you of family trips during Christmas doesn’t mean it’s not a year round jam

Activity: Writing
Go ahead and pen that memoir to this composition. It’ll have you drumming up childhood memories faster than you can say, “But mom, I don’t want to wear my hat and gloves when we go ice skating!”

Pachelbel – “Canon In D Major”

This one is a very popular wedding song. Oh, sorry, you’re not ready for all that, are you? Yeah erase that whole previous sentence. It was a joke. We’re kidding.

Activity: Meditating
If you can erase the stress of associating this with getting married, then you can actually travel to a truly zen place with this one.