20 Classical Songs Every Child Should Know (Before They Graduate!)

Listening to quality music is the MOST important part of a musical education for your child.

 Did you hear that?  The easiest and cheapest way to have your children learn about instruments, music and different genres is just by turning on a music station and listening!

As parents we often turn things on and walk away but what if we engaged our children in conversation while the music is playing? What if, instead of walking away, we asked our kids a series of questions - even if we didn't know the answers!

If you have younger learners try asking them questions like the following: 

  • What instruments do you hear being played? 
  • Does this music make you feel sad or happy? 
  • Do you like this music or do you prefer other types of music? 
  • Have you heard this music before?
  • Do you hear or see certain colours or pictures in the music?

These simple questions can evoke and stir up curiosity that can lead to hours and hours spent watching performances, researching different instruments, studying about past and modern composers, or even just a new found habit of humming or singing throughout their day.

This is how the love of music begins in a child. 


white and black piano keys


If you have older students, have them listen to a piece of music and ask them to write down on a piece of paper or music journal the following observations:

DYNAMICS (what do you hear? Loud, soft?)


RHYTHM/TEMPO (what is the speed of the beat and patterns?)


INSTRUMENTATION (what instruments do you hear being played?)


MOOD (how does the music make you feel?)



elementary age boy sitting at an oak table with pencil and paper in hand


Through these simple observations, students will be able to hear the music in 3D - fully dimensional with layers of sound, colour and an abundance of storytelling!  

If you are stuck as to WHAT to listen to, I encourage you to either follow along with the many families who participate in my monthly listening calendars or alternatively, you can focus on the following suggestions over the course of the next few weeks, months or year. 


20 Classical Songs Every Child Should Know (Before They Graduate)

1.  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons


2. Messiah - G.F Handel (especially the ‘Hallelujah Chorus)


3. Fur Elise - L.V Beethoven


4. Symphony No. 5 - L.V Beethoven (famous first four notes!)


5. Rhapsody In Blue - George Gershwin


6. Nutcracker Suite - P. Tchaikovsky (a Christmas favourite!)


7. In The Hall Of The Mountain King - Edvard Grieg


8. The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra - Benjamin Britten


9. Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland


10. Moonlight Sonata - L.V Beethoven


11. Pomp & Circumstance - E. Elgar (a graduation special!)


12. Pachabel’s Canon In D


13. Sousa’s Washington Post


14. Toccata & Fugue - J.S Bach


15. Blue Danube - J. Strauss


16. Offenbach Can Can


17. Hungarian Dance No. 5 - Brahms


18. Cello suite in G major - J.S Bach


19. Handel’s Water Music


20. Gabriel's Oboe - by Ennio Morricone


There you have it!  You are now equipped to teach your child 20 Classical music masterpieces.

There are so many more I could add to this list, but which ones would you add?


  • Great list! I would include these three:

    Haydn’s Symphony No. 94, 2nd mvt. (Andante), “Surprise”

    “The Erlkönig,” by F. Schubert

    Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, 1st mvt., “O Fortuna.”

    Stephen Messano
  • The Moldau is absolutely breathtaking! Thank you for sharing these additional pieces!

    Sonja Hindmarsh
  • Great list!

    I love to include tone poems with young kids because they have such a great imagination for seeing so much of the music in their mind. I love sharing Smetna’s The Moldau for that reason. I also love Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, as it also tells a musical story, and the Shepherd’s Song is pretty well know and can be simplified for piano.


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