Maybe you've heard that listening to classical music is beneficial to children, especially in their early stages of development. Well, you heard it right! Multiple studies have confirmed the benefits of early exposure to "high information" or classical music. According to Rick Beato, music Youtuber and founder of Nuryl, "High Information Music is tonally rich with highly complex harmonies that move rapidly into unexpected places by incorporating unusual melodic structures." You want to expose your child to music beyond "kids' music" or the pop music they might hear in school or that you might love.
Before we dive in, check out our Sheet Music Library in our Shop for Free and Affordable Sheet Music for Kids!
While there are some other great lists and compilations on the Internet, we've put together a Top 10 list of our favorites, with pieces invoking many different moods. Here they are:
1. Enigma Variations from Nimrod, by Edward Elgar
Mood: Somber, beautiful, and climactic (Wedding). This gorgeous piece of music is incredibly emotional, builds throughout the piece, and your little girl will love twirling around in a dress or cape imagining that she's walking down the aisle or floating with fairies!
2. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.
Mood: Ethereal, fun, full of surprises. While the entire Nutcracker suite is full of great music, your child will love this delightful animation by Stephen Malinowsky featuring stars, shapes and colors. Throw in a cape for extra dancing fun!
Especially fun about this song are the sudden octaves in the strings (sforzandos) that catch the listener by surprise, the chromatic melody, and the rapidly moving "stars" played by a Celesta. Be sure to check out the other animations on his channel as well.
3. Rondo Alla Turca by Mozart
Mood: Exciting, Fast, Energetic. One of Mozart's most popular pieces, and written for piano, Rondo Alla Turca has stood the test of time as a beloved piece of music that every pianist learns at some point. This exciting version with orchestra is a classical dance party waiting to happen!
4. The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss.
Mood: Slow to Energetic Dance, Ballet, Joyful. Grab your partner and swing round and round to this rousing version of The Blue Danube Waltz by Andre Rieu and his orchestra. One of the most popular and delightful dances of all time, your child will twirl and jump with the dancers in the video to the delight of everyone.
5. Sabre Dance by Khachaturian.
Mood: Extremely Energetic. Get ready for a jolt of energy by the Berliner Philharmoniker with this fast paced dance that involves chromatic harmony, dissonance, glissandos, and lots of xylophone action! Your tot will be bouncing off the walls after this one!
6. Mvt. 3: Agitato, from Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
Mood: Intense with climactic surprises and suspense. While the Moonlight Sonata is known for its melancholy, somber, and beautiful first movement that is on most every relaxation CD, the 3rd movement is much more dramatic. Built on powerful, rapid arpeggios, the 3rd movement invokes strong mental imagery and makes for a great active listening exercise. Try asking your child, "What does this song make you feel?" or "what story does this song tell?"
7. Morning Mood from Peer Gynt, by Edvard Grieg.
Mood: Calming, Beautiful. A song that even from it's name is perfect for waking up, this beautiful orchestral piece is sure to inspire your child to achieve great things and to have a great day! Play this song as your child wakes up and gets ready for the day.
8. The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana.
Mood: Calming but also exciting, and perfect for creativity. While Smetana might not be as well know of a composer as some others, he is fantastic, and The Moldau is a listening experience in itself. With beautiful interwoven cascading flute and string parts, several themes and climaxes, this piece just seems to tell a story the whole way through. Try playing this piece as your child colors, paints or works on schoolwork.
9. Spring, from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
Mood: Happy, also wistful at times. What could be more classic and familiar than the opening of Vivaldi's Four Seasons? This timeless theme is so popular that it has made it into a Little Einsteins episode as "O Yes, O Yes It's Springtime!" The entire Four Seasons is rich with natural imagery, as the string orchestra demonstrates birds, rain, thunder, snow, and falling leaves, all with beautiful themes woven throughout like a tapestry.
As you listen to Spring, you can hear birds chirping during the recording, which complements the bird-song that Vivaldi wrote into the beginning of Spring. Ask your child to listen for the birds.
And for the last,
10. Mars, the Bringer of War from The Planets, by Gustav Holst
Mood: Extremely Intense - Not for the faint of heart! Grab your halloween mask and pretend that you're a monster that's being hunted, or reverse roles and you get that big scary monster! Here it comes!!! Oh no!!! With its bombastic brass section, odd meter being hammered out in the percussion section, chilling, sinister orchestration, cluster chords, chromatic harmonies, and tumultuous climax, this piece will surely send your child's imagination reeling.
Don't worry, the monster loses in the end with a big crash!
If you listen closely, you'll hear several parts of this piece that may remind you of Star Wars. Its true - John Williams was hugely influenced by Holst in his composition of the Star Wars themes. Have fun with this one - it's intense, but if you have lots of fun with it, it doesn't have to be scary! We call it the Monster Song!