Musiikkia pähkinänkuoressa

Music in a nutshell

Welcome to the first part of Learn how to listen to classical music! Music from different eras sounds different. In this part, we will look at typical features of music created in various eras with music examples and information about composers and instruments.
Musical eras

Valitse aikakausi, josta haluat tietää lisää. Suosittelemme aikakausien läpikäymistä kronologisessa järjestyksessä - näin selviää, kuinka mennyt vaikuttaa uuteen!

  • Renessanssi
    Palestrina - O magnum mysterium
    Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina - O magnum mysterium
    Lumen valo, vocal ensemble.
    Sigillum 2010.

    Renaissance era

  • Barokki
    Helsingin barokkiorkesteri: Johan Agrell: Sinfonia A-duuri. Aeolus.

    Baroque era

  • Klassismi
    Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 - 1. Allegro con brio
    Ludwig van Beethoven: Sinfonia nro 5
    Wiener Philharmoniker. Simon Rattle, kapellimestari.
    EMI Classics 2003.

    Classical era

  • Romantiikka
    Jean Sibelius: Sinfonia nro 1
    Jean Sibelius: Sinfonia nro 1
    Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri. Leif Segerstam, kapellimestari.
    Ondine 2002.

    Romantic era

  • Impressionismi
    Claude Debussy: La mer
    Claude Debussy: La mer - Osa 2 Jeux de vagues.
    Berliner Philharmoniker. Simon Rattle, kapellimestari.
    EMI 2005.


  • Ekspressionismi
    Arnold Schönberg: Herzgewächse
    Arnold Schönberg: Herzgewächse op. 20 (1911)
    Anu Komsi, soprano. Reija Bister, harp. Emil Holmström, harmoni. Ilmo Ranta, celesta.
    Alba Records 2011.


  • Nykyaika
    Einojuhani Rautavaara - Angel of Light - 1. Tranquillo
    Einojuhani Rautavaara: Sinfonia nro 7 "Angel of Light"
    Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri. Leif Segerstam, kapellimestari.
    Ondine 1996.

    Modern era

Elements of music
One way of learning about music is to study its elements: rhythm, melody, harmony, form, tonal colour and dynamics. Explore these elements here. Later, we will take a look at how these elements appear in music from different eras in history.


Rhythm is a part of our daily lives. We often talk about a sense of rhythm. We have weekly rhythms, our bodies have rhythm, and so does dancing and any other regular activity. Rhythm is often the element that makes us move or groove along to music.


A melody may stick in your ear for an entire day. If we hum a familiar song, it is the melody that we are humming, and melodies have the ability to remind us of important moments.


Harmony symbolises tranquillity and peaceful coexistence. In music, harmony is what we hear underlying the melody. Harmony can be discordant and tense. Often harmony sets up tensions that are then satisfyingly resolved.


Our everyday life is full of forms, shapes and structures. We easily recognise things like shoes, vases or chairs on the basis of their form. If we hear the word ‘school’, we have a fairly good idea of what the building may look like. Musical compositions also have specific forms and structures.

Tonal colour

Our eyes are used to seeing colour. The sky in the morning is different from the sky at midday. A person’s face may be pale, bright or sombre. We can also say we perceive colours with our ears. Sometimes the key to a piece of music is whether it sounds bright, soft or dark.


We can be quiet, whisper, talk or shout. What we say changes in meaning as the volume changes. Changes in volume, known as dynamics, are among the most powerful and most expressive elements of music.