To the majority of people, the term 'classical music' seems to be the one used to describe almost any music that is played by orchestras and musicians wearing white tie and tails, or indeed , any 'serious' music that doesn't automatically fall into the categories of pop, rock, jazz, ethnic or new age.
However, this is not strictly the case. To be really pedantic, 'classical music' is the music that was written from around the mid-eighteenth century through to the early part of the nineteenth century, encompassing the works of composers like Mozart and Beethoven.
At the time when Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were writing, their music was the popular music of the day; but it has now been dubbed 'classical', playing on the exact dictionary definition of the word meaning simple, harmonious and formally structured. This umbrella title encompasses many different styles: Baroque, Romantic, Impressionistic, and Nationalitic schools are just a few examples. Pop music suffers the same fate: the title 'pop music' has to cover a multitude of styles - from soul to reggae and from heavy metal to hip-hop.
Confusing though it is, keep in mind that the term 'classical music' can either be applied to the music specifically written between the years 1750 and 1827, or be used as the all-encompassing title for 'serious' music - or not so serious, as we may well find out.
Where did it all start? Man's empathy and feeling for music is an absolutely fundamental part of our being and there is much evidence to support the belief that, from the beginning, primitive man experimented with both rhythm and melody by beating different-sized sticks of wood and stretching skin over scooped-out logs to make the earliest form of drums. As time went by, instruments became more and more sophisticated, and man's perception of what was 'musical' developed accordingly.
Here, we will focus on the main styles of music that have achieved mass appeal since about 1685 (the start of the Baroque era). There are, of course, many devotees of medieval music and the early sacred music, but we will concentrate of classical music from 1685. We also will not have a detailed look at music of today, since the purpose here is to get comfortable with music which has been 'tried and tested' by audiences around the world for some time.