Teaching Music Students Baroque Music

These days Handel’s keyboard music is most often performed on a piano. At the time that this music was performed however pianos had not yet been invented, so keyboard music was generally played on a harpsichord. Do some research on the differences between the two, considering when each instrument was invented, how the sound is produced in each instrument (hitting versus plucking strings), and the different capabilities.

After reviewing the differences between the piano and the harpsichord, listen to recordings of each of these instruments and then discuss the actual differences in sound. Here are some starting points for your class discussion:

How would you describe the sound of each instrument?
Can you think of any factors in either instrument that may influence the way the music sounds?
Which instruments sound do you prefer?
Do you think Handel would have liked the piano?
In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in playing baroque and classical music on original instruments. Why do you think this is so?

One of Handel’s best known works is the oratorio The Messiah. Pretend that you are watching the very first performance ever of this piece. Imagine that after the performance you are stopped by a reporter for the local television news. What would you say? You could choose one student to be the reported, and videotape interviews with “audience” members.

These were just a few ideas you could use if creating a music lesson plan about this subject.

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