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The Most Fun and Exciting Books and Websites for Studying Music Appreciation or Music History

The Most Fun and Exciting Books and Websites for Studying Music Appreciation or Music History

Books and Websites for Music Appreciation

Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through affiliate links in this post.

Use the following books and websites when studying music appreciation or music history.

Online Course Site

If you are looking for an easy way to learn the subject, head over to to find a variety of music appreciation and music history self-paced online courses, such as

  • 15-Minute Music Lessons for Elementary
  • Intro to Musicals for Elementary
  • American Music for Elementary
  • World Music for Elementary
  • Music Appreciation: Middle Ages Thru Classical Period for High School
  • Music Appreciation of the Romantic Era for High School
  • 20th Century Music Appreciation for High School

(The ones marked with an * are my favorites.)

Good for All Ages:

100 Great Operas and Their Stories, Henry W. Simon. 1989.

Eugene Ormandy Conducts 20th Century Classics, 12 CD set.

The Story of Music: Volume 2 Classical Music: Romantic to Modern, Shona Grimbly, 2001.

  • This orchestra provides live (online through YouTube during the pandemic) concerts
  • Especially check out the Instrument Guides and the Family Concerts (also on their YouTube channel)

  • An online encyclopedia. Search composer’s name, style of music, etc.

Upper Level (Teens through Adult):

A History of Western Music, 4th Ed., Donald J. Grout and Claude V. Palisca.

Concise History of Western Music, 3rd Ed., Barbara Russano Hanning. 2006.

Geniuses of the American Musical Theatre: The Composers and Lyricists, Herbert Keyser. 2009.

Legends, Icons, and Rebels: Music That Changed the World, Robbie Robertson, et al. 2013.

*Music: An Appreciation, 4th Brief Ed., Roger Kamien, 2002.

Music: An Appreciation, 7th Ed., Roger Kamien, 2000.

*The Classical Music Experience, 2nd Ed., Julius H. Jacobson, 2008.

*The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music History, Michael Miller, 2008.

The Dictionary of Composers and Their Music, Eric Gilder, 1985.

*The Gift of Music, 3rd Ed. Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson.

The History of Classical Music, Stuart A. Kallen, 2013.

*The Vintage Guide to Classical Music, Jan Swafford. 1992.

The Wordsworth Dictionary of Musical Quotations, Derek Watson. 1991.

Twentieth-Century Music, Robert P. Morgan. 1991.

  • Find composer biographies, music and composers in the news, and a lots of resource links.
  • They have a weekly podcast where they meet with artists, composers, performers, and scholars who share their art and love for what they are doing.

  • This site provides biographies for musicians and groups such as bands. There are a lot of 20th and 21st Century options here if you’re studying more modern music history.

Elementary Level:

The Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera,  Husain, 2015.

Classic Tunes and Tales, Tod F. Kline, 1997.

Color the Classics: Godly Composers, Carmen Ziarkowski, 2008.

Great Composers of the 20th Century, Jacqueline Wollan Gibbons. 2000.

Lives of the Musicians, Kathleen Krull, 1993.

Paganini: Master of Strings, Opal Wheeler, 1950. and lots of other biographies of composers by Opal Wheeler.


Sing Me a Story: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children, Jane Rosenberg and Luciano Pavarotti, 1996.

Stories from the Great Metropolitan Operas, Helen Dike, 1943.

*The Story of the Orchestra, Robert Levine, 2001.


  • One of my all-time favorite music sites for kids!
  • Includes games, biographies, podcast episodes about composers and specific pieces.
  • Online games and activities to explore sounds and music composition

  • Their “Learn and Listen” videos are great for instruments, composers, and “building blocks of music.”


  • Great site, but requires Flash (won’t work after Dec. 2020)
  • Learn about instruments, listen to music, etc.

Creating Music

  • Fun games, but requires Flash (won’t work after Dec. 2020)

Download a PDF copy of this list here:

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