The Romantic era of music, which took place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, is characterized by its emotional depth, passionate expression, and emphasis on individualism. This period is often seen as a response to the Classical era, which favored simplicity, clarity, and balance. The Romantic era marked a significant shift in the way that music was composed, performed, and experienced.
One of the most prominent composers of the Romantic era was Frédéric Chopin. His works for the piano are known for their lyricism, virtuosity, and emotional expressiveness. Chopin's music is still widely studied and performed today, and his influence can be seen in the works of later composers such as Rachmaninoff and Debussy.
Another significant composer of the Romantic era was Johannes Brahms. Brahms's music is known for its complex harmonies, rich textures, and emotional depth. His works, which range from solo piano pieces to symphonies and chamber music, are considered some of the finest examples of the Romantic era.
In addition to the development of new musical forms and styles, the Romantic era also saw the invention of new instruments. The saxophone, for example, was invented in the mid-19th century by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax. The saxophone was originally intended for use in military bands, but it soon found a place in classical music as well. The saxophone's warm and expressive sound has made it a popular instrument in jazz and popular music as well.
Another important instrument that emerged during the Romantic era was the concert grand piano. This instrument, which is much larger than earlier pianos, allowed for greater dynamic range and expressive possibilities. Composers like Chopin and Liszt were particularly drawn to the concert grand piano, and they wrote many pieces that showcased its capabilities.
The Romantic era also saw a shift in the way that music was performed and experienced. Concerts became larger and more elaborate, with orchestras growing both in size and repertoire. Opera also flourished during this time, with composers like Verdi and Wagner pushing the boundaries of what was possible in musical theater.
In conclusion, the Romantic era of music was a period of great change and innovation in Western classical music. Through the works of composers like Chopin and Brahms, the invention of new instruments like the saxophone and concert grand piano, and the transformation of the concert experience, the Romantic era left an indelible mark on the musical landscape.
The Classical era of music, spanning from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century, is a remarkable period in the history of Western classical music. During this time, the music of the Baroque period transitioned to a simpler, more homophonic texture, and many new forms of instrumental music emerged, such as the symphony, the sonata, and the concerto.
Two of the most renowned composers of the Classical era were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Mozart's music is known for its elegance and emotional depth, while Beethoven's compositions reflect his struggle with personal difficulties and the turbulent times in which he lived. Both composers made significant contributions to the development of Western classical music, and their works continue to be widely performed and celebrated today.
The Classical era also saw the invention of new instruments, such as the clarinet, which added richness and depth to orchestral music. The string quartet, consisting of two violins, a viola, and a cello, also emerged during this era and remains one of the most popular forms of chamber music. Additionally, the piano became a staple of the classical repertoire, with composers like Mozart and Beethoven writing numerous piano sonatas, concertos, and chamber music pieces.
Another significant development in classical music during this era was the use of the fortepiano, a precursor to the modern piano. The fortepiano had a softer, more expressive sound that allowed for greater dynamic range and sensitivity in performance. This led to a new playing style, with performers using more delicate and subtle touches to create a nuanced and expressive sound.
The Classical era's innovations and forms continue to have a lasting impact on Western classical music. The music of Mozart and Beethoven remains widely admired and performed, and their influence can be seen in the works of later composers like Brahms, Chopin, and Schumann.
The Classical era of music was a remarkable period of innovation and development in Western classical music. Through the works of Mozart and Beethoven, the invention of new instruments, and the emergence of new forms of instrumental music, this era left a significant mark on the musical landscape that continues to be celebrated and studied to this day.
Baroque music is a beautiful and ornate style of classical music that was popular in Europe from the early 1600s to the mid-1700s. This musical period was named after the Baroque period, which was a time of great artistic innovation and achievement. During this time, many new musical forms were developed, including opera, sonatas, and concertos. These new forms allowed composers to express emotions and ideas in new and exciting ways through their music.
Some of the most important and influential composers of the Baroque period were Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. Bach was a German composer and musician known for his complex harmonies, use of counterpoint, and emotional depth. Handel, also a German composer, was known for his operas, oratorios, and instrumental music, and his most famous work is the oratorio "Messiah."
One of the unique features of Baroque music was the use of improvisation. Many pieces performed during this time were not written down, but were instead improvised by the musicians, which allowed for a great deal of creativity and spontaneity in performances. Another unique feature was the development of new musical instruments such as the harpsichord and the violin. These instruments allowed for new sounds and textures to be created in music.
Opera was one of the most important musical forms of the Baroque period. It was a form of musical theater that combined singing, acting, and dance, and was highly popular among the wealthy and aristocracy. Many of the greatest composers of the Baroque period, including Handel and Bach, wrote operas. Another important form was the concerto, which featured a solo instrument or group of instruments playing with an orchestra.
Today, the music of the Baroque period continues to be studied and enjoyed by musicians and music lovers around the world. Its intricate melodies, complex harmonies, and emotional depth make it a timeless and captivating style of music that continues to inspire new generations of musicians and listeners alike.
The pipe organ is a fascinating musical instrument with a rich history that has shaped music as we know it today. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Greece, where a water-powered organ called the hydraulis was used for public events and religious ceremonies.
During the medieval period, the pipe organ became widely used in churches and monasteries as it gained popularity for its versatility and ability to produce a wide range of sounds. It was the "king of instruments" and played an important role in religious music during that time.
Throughout the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods, famous composers such as Bach and Handel wrote music specifically for the pipe organ, which continued to evolve with advances in technology.
The pipe organ's most significant change during the medieval period was the introduction of the bellows, which replaced the hydraulis' water-powered system. This allowed for the development of different types of pipes, each with their unique sound and increased control over the instrument.
Today, the pipe organ remains a highly regarded instrument in music education and is used in various genres of music. Many famous concert halls still feature working pipe organs, and there are organizations dedicated to preserving and restoring these beautiful instruments.
The pipe organ is a unique and versatile instrument with a fascinating history that has played a significant role in the development of music. Whether in religious or secular contexts, it continues to inspire musicians and captivate audiences worldwide.
One of the most famous organ composers from the medieval ages is Johannes de Garlandia, who lived in the 13th century. He was a French composer, music theorist, and organist known for his contributions to the development of organum, a type of early polyphonic music.
Johannes de Garlandia wrote several treatises on music theory, including "De mensurabili musica," which discussed rhythmic notation and introduced a new system of notation called the Franconian notation. He also wrote several pieces of organ music, including "Salve Regina," a four-part polyphonic piece.
Johannes de Garlandia's contributions to early polyphonic music and organ composition were significant, as his work helped lay the foundation for future composers in the centuries to come. His legacy continues to be recognized today, and his music is still performed and studied by music students and scholars around the world.
The Renaissance was a period of European history that spanned from the 14th to the 17th century, characterized by a revival of interest in classical art and culture, as well as advancements in science, technology, and exploration. The music of the Renaissance was heavily influenced by these developments, as composers sought to create a new style of music that was more expressive, complex, and harmonically rich than the simpler melodies of the Middle Ages.
The early Renaissance period, from the mid-14th to the early 15th century, saw the emergence of the Burgundian School, named after the region in France where many of its composers were based. The Burgundian School was known for its complex polyphonic vocal music, which featured multiple independent voices singing different melodies at the same time. Composers such as Guillaume Dufay and Johannes Ockeghem were among the most prominent figures of this period, and their works laid the foundation for the development of Renaissance music.
During the high Renaissance period, from the late 15th to the early 16th century, the musical style became even more elaborate, with composers such as Josquin des Prez and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina creating works of great complexity and beauty. The music of this period was marked by a focus on harmony, with a greater emphasis on chord progressions and the use of dissonance to create tension and release. The high Renaissance also saw the development of new musical forms such as the madrigal, which was a secular vocal composition featuring multiple voices.
In the late Renaissance period, from the mid-16th to the early 17th century, music continued to evolve, with composers such as Orlando di Lasso and William Byrd creating works that were even more complex and expressive. The music of this period was characterized by a greater use of chromaticism, which involved the use of notes outside of the traditional diatonic scale, as well as a greater use of word painting, where the music was designed to evoke the meaning of the lyrics.
One of the most significant developments of Renaissance music was the invention of music notation, which allowed composers to notate their works in a precise and detailed manner. Prior to the invention of notation, music was passed down through oral tradition, which made it difficult to preserve and transmit accurately over time. The development of notation revolutionized the music industry, allowing for greater standardization and the widespread dissemination of music across Europe.
Another important development was the emergence of music printing, which allowed for the mass production of sheet music and the widespread distribution of musical works. This made it easier for musicians to access a wider range of music and helped to spread the Renaissance style across Europe.
Overall, Renaissance music was marked by a greater emphasis on harmony, complexity, and expression, as well as a greater use of notation and printing technology. The music of this period laid the foundation for the development of Western classical music and continues to be studied and performed by musicians today. Whether you are a musician or simply a lover of music, the Renaissance period offers a rich and fascinating history that continues to inspire and captivate audiences around the world.
Instruments of the Medieval Era
The instruments of the medieval era fit into three different instrument families: wind, strings, and percussion.
Flutes are a type of wind instrument that were popular during this time, but was very different than the flutes you would see in an orchestra today. Medieval flutes were not made of metal and did not have the airtight padding which make playing easier. Instead, flutes were made from carved wood and had simple holes which needed to be covered completely by the player’s fingers. Like the flute, was the recorder. The difference between a recorder and a flute is a fipple, which directs air across the edge of the tone hole. Also, the playing position of a recorder is different. Flutes are played with the instrument horizontal and recorders point down to the ground.
Stringed instruments during the Middle Ages were larger than their counterparts we use today. One instrument that went through significant changes in the way that it was played during the Middle Ages was the dulcimer (dull-sim-err). The dulcimer is a large, board-like instrument covered in strings of different lengths to produce different tones. Originally, the instrument had to be plucked like a lute – the ancestor of the guitar – but once metal strings became cheaper and easier to make, they were hit with small hammers. The way the hammered dulcimer – as it was now called – operates is like a piano, in that a piano has eighty-eight small hammers that pound on small metal strings to produce tones.
Another stringed instrument we will look at is the vielle, a predecessor of the violin. The vielle was a large, handheld instrument that was played much like a violin, with a bow. The vielle was shaped a bit like a figure-8 and could have different numbers of strings. In the image below, you can see a three-stringed vielle.
The different instruments used in the Middle Ages were all varied and had different uses. Even though some of them may look strange, there is no denying the connection between the instruments used then and those used now. Learning about where our musical instruments came from helps us to appreciate them all a lot more.
The history of music is the history of the world. All through history, there has been music and musicians. Even though music did not start in the medieval period, the information that we have about music from this period gives us a lot of details about the world at that time. From the instruments to the composers, here are the most important aspects of medieval music.
The History of Medieval Music
Medieval music is divided into three periods: early medieval music, high medieval music, and late medieval music. Early medieval music was mostly composed of chants or what is called ‘plainsong’ which is just the combination of the words ‘plain’ and ‘song’. This song was a single melody without an accompanied harmony, like we see in more modern music. Eventually, chants would incorporate another voice in parallel above the first voicing. This was called “organum” and is the prelude to modern counterpoint and harmony.
High medieval music was more advanced than the previous plainsong of the early period. In this time, there were poet-musicians called Goliards who wrote and sang songs in Latin. Many of the songs at this time were religious, but the Goliards sang songs about everyday life among other topics. Many of these lyrics have survived in the medieval text The Carmina Burana, although the music itself did not. At this time, professional musicians called troubadours (troo-buh-doors) and trouvères (troo-ver-ays) were developing more complex melodies but were removed from the religious tradition of older music. Troubadours wrote music that was for the common people, using common language. Many of their melodies survive to this day.
Late medieval music was incredibly diverse. As the groups of people who made the music got more advanced, so did the music itself. In fact, music began to get so specific in different parts of the world that different countries began making their own kinds of music. In France, they began working with a practice called ‘Ars nova’ which means “new art”. In this new art secular (meaning non-church) music gained a more advanced type of melody. Even though this term mostly applies to French music, it is often used to describe all music from this part of history. In Italy, their musical movement was called ‘Trecento’. Much of the musical traditions of this time would continue into the next major time period, the Renaissance.
The history of music is a long one that is always changing. During the medieval period, we can see music going through many different changes; from single-note plainsongs to the more melodic work of the troubadours, music is a constantly flowing river that never ever stops.
In our last blog about articulations in music, we explored detached staccato notes, fermata pauses, and legato slurs. In this blog, we will be looking at the less common of musical articulation notations.
Remember from last time that articulations in music are important in that they tell us how to read and play the music. They are an extension of the composer and knowing how to read them will help you play, read, or sing music more accurately.
Articulations in music are incredibly important to learn about because they are signs which show the composer’s intention for how a piece of music should be played, read, or sung. Ignoring articulation marks will change the nature of a piece of music entirely. Practice reading articulation markings in the music you play.
One thing you will often see when reading and playing music are articulations. Articulations in music are ways of showing how a set of notes should be played with respect to pitch, duration, or dynamic. One way to think about articulations in music is that they serve as a sort of punctuation in music. In the same way that punctuation in writing tells you whether a sentence is a statement – with a period – a question – with a question mark – or a loud exclamation – with an exclamation mark, articulations in music help us to read and play music. Articulations in music are important because they change the way we play or sing the music.
In this two-part blog series, we will explore all the articulations in music, starting with staccato.
Being one of the most common articulations in music, staccato is one of the musical articulations you’ll want to master quickly. Stacatto means (when translated) “short” or “detached” and is notated with a dot either above or below the note.
Stacatto notes are not held for the entire duration of the note but shortened to help detach it from the next note in line. Let’s look at an example.
In the example, you can see a series of notes. These notes are each notated with a staccato musical articulation. That means that each of these notes would be played shorter than their notated length.
Another common articulation in music is the slur also known as legato. Legato is a word which means “smooth” or “together”. Legato expressions tells us that notes should be played continuously together without any gap in the notes.
Legato phrasings are shown with a curved line we also call a phrase mark. Let’s look at an example.
In the image above, you can see that the phrase mark follows the quarter notes, showing that they should be played together smoothly.
Fermata is a word which translates to “pause” and is indicated with a dot and a crescent above the note. It can be seen as somewhat the opposite of staccato. This articulation in music shows that the note should be held longer than the time written in the music. Because of its special job, it is the only articulation mark in music which changes the beat of the song.
Next time on in our blog What Are Articulations in Music? Part 2 we will look at articulations in music such as Tenuto and Accents.
One word you may see when learning music is accidental. But what does this mean? In this article you will learn all about accidentals in music, how to use them, and how to recognize them.
Accidentals in Music Are No Accident
Unlike their name might suggest, accidentals in music are no accident. They are important when you want to learn how to read music.
An accidental in music is a note (or pitch) that is not part of the scale shown by the key signature. In this way, accidentals in music ignore key signature. Look at the picture below, and you can see the three types of accidentals; flat, natural, and sharp. Both the notes and the symbols are called accidentals.
When you see an accidental, it means that the note has been shifted by a semitone, or half-step.
In the example shown below, we are in the key of B-flat major. The key signature shows that there are two flats in the key, B-flat and E-flat. With the natural accidental applied to the note shown, it becomes a natural B instead of an B-flat. The note shifted one semitone from B-flat to B-natural.
Accidentals in Music Apply to the Whole Measure
One special rule to know about accidentals in music is that they apply to all notes in the measure (or bar). Let us look at an example!
In the picture below, you can see we are still in the key of B-flat major. There are four quarter-notes. The first note is a B-flat, as noted by the accidental. The fourth note is also a B-flat, because it is in the same measure. In the following measure, the note becomes B-flat again.
Double Accidentals in Music
Like you might think, a double accidental raises the pitch of a note by two semitones. Like normal accidentals, these notes ignore key signature and have their own special symbols. On the left is the double flat accidental and on the right is the double sharp accidental.
Did You Know? Music History
Accidentals in music are very old! Their use goes all the way back to before the Middle Ages, people were writing about music theory all the way back then! The first use of a double accidental was over 400 years ago in 1615.
Now you know all about accidentals in music from sharps, naturals, flats, and double accidentals, they are important tools for any musician to have.
Brian Trumble is an English teacher and lifelong writer. He plays saxophone, bassoon, and piano and is excited to partner with Plum Rose Publishing to teach and lead the next generation of musicians!