Music History Eras

Did you know? Just like the history you learn about in school has different time periods, or eras, so does the history of music. And each music history era has different characteristics and different changes in how the music was written and played. Even though the first music history era starts in 500 A.D., that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any music before that. Music existed long before that time; it just wasn’t classified into a specific time period for music history. So let’s look at these different time periods and some very basic characteristics for each one.

Music History Eras
Music History Eras

Early Music (also known as Medieval Music)

This period of music history corresponds to the Middle Ages, about 500-1400. Most music then was vocal music, written to be sung in the church. There were not very many instruments available. The main instruments were the recorder, the trumpet, the bagpipe, and the shawm (somewhat similar to the oboe). During this time people were just beginning to develop the ideas of how to write music on paper.

Renaissance Music

This music history era was the same time as the Renaissance era in world history, from about 1400-1600. During this time people explored new ideas and new worlds,  and discovered, or rediscovered, new things in art and music. Most of the music was still vocal music, but it was not all just for use in the church any more. Also, the printing press was developed during this time, so people were able to print and distribute music.

Baroque Music

The Baroque period of music history happened about the same time as the Pilgrims, exploration, and colonization (1600-1750). This was the same time period that the American colonies began. During the Baroque era composers wrote much more instrumental music and non-church music. The first versions of the modern orchestra were started. Composers also started writing operas and oratorios.

Classical Period

The Classical period of music history happened at about the same time as the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Age of Enlightenment, about 1750-1830. During this time composers started writing string quartets, sonatas, and orchestral symphonies. More instruments were added to orchestras. Also, the modern piano was developed and popularized during this time.

Romantic Period

The Romantic Era lasted from about 1830-1900, about the same time as the Industrial Revolution. The music from this time featured intense energy and passion. Composers tried to express scenes from real life in their music. Musical rules of the past had to be rethought and changed to support new ideas of writing music. New musical developments included tone poems, descriptive overtures, major symphonies, dramatic operas, and virtuosic piano music.

Twentieth Century and Beyond

This era of music history began about 1900 and continues through today. Composers during this time tried to be radical and different, and rebelled  against some of the established musical ideas. So, new styles and forms of music developed. Classical music composers included ideas from jazz and folk music into their new music. This era also includes music for film scores and video games.

If you want to know a little bit more about music history, check out

Do you want your own copy of our Music History Eras chart? Download it here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.