Baroque music was written during the period from 1600-1750. Music during this period was elaborate and grand. Composers wrote music using polyphonic melodies and a figured bass. The rhythm of Baroque music has a strong beat and the melodies are ornate. The harmony is simple and the mood is consistent. Instruments used during the Baroque period were the harpsichord, organ, violin, flute, recorder, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, horn without valves, and timpani drum. Composition styles used were the opera, oratorio, cantata, concerto, concerto grosso, sonata, suite, and keyboard works. Important Baroque composers are Giovanni Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Praetorius, Schuetz, Frescobaldi, and Purcell.
The Classical period was from 1750-1825. Music during this period was light and elegant. Composers wanted their music to be beautiful, balanced, and reasoned. They used a steady rhythm with a simple melody and harmony. The dynamics were moderate and there was little change in mood. Instruments used during the Classical Period were the piano, violins, flute, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, horn with valves, and timpani drum. Composition styles used were the symphony, concerto, string quartet, chamber music, opera, oratorio, and keyboard works. Important Classical composers are Quantz Rameau, Dominico Scarlatti, Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
The Romantic period was during the late 18th to the mid-19th century. Romantic music emphasized emotion and imagination. The rhythm in Romantic music consists of many changes in tempo and rebato. Romantic melody is complex. The harmony is rich, unpredictable, and chromatic. Romantic music uses a wide range of dynamics with lots of crescendo and decrescendo. Mood changes are dramatic and frequent. The form of Romantic music is rambling. Instruments used during the Romantic period were large orchestras, piano, English horn, bass clarinet, trombone, and tuba. Composition styles used were the symphony, concerto, chamber music, opera, oratorio, church music, and piano works. Important Romantic composers are Beethoven, Schubert, von Weber, Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Schumann, Franck, Verdi, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Faure, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, Puccini, Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Bruckner.
The Impressionistic period occurred at the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. It dominated French music and focused on strong nationalism. The rhythm and harmony of Impressionistic music is less definite. The melody is often fragmented. The textures are homophonic with some monophonic parts. Impressionistic music has a wide range of dynamics with subtle changes. It often contains one mood for an entire piece. The mood in this period is more consistent than during the Romantic period. The instruments used during the Impressionistic period are the same as those used during the Romantic period. Important Impressionistic composers are Debussy and Ravel.
Twentieth Century music is hard to define. It is constantly changing and unsettling. Twentieth Century music uses polyphonic and irregular rhythms. The rhythm of this music is often more important than the melody. Twentieth Century melodies are hard to sing. They contain major, minor, whole-tone, and pentatonic scales. Harmonies in Twentieth Century music are dissonant. They use 12-tone or chromatic scales. The texture is often polyphonic and is very important in Twentieth Century music. Instruments used include large orchestras and more precussion than ever before. Important composers of this period are Stravinksy, Schoenberg, Bartok, Ives, Gershwinn, Copland, Menotti, Vaughan Williams, Hindemith, Poulenc, Webern, Penderecki, and Cage.