Major Music Periods: It’s not all Classical Music!

by | May 2, 2023

Why look into major music periods?

It’s extremely likely that when you hear a violin, orchestra, or piano, you immediately think of classical music. However, you may be listening to Yo-Yo Ma, who, despite playing old scores, is playing modern music.

To begin, we must understand what classicism is and the historical context in which it arose, so that you do not categorize orchestral music as classical in its whole, because different music periods exist and sound different if you pay attention.

With centuries of history to contemplate, it’s easy to get tangled up when it comes to the many eras of Western music. Here’s a rundown of the major music periods covered in music theory: Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century, and beyond.

The Renaissance

Renaissance music period

The Renaissance refers to the period after the Middle Ages. This is when the human mind begins to separate itself from the belief that everything is a result of the Abrahamic God’s providence. There is evidence of Gregorian chants, liturgies, and holy repertory without the signatures of their respective composers in ancient times because it was thought that this was done to exalt man rather than God, their heavenly inspirer.

A change

However, after the birth of the Enlightenment movement, this would alter, and composers would be credited in their works as Masters and teachers, a tradition that lasted for several generations and spanned several music periods, resulting in the evolution of music.

Some names

Palestrina, Orlande de Lassus, and Tomás Luis de Victoria would be among the most prominent figures of this music period.

The Baroque

Major Music Periods - The Baroque - Johan Sebastian BachBaroque music

The Baroque period is known for its attention to detail, beauty, and extravagance. Music followed the trends of other artistic expressions such as painting and architecture, therefore it had to be outstanding, just like these amazing works of the time.


It was around this time that Johan Sebastian Bach, the renowned Master and Father of Music, was born, leaving not only a magnificent offspring but also a tremendous musical legacy that is still heard in academic music today.

Handel, Vivaldi

His masterpiece “The well-tempered harpsichord” established the foundation for virtually all subsequent music. The names of the great Handel and Vivaldi stand out during this time as well: no fine meal or conference can be complete without the famous 4 seasons.


What is classicism?

Classicism offers a return to basic geometric shapes in architecture and to measure in the aural arts, rejecting the extravagance that gave rise to the baroque. We no longer find schemes with up to 60 overexposed melodies, but rather harmony, as well as musical forms like the orchestra, concerto, and the already popular opera.


It was also a watershed point in the history of German music. Well, it was at this time that the world’s first pop star, the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was born, who starts his career at the age of nine.

German musical powerhouse

Because all of the music, as well as the lyrics in which it was sung, came from the Italian school, the German lieder began to form. These demonstrations, which were organized by artists at the time, were a clear expression of German nationalism. Germany rose to prominence as a musical powerhouse.

The Beethoven transition

Beethoven’s name debuts during the period of classicism; in fact, it is Beethoven who manages to transfer to the following phase of romanticism, when the piano would become the avant-garde instrument and a must for anybody wishing to compete in the major musical leagues.


street art beethoven major music periodsBeethoven

Beethoven was a romanticism pioneer, producing musical forms such as the song and the ballad, does that seem familiar? We’re almost there!

Germans, Russians

Throughout romanticism, the Russians would eventually take over the avant-garde baton, but not before the Germans had laid down a well-defined pattern; during this time, the orchestra grows in size, power, and magnitude. Even noise is incorporated as part of the musical discourse at this point, as it tells us that we are in the midst of the great industrial revolution when thinking began to shift into a quite progressive one.

Other names of the romanticism music period

Strauss, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Wagner, and Lizst are among the names that will be remembered in Germany, while Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky, to mention a few, will be remembered in Russia.


We hope that this article has made the crude label of classical music obsolete in the minds of the general public. Classical music is associated with a specific epoch in history, as well as a geographical, historical, and social setting. You can find more of these guides on our 1 In Music guide section. Our 1 In Music mobile app explores more of the history of music and the major periods of music.

We hope you enjoyed this article.