Periods of Music

Musical Periods

The periods of music or music eras are the way in which musicians classify the history and development of Western Classical Music over the last 1,500 years. They help us understand how music has changed through time.

Timeline of Music Periods

Each musical period covers a specific date range although these should be considered to be approximate and there is always significant debate as to the point where one era ends and the next begins.
Here is a timeline of the periods of music:

Periods of Music Timeline

The timeline shows that there have been 6 musical periods so far. Each of these has its own characteristics that are typical of the era. For example, each musical era has famous composers whose compositions are still studied and performed as being significant pieces of work that are typical of the music at the time.

Instrumentation is also a crucial feature of any period of music as technological advances enabled composers to utilise the possibilities of new instruments and extend their work.

There are techniques of composition that are seen as being typical of the period of music that they originate from. Developments in the use of melody, harmony and rhythm can be explored through studying works from the different periods. It is possible to compose pieces of music in the style of a period of music through understanding and using the techniques employed at the time.

The cultural, social and political context of each era must be examined to fully understand how these influenced the composition and performance of music. A study of any period of music will show that music is never written in a vacuum, but is always influenced by its context.

I hope that these lessons on each of the periods of music will help give you a greater understanding of how music of the Western classical tradition has developed through time.