The Instrumental Music of the Baroque Period

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Instrumental Music of the Baroque Period is a fascinating topic. This blog will explore the various aspects of this period of music, from the composers to the instruments used.

The Baroque Period

The Baroque period of music was from 1600-1750. The word “baroque” comes from the Italian word barocco which means bizarre or grotesque. The period began in Italy and spread throughout Europe. The features of Baroque music are:

The Baroque Period is a period of Western art music

The Baroque period is a period of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era followed the Renaissance period and preceded the Classical period. Baroque music forms a major portion of the “classical music” canon, being widely studied, performed, and listened to. The Baroque period saw the creation of tonality, an approach to writing music in which a song or piece is written in a particular key. During the Baroque era, professional musicians were expected to be accomplished improvisers of accompaniment parts to songs, dance tunes, and other pieces. A characteristic Baroque form was the dance suite in which patched-together movements, often from various compositions by different composers, were well-liked; these pieces are often still performed today.

The Baroque Period is from 1600-1750

The Baroque period is from 1600-1750. This was a time when instrumental music was first becoming popular. The first opera was written during this time and the first concerto. The Baroque period is also when the modern orchestra was first created.

The Instruments

The Baroque period saw the rise of many new instruments, as well as the development of new playing techniques for existing instruments. This section will give a brief overview of the most important instruments of the Baroque period.

The Harpsichord

The harpsichord is a plucked string instrument with a keyboard. The player depresses the keys of the keyboard, which actuates a mechanism that plucks the strings. Historically, harpsichords were built in several different ways. In the great majority of harpsichords, the strings are plucked by plectra mounted in jacks, which are glued to the ends of beams extending from the case on each side of the keyboard. A minority of harpsichords used metal levers or even pencils in place of plectra.

The soundboard is usually made of cedar. The type of wood used for theYepes board affects both the tone and The loudness required to make an instrument heard over an orchestra or other instruments in large ensemble works increased during this period as well. The bass was particularly problematic since it had less overtones than other instruments and therefore tended to sound muddy when played at a distance; it was also difficult to hear above the noise generated by other instruments playing at loud volumes such as brass and percussion. As a result, various means were employed to make bass lines more audible, including using stopped (or “plugged”) notes (whereby a finger is placed across all the strings at a certain fret to deaden their vibrations), playing more sustainably (e.g., with less vibrato), and adding more overtones by scordatura (whereby certain strings are tuned to pitches other than those they normally have).

Wood used for tuning pins was usually ebony, but boxwood and softwoods such as pine were also used. In contrast to modern pianos, which have spaces between their bass strings that are uniformly one third of an octave apart, many historical keyboards had intervals that varied over the course of an octave—typically getting progressively smaller as one goes up in pitch—in order to reduce weight and string tension (and hence increase structural stability). This can result in what is known as unequal temperament, whereby different keys produce slightly different pitch relationships (although all will still be based on some form of just intonation).

The Violin

The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest and highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola, cello, and double bass. The violin is used as a solo instrument, as well as in orchestras and string quartets. The baroque period was a time when the violin began to take on a more prominent role in music.

The Lute

The lute is a plucked string instrument with a neck and a fretted fingerboard. It has a pear-shaped body and is usually played with the fingers or a pick. The lute is held like a guitar, but it is larger and has a much richer, mellower sound.

The lute was one of the most popular instruments of the Baroque period. It was used in many different genres of music, including opera, orchestra, and chamber music. The lute was also used as an accompaniment for singing and dancing.

There are many different types of lutes, each with its own unique sound. The most common type of lute is the Renaissance lute, which has six strings. The Baroque lute has seven strings, and the classical guitar has six strings. Lutes can also have eight, ten, or twelve strings.

The lute has a long history that dates back to ancient times. The first recorded mention of the instrument was in Mesopotamia in 3100 BC. Lutes were also popular in ancient Egypt and Greece. The instrument reached its height of popularity during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

The Music

The Baroque period in music history is generally considered to have lasted from 1600-1750. That said, some scholars extend the beginning of the Baroque period as early as 1580, while others push the end of the period as late as 1760. The Baroque period was a time of great transition in music.

The Harpsichord

The harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed. The harpsichord was widely used in the Baroque period of music (roughly 1600-1750).

There are two main types of harpsichords: the soundboard harpsichord and the stringing harpsichord. The soundboard harpsichord has a thin wooden soundboard which amplifies the vibrations of the strings. The stringing harpsichord has its strings placed directly on the solid wooden casing, without the use of a soundboard.

The Baroque period saw many different designs and sizes of harpsichords, with varying numbers of keys and strings. The most common size had two rows of keys (known as ‘choirs’), with each row playing a different octave. Some designs had just one row of keys, while others had three or more rows. The largest instruments had as many as six rows!

The number of strings on a harpsichord could also vary considerably. Early instruments typically had just four or five strings per note, but by the end of the Baroque period, it was not uncommon to find instruments with eight or even ten strings per note. This allowed for a much richer, fuller sound.

Harpsichords were usually tuned to one of two main scales: major or minor. The major scale was used for most pieces of music, while the minor scale was used for sadder, more serious pieces.

The range of notes that a harpsichord could play was also quite limited compared to today’s pianos. Early instruments could usually only play in the range of an octave and a fifth (eight notes), although some larger instruments could reach up to two octaves (fifteen notes).

Despite these limitations, the harpsichord was an extremely popular instrument in the Baroque period, used both for solo performances and as part of an orchestra or chamber group.

The Violin

The earliest violins were probably made in the mid-16th century in northern Italy, though it is not certain who made them or exactly when they were made. Like other stringed instruments of the time, they had three strings and were played with a bow. They were held under the chin, like modern violins. The word “violin” comes from the Italian word “viola,” which means “string.”

The first great maker of violins was Andrea Amati (1511-1577) of Cremona, Italy. He began making violins in 1542, and his instruments were used by some of the greatest musicians of his time. One of Amati’s students was Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737). Stradivari’s violins are some of the most valuable instruments in the world today.

The Lute

The lute is a plucked string instrument with a long neck and a body that is pear-shaped, or sometimes round. It has a fretted fingerboard and typically has between six and eight gut strings, which are plucked with the fingers. It also has one or two unstopped gut strings, which are plucked with a quill. The lute is held so that the player’s left hand can reach all of the frets. The lute’s origin is unclear, but it seems to have emerged in the Islamic world in the late medieval period.

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