Music of the Baroque and Classical Eras: Mostly String Instruments

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The music of the Baroque and Classical eras was dominated by string instruments. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of string instruments that were popular during these periods, as well as some of the famous pieces of music that were written for them.

The Baroque Era

The Baroque era was a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted details to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in music, dance, drama, and architecture. It began in the late 1600s and ended around 1750.

String Instruments Used

During the baroque era, the following string instruments were commonly used:

The violin was the most popular of these instruments, and was also used in a variety of different settings. For example, it could be played as a solo instrument, in a small ensemble, or in a large orchestra.

Notable Composers

George Frideric Handel: His music was characterized by its drama, majesty and grandeur. He frequently used counterpoint and fugue, and his operas and oratorios are some of the most popular works from the Baroque era.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach’s compositions are known for their technical mastery, as well as their intellectual depth. He is often considered one of the greatest classical composers of all time.

Antonio Vivaldi: Vivaldi was a master of the Baroque concerto. His concertos are characterized by their vibrancy and energy, and they remain some of the most popular pieces from the Baroque era.

The Classical Era

The Classical period was an era of classical music between roughly 1730 to 1820. The Classical period falls between the Baroque and the Romantic periods. Classical music has a lighter, clearer texture than Baroque music and is less complex. It is mainly homophonic, using a clear melody line over a subordinate chordal accompaniment, but counterpoint was by no means forgotten, especially later in the period.

String Instruments Used

During the Classical era, composers began to organize their works in a more formal and recognizable way. Many pieces were written for orchestras of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns, trumpets, and timpani with a string section made up of violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Other pieces were written specifically for solo instruments with orchestra accompaniment or for smaller groups of instruments.

Notable Composers

Baroque music (1600-1750) was often religious or patriotic, and used much ornamentation. The composers of the early part of the Baroque period were mostly Italians. As the Baroque period progressed, composers from other countries began to adopt the Italian style, which led to the first truly international style of music.

The most important early Italian composers of instrumental music were:
-Dario Castello
-Girolamo Frescobaldi
-Giuseppe Gabrielli
-Tarquinio Merula
-Claudio Monteverdi
-Giovanni Gabrieli

The two most important German composers of the early Baroque period were:
-Heinrich Sch├╝tz
-Johann Hermann Schein

The English Baroque composers include:
-John Blow
-Henry Purcell
A number of French and northern European composers wrote in the Italian style as well, including:
-Marc-Antoine Charpentier
-Dieterich Buxtehude (German)

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