The Different Styles of Classical Music

From Gregorian Chant to Baroque, learn about the different styles of classical music that have been popular over the years.


Classical music is broadly divided into two main periods, the Medieval or Dark Ages (c. 476-1400) and the Renaissance (c. 1400-1600), which led into the Baroque period (c. 1600-1750). These three periods are further subdivided into smaller phases such as Early Medieval (c. 476-850), High Medieval (c. 850-1300), Early Renaissance (c. 1300-1425), Middle Renaissance (c. 1425-1500) and Late Renaissance (c. 1500-1600).

The main difference between the Medieval and Renaissance periods is that in the former, music was used mainly for ecclesiastical purposes while in the latter, it became increasingly secularised and was used for entertainment as well as religious purposes. The Baroque period was characterised by a dramatic increase in the use of ornamentation and more complex harmonic progressions.

The Different Styles of Classical Music

There are many different styles of classical music. They are often categorized by period, composer, or geographical location. The most common style periods are the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods.

The Baroque Era

The Baroque era was a period of time in which music was incredibly ornate and complex. This is the era in which masters such as Bach and Vivaldi composed some of the most famous pieces of classical music that are still performed today. The word “baroque” actually comes from the Portuguese word for “misshapen pearl,” and it perfectly describes the style of this era. If you listen to a piece of music from the Baroque era, you will likely notice that it is very busy and has a lot going on. This is because composers during this time were very focused on making their music sound as impressive as possible.

The Classical Era

The Classical Era is the time period from 1750 to 1820. This is when composers were trying to balance the feel of order with the previous period’s expression and emotion. The music often had a light, bright feel to it. The texture was usually homophonic, meaning that there was one melody with chords supporting it. This was the first time we saw music being influenced by literature instead of just religion or myth. One well-known example is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, also known as the “Pastoral Symphony.”

The Romantic Era

Classical music is often divided into different periods, or eras, with each one having its own distinct style, form and sound. The most commonly used periodization scheme is the one put forth by the German musicologist K. M. von Bismarck in his 1898 essay “The Periods of Music History”, which divides musical history into four periods:

The first period covers what is generally known as the “Medieval” era (roughly from the 5th to the 15th century). This was a time when music was mostly used for religious purposes in churches and monasteries. The second period extends from the Renaissance to the Baroque era (roughly from the 15th to the early 18th century). This was a time of great change in music, with new genres and styles being invented. The third period covers what is known as the “Classical” era (from about 1750 to 1820). This was a time when composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were writing some of their greatest works. The fourth and final period covers the “Romantic” era (from about 1815 to 1910). This was a time when composers began to write music that expressed their emotions, rather than just following strict rules.

The Romantic era was a time of great change in music. Composers began to write music that expressed their emotions, rather than just following strict rules. One of the most important changes was the development of program music, which told a story or conveyed a mood through its musical theme. Another change was an increase in the use of chromaticism, which made melodies sound more passionate and exotic. Romantic composers also began exploring new tonal possibilities, extended instrumental ranges and making use of expressive techniques such as rubato (a freely chosen tempo) and vibrato (a rapid back-and-forth movement of the finger on a stringed instrument).

The Modern Era

The Modern Era of classical music is generally said to have begun after the death of Arnold Schoenberg in 1951.However, many composers, such as Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Hanns Eisler, and Darius Milhaud, had already been experimenting with atonality and serialism before that date.

Atonality is a rejection of the tonal system that had been used since the Baroque period, in which each composition had a unique “key” that served as a organizing principle. In atonal music, there is no sense of key; instead, notes are organized into 12-tone rows, or series. These rows are then repeated throughout the composition, often in different orders or permutations. Serialism is a related technique in which elements of the music (such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics) are assigned numbers and then manipulated according to mathematical rules.

Many composers continued to use tonality even after the rise of atonality and serialism; others found new ways to use traditional forms such as the sonata and symphony. The Modern Era is therefore marked by both continuity and innovation.


Classical music is a genre that has been around for centuries, and there are many different styles within it. While some people may think of classical music as being calm and relaxing, others may find it to be exciting and full of energy. There is truly something for everyone within this genre, and it is one of the most diverse genres of music out there. Whether you prefer the classical period, the romantic period, or anything in between, there is a style of classical music that will suit your taste.

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