What Genre is Instrumental Music?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Many people ask “What genre is instrumental music?” The answer is that it depends on the type of instrument being played.

Defining “Genre”

The word “genre” comes from the French word for “kind” or “type”. In literature, a genre is a specific type of writing, such as mystery, science fiction, or romance. In music, genre refers to specific styles of music, such as rock, blues, or jazz.

What is a genre?

A genre is a category of music characterized by similar styles, techniques, and traditions. It is often used to describe specific styles within a larger musical tradition.

Instrumental music can be classified into many different genres, depending on the factors such as the instrumentation, the style, the form, and the context. Some common genres of instrumental music include classical, jazz, rock, and folk.

What are the benefits of classifying music by genre?

There are many benefits to classifying music by genre. One of the most important is that it allows listeners to find the type of music they enjoy most. It also helps musicians to find an audience for their music, and allows promoters and venue owners to book the right acts for their events.

Genre classification can also be used to describe the style of a particular piece of music, and this can be helpful in analyzing and understanding a piece. It can also be helpful in determining which instruments or voices are best suited for performing a particular piece.

Finally, genre classification can help to preserve the history of music by allowing us to identify and study musical traditions.

Origins of Instrumental Music

Instrumental music is any music without words, or music without a singer. The word “instrumental” means “of or relating to an instrument or tool.” Therefore, anything that is played on an instrument is instrumental music. Even if there are words, if the focus is on the instruments and not the words, it is still considered instrumental music.

Ancient Greece

Instrumental music has been around for centuries, with some of the earliest examples coming from ancient Greece. In fact, the word “music” comes from the Greek word μουσική (mousikē), which means “art of the Muses.” The Muses were the goddesses of art and inspiration in Greek mythology, and they were often associated with music and other forms of creative expression.

During the Classical period, which lasted from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD, instrumental music was an important part of Greek culture. Some of the most popular instruments of the time included the lyre, flute, and trumpet. Roman culture also had a strong tradition of instrumental music, and by the Middle Ages, instruments like the violin and lute were becoming increasingly popular.

Throughout history, instrumental music has been used for a variety of purposes, including religious ceremonies, royal entertainment, military functions, and personal enjoyment. Today, it continues to play an important role in many cultures around the world.

The Middle Ages

The medieval period of Western music history extends from approximately the 5th century to the 15th century. It is commonly divided into the early period (5th–11th centuries) and the late period (12th–15th centuries). The early period includes the transitional works from the end of the fourth century to the beginnings of Polyphony in about 850. The late period includes developed works of Ars Nova polyphony, including monophonic, duophonic, and triphonic styles, up to the beginning of concerted music in about 1400. Medieval music consisted of liturgical works (used in religious services), including chant (sacred vocal music performed by monks) and secular works such as secular vocal music performed by troubadours, trouveres and minnesingers. Due to disruptions caused by invasions during this time, very little medieval instrumental music has survived intact. However, considerable parts of medieval vocal music have been preserved and reworked into modern times as part of various liturgical traditions across Christendom.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance was a period of great change for music. Prior to the Renaissance, music was largely monophonic, consisting of a single melody without accompaniment. This type of music is still sung today in Gregorian chant and medieval music. The Renaissance saw the development of polyphony, or music with multiple voices and parts. This type of music is much more common today, and was made possible by advances in notation that allowed for more complex scores.

Instrumental music also saw significant development during the Renaissance. Prior to this period, instruments were often used simply to provide accompaniment for singing. However, composers began to write pieces specifically for instruments, such as the lute, violin, and harpsichord. These pieces were often highly complex, and required skilled musicians to perform them.

The Renaissance was also a period of great change for the role of women in music. Prior to the Renaissance, women were generally not allowed to sing in public or participate in musical performances. However, the Renaissance saw the rise of professional female singers known as cantadas. These women often performed in courts and other prestigious venues, and their popularity helped to change attitudes about women’s participation in music.

The Baroque Era

The Baroque era of instrumental music is generally considered to have lasted from 1600 to 1750. The early part of the period is sometimes known as the “First Baroque” or “Early Baroque”, while the later part is often called the “Late Baroque”. With its origins in Italy, the Baroque spread throughout Europe and had a significant impact on both sacred and secular music.

One of the most important representatives of early Baroque instrumental music was Claudio Monteverdi, whose work marked a significant transition from Renaissance to Baroque stylistic conventions. Other significant early composers include Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Gabrieli, Andrea Gabrieli, Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonio Vivaldi.

The late Baroque period saw the rise of some of the most important composers in history, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Händel, Domenico Scarlatti and Antonio Vivaldi. This era also saw the development of new genres such as the concerto grosso and sonata da chiesa.

The Classical Era

The term “classical music” is sometimes used to refer to all Western art music from the Medieval era to the 2000s, but more often it refers specifically to music from the Classical era (1750-1820). This was a period of great change in music, with composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven helping to define what instrumental music is today.

One of the main changes during this period was the development of public concerts. This allowed composers to write larger and more complex pieces of music, as they knew they would have an audience to appreciate them. Another change was the increasing popularity of instruments such as the piano and violin, which allowed for greater expressive possibilities.

Classical-era composers were also interested in exploring new musical forms and ideas. They were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, which emphasized reason and individualism. This led to a greater focus on melody and harmony, and a lessened importance on rhythm and metre.

Overall, the Classical era was a time of great experimentation in instrumental music, which laid the foundations for much of the repertoire that is still performed today.

The Romantic Era

The Romantic Era was a period of time in the late 18th and early 19th centuries where music focused on emotion, imagination, and organicism. This was in contrast to the previous Classical period, which focused more on order, balance, and reason. Romantic composers were influenced by art movements of the time period such as the literary works of William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron. They were also inspired by nature, traditional folk songs, and nationalistic pride. Notable composers from the Romantic Era include Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn, and Johannes Brahms.

Modern Instrumental Music

Instrumental music has come a long way since the days of classical music. In the last century, there has been a surge in popularity for this type of music. Today, instrumental music is enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life. It can be used for relaxation, concentration, or simply for enjoyment. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular genres of instrumental music.

20th Century

In the early 20th century, composers such as Erik Satie, Philip Glass, and John Cage created new ways of thinking about music. They were influenced by ideas from other arts, such as painting (by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky) and literature (by writers such as James Joyce). These composers experimented with new ways of creating music, often using unconventional instruments or everyday objects. They also explored new ways of playing and listening to music, which challenged the traditional Western idea of music as a linear succession of notes.

21st Century

The early 2000s saw the rise of electronica and hip hop-influenced pop music. The late 2000s and 2010s saw a return to more guitar-based music and the explosion of indie rock. The 2010s also saw the rise of EDM, with artists like Avicii, Calvin Harris, and David Guetta achieving mainstream success.

One of the most popular genres of instrumental music in the 21st century is film scores. Many films are now being released with accompanying soundtracks, and these soundtracks often feature instrumental pieces that are just as popular as the songs with lyrics. Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Howard Shore are just some of the film composers who have achieved success in recent years.

Video game music has also become increasingly popular in recent years. Game soundtracks often feature Suitcase Van Beethoventype Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras remixes pop hits with driving electronic rhythms to give them an extra edge.

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