When Was Instrumental Music First Created?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Instrumental music has been around for centuries, with some of the earliest examples dating back to the Middle Ages. But when was it first created?

The origins of instrumental music

It is widely believed that instrumental music started with the ancient Greeks. The word “music” comes from the Greek word “mousike” which means “art of the Muses”. The Muses were the goddesses of art and literature. It is said that they were the first to sing and play instruments.

The first musical instruments

The first musical instruments were probably invented around 40,000 years ago. The flute was probably the first instrument ever invented. It is a simple instrument to make and all you need is a piece of bone or wood that has been hollowed out in the middle and holes drilled into it.

The first stringed instruments were probably invented around 3,500 BC. The first of these was the Lyre which was a small harp. It had just four strings and was held in the lap. The next stringed instrument to be invented was the Lute. This had a pear-shaped body and a long neck and could have up to 12 strings. It quickly became popular as it was much easier to play than the Lyre.

Around 1,000 BC, wind instruments began to be developed. These included simple reed pipes as well as more complicated horns made from animal horns or wood. Trumpets made from conch shells were also used in religious ceremonies in many cultures.

The first percussion instruments were probably pieces of wood that were hit together or against other pieces of wood or stone. Drums made from animal skins stretched over a wooden frame were also used very early on. Cymbals are another type of percussion instrument that has been used for thousands of years – they are usually two metal discs that are hit together.

The first instrumental music

The first instrumental music was probably made by people imitating natural sounds, or using objects which made sounds. The first instruments were probably percussion instruments, and the first melody instrument was the human voice.

The first list of instruments dates from about 3700 BCE, and includes flutes and lyres. Other early melody instruments included trumpets, horns and reed pipes. The first stringed instrument was the lyre, which is thought to have originated in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).

The first bowed string instrument was probably the Chinese erhu, which dates back to around 2500 BCE. The first wind instrument with keys was the sheng, which originated in China in about 1000 BCE. This was followed by the Chinese dizi and the Japanese shakuhachi in about 700 BCE.

The development of instrumental music

The first appearance of instruments in music was in prehistoric times. Flint and bone flutes were some of the earliest instruments found by archaeologists. The first instruments were probably used for religious or healing purposes. The development of instrumental music continued in ancient civilizations.

The Baroque period

Instrumental music was first created during the Baroque period. This was a time when many new instruments were invented, and new ways of playing them were developed. The most important instrument of the time was the harpsichord, which was used in many different ways. Other important instruments included the violin and the bassoon.

The Baroque period was a time of great change in music. New styles and forms were developed, and composers began to write for different types of instruments. This led to a more varied and complex sound in instrumental music.

One of the most important composers of the Baroque period was Johann Sebastian Bach. He wrote many pieces for different instruments, including the famous Brandenburg Concertos. These pieces are still considered some of the greatest works of instrumental music ever written.

The Classical period

The Classical period was an era of classical music between approximately 1730 and 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.

The major exponents of Symphony were Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Franz Schubert wrote some symphonies as well, but they were not as accomplished as those by Haydn and Mozart. The first great centre of Symphony was Vienna; later madrid became an important city for this form of composition.

The Romantic period

Instrumental music underwent a significant change during the Romantic period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This period was marked by a heightened emphasis on emotion and individual expression, as well as a more expansive musical form.

One of the most important developments of this period was the rise of the symphony orchestra. This larger ensemble allowed for greater expressive possibilities, and composers began to write longer, more complex pieces for orchestra. The first great symphonist of the Romantic era was Ludwig van Beethoven, whose Symphony No. 9 is one of the most famous pieces of classical music ever written.

Other important genres that developed during the Romantic period include the concerto (a work for solo instrument and orchestra), the string quartet (a work for four string instruments), and opera. Opera became increasingly popular during this time, as composers wrote works that blended music, drama, and spectacle into a single entertainment experience. The most famous opera composer of the Romantic era was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose operas such as The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni are still performed today.

The modern era of instrumental music

Today, instrumental music is enjoyed by people all over the world. It can be relaxing, or it can be upbeat and exciting. It can be classical or contemporary. But when was instrumental music first created?

The 20th century

With the rapid expansion of recording technology in the early 20th century, music directors and composers began to experiment with recorded sound as a means of creating new instrumental music. One of the earliest examples is Luigi Russolo’s noise music compositions, which were created using a set of self-built noise-making instruments called intonarumori. In the 1920s and 1930s, composers such as Edgar Varèse and Karlheinz Stockhausen continued to experiment with new ways of creating and manipulating sound, using everything from mechanical devices to electronics. This resulted in a number of groundbreaking works, such as Varèse’s Poème électronique and Stockhausen’s Kontakte.

During the 1950s and 1960s, electronic music technology continued to develop rapidly, resulting in new electronic instruments and sound-processing techniques being invented regularly. This led to a number of important works being composed for electronic instruments during this period, including Olivier Messiaen’s Apparition de l’Eglise éternelle, Pierre Boulez’s Le marteau sans maître and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Hymnen.

During the 1970s and 1980s, composers such as Brian Ferneyhough, György Ligeti and Harrison Birtwistle pushed the boundaries of what was possible with instrumental music, often writing works that were extremely challenging for performers to execute accurately. As a result, many of their pieces went unperformed for many years after they were composed. In more recent years, however, a number of ensembles have risen to the challenge of performing these complex works, resulting in them finally receiving the attention they deserve.

The 21st century

In the 21st century, the term “instrumental music” is used colloquially to describe recordings which lack vocals, or songs which do not contain lyrics. The term “background music” is also frequently used to describe instrumentals. The invention of the multitrack recording system made it possible for instrumental tracks to be isolated from each other and mixed together to create new recordings without requiring all of the musicians to be present at the same time. This led to a decrease in the use of live musicians in the recording studio and an increase in the use of overdubbing.

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