Music during the Renaissance

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Updated: Dec 02, 2022
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Music is the art of combining and balancing sounds of various pitches to produce compositions that express various ideas and emotions. Music has been around for thousands of years. It has just changed and advanced along with the society that surrounds it. As well it has been used to express what is going on in specific regions or eras. For example during the renaissance period music took a big step in change, like a rebirth which is what the renaissance is known as. The renaissance is right after the dark ages, a time of religious struggles, and the constant battle of faith and enlightenment. The renaissance was the “rebirth” of society, it was the period for the revival of art, and literature. The art of the dark ages were mainly religious and included many concepts of christianity. The art lacked detail, motion, and colors. Renaissance art though was very realistic. The art, and literature started to be more focused on nature and not religion. Music became an important part of religious and courtly life during the early renaissance after the middle ages.

The religious and economic events that took place during 1400-1600 led to the great change in the style of making music, new genres, and development of instruments. Music was considered an expressive art in the later Renaissance, and became an art of the secular world. This pull back on the church’s political control over society led to composers having more freedom to be influenced by art. Which then offered musicians and composers more opportunities for employment, but also the opportunity to demand a higher salary because there was an increase in demand for their music. Sponsors of music during the renaissance were mainly nobles, because they could afford to commission pieces from composers. But once the printing press was created in the 1400s written music commercialized and the prices decreased, which helped grow the music population and increase in people who can afford it. Early renaissance church music was known as choral polyphony, meaning there was more than one part. Choral polyphony was meant to be sung a cappella, which is singing without instruments.

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Soon enough there were four or more parts in the music and more accidentals, which are when the note of a pitch was not a part of the scale that was indicated in the most recent key signature. The texture of the music blended more rather than it contrasting, and there was a lot more harmony which all showed greater concern with the flow of the music. There soon became a clear line of difference between music for the church and secular music. Motets were music for a choir the text was often a sacred one and in latin and set to a melody. Madrigals were secular music typically for a group of four people or more and was typically a poem set to a melody. The only similarity between the two were that they both involve word painting, which is when the sound of the melody expresses the words.

For example if i were to say “billy was rolling down a hill” then the music would pick up in tempo. Tons of instruments originated during the renaissance all the others were just variations or improvements of pre-existing ones. In the beginning instruments were less important than voices. But later on they finally gained importance and were used for dances and to accompany voices. The common brass instruments usually played by professionals were the following a Slide Trumpet (similar to our present trombone), Cornett (made of wood and played like a recorder), and Sackbut (a trombone, which soon replaced the slide trumpet). The strings family were used in both sacred and secular music the family included a Viol (six stringed instrument, usually played with a bow, and held like a cello), Lyre (similar to a small harp, but not to be plucked), Lute, Lira da Braccio (similar to the violin), and the Gitter and mandore, which our now a guitar and mandolin. The Percussion instruments include the triangle, tambourine, bells and many types of drums. Lastly the woodwind instruments which were mainly just various types of pipes like the Reed pipe, Hornpipe, and Bagpipe. As time goes on and society and technology evolve so will music. Music is not only a way people express their emotions or ideas but as well it is conformed to fit society so people will appreciate it. The Renaissance was a breakthrough for religion and society, and musicians made sure that was noticeable through their art.

Works Cited

Romantic Music (1850-1900),

The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,

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Kuznetsova, Natalia, and Tidewater Community College. “Music Appreciation.” Lumen Learning, Lumen,

“Music M401 History and Literature of Music I: Antiquity to 1800.” M401: Renaissance Instruments, “Music of the Renaissance.” SchoolWorkHelper, SchoolWorkHelper, 

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Music During The Renaissance. (2019, Nov 26). Retrieved from