Baroque and Classical Music

Helping to revise GCSE music. 

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Progessing in music

  • From about 1600, Western composers stopped writing modal music.
  • Instead they used major and minor keys to write tonal music. This was a big change. In Western countries, most music is still tonal, hundreds of years later.
  • Modulating (switching between keys) turned out to be a good way of creating contrast in music.
  • Composers developed new structures for organising music using modulation and contrast e.g. binary, ternary and rondo forms.
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Recognising Baroque music

  • The dynamics change suddenly. Each bit is either loud or soft. You won’t hear any gradual changes in volume – no crescendos or diminuendos. This is called terraced or stepped dynamics.
  • The melody’s built up from short musical ideas (called motifs), so you get a fair bit of repetition.
  • The harmonies are simple, with a fairly narrow range of chords – mainly I and V.
  • The melody is packed with ornaments, added in to make it sound more interesting.
  • The texture’s often contrapuntal (polyphonic).


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Basso Continuo

  • A basso continuo is a continuous bass part. It's played throughout a piece, and the chords are based on it.
  • It was often played on an organ or harpsichord (harpsichords were popular Baroque instruments). It could also be played by more than one instrument e.g. cellos, double basses and bassoons.
  • Other Baroque instruments are the flute, recorder, oboe, bassoon and orchestral strings (violins, violas, cellos and double basses). 
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