Classical music is a broad term encompassing the musical styles popular in Western religious and secular music from the 9th to the present. The high point of the music occurred from the 16th to 19th centuries with most of the famous composers writing music in this time frame. There are so many different characteristics to Classical music that it is hard to make a definite list. It is characterized by the use of orchestras for performing the music with many different instruments. Some of the pieces are only for certain instruments of the orchestra, such as the stringed instruments.
There are many different forms of Classical music:
- Concerto: a musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra
- Symphony: a musical composition for an orchestra that usually has four movements
- Opera: a musical form in which singers and dancers perform a dramatic work that contains a text and a score
- Dance music: Classical dances included the minuet and the waltz
- Suite: a set of instrumental or orchestral pieces performed in concert
- Etude: a complex composition intended for use as practice for a student of Classical music
- Symphonic Poem: a piece of instrumental or orchestral music in one movement in which some other musical form tells a story.
In order to play classical music, you need great skill in the instrument of choice. You must be adept at sight reading and be able to play your own instrument and be aware of the other instruments at the same time. Some of the complexities of this music genre include key modalities, variation as opposed to repetition, musical phrases of uneven length, counterpoint and sophisticated harmony.
Throughout history there have been several periods of classical music. Its roots lie in early Christian music. The major periods are:
- Medieval – 476 – 1400
- Renaissance – 1400 – 1600
- Baroque – 1600-1750
- Classical – 1750 – 1820
- Romantic – 1815 – 1910
- 20th century classical – 1900 – 2000
- Contemporary classical – 1975 – present
During the Baroque period the main instruments were the harpsichord and the pipe organ, but the piano became the key instrument in the Classical period.