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Instrumental Music in the Renaissance Period

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Lauren Wood Instrumental Music in the Renaissance Period Until the beginning of the 16^th century, instruments were considered to be far less important than voices. They were used for dances, of course, and to accompany vocal music - but here they only 'doubled' (that is play the same music as) the voices, or perhaps took over the voice parts when certain singers were unavailable. During the 16^thcentury,however, composers took greater interest in writing music specially intended for instruments only-not only dances, but pieces purely for playing and listening. During both the Medieval period and the Renaissance period, instruments divided into two broad groups: bas ('low', or 'soft') instruments for music in the home; and haut ('high', or 'loud') instruments for music in churches, in large halls, or in the open air. ...read more.


Sackbut: A name given by the English to the early kind of trombone; the bell was less flared, giving a rounder, more mellow tone. Trumpet: The tube was now folded to make it more manageable; until the valve system was invented in the 19^th century, the limited notes available could only be obtained by varying lip pressure. More tense lips, slightly open is creating a higher sound than more relaxed lips. Percussion instruments: Included tambourine, tabor, kettledrums, side drum, triangle and cymbals. Many instruments, such as recorders, viols, shawms and crumhorns, were made in families-the same instrument in different sizes, so that there was a variety of pitch ranges but a blending of tone within each family. In England, a family of viols or recorders was known as a 'chest', since that was how instruments were stored when they were not in use. ...read more.


This Italian word means 'searching out' - in this case, the possibilities of treating melodic ideas with much imitation, in similar style to a motet. More truly instrumental in style was the toccata for organ or harpsichord. The name comes from the Italian word 'touch', and a toccata requires some rapid finger work. In England, some music was considered equally suitable for singing or playing, and might be headed 'apt for voyces or vyols'. However, certain pieces were definitely intended for instruments and written to suit their special capabilities and characteristic timbres. There were variations on popular tunes such as 'Greensleeves' and 'Sellenger's Round'; and variations on a ground- a tune repeated over and over in the bass, with changing musical material above. As a conclusion to my essay on Instrumental Music in the Renaissance period, I think that a tremendous development in the world of music was made. Composers began to 'open their eyes' to more possibilities and this time was a turning point for musical success. ...read more.

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