Classical music is a broad term that usually refers to music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of, Western art, or ecclesiastical and concert music, in the period from the 9th century to the 21st century. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common practice period.
Classic music is still played by many of today’s musicians. European classical music is largely distinguished from many other non-European and popular musical forms by its system of staff notation, in use since about the 16th century.
Classical and popular music are often distinguished by their choice of instruments. The instruments used in classical music were mostly invented before the middle of the 19th century. Some of them had been designed even earlier, and codified in the 18th and 19th centuries. They consist of the instruments found in an orchestra, together with a few other solo instruments such as the piano, harp, accordion, and organ.
The great majority of classical music gear fall into six major categories – bowed strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard, and the guitar family. The first four form the basis of the modern symphony orchestra.
The classical guitar was originally a Spanish-derived, six-stringed instrument. It is played using a plectrum or the finger-nails, with frets set into the fingerboard. Popular music tends to use amplification for both the six-stringed instruments and the four-string bass guitar. The guitar family gradually supplanted the lute which had come to prominence during the Renaissance.
The piano is widely used in Western music for solo performance, chamber music, and accompaniment. It is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal. Although not portable and often expensive, the piano’s versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the most familiar musical instruments.
The piano is sometimes classified as both a percussion and a string instrument. In the period from about 1790 to 1860, during the Mozart-era, piano underwent tremendous changes, which led to the modern form of the instrument. Early technological progress owed much to the English firm of Broadwood, which already had a reputation for the splendor and powerful tone of its harpsichords.
The accordion is played by compression and expansion of a bellows, which generates air flow across reeds. A keyboard or buttons control which reeds receive air flow and therefore determine the tones produced. The accordion’s basic form was invented in Berlin in 1822 by Friedrich Buschmann. The accordion is one of several European inventions of the early 19th century that used free reeds driven by a bellows.
The violin is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest and highest-pitched member of the family of string instruments, which also include the viola and cello. The oldest documented violin to have four strings, like the modern violin, was made in 1555.
Significant changes occurred in the shape and structure of the violin in the 18th century, particularly in the length and angle of the neck, as well as in the bass bar. Most of the old violins have undergone these modifications, and hence are in a significantly different shape than their forerunners, undoubtedlys with differences in sound and response.