History of Instrumental music and dance

C scale notation over musical staffInstrumental music has been in use for many centuries, even if it was not the topmost preference of a composer. However, all this changed during Renaissance period, when it was looked upon with high regard. Before this era, vocal music earned a higher place of importance and instruments were only used as mere accompaniments, instead of being the main focus.  During the Renaissance era, which spans over 150 years, five major changes led to instrumental music gaining high significance- The huge popularity of dance, the rising popularity of musical instruments, versatile nature of lute and the invention of newer forms of musical instruments and the willingness of composers to experiment with different instruments.

While instrumental music had existed even before Renaissance era, the instruments were mostly used to play alongside the vocal component of the songs and used similar notes. The instruments served as only a guide and not the main component.  The lute, organ or even the viol, which is like modern day violin or guitar, was used this way only. But this way of using instruments changed with the altered perception on education and arts. Performers and composers started using instruments to support their vocals and most importantly, the instruments did not play the same notes as the vocals.

Dance and instrumental music

Dancing has always required some form of instrumental music, which continued in the Renaissance era too. Dancing was given more significance socially, and several intricate forms of dances were created. This called for an equally complex music that required several instruments. Some new dancing methods were created to be done in a particular pace or rhythm to match the instrumental music.  The galliard and pavane were two famous dances that were often played simultaneously as fast and slow dance, which later evolved into further complicated dance forms of the Baroque era.

The economical lute

Since not many were able to afford musicians as a group for entertainment or for their dances, the lute was welcomed as an important alternative. Lute, shaped like a pear, is a stringed instrument, which you pluck or strum. It was used commonly due to its versatility. Harmonic and melodic play was possible with the instrument and it is one of the most popular music instruments of the 16th century.

Development in instrumental music

In addition to the lute, there were other instruments, which were used popularly during that period. For instance, the viols, developed in early 1500s were used in different genres. The instruments were made of various sizes and it was common to have small, large and medium sizes of instruments. These were combined often to form instrumental ensembles, which were termed as consorts.

Several other instruments also have a long history albeit of a different kind. For instance, the trumpet has been used in ancient Greece, Egypt and Near East mainly as a form of signaling. It was also used in literature and music, during the Romantic era. However, it mainly retained its use in the signaling, proclaiming or announcing genres only. The renaissance period is when the trumpet was recognized as a true musical instrument.