Using the DRSMITH nemonic as we did in the Baroque Period revision, here we’ll look at the Classical Period.
Identifying the music of the Classical Period can sometimes be a little tricky. Here are some key things to listen out for.
Dynamics - The dynamics in the Classical Period became more subtle with the use of crescendo and diminuendo, rather than the sudden changes of loud or soft you got in the Baroque Period.
Rhythm - The rhythm constantly changes but the metre is very regular. The harmonic rhythm (the speed at which the chords change) tended to be slower.
Structure - We’ll go into more detail about the structures/form in the next blog, but for now: sonata, symphony, sonata form, rondo, and concerto.
Melody - Graceful. Identifiable and balanced phrases. Clear. Simple. Often memorable.
Instrumentation - The invention of the piano had a huge impact. The clarinet was also invented. Brass instruments started to get used more. Horns were developed to be able to play more notes (and thus play in different keys).
Texture - Whilst counterpoint and polyphony was still used (especially later in the period) the main texture tended to be homophonic.
Tonality - The music of the Classical Period was diatonic, that is to say in a major or minor key.
Harmony - The primary chords (chords I, IV, V) were commonly used. The dominant seventh was sometimes used as was a diminished chord, and sometimes a diminished seventh. The Classical Period would very much use the happy/major, sad/minor theme. Cadences would be used to punctuate phrases. (All four cadences would be used.) Modulations would happen moving to closely related keys (dominant, relative minor).