Baroque

What is baroque music? First things first though! How on earth do you say this funny word ‘baroque’?

‘Baroque’ is said like ‘Ba-rock’. Think of a sheep sitting on a rock. Then you will know how to say it!

So now we know how to say it, what is it? The word ‘baroque’ is used to describe a style of ‘art’ from a certain period of history. ‘Art’ here means all sorts of things, like paintings, buildings (architecture) or music. The baroque period of history is from about the year 1600 to about 1750 (in other words, it is a long time ago!). This means that baroque art is art painted sometime around 1600 to 1750. Baroque architecture are buildings built sometime around 1600 to 1750. And baroque music is music written sometime around 1600 to 1750.

The greatest baroque composer was Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).

Other famous baroque composers include

It is important to remember that baroque music is a style of music. It is not an exact period of time. This means that some composers lived during the baroque period, but their music wasn’t always very ‘baroque’ in style. One example is Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757). On the other hand, Handel’s music was always baroque—even though he died after 1750.

So what is the baroque style?

Well, like classical music in general, it is not easy to describe (see the Classical Music page). The best way to understand what baroque is, is to listen to the great baroque composers.

If you listen to a lot of baroque music you will begin to recognise the style, even if you can’t describe it. And if you study the music very carefully you will begin to notice common features. Two of the most common features are:

  • Lots of ‘twiddly bits’ (as my mum calls them!). Baroque music has lots of quick wiggles backwards and forwards on a single note. These wiggles don’t really add anything to the tune. They are simply there as decoration.
  • Lots of different lines of music (or ‘tunes’) all going their own way. These single tunes weave together to make the whole music.

I think that will do. Enjoy listening to baroque music! Here is a video to set you on your way. It’s the end of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3.

4th and 5th movements of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3

Picture credits:
  1. An example of baroque art. This painting is called ‘Adoration of the Magi’ and was painted in 1624 by Peter Paul Rubens. The image is in the public doman. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. Bach – Bwv1068 Orchestral Suite – 04-05 – Bourrée-Gigue. Ton Koopman, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra – Buy this dvd from : http://amzn.to/qEoY0G.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melinda 21st September 2013

Hi,

Just a comment about your pronunciation. That is not the correct way to say it. It isn’t rock but rather like the “roke” in broke.

Melinda

2 Malcolm Pullan 22nd September 2013

Thank you for your comment Melinda. I know some people pronounce “baroque” like you say, i.e. “ba-roke”. However in Europe where I am, everybody says it like “ba-rock”.

3 channon 28th November 2014

This was a very helpful website and has helped me a lot for my homework:-)xx

4 Marie 21st January 2015

Thanks this helped me loads with my homework. I love baroque music and I’ve never even heard of it before.

5 Emma 9th March 2015

Thanks a lot, this really helped with my homework. By the way, this was my first encounter with Baroque music so I learnt a lot.
Thanks

6 Vicky 9th March 2015

Dear Sirs,
I need to find “simple baroque” music from Vivaldi and Bach for my 4 year old daughter. Would you kindly orient me what I should buy?

7 Malcolm Pullan 10th March 2015

How about Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos”. This music can be enjoyed by anyone.

8 Sophie 23rd April 2015

helped with my work thanks!

9 louise 3rd May 2015

i am tryng to study for my exam and this is the only website that has information for kids

10 Tiana 30th August 2015

This website helped me do my homework and this website is the only website that I can understand!
🙂

11 Eleni 12th February 2016

this is beautiful

12 MIN JANE DOWNEY 16th February 2016

Very good advice

13 Ceara 19th February 2016

LOVE IT!!! it helped with my homework a lot. thanks! Cant wait to learn more about it at school!!!

14 lydia 1st March 2016

thanks was very helpful for my music hw because ive never heard of it before

15 maria 8th March 2016

hi that is nices

16 Hector Hernandez 21st March 2016

this helped with my school work THANKS! XD

17 Maisie L 20th April 2016

It’s helpful for my research essay:)

18 Natalie 3rd May 2016

This helped me understand a lot about music writers and baroque.

19 Sunimalee 22nd May 2016

Thank you so much. It’s very useful and easy to understand. Thank you again.
I’m from Sri Lanka

20 Ella 9th August 2016

Thanks a lot to you because I really was having trouble to find a website about Baroque!

21 LouBoo 16th November 2016

Thanks this website really helped with my homework Xx

22 Gwen 8th December 2016

Just wondering if by the “quick wiggles” you mean trills?

23 Malcolm Pullan 8th December 2016

That’s a good questions Gwen. “Trills” are one example of what I meant by “quick wiggles”. I also meant many other things like trills. Examples are “turns” and “mordents”. The musical name for all of these things is “ornaments”. Just as ornaments you might have around the house decorate the house, so ornaments in music decorate music!

24 Gwen 17th December 2016

Thanks!! 😃

25 Matthew 12th April 2017

This is awesome

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