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The Periods of Classical Music, Part 1: The Baroque Period

Discover the most important and interesting aspects of the Baroque Era in music

Released on November 27, 2013

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Video Transcription

Hello. I'm Robert Estrin, here at and, with the first of a four part series. Periods of music. Today, we are going to explore the Baroque Period, which is roughly from, Bach's life was from 1685 to 1750. The baroque started before that but he was definitely right there in the mainstream.

So what is it about baroque music that identifies this style? Well baroque, just like architecture and art, is very ornate, so a lot of different textures. The music is very linear. So you have different lines of music that go together. One of the paramount musical forms is the fugue, where you have a subject and a counter-subject, and the intertwine in beautiful ways. So it's very important with the music of Bach, and other baroque composers, to not favor the top line like you do in romantic period music. The melody is typically on top, or the bottom, and you play everything else quietly. Not so with baroque music. With baroque music, it's more like a tapestry of sounds.

I'm going to play a little bit of the French Suite, the 5th French Suite of Bach, and notice how, even though there is a melody on top, I let all the voices pretty much be equal. The other thing that's vital, is to keep a very steady beat. There's no give and take like you have in other period styles. You want to be very clear, so you can hear the lines. The counterpoint must come through a minimal of pedal on the piano. And when you are playing with other instruments, articulation is vital to getting the proper sound and style. So here is a little Bach, the 5th French Suite.

So without favoring the top line too much, to be able to hear all the other line, now I talked about the fact that it's a very ornamented style. Well there is actually ornamentation, where you get to add trills and Morton's and turns, and to an extent you can be quite free with them. In other words, these are improvisational elements. So for example, at the beginning, some of the ornaments are marked, some you can play on your own to fancy up particularly in this French Suite, where all the sections are repeated you could chose to, for example, play different ornamentation on the repeat for variety.

But the very beginning, for example, you have a trill. Now these notes, they're not written out. There is just an indication to play with a trill, so you could play it differently. You could choose to play it [piano sound], or [piano sound]. Isn't that wonderful to be able to impart your own tonality and your own little trademark sound?

So, the important thing is, once again with baroque music, clarity of line. Don't get carried away with doing too much with the tempo. Keep things very regular and structured. Allow for the ornamentation to be an express of element, and you should be able to play beautiful baroque music with clarity and counterpoint.

Thanks so much for joining me. Remember to tune in for the future series for the other styles of music, classical music period, romantic and impressionist. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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A. Gildea on January 23, 2014 @9:27 am PST
Beginners, best drills for playing the piano with both hands. Thanks.
kendah on December 8, 2013 @2:33 pm PST
thank you so much for all useful informations provided to us.
kendah on December 4, 2013 @2:58 pm PST
hi mr.robert. please i want to know what's the basic technique for crossing hands on piano, and thank you so much.
Robert Estrin - host, on December 4, 2013 @6:31 pm PST
The great challenge of cross hands playing on the pianos is figuring out which hand goes over and under. This is a great subject for a future video!
JUAN MANUEL GONZALEZ DE COSIO * VSM MEMBER * on November 28, 2013 @12:28 am PST
I now have a better understanding of baroque, thank you!
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on November 27, 2013 @2:45 pm PST
Thanks Robert, you have perfectly described my favourite musical period! Look forward to the next one.
François Leroux * VSM MEMBER * on November 27, 2013 @11:24 am PST
Merci, merci, merci! Robert, you have very well explained and decripted baroque in such a short video. Looking forward to part II.
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