Baroque music, which evolved in Europe from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century, is a rich and important era in the history of music. Characterized by complex polyphonic textures, emotional expressiveness, and ornamental melodic lines, Baroque music formed the bedrock of many modern musical forms.

Characteristics of Baroque Music


One of the main characteristics of Baroque music is polyphony, which means multiple independent melodic lines occurring at the same time. These melodic lines often interweave, creating intricate musical patterns that are both engaging and challenging for the listener. This is a stark contrast to the homophonic style (a single melody with accompaniment) that was prevalent in the Renaissance period.


Ornamentation is another defining feature of Baroque music. These are embellishments or decorative notes added to the main melody. Trills, mordents, and appoggiaturas are examples of such ornaments. These elements add depth and complexity to the melody, bringing it to life and giving it emotional expressiveness.

Basso Continuo

Baroque music often featured a basso continuo, a continuous bass line that runs throughout a piece of music, serving as a harmonic foundation. This bass line is usually played by a low string instrument, such as a cello or bass viol, along with a chordal instrument like the harpsichord.


Baroque music often showcased contrasts. This could be in the form of loud and soft, solo and ensemble, different key areas, and more. Such contrasts served to bring out the emotional depth and drama of the music.

Approaching Composition of Baroque Music

Understanding Form

Understanding the common forms used in Baroque music is essential. This era saw the development of forms such as the suite, concerto, sonata, and fugue, each with their own distinct structures. Familiarize yourself with these forms and how they are typically constructed.

Mastery of Counterpoint

A firm understanding of counterpoint—the art of combining multiple melodic lines—is key to writing in a Baroque style. This involves creating melodies that are independent yet harmonically interrelated. Studying the works of masters like Bach can be a good way to learn this.

Embracing Ornamentation

Remember that ornamentation is a vital part of the Baroque style. Don’t be afraid to incorporate trills, mordents, and other ornamental figures into your compositions to add complexity and emotion.

Cadences in Baroque Music

The cadence in Baroque music is typically a harmonic progression that signals the end of a musical phrase, section, or piece of music. It provides a sense of closure, either temporary or final.

Authentic Cadences

These are the most common type of cadence in Baroque music, where the harmony moves from the dominant (V) to the tonic (I). This is a strong cadence that gives a sense of finality, perfect for concluding sections or pieces.

Plagal Cadences

Also known as "Amen" cadences, these involve a progression from the subdominant (IV) to the tonic (I). These are softer and less final-feeling than authentic cadences.

Deceptive Cadences

Deceptive cadences create a sense of surprise or disruption by not resolving to the expected chord. Typically, instead of resolving to the tonic (I), the harmony will move to another chord, often the submediant (VI).

In summary, composing Baroque music requires an understanding of polyphony, a willingness to incorporate ornamentation, and a knowledge of typical Baroque forms and cadences. By immersing yourself in the music of the period and practicing these techniques, you can begin to create your own Baroque-inspired compositions.