Music composed before approximately 1500 is often called 'Medieval' music. After this, during the 16th Century, there became a great interest in learning and culture, and it was an age of exploration and discovery. This period is often called the 'Renaissance', which literally means 're-birth'. Up to this period, instruments were generally considered to be less important than voices, but composers soon took to writing more instrumental music. Very few instruments that we have today were in existence then, and most early instruments had weird and wonderful names. Examples include shawms, sackbuts, lutes, racketts and viols. Recorders, which are still popular today, were also commonplace. Many instruments, such as viols, were made in 'families' (the same instrument in different sizes), sometimes called 'chests' (a chest of viols, for example). Groups of these instruments playing together were often called 'consorts'. From about 1600 to 1750, the violin started to take the place of the viol. The harpsichord became the main type of keyboard instrument at this time. Music in this period is often called 'Baroque', which is a name borrowed from architecture. Baroque music is often full of ornamentation and decoration. Often a harpsichord played the chords and a cello played the bass (called the 'Basso Continuo'). Sites in this category cover instruments used in these forms of 'Early' music from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods.

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Diabolus in Musica: Guide to Early Instruments
[ Teens/Mature Teens ] Illustrated information covering the history, development and playing techniques of instruments in the sixteenth century.
Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments
[ Kids/Teens/Mature Teens ] An electronic picture gallery of various musical instruments dating from the 16th to the late 20th century. Includes photos of early examples of many orchestral instruments.
A Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Instruments
[ Teens/Mature Teens ] Musica Antiqua's illustrated guide: pictures, descriptions, audio samples, and history.
The Orpheon Foundation: Museum of Historical Musical Instruments
[ Teens/Mature Teens ] Photographs of the collection, including examples of viols, violones and barytones dating from 1560 to 1780.
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