Common practice period
The common practice period, in the history of Western art music
Art music
Art music is an umbrella term used to refer to musical traditions implying advanced structural and theoretical considerations and a written musical tradition...

 (broadly called classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

), spanning the Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

, Classical, and Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 periods, lasted from c. 1600 to c. 1900.

General characteristics

Common practice music obeys two different kinds of musical norms: first, it uses conventionalized sequences of chords, such as I-IV-V-I. (For more on this Roman numeral notation, see chord.) Second, it obeys specific contrapuntal
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

 norms, such as the avoidance of parallel fifths and octaves.

Common practice music can be contrasted with the earlier modal
Musical mode
In the theory of Western music since the ninth century, mode generally refers to a type of scale. This usage, still the most common in recent years, reflects a tradition dating to the middle ages, itself inspired by the theory of ancient Greek music.The word encompasses several additional...

 music and later atonal
Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

 music. It can also be contrasted with twentieth-century styles, such as rock and jazz, that are broadly tonal but do not obey the harmonic and contrapuntal norms described in the preceding paragraph. Nevertheless, there are often significant similarities between the music of the common practice period and the broadly tonal music of the twentieth century.


Common-practice harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 is almost always derived from diatonic scale
Diatonic scale
In music theory, a diatonic scale is a seven note, octave-repeating musical scale comprising five whole steps and two half steps for each octave, in which the two half steps are separated from each other by either two or three whole steps...

s and tends to follow particular chord progression
Chord progression
A chord progression is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that "aims for a definite goal" of establishing a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord. In other words, the succession of root relationships...

s that have withstood the test of time.

For example, in common-practice harmony, a major triad
Major chord
In music theory, a major chord is a chord having a root, a major third, and a perfect fifth. When a chord has these three notes alone, it is called a major triad...

 built on the fifth degree
Degree (music)
In music theory, a scale degree or scale step is the name of a particular note of a scale in relation to the tonic...

 of the scale (V) is unlikely to progress directly to a root
Root (chord)
In music theory, the root of a chord is the note or pitch upon which a triadic chord is built. For example, the root of the major triad C-E-G is C....

 position triad built on the fourth degree of the scale (IV), but the reverse of this progression (IV-V) is quite common. By contrast, the V-IV progression is readily acceptable by many other standards; for example, this transition is essential to the "shuffle" blues progression's last line (V-IV-I-I), which has become the orthodox ending for blues progressions at the expense of the original last line (V-V-I-I).(Tanner & Gerow 1984, 37)


Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

ically, common practice metric structures generally include:
  1. Clearly enunciated or implied pulse
    Pulse (music)
    In music and music theory, the pulse or tactus consists of beats in a series of identical yet distinct periodic short-duration stimuli perceived as points in time occurring at the mensural level...

     at all levels, with the fastest levels rarely being extreme.
  2. Meter
    Meter (music)
    Meter or metre is a term that music has inherited from the rhythmic element of poetry where it means the number of lines in a verse, the number of syllables in each line and the arrangement of those syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented...

    s, or pulse groups, in two-pulse or three-pulse groups, most often two.
  3. Meter and pulse groups that, once established, rarely change throughout a section
    Section (music)
    In music, a section is "a complete, but not independent musical idea". Types of sections include the introduction or intro, exposition, recapitulation, verse, chorus or refrain, conclusion, coda or outro, fadeout, bridge or interlude...

     or composition
    Musical composition
    Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

  4. Synchronous
    Synchronization is timekeeping which requires the coordination of events to operate a system in unison. The familiar conductor of an orchestra serves to keep the orchestra in time....

     pulse groups on all levels: all pulses on slower levels coincide with strong pulses on faster levels.
  5. Consistent tempo
    In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.-Measuring tempo:...

     throughout a composition or section.
  6. Tempo, beat length, and measure length chosen to allow one time signature
    Time signature
    The time signature is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and which note value constitutes one beat....

     throughout the piece or section.


Durational patterns typically include:
  1. Small or moderate duration complement and range, with one duration (or pulse
    Pulse (music)
    In music and music theory, the pulse or tactus consists of beats in a series of identical yet distinct periodic short-duration stimuli perceived as points in time occurring at the mensural level...

    ) predominating in the duration hierarchy, being heard as the basic unit throughout a composition. Exceptions are most frequently extremely long, such as pedal tones
    Pedal point
    In tonal music, a pedal point is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign, i.e., dissonant harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functions as a "non-chord tone", placing it in the categories alongside suspensions, retardations, and passing...

    ; or, if they are short, they generally occur as the rapidly alternating or transient components of trill
    Trill may refer to:* Trill , a type of musical ornament* Trill consonant, a type of sound used in some languages*Trill, a type of bird food-Fiction:* Trill , two symbiotic races of aliens in the fictional Star Trek universe...

    s, tremolo
    Tremolo, or tremolando, is a musical term that describes various trembling effects, falling roughly into two types. The first is a rapid reiteration...

    s, or other ornaments
    Ornament (music)
    In music, ornaments or embellishments are musical flourishes that are not necessary to carry the overall line of the melody , but serve instead to decorate or "ornament" that line. Many ornaments are performed as "fast notes" around a central note...

  2. Rhythmic units based on metric
    Metre (music)
    Meter or metre is a term that music has inherited from the rhythmic element of poetry where it means the number of lines in a verse, the number of syllables in each line and the arrangement of those syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented...

     or intrametric patterns, though specific contrametric or extrametric patterns are signatures of certain styles or composers. Triplet
    A tercet is composed of three lines of poetry, forming a stanza or a complete poem. English-language haiku is an example of an unrhymed tercet poem...

    s and other extrametric patterns are usually heard on levels higher than the basic durational unit or pulse.
  3. Rhythmic gestures of a limited number of rhythmic units, sometimes based on a single or alternating pair.
  4. Thetic (i.e., stressed), anacrustic
    In poetry, an anacrusis is the lead-in syllables, collectively, that precede the first full measure.In music, it is the note or sequence of notes which precedes the first downbeat in a bar. In the latter sense an anacrusis is often called a pickup, pickup note, or pickup measure, referring to the...

     (i.e., unstressed), and initial rest rhythmic gestures are used, with anacrustic beginnings and strong endings possibly most frequent and upbeat endings most rare.
  5. Rhythmic gestures repeated exactly or in variation
    Variation (music)
    In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.-Variation form:...

     after contrasting gestures. There may be one rhythmic gesture almost exclusively throughout an entire composition; but complete avoidance of repetition is rare.
  6. Composite rhythms which confirm the meter, often in metric or even note patterns identical to the pulse on specific metric level.

Patterns of pitch
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

 and duration are of primary importance in common practice melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

, while tone quality is of secondary importance. Durations recur and are often periodic; pitches are generally diatonic. (Kliewer, 1975, chapter 4)

Later trends

Many people have proposed that a "new" common practice period is now discernible in 20th century "classical" music. George Perle
George Perle
George Perle was a composer and music theorist. He was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. Perle was an alumnus of DePaul University...

 (1990) has argued that this amounts to "Tradition in 20th Century Music", the most significant element of which is the "shared premise of the harmonic equivalence of inversion
Inversion (music)
In music theory, the word inversion has several meanings. There are inverted chords, inverted melodies, inverted intervals, and inverted voices...

ally symmetrical pitch-class relations," among composers such as Edgard Varèse
Edgard Varèse
Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse, , whose name was also spelled Edgar Varèse , was an innovative French-born composer who spent the greater part of his career in the United States....

, Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

, Béla Bartók
Béla Bartók
Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

, Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, Alexander Scriabin
Alexander Scriabin
Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin was a Russian composer and pianist who initially developed a lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language inspired by the music of Frédéric Chopin. Quite independent of the innovations of Arnold Schoenberg, Scriabin developed an increasingly atonal musical system,...

, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

, Anton Webern
Anton Webern
Anton Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor. He was a member of the Second Viennese School. As a student and significant follower of Arnold Schoenberg, he became one of the best-known exponents of the twelve-tone technique; in addition, his innovations regarding schematic organization of...

, and himself. John Harbison
John Harbison
John Harris Harbison is an American composer, best known for his operas and large choral works.-Life:...

(1992) refers to symmetry as the "new tonality".

External links

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