Music History: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenna Conan

Jenna is a fourth grade teacher with a master's degree in instructional design and an undergraduate degree in elementary education.

This lesson is about the history of music, from the beginning of time until the modern age. Learn about how music that started out as singing, clapping, and knocking sticks together became the music you hear today.

Prehistoric Music

Music has probably been around for as long as people have, which may be over a hundred thousand years! The earliest music is thought to have involved singing and clapping, and then early humans probably began drumming by using sticks or other things found in nature. Some of the first-known musical instruments are flutes carved out of bones, like bear and wooly mammoth bones. Some of these bone instruments are from 45,000 years ago!

Ancient Music

In ancient history between around 4000 B.C.E. and 1500 B.C.E., civilizations in Egypt, West Asia, and Mesopotamia (an area of what is now the Middle East) began inventing many instruments. They made wind instruments like flute and reed instruments out of wood. String instruments like harps and lyres were also used.

In around 2000 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia, the first known song was written in an ancient writing style called cuneiform.

And in about 1500 B.C.E, people in Egypt made trumpets and flutes out of bronze and copper, as well as cow and goat horns. These instruments were mostly played for the army and were the original versions of what would eventually become brass orchestra instruments.

Ancient Egyptian musicians playing instruments
Ancient Egyptian Musicians Playing Instruments

In this same time period, as far back as 1800 B.C.E., civilizations in China also played flutes or pipes, and later around 200 B.C.E., they used lyres.

Choral music developed in Greece around 800 B.C.E. Choral music is music that a choir sings or performs, and was often performed by traveling musicians. Around 300 B.C.E., Greek musicians invented a way of writing down notes to describe songs. Then, the Egyptians started using this method as well.

Musicians playing instruments around the year 100
Musicians Playing Various Instruments Around 100 C.E.

Western Music

Renaissance Period

The Renaissance was a period in history that started about seven hundred years ago, in the 1300s. This period was important in the development of all the arts, including music. In the year 1320, modern musical notation was developed.

The violin was invented in Italy in about 1550, during the Renaissance period. The first opera was also produced during this time, which combined singing, acting, and musical accompaniment.

Baroque Period

In the 1600s, the Baroque musical period began, with famous composers Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.

In 1700 in Florence, Italy, Bartolomeo Cristofori developed the first piano, and then in 1730 in Milan, Italy, the symphony became a known form of music.

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