The Renaissance Period of Classical Music and Leonardo da Vinci

The Renaissance Period of classical music went from 1430 to 1600. It was a period of rediscovery of ancient knowledge and a new way of thinking. 

Renaissance is a French word for “rebirth”.

This explosion of new ideas led to a great flowering of the arts and improved science and learning in Europe. 

At any given time in history, the types of things that are being discovered and/or invented influence the visual arts and the visual arts directly affect music. The Renaissance Period/Era was no different.


The time period before the Renaissance was known as the Medieval times. 

Let’s look at the difference between the arts during the Medieval times and the Renaissance Era.


Medieval Art 13th-century stone carving of crusader and his wife. ~ Source: Monash University


Renaissance Art Michelangelo’s Pieta ~ Source: Wikipedia

Both sculptures were created by professional artists, but the art from the Renaissance Era looks much more realistic.

Artists during this time used the new discoveries in science and math to make their art look more realistic. One of the most famous artists during this time was Leonardo da Vinci. He also studied the anatomy of people and animals and designed machines. All of this knowledge worked together to advance his art and the work of artists for the rest of time.

Leonardo da Vinci self-portrait in red chalk. Source: Wikipedia
Anatomical Study of the Arm by Leonardo da Vinci Source: Wikipedia
Leonardo da Vinci was also an outstanding musician on the lira da braccio. In fact when he went to Milan in 1482, he introduced himself as a musician (not as an artist). He even made his own instrument, as well as new types of drums and a keyboard.

Let’s watch and listen to Jamie as she performs on the lira da braccio just like Leonardo would have played. It is part of the string family and is similar to the viola.

(Don’t remember the viola? Go back to: Introduction to the String Family Part 1 ~ Violin, Viola, and String Basics.)

Click here to get to the video.

Leonardo da Vinci also composed music. This is a short piece of music written by him. Since it is so short, it is repeated several times. (Please note that the first picture used is “The Vitruvian Man” which is anatomically correct. It is not overly explicit, but if you desire you can have your student look away for the first few seconds.)   ~  Here is the video.

William Byrd was the greatest English composer during the Renaissance Era. He lived from 1543-1623.

His music had a lot of variety. He composed church music, vocal music, and music for the popular dances of that time. “Wolsey’s Wilde” was composed for a dance. This is being played on the harpsichord.  

Let’s listen to “Woolsey’s Wilde”.

Most music during the Renaissance Era was written specifically for a certain person of royalty. This usually meant that when the music was composed, the composer did not get to put their name on it. It belonged to the King or Prince.

Many composers eventually got credit (long after their death). There were many times that they did not, because the people forgot who composed it.

That is what happened with the next piece of music.

This is “La Monica” being played on a Renaissance guitar.  




If you are new to the Music Adventures Lessons, please click on the graphic below for an introduction and more information.


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