Differences Between Classical, Popular And Traditional Music

When talking about music, we immediately think: classical and popular music, as main genres. And we forget about traditional or folk music, because we get to confuse it with popular music.

Music when adjectives brings many confusions when differentiating between one genre and another. To distinguish genres in music, we have taken the three main commonly accepted genres: classical, folk, and traditional music.


Classical or serious music

When we say classical music, and the names of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, to mention the best known, come to mind, we are on the right track. Classical music is a period in the history of music that spans between 1750 to 1820, it is not a genre.

The cultured music or written tradition is considered an elitist and selective music, belonging to a very small group in society, but what makes it different from other genres?

Academic or conservatory music, some call it classical, serious and others cultured, is a type of music that in its structure is preconceived, forms and styles subjected to rationalization and theoretical analysis.


Serious or cultured music is not reduced to purely instrumental music, it includes ecclesiastical vocal, opera and ballet.

Village or peasant popular music was not ignored by cultured music, the composers of the 18th century found inspiration by imitating it. In the ballet performances at the court of Louis XIV “The Sun King”, Jean-Baptiste Lully used French peasant dances, such as the minuet, the musette; Bach did not escape using the same French-style dances.


Popular music

The term popular music is currently used to refer to mass music, which fills large auditoriums, such as rock, pop and others. This type of music is usually linked to the industry and the audience as a consumer product. It is the predominant music in today’s society.

The melodies in popular music in its structure are simpler, always conceived for a single voice, therefore it is easier to listen. Backer maintains: “Popular music is that which is easy to memorize and that the listener relates to some moment in his life . ”

The rise of popular music was not until the advent of the French Enlightenment, also called “The Age of Enlightenment”, with the ideas of freedom, equality and fraternity that had its denouement with the French Revolution. The barrier until then existing in music, passed to the court and the nobility, the ingredient to add is the popular celebrations and festivities.

The Second Industrial Revolution in the 19th century is one of the events that gave rise to the development of popular music, with the model of “Serial Production”, the cheapening of musical instruments, the subscription to magazines and newspapers that contained songs that were hits at the time. The invention of the phonograph and the radio, heralded a global music market. Later the creation of record companies, the appearance of television, from there Popular Music and Technology have an inseparable link for their preponderance.


Traditional music

The traditional or folkloric expression refers to the habits and rites, beliefs and customs of a social group that have been transmitted from generation to generation, as forms of homogeneous expression of a community.

In traditional music the melodies have been diffused in a social class of a country through immemorial generations. In this regard, Béla Bartók says:  “They constitute the instinctive expression of the musical sensitivity of a social class, which satisfies its own material and moral demands in accordance with its own traditions.”


Folk music is that music of a community (Regional or local) that has been received by tradition, has passed orally or by ear in generations, for sure no one knows who invented it, but what is certain is that they make it yours, without the observance of the structural and formal rules of composition. Buffalo rose music is a good example for folk music.

Traditional music is performed individually, with personal or regional modifications and variations, ad libitum improvisations and repetitions of the same characteristics. Traditional or folk music are melodies that have the same character and structure.

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