Colonial Music
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Colonial Music. What was Colonial or “Early American” Music?. It was not really written in America. There were ballads, dance tunes, folk songs, comic operas, drum signals, psalms, minuets, and sonatas. The music came mostly from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France and Africa.

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What was colonial or early american music l.jpg
What was Colonial or “Early American” Music?

  • It was not really written in America.

  • There were ballads, dance tunes, folk songs, comic operas, drum signals, psalms, minuets, and sonatas.

  • The music came mostly from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France and Africa.


Some important concepts l.jpg
Some important concepts…

  • Colonial music involved both the written and the oral/aural process

  • Single tunes often served a variety of functions.


Which instruments were used l.jpg

Violins were by far the most popular instrument and were played by men.

Second in popularity were flutes, also played by men.

Harpsichords were played by the wealthy women.

The English guitar was also popular with women.

Which instruments were used?

Most of the instruments we have today were around by the Revolution.

Drums and trumpets, trombones and

french horns, cellos, violas, clarinets,

oboes and bassoons, glass harmonicas,

hammered dulcimers and organs all

appeared within the colonies over time.


Theater music l.jpg

Musical theater in the colonies was very popular. played by men.

Most were ballad operas.

The most famous of these was The Beggar’s Opera.

Theater Music


Dance music l.jpg
Dance Music played by men.

  • Dancing was a favorite pastime of the colonists.

  • Favorite dances were English and Celtic reels, jigs and minuets.

  • Dancing was usually accompanied by a single violin.


Church music l.jpg
Church Music played by men.

  • The church music was greatly varied due to the many religious denominations.

  • More organs graced private homes in the south than churches.

  • The most musically sophisticated colonists were the settlers in Pennsylvania.


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Military Music played by men.

  • A “Band of Musick” consisted of professional musicians hired by officers to play music at parades, during meals and for dancing.

  • “Field Music” consisted of the fifers and drummers who played during the march, during battles, and for camp duty calls.


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