The age of mankind dubbed the Renaissance (meaning "rebirth") is named rightly so. The Renaissance featured the arrival of great minds, ideas, and creations. For example, Renaissance art, an icon of it's time, is remembered today as a landmark of innovation and creativity; however, one area of art in the Renaissance has much been forgotten, and that is music. In contrast to the abrupt revolution in painting, the transformation of music during the Renaissance is recognized by slow changes in musical style, the gradual adaptation to new musical discoveries, and the introduction of new technology and new instruments.
One change of music during the Renaissance was the emergence of church music (or Sacred music). A common factor of musical change in the Renaissance is the driving force of the change; the new approaches to music can be attributed to the beliefs and ideas of that time—church music of the Renaissance reflects this cause and effect relationship. Musical discoveries which can be noted in the Renaissance church music are the explorations and experimentations with harmony. More and more it seemed that composers had a growing understanding of the relationship of notes—this enabled them to blend several complex components of a piece together in order to fully express creativity. Another element of the church music style was that is was sung a Capella (without instruments), the logic being: the focus should be the words and not the music.
As I noted musical change and music in general was propelled by the beliefs of the time, secular music during the Renaissance was also a result of philosophies, and it made its contributions to the development of music. More refined than the previous era, secular music had its improvements and growth, despite the church's dominant position during the Renaissance. Madrigals, often regarded as one of the distinguishing facets of secular Renaissance music, was a popular style of music which involved vocals accompanied by instrumental pieces and which resisted repetition. Other traits of secular music were masses, motets, song, Rondeau, Virelai, Ballade, Chanson, Villancico, Frottola, and Lied.
Although focus on the vocals was a trademark of Renaissance music, the arrival of new technology greatly facilitated people's abilities to create and distribute their music. Musical instruments introduced in the Renaissance enabled composers' imaginations to be demonstrated in full, which subsequently enabled change in music. Common instruments were (including new and old instruments to the time): Wind instruments—the recorder, flute, trumpet, sackbut, cornett, shawm, curtal, crumhorn, and cornemuse; Plucked stringed instruments—the guitar, harp, lute, vihuela, cittern, bandora, and the orpharion; Bowed stringed instruments—fiddles and viols; Keyboard—the church organ, regal, clavichord, harpischord, virginal, and spinet; and finally, Percussion—the timpani, tabor, side drum, cymbals, and xylophone. Another change during the Renaissance which also changed music was the invention of new printing technology. This enabled composers to distribute and teach their music without the restraints of expenses or strenuous labors.
By no standards was Renaissance music an immense revolution of its art or a prolific time of iconic composers, but it is certain that musical discoveries, new styles, instruments, and technology all made their contributions and appearances during the Renaissance, which enables the music of that time to contain at least some uniqueness. Although musical change was gradual and not overly substantial, change is discernable and no doubt gave aid to the great talents who were to come. (All previous sources)