Here, we are going to explore the history of music as well as the origin of different musical genres. We’ll also try to learn how music turned into a social phenomenon. But first, let’s begin with how music and musical instruments were invented. Take note that these two are not actually related as most people think.

The Sounds of Music – An Overview

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Before we get into the invention of musical instruments, take note that there’s been a lot of debate on how the sounds of music first started. Ultimately, the origins of music are quite complicated, just as the musical instruments that were invented to accompany them. When it comes to music, most people will likely think of compositions and instruments. However, experts suggest that there should be a distinction when defining musical sound. This particular distinction will be between the sounds of animals and historical music and even the sound of early speech.

If music is defined as the sounds created at a variable pitch, then it would be safe to say that the earliest proto-humans were capable of creating music even before learning how to speak. In addition, the same can also be said for rhythmic understanding since it is possible that the early proto-humans had the sense of creating percussion even before melody was invented. Surely, it would not have been as complicated as it is today, where we need to define the origin of musical sound.

A young boy finds sanctuary while listening to prayerful music in a park.

It was believed that the subsequent hominid species, particularly the Homo neanderthalensis and the Homo sapiens, were capable of perceiving music through their prior developmental stages. In other words, they had the ability to create music. In fact, there were even theories that our capability for creating music helped us to defeat the neanderthalensis.

So, to answer the question of how music started, let us first examine why there is a need for music. The simple answer, which also has an association with the origins of speech, would be humans’ intention to cooperate with one another. Thus, the emergence of social environments started, and cooperation was practiced.

The evolution of musical sound has four specific purposes. The most important one is social association, which led to civilization. Other purposes include dance, entertainment, as well as ritualistic practices.

How Musical Instruments Started

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As mentioned, it is believed that the ability to create rhythm came prior to making melody and other aspects of music creation. Because of this, the instruments used by the earliest humans were likely simple. When we say simple, we mean literally, like sticks and rocks, or anything they came in contact with that could create distinct sounds, which could be formulated into a rhythm.

During ritual settings, it is believed that the earliest types of musical sounds came from percussion instruments representing the sounds of animals and other environmental threats. But how can we be certain about this? Obviously, most of these theories come from ethnomusicological and archaeological findings. However, even today, we can still see similar communal practices.

Some of the most relevant examples would be African tribes and American Natives, who, despite adapting to modernization, continue to practice the traditions of their ancestors. If you doubt whether rocks and sticks are the appropriate response to the first instruments, then you are not alone. Keep in mind that another distinction to consider is whether an instrument is something that can produce music or anything designed to make music. Most likely, we prefer the latter since it is possible to produce a rhythm with practically any type of object.

A close up of a piano keyboard playing contemplative music.

For more refined objects, there is a variety of flutes. The Divje Babe Flute was created from the femur of a bear and originated from Slovenia, particularly in the Divje Babe Park. There were arguments about whether it was created by Cro-Magnons or Neanderthals. Other flutes made from mammoth ivory and bird bone were also uncovered from a south German cave. Several flutes and harps were also discovered by Egyptologists. It seems that the development of instruments was a bit slower since the earliest instruments recognized in Egypt were flutes. Around 3500 BCE, clarinets and lyres were developed. Then, trumpets were created in 2500 BCE.

Later on, after a thousand years, the Hittites produced a simple type of guitar, often known as an oud or a tanbur. Ultimately, this would become the first contribution of the Greeks to the world of music. This chordophone was considered the most prominent instrument ever invented. The invention of this instrument led to the development of other string instruments, including the violin.

The Introduction of Various Music Types

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So, what happened after the emergence of those instruments? Well, just as you’d expect, there was a blast of different music types, which varied in time periods and cultures. Later on, these music types were known as genres based on their traditions and cultural context. Actually, the point of having different styles is because they sound distinctive to others, and these distinctions depend on a person’s musical taste.

The Introduction of Music Drama

A turntable is playing prayerful music next to a window.

Typically, music drama is commonly used in musical theatre. But how did musical theatre start? If you have some knowledge about Ancient Greek theater, then you should know that it was the Greeks who established what is now known as Western theatre. Ancient Greek theatre started during the golden age in Athens. Theater comes in three forms – comedy, tragedy, and satyr plays.

Richard Wagner introduced the concept of music drama, which expresses stories using symbolism and improves the dramatic impact through music. Originally, Wagner only referred to it as drama and not music drama. Ultimately, it was referred to as music drama since the use of musical elements has made the opera more compelling. Through music, the dramatic elements have greatly improved.

Even if you are not familiar with Richard Wagner, then most probably you have been greatly impacted by his distinct theory of music drama. For instance, there are some melodies that remind you of a specific moment or scene in a movie. Regardless, if it wasn’t a musical, this practice can be traced back to Wagner’s theory of music drama. Wagner popularized leitmotifs. Now, they are used in video games and movie soundtracks, as well as pantomimes, orchestral arrangements, and most importantly, in modern operas and musicals. Thanks to Wagner, we have realized that music can help improve the dramatic power of a narrative, no matter if it’s not an opera.

Classicism and Romanticism

A woman is laying in bed listening to contemplative music.

The greatest transformation of music occurred during the Classical and Romantic periods. Let’s start with the Renaissance, which occurred during the 1400s. After bone flutes and sticks, it is believed that modern music actually started during the Renaissance period. The Renaissance is well known as the artistic restoration of Europe. Hence, it is not surprising that musical development happened during this period.

There was more freedom during this time, so people could move away from those old musical traditions. More harmonious and rhythmic varieties emerged, in contrast to those traditional choral pieces that were always used during worship. Come to think of it, the Renaissance period opened doors to a variety of musical innovations created during the Classical, Baroque, and Romantic periods.


Young woman listening to contemplative music in the garden.

It was in the 1900s when Jazz was first introduced. The Jazz Age was recognized for its musical expression of European music as well as the hardships faced by African Americans. It’s highly defined by its complicated chords, distinct vocals, and several improvisations.


A young woman with headphones is dancing to Christ-centered music on a white background.

The Blues have a lot of similarities with the origins of Jazz. It was even believed that it was a forerunner to the tradition. The reason behind this is that it began around the 1860s, when African American musicians had the freedom to join the musical arts.

Blues comes in three major forms: traditional African music that depicts the former slaves’ motherland, slave work songs, and spirituals that express life’s challenges and their faith in God.

At Angelus Music, you can explore different types of spiritual songs. Just visit us at