The History of Songwriting & Composing

The History of Songwriting & Composing

While music has brought joy to people’s lives for hundreds of years, the role of songwriter and music composer has transitioned greatly over time as music genres evolved. Writing music today is undoubtedly a different experience than it was a hundred years ago. Let’s take a trip back in time through the history of music to learn more about the process of songwriting throughout the years and discover some of the notable music composers in each era.

Middle Ages

Although the majority of the music composed during the Middle Ages has been destroyed over the years, we know that the majority of it was closely aligned with the Christian church. Perhaps the most famous piece during this history of music is the Gregorian.


The Renaissance is well-known for bringing art and music back to life during the 15th and 16th centuries. Perhaps the most well known English music composer, William Byrd created hundreds of pieces during this era.


Arguably the most widely known music composer of the 1600’s, Johann Sebastian Bach, exemplified the music of the Baroque period. Other notable musicians during this time included Antonio Vivaldi and George Frideric Handel.


While Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony stands apart as a notable musical composition during the Classical period, there were many others who are renowned for writing music during the era as well. Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert all left their songwriting mark on the classical period as well.


Stretching through most of the 19th century, the Romantic period is highlighted by emotional pieces by music composers such as Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin and Richard Wagner. Towards the end of the Romantic period, Johannes Brahms and Peter Tchaikovsky became renowned for their songwriting ability.
record, radio, tv

Now we’ve reached an important turning point on our journey through the history of music: the 20th century. With the advent of new technology, like the record player, radio and television, the evolution of writing music begins to change more rapidly. Each decade brought new opportunities for songwriting and reaching new audiences.

Early 20th Century

The first half of the 20th century saw the popularization of the radio and record player, which helped to spread the new genres to the masses. The 1920s saw the rise of jazz while the 1930s and 1940s highlighted swing and big band music. From the 1950s through the remainder of the century, songwriting became a big business as music was more easily shared and eagerly consumed by the general public.


The middle of the 20th century ushered in the iconic sound of rock and roll as well as the growing popularity of television. Artists began to gain more exposure by appearing on television shows and both Elvis Presley’s sound and stage presence catapulted him into a music legend.


This decade saw the emergence of the singer songwriter through artists like Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel who took writing music to the next level. Pop music also took center stage in the 1960s with hits by the Beach Boys and the Beatles stealing the hearts of teenagers across the globe.


From pop rock artists like the Jackson 5 and Elton John to anthem rock bands like Queen, the music of the 1970s stretched from one genre of rock to another. For better or worse, disco music left its stamp on the decade as well.


Advances in digital recording allowed pop music to expand into a new realm in the 1980’s. The use of synthesizers added a new layer to the music of  pop stars, like Michael Jackson and Prince. The beginning of MTV in 1981 brought a visual component to the world of music. Music videos became a necessity for artists to gain exposure.


The final decade of the 20th century allowed many different genres to shine. From grunge and gangster rap to boy bands and Britney, there was something for everyone during the 90s.


The transition into the new millennium has continued the trend of letting various genres shine. Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever for an aspiring lyric writer or music composer to gain exposure.

The history of music is full of twists and turns.  But one thing is certain, songwriting has always been a creative outlet for musicians to share their stories.

About us: Foxhedge Music is a management company and recording studio located in historic Leipers Fork, just south of Nashville, Tennessee. Our mission is to support and encourage songwriters, who we believe are the back-beat of Music City, while continuing to invest our time and resources in the Music City community. Through Music City SongStar Songwriting Contest, we want to give songwriters a chance to have their music heard. We’re believers in creativity, chasing dreams and getting the chance to pursue your passion. Need inspiration? Explore Secrets to Better Songwriting or How to Sell A Song.

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