Classical Music vs Modern Music – What are the Differences?

The differences between Classical Music and Modern Music have been a topic up for debate for many years. Some claim that classical music is better while others claim that modern music is better. In my opinion, it depends on your taste in music and what you’re interested in listening to.

Classical Music was moved along by famous composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, etc. Each composer had their unique style of writing a piece which helped them become known around the world today.

Classical pieces are generally more complex than modern songs and they stress the beauty of their music while some modern songs focus more on how hard-hitting or rhythmically strong a song can be.

Classical Music vs Modern Music – Key Takeaways

  • Classical music often employs instruments like the piano, violin, cello, harp, and flute. Modern music uses more ‘modern’ instruments like the electric guitar, drums, bass, piano, and keyboards.
  • They also differ in form and style. Classical music, depending on the type, can last anywhere from minutes to hours and is usually much more complex in structure. Modern music lasts a few minutes and is more simple in nature.
  • Classical music is intended for quiet audiences and is seen more as a show/story, involving big orchestras. Modern music, on the other hand, focuses on emotional expression, with the intent to make people feel good and happy.
  • As classical music relies on careful composing and crafting each passagewhat each instrument should play, culminating in a full piece, modern music relies on modern solutions for creating music like DAWs, virtual instruments, and digital composing.

Modern music makes much more use of modern instruments such as synthesizers, electric guitars, and electronic drums. Modern pieces focus on using instruments that are new or that were once solely used in classical music and making them “cool” so more people enjoy them.


Instruments Used in Classical Music

Classical music is generally expected to be performed by trained musicians who play classical instruments. Some examples of such instruments include the piano, violin, cello, harp, and flute. These are still considered some of the most popular classical instruments by modern audiences as well.

Instruments Used in Modern Music

Modern music is mainly written for instruments like electric guitars, drums, bass, piano, and keyboards. The performer’s ability to play these instruments varies greatly – some performers can play their song or instrument completely by themselves while others may need an entire band to back them up.

Many modern songs are sung with lyrics, in contrast to Classical music which either uses no words or is purely instrumental.


Classical Music Form

This is where these two forms of music differ drastically. Classical music usually consists of various instrumental sections and four movements. Depending on the type of classical music, be it a sonata, concerto, rondo, mass, or oratorio, a classical composition can last from minutes to hours.

Modern Music Form

Modern music has fewer types but in addition to that, most modern music compositions last only a few minutes which differs greatly from classical music. Usually, a song will have a set of verses and choirs but rarely something more.


The Purpose of Classical Music

Classical music is generally intended to be listened to by quiet audiences, who are there to appreciate the nuances of the piece. Performances are usually done with an orchestra or band on stage, and either a choir or vocal soloist off-stage.

Sometimes orchestras have several conductors taking turns leading them, but often the maestro will stand in front of them all at once. The performers play along to sheet music that they hold in their hands—sometimes turned away from the audience so that only the person next to them can see it!

The Purpose of Modern Music

The purpose of modern pop music among its listeners is to make them feel good, to make them feel happy. There are many commercial elements to many forms of modern music, but the roots of modern music are steeped in emotional expression. The emotional expression through modern pop music is heavily dependent upon the production and studio equipment used to create it, so one can easily separate some forms of ‘pop’ by their production style.


Classical Music Style

Classical music is considered more complex than modern music. In classical music, the performers are the key component as they deliver the piece through interpretation and emotion. Additionally, the structure of a classical piece may often include movement and rhythm changes (fast, slow).

Modern Music Style

Modern music is often centered around the singer. Also, in contrast to classical music, there’s more emphasis on improvisation and variety in modern music. Naturally, the structure of the composition is way less complex.


How Classical Music Was Made

Classical music is made by symphonies which are basically big bands, string quartets, and organists. There were no microphones so they had to use instruments that could be heard from very far distances. Making classical music was time-consuming because every instrument in the orchestra had different parts or movements (fast-slow).

Composers would write down what they wanted each instrument to play and make sure every movement was perfect. They would rehearse for hours until they got it right.

How Modern Music is Made

Modern music is a product of many different genres and styles. In most contemporary music, digital audio workstation (DAW) software is used in the production process.

In today’s DAW, there are various sounds programmed by the producer that when combined create an entire song. Each sound can interact with another one to produce a unique timbre/tone.

Most producers program every instrument using the computer keyboard & mouse before actually recording them with studio equipment such as microphones and analog-to-digital converters during the actual recording process. The MIDI protocol allows for these instruments to properly interface through a single cable without requiring separate cables or hardware for each sound.


Classical and modern music both have their unique elements and styles, but they do share some similarities. Though they may be similar in several aspects, they each also possess a significant amount of differences that make them stand out as two very different forms of music.