Does anybody know a German equivalent term?

Now I have read some articles but nowhere found an answer (translation) in German.

Looking up "Klassische Musik" - whereby I know this term is used for the Classic period - and also for all tonal so called "serious music" but in this Wiki link in German there was not clear when the common practice period began.

The English version of this Wiki page says:

Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, *including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820 (the Classical period), this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.


Would you say the term common practice period is identical as the term "classical music" in the extended sense (not the classical period).

Am I right the central norms are the tonal system, harmony, the melodic- harmonic and rhythmic language as figured bass and counterpoint, e.g. the subjects that composers of this era had been taught and used?

With other words: the theory and practice of traditional western european music?

So I wonder where does this term come from? I couldn't find a name mentioned ... is it a British term or American? as I’ve never heard an equivalent German term ...

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    Did you notice the separate Wikipedia page "Common practice period"? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_practice_period Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:51
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    Note that there are so many kinds of music made since 1900 that would not even remotely be called "pop". In terms of the phrase "classical music", I think many people use that term broader than the common practice period. There is a lot of 20th century music that most people would call "classical", in the larger sense, including serialism, Penderecki, Ligeti, and many film scores. Commented May 15, 2019 at 20:19
  • yes, I remember this one too, I've even downloaded this Pdf: Konečni, Vladimir J. (2009). "Mode and Tempo in Western Classical Music of the Common-Practice Era" - But the I was focussing the question how this is named in German and I was still interested how other users would explain their concept without looking up Wikipedia. Commented May 15, 2019 at 20:25
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    All of your questions are answered by consensus in the Wikipedia article that you included a link to in your question. Classical music before 1550 is called "medieval music" and later "renaissance music". Classical music after the common practice period is called "Romantic", "Modern/Modernist", "Contemporary", "Post-Modern", and/or "Post-Post-Modern", depending. Music as a whole is not an "objective science", but as this site clearly shows, there are many questions related to music that do have objective answers. Subjective questions are off-topic. Commented May 15, 2019 at 20:45
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    I love (sarcasm) how that Wikipedia date range would lump together Palestrina with Erik Satie as sharing a common practice. That's absurd! Yes, I know about Satie's interest in the Medieval (not Palestrina) but that was appropriation, not a shared practice in my view. Commented May 15, 2019 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


You could write a very long description of what 'common practice' means re. the common practice period.

But my feeling is the longer the description becomes - when attempting to cover the extreme ends of the 17th and 19th century - the less meaningful the description will be.

So, IMO, I think two of the most important ideas of 'common practice' are: the voicing leading norms exemplified in Fux and other similar teaching, and the 'rule of the octave' from figured bass harmony.

My understanding is both of those are very important aspects of music teaching from the common practice era. Literally the musicians shared a common practice through application of what was taught to them.

So things like...

  • resolving a dissonant 4th to a 3rd
  • harmonizing the mediant in the bass with I6 not iii
  • raise the leading tone in minor for cadences, etc.

...can be accounted for simply from counterpoint rules and the rule of the octave.

To me, adhering to those fundamentals is 'common practice' in a nutshell.

  • thank you. Michel, and do you know where the term comes from? It seems to be a newer one as I can't find it in all my books before 2000. Commented May 17, 2019 at 8:04
  • I don't know the origin, but I'm sure I remember it from college, which for me is way before 2000. :-) Commented May 17, 2019 at 12:35
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    @AlbrechtHugli, The introduction to my Piston's Harmony, 1st edition, 1941, uses "common practice" several time, although not "common practice period." Commented May 21, 2019 at 2:17
  • Walter Piston! That‘s what I‘ve found out too. Sometimes it is not so easy as someone with a foreigner language to understand. I would have wished to receive more help from my american musician friends, somehow like you. It would have been so easy to tell me: common practice is what ordinary people understand as „normal music“ ... Thank you, Michael, you have to know that to Swiss people also German is a foreign language and also the translation of „common practice“ has a quite different meaning. Commented May 21, 2019 at 2:35

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