The Renaissance in music is said to have begun around the year 1400, and finished around 1600 with the coming of the Baroque period. The social and economical developments which changed literature and art at the time also affected music: the Reform, the invention of the press, the rise of humanistic though, the recovery of the Greek cultural heritage, and the dawn of scientific though, all played their part into the development of a new, relatively unified polyphonic style. The emergence of a bourgeois class meant an increased demand for trained musicians: the forms of the chanson, motet, and madrigal flourished, and academic music escaped from the exclusively religious sphere. New instruments were created, and academic and secular music started influencing each other. In this context, composers sought new ways of expression, experimenting with rhythm, harmony, form, and notation, and taking liberties with the texts. Near the late 1500s the system of church modes began to break down, establishing the foundations of what would later become functional tonality.
Some of the most popular composers of the Renaissance are Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez, Giovani Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, William Byrd, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Giovanni Gabrieli, Carlo Gesualdo, John Downland, and Michael Praetorius.