Instrumental music became dominant in the Baroque, and most major music forms were defined. Counterpoint was one of the major forces in both the instrumental and the vocal music of the period. Although a strong religious musical tradition continued, secular music came to the fore with the development of the sonata, the concerto, and the concerto grosso.
Much Baroque music was designed for improvisation, with a figured bass provided by the composer for the performer to flesh out and ornament. The keyboard, particularly the harpsichord, was a dominant instrument, and the beginnings of well temperament opened up the possibilities of playing in all keys and of modulation.
Much Baroque music featured a basso continuo consisting of a keyboard, either harpsichord or organ (sometimes a lute instead), and a bass instrument, such as a viola da gamba or bassoon. The three outstanding composers of the period were Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Antonio Vivaldi, but a host of other composers, some with huge output, were active in the period.
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