- Significant role of the Christian Church.
The Medieval period of music covers a wide span of time, and many changes in music occurred during this era. The Christian Church was the primary patron of music and the arts, and most of the surviving Medieval music manuscripts we have today consist of sacred vocal music composed for religious services such as Masses.
- Beginnings of music notation.
Music notation first began as a tool to assist monks who had to memorize large numbers of melodies to accompany texts for religious services. Monks were the ones who notated and preserved this music called plainchant (also known as chant). Plainchant is characterized as having a monophonic texture (single melody) without a measured rhythm. Today, this music is often called Gregorian Chant in honor of Pope Gregory I (590-604) who collected and standardized plainchant. During the mid to late Medieval period, chant developed a polyphonic texture (a form of musical texture with several interdependent, overlapping melodic lines) when additional melodies were added (organum), and new sections (conductus).
- Rising influence of royalty and the aristocracy in secular music.
During the 12th century, members of royal courts and aristocrats began to play a rising role in music, both as patrons of the arts and as active participants in music making. Secular music included monophonic and polyphonic songs such as ballatas, caccias, rondeaus, and virelai, composed by entertainers such as golliards, jongleurs, troubadours and trouveres. Some of these musicians were traveling entertainers and poets; others were associated with courts, including aristocrats and members of royalty, and they often sang of courtly love.
- Few surviving examples of instrumental music.
Although artwork and writings from the Medieval period make it clear that instrumental music was abundant, few manuscript sources of notated instrumental music have survived. Jongleurs (also called minstrels) were expected to play as many as ten instruments,  and some were skilled at using the fiddle to play the tenor and contratenor parts of three-voice polyphonic songs. It is likely that troubadours and trouveres also sang their songs to instrumental accompaniments or instrumental doubling of their vocal parts. Much of this instrumental music was probably improvised or passed on through oral tradition. A few pieces of instrumental dance music which have survived are called estampies and istanpitta.