New age music is a musical genre that emphasizes tranquility, relaxation, and peaceful soundscapes. It is typically composed of instrumental music (music with no or wordless vocals), and it may involve acoustic instruments, electric synthesizers, and even recorded nature sounds.\n\nIn most cases, new age music eschews the melodic hooks and repetitive rhythms of pop songwriting. This does not, however, make it a subset of classical music. While [classical music](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/classical-music-eras) emphasizes complex harmonic progressions, shifting tempos, and a wide array of dynamics, new age music tends to be quite steady—both in terms of harmony and tempo.\n\nWhile the term “new age music” does not have a single fixed definition and some music critics use it interchangeably with "ambient music,” the two are not the same. \n\n- __Ambient music__: As a genre, ambient music tends to be linked to avant-garde scenes in New York and London, where innovators like Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Gavin Bryars pushed the boundaries of instrumental music. They often used a mixture of synthesizers and live musicians while experimenting with harmony. \n- __New age music__: The term "new age" often describes music that combines folk harmony traditions—particularly American, English, and Celtic folk—with gentle atmospheres. George Winston, Vangelis, Yanni, and Enya are among the stars of new age music. New age music is also known for serving functional purposes. It is sometimes thought of as "healing music" and often underscores guided meditations. You can hear this in the work of new age artists like Steven Halpern, Paul Winter, Paul Horn, and Deuter.\nNew age music arose in the late 1960s and 1970s, and it has retained devoted followers throughout its history.\n\n- __New age precursors__: Musicologists cite Tony Scott's *Music for Zen Meditation* (1964) as the first new age album. The early 1970s electronic music of Jean-Michel Jarre also influenced the nascent new age scene.\n- __Spiritual roots__: Much of new age music links to the New Age spiritual movement of the 1970s. Adherents of a New Age philosophy commonly believe in oneness with the earth and peaceful co-existence. Early new age musicians tried to capture these sentiments via soothing, atmospheric music. To do so, they used acoustic instruments, electric instruments, synthesizers, and recorded nature sounds.\n- __Crossover with other genres__: As new age music slowly distinguished itself, it often overlapped with other genres. Mike Oldfield's seminal *Tubular Bells* album from 1973 is sometimes termed new age, but others consider it progressive rock. Mannheim Steamroller began combining new age, neoclassical music, and Christmas jingles.\n- __Windham Hill__: In 1976, Windham Hill Records was founded in California. Although the label released many genres of music, it gained recognition for getting new age albums onto record store shelves. Notable Windham Hill artists include pianist George Winston, pianist Yanni, and world music crossover artists Shadowfax.\n- __Meditation music__: As new age music became better known, it became a popular background for guided meditations, spas, and other venues where listeners sought solace and retreat.\n- __Industry recognition__: In 1987, the Grammy Awards added a category for best new age album. In 1988, Billboard magazine added a new age album chart. In 1987, Suzanne Doucet organized an international new age music conference in Los Angeles, California. New age playlists now abound on music streaming services, and record stores often have a new age section.\n- __Greater fusion with electronic music__: While early new age music often used acoustic instruments and nature sounds, the current new age scene tends to lean heavily on electronic synthesizers. The German group Enigma, the American musician Suzanne Ciani, and the Japanese recording artist Kitaro have all placed electronics at the bedrock of their new age compositions.\nThe term "new wave" refers to a pop offshoot of punk rock, and it is not connected to new age music or the New Age spiritual movement. Perhaps coincidentally, both the new wave and new age musical styles were popular in the early to mid-1980s.\n\nWhile the term "new age" may surface in the descriptions of many artists, new age music typically features a few common qualities.\n\n1. __Peace and tranquility__: Most new age music is composed in a major key with few harmonic shifts. Through stability and harmonic simplicity, it creates a calming, peaceful mood.\n2. __Atmospherics__: New age often provides a wash of sound that creates vast atmospheric soundscapes. For this reason, some refer to new age albums by artists like Constance Demby and Steven Halpern as "space music."\n3. __Acoustic and electronic instruments__: New age artists like Laraaji, Iasos, and George Winston are known for playing acoustic instruments. Others like Enigma made their fame with synthesizers. Still others—such as the Japanese musician Kitaro—are famous for using both types of instruments.\n4. __Meditation music__: Many guided meditations use tranquil new age music as a background for narration.\n5. __Nature sounds__: A large number of new age recordings feature recordings of nature—from birds to whales to rain in a forest.\nBecome a better musician with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Questlove, St. Vincent, Sheila E., Timbaland, Itzhak Perlman, Herbie Hancock, Tom Morello, and more.\nMusic fans who seek tranquil relaxation can turn to new age music to set the proper mood.