Debussy vs. Ravel: Musical Foes Compared

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Difference between Debussy and Ravel

Debussy and Ravel are two of the most famous names that are associated with classical music. The two were around during the same time and often found themselves going up against one another. The two had many hard feelings between each other, to say the least, with each musician thinking that he was producing better music than the other. Though it is hard to make a distinction between the two, there are a few differences between them that people can notice including the ways in which they reached the audience, the ways in which their music is classified, and the struggles that they endured with their music.


Reaching The Audience

Both composers were avid music players in the world. However, the way that each reached the audience was on a different level. Ravel never seemed to amaze the audience with the entire lot of what he could do. For example, he seemed to play what the audience wanted to hear even though he had pieces that were much complex and those that he would have enjoyed playing much more. Debussy on the other hand, played for himself. He never played something just because the audience may not like his selection. In this we can conclude that he was a bit more stubborn than Ravel.

Classification Of Music

Both composers were considered to be in the classic realm of music. However, the influence they had on each other came out in their music. Debussy was not one for change, thus, even when more composers’ music became more advanced with the times, Debussy seemed to want to stay in the present. Over time his music became more and more of a French style. On the other hand, Ravel was someone who rolled with the changes and performed the new music with perfection, which was his major pet peeve, that of achieving perfection in his work.

Struggles With Music

Both composers had many struggles when it came to music. Ravel was such a perfectionist that he would often almost drive himself mad trying to get something perfect in his hears, and even though he did develop many sounds that were not characteristic of the time, those that heard him play often thought that he was always holding himself back from doing some wonderful masterpieces. Debussy, on the other hand, seemed to want to perfect only certain parts of his music. He seemed to get caught up on finding the perfect rifts and many times would want the perfect climax in his music before letting others hear it at all.

Compare and Contrast

Though Debussy and Ravel are often confused for one another, the differences between the two are very noticeable and because of this, they are easy to distinguish from one another:


  • Debussy walked to his own tune instead of playing to what people wanted.
  • Debussy had more of a French influence to his music no matter what style was considered in at the time.
  • Debussy did put his all into his music while also expecting perfection.


  • Ravel played his music in order to please the audience no matter what his personal decision would have been.
  • Ravel grew with the times and adjusted his music to fit the changing times.
  • Ravel perfected his music, but always seemed to hold back when he wrote.


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