Tag Archives: Music

Instruments {17} ~ Kalimba

The kalimba (or thumb piano) is a modern take on the African mbira variety of instruments. It was popularized internationally in the 1960’s by a man named Hugh Tracey. Hugh Tracey was an English ethnomusicologist who traveled to Rhodesisa (now known as Zimbabwe) to help his brother run a tobacco farm. While in Rhodesia, he became fascinated by the local music culture. Because of encouragement from composers and friends alike he decided to study African music, and eventually created the International Library of African Music.

After being popularized in the 1960’s by mister Tracey, the kalimba was sought after for it’s compact size and versatility. Performers in the Soul and R&B genres started to incorporate the thumb piano into their music.

Example ~ https://youtu.be/lerVe429uVY

Philosophical Questions {71} ~ Does Sound Happen If Nothing Is Present To Hear It?

Sound waves exist, but with nobody there to perceive said sound, it does not exist I don’t think. We describe sound as two things, sound pressure waves or a noise that we perceived with our ears. One part describes a scientific phenomenon, the other describes the way we perceived that scientific phenomenon. A bit like music. Music is a collection of sound pressure waves. It takes a human to determine that the sound was music. So the short answer is, yes, sound exists. The longer answer is that sound is a thing that living creatures translate from sound pressure waves, so did the sound occur when we create and see our own reality? However the philosophical conversation goes deeper if we think about animals and their hearing, or if the earth hears. Are we looking at this from a human perspective or cosmic perspective and what does those terms even mean to each one of us? Down the rabbit hole we go…

Feel free to share your thoughts below…

Instruments {14} ~ Guitar

The English word “guitar” comes from the Spanish word guitarra. Prior to that, it likely was formed from the Latin word “cithara” and an ancient Sanskrit “tar”, which meant string. The oldest surviving guitar-like instrument comes from Ancient Egypt. It was used by a singer to the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut named Har-Mose. You can see this guitar today in Cairo, Egypt at the Archaeological Museum. The Lute came to Europe between the 6th and the 9th century in many forms. It was brought to the Byzantine Empire as the Barbat. Later it showed up in Spain from the Moors who brought the Oud. These instruments became the Lute which was a popular instrument in the European Middle Ages. One of the predecessors to the modern day classical guitar was the Baroque guitar. It was played during the European Renaissance in the 1600s. The Baroque guitar had 9 or 10 strings with 2 strings generally tuned to the same course or note. A lower E string was added later as the form moved toward the modern guitar. Antonio Torres Jurado started building guitars in a similar fashion to the modern classical and acoustic guitars. Most of today’s guitars are derivatives, or alterations, of guitars that Torres designed and built. He is often called the Stradivari of guitars (Antonio Stradivari being the world famous violin maker). The electric guitar was invented in the United States in the 1930s. The first patent for the electric guitar was awarded to George Beauchamp for a guitar he made with partner Adolph Rickenbacker in 1931. A lot of other inventors and guitar makers were working on electric guitars at the same time. Famous electric guitar makers included Les Paul who pioneered the solid body guitar made by Gibson Guitar. In 1951 Leo Fender invented the Fender Telecaster. This guitar, together with the Gibson Les Paul, the Fender Telecaster, and the Gibson SG would make solid-body electric guitars hugely popular. These are still the most popular styles and models made today.

Source ~ https://www.ducksters.com/musicforkids/guitar_history.php

Instruments {13} ~ Gongs

“It is presumed by historians that gongs were made and used before the second millennium B.C. They are the oldest and most genuine musical instruments of South Eastern Asia. But they are not noted in Chinese history until about 500 A.D. Chinese history attributes gongs to the HSI YU nation, located between Burma and Tibet.

It is believed by historians that Java, Annam, Burma, and China were the main gong producing centers. It is known that these centers produced at least seven gong forms and corresponding sound-structures. Therefore, Gongs have for a long time been at the center of thoughtful system of sound and music.

Gong making in Asia, like bell making in Medieval Russia, was a true ancient family secret. Gong makers’ knowledge was considered so set-apart, that they believed the making of a successful gong requires the assistance of higher powers. Indeed, this is true – whether it was the higher power of the universe, it’s Creator or both, creating a gong requires forces and powers that human beings did not invent. The process of gong making is so intense that gong artisans understood they were expose to powerful forces that most people are never exposed to.

For centuries, a gong was a symbol of success and status among Asian families – and still is to a degree.

Gongs and gong bowls in the Tibetan spiritual tradition have the deepest links with the cosmos and the spiritual world. It was not unusual for monks to use gongs to invoke spirits, maybe bad spirits (this is not recommended but, nonetheless, part of gong history).

Gongs Uses

There are many uses for a gong. Both in ancient times and today gongs have been used for essentially the same purposes: to communicate; make announcements; make music; accompany life’s events; meditate and heal.

For centuries or longer gongs have been an essential element in celebrations, funerals, theatre & songs. The gong was an orchestral instrument in the palaces and Asian high society. People enjoyed the rich musical vibrations of gongs in private concerts, residences and orchestras. As European orchestras have a violin section it was not uncommon for Asian Orchestras to have set-ups with eighteen different gongs.

Gongs are no longer in Asia alone. They have been travelling around the world for centuries. In Europe, gongs have been used in orchestras since around 1790 (Mozart was about 35). European orchestras often called flat gongs “Tam Tam” and bossed gongs “Gong”.

Gongs, a Timeless Art-Drum

Gongs are a true & timeless art-drum. The testament of the greatness of gongs are the facts that they have been around so long and that they are more popular today than ever before. A gong is no hulahoop! rather it is a masterful work of art that proves it’s quality across many lifetimes. A gong is an heirloom.”

Source ~ http://artdrum.com/GONG_HISTORY.HTM

Example ~ https://youtu.be/5L8hct4XFdE

Instruments {11} ~ Lyre

“The lyre is a musical instrument from the string family that dates back to the Ancient Greek world. In Greek mythology the lyre, chelys, phorminx, and kithara (all string instruments) were created by Hermes. Hermes made the lyre from a tortoise shell, and used it to steel cattle from Apollo. Hermes gave Apollo the lyre when the theft was discovered. In Ancient Greece the lyre was either played as a solo instrument or along with poetry or singing. It was played at most important events in Greece and is depicted in much of the early art dating back as far as 2000 BC to the Middle Bronze Age, but the lyre existed for at least 1000 years prior to this.

Lyre Facts:
~The word lyre is derived from an Ancient Greek word ‘lura’ which means a ‘stringed instrument with sounding board made of a tortoise shell’.
~The first lyres in Ancient Greece were made of tortoise shells. They had two fixed upright arms and a cross bar. There were tuning pegs often made of bone, ivory, wood or even bronze. Strings were usually made of sheep gut.
~The lyre in Ancient Greece was one of the most popular string instruments of its time.
~Lyres have had a variety of numbers of strings throughout history. The most common configurations have included lyres with 4, 7, and 10 strings.
~Playing the lyre involved a plucking motion, usually with a plectrum (pic).
~The classic lyre has a hollow body with two raised arms curved outward and forward and connected by a crossbar.
~Most lyre players were male but some art dating back to 1300 BCE shows female lyre players.
~Lyres were often depicted on ancient coins.
~A lyre believed to be 2300 years old was discovered in Scotland in 2010. This makes it the oldest surviving stringed musical instrument in Europe.
~Some people classify the lyre as an instrument of the zither family while others do not.
~In Europe the lyre was known by a variety of names (with variations), including the gue or cruit in Scotland; the rote or crowd in England; the crwth in Wales; the giga in Norway; the talharpa in Estonia; the jouhikko in Finland; the Lira in Poland; the chorus in Latin; and the rotte, crotte, or Anglo-Saxon lyre in Continental Europe.
~In Africa the lyre was known by a variety of names such as: the kisser, tanbura, or simsimiyya in Egypt; the tanbura or kisser in Sudan; the begena, dita, or krar in Ethiopia; the ntongoli or endongo in Uganda; the litungu in Tanzania; and the obokano, nyatiti, litungu, or kibugander in Kenya.
~The lyre is mentioned in Beowulf – the Old English 3182 line epic poem written between 975 and 1010 AD.
~In some places in north-east Africa the lyre is still played.
~Lyres are sometimes confused with harps, but the strings on a lyre pass over a bridge and the strings on a harp enter through the instrument’s body. The lyre is more similar to a guitar in that the strings passing over the bridge create the vibrations to the body.”

Source ~ https://www.softschools.com/facts/music_instruments/lyre_facts/3054/

Example ~ https://youtu.be/nmExqfKa1Uc

Instruments {10} ~ Accordion

“The accordion is a relative newcomer to the music scene, having been invented in the early 1800s in Europe—drawing from the concept of older Chinese instruments—and only taking shape in its modern form later in that century. Because the accordion was able to make such a loud sound (remember, amplification hadn’t come around yet), it became quite popular, especially for dance music.

Accordions in America
It is believed that most accordions came to America with traveling German merchants, and gained popularity in various communities, including Germanic regions of the northern midwest, French Louisiana, and the Texas/Mexico border area. The legacy of the accordion’s arrival is still evident in the genres of folk music that remain in those regions.

Types of Accordions
There are three main styles of accordion: diatonic, chromatic and keyboard. Diatonic and chromatic accordions have buttons for keys and keyboard accordions have a piano keyboard for keys. In a standard instrument, the keys are on the player’s right-hand side of the instrument. The left-hand side has chord or bass notes, used to play rhythm.

How Accordions Work
Accordions make noise when the bellows fill with air and this air is forced out of holes which have a small reed over them. Accordion makers tune these reeds by hand, and each note may trigger anywhere from one to four reeds—the more reeds, the more volume.”

Source ~ https://www.liveabout.com/accordion-instrument-3552885

Example ~ https://youtu.be/H0pTS-AgDfI

Instruments {9} ~ Harmonica

“The harmonica is a wind instrument which has existed for millennia and has undergone many modifications to evolve into the instrument that we know today.

The first form of the harmonica, known as the sheng, was invented in China in 3000 B.C. The Sheng was a free reed instrument with metal or bamboo reeds which used bamboo shoots to amplify the sound.

In the West, Friedrich L. Buschmann, in 1821 Germany, was searching for a simpler way to tune pianos, as the small devices currently in use, known as terpodians, were fragile and unreliable. But he took inspiration from this small instrument, modernized and improved it, and named it the Aura. The Aura was a chromatically tuned instrument composed of 21 metallic blades positioned on a wood cover.

The diatonic harmonica was first constructed in 1826 by Joseph Richter, a Bohemian instrument maker. He created an instrument with both blow and draw notes and named it Mund Harmonika, or mouth organ. At this time, the harmonica was not really considered a musical instrument, but more as piece of jewelry. Just as women might wear a diamond necklace around their neck, men often wore harmonicas as a type of hand bracelet.

Finally, in 1827 the German watchmaker Matthias Hohner was inspired by this musical jewel and decided to improve it. He made further refinements and founded the Hohner Company in 1857. The instruments began to be exported to the United States and became very popular as folk instruments.

Today, the harmonica has spread everywhere and has become the top selling instrument in the world. It is particularly valued for its’ portability and ease of playing. Harmonicas are available in many different keys and tunings which greatly expands their musical repertoire.

Thanks to continued modernization and the innovations of modern players, the harmonica has gone beyond its’ roots as primarily a folk instrument, (folk, blues, jazz) into an instrument that can be used to express virtually every style of music.

The younger generation is also beginning to rediscover the harmonica and is adapting it to current musical styles, reinvigorating this ancient instrument and bringing new delight to harmonica players everywhere.”

Source ~ https://www.yonberg-harmonica.com/en/history/

Example ~ https://youtu.be/jFsbVDk5e0A

Instruments {7} ~ Ukulele

“While the ukulele is a uniquely Hawaiian instrument, its roots are in the Portuguese braguinha or machete de braga. The braguinha is a stringed instrument smaller than a guitar whose tuning is very similar to the first four strings of a guitar. By 1850, sugar plantations had become a major economic force in Hawaii, and the plantations needed more workers. Many waves of immigrants came to the islands, including a large number of Portuguese who brought their branguinhas with them.

Legend dates the beginning of the Hawaii infatuation with the branguinha to August 23, 1879. A ship called the Ravenscrag arrived in Honolulu Harbor and released its passengers after a rather arduous journey. One of the passengers began singing songs of thanksgiving for finally reaching his destination and accompanied himself with a branguina. The story goes that the local Hawaiians were very moved by his performance and nicknamed the instrument “Jumping Flea” (one possible translation of ukulele) for the way his fingers moved on the fretboard.

While it is a fun story, the origin of the “jumping flea” name is impossible to prove; Queen Lili’uokalani, a great proponent of the ukulele, preferred the translation “gift that came here.” What isn’t in doubt is that the Ravenscrag also brought three Portuguese craftsmen: Augusto Dias, Manuel Nunes, and José do Espirito Santo, who each began to make instruments once they had paid for their passage working the sugar fields. In their hands the branguina transformed in size and shape and developed reentrant tuning which gives the ukulele its unique sound and easy playability.

The popularity of the ukulele was assured by the patronage of the royal family. The Hawaiian king, King David Kalakauna, loved the ukulele so much he incorporated it into traditional Hawaiian dances and music. He and his sister, Lili’uokalani (who would become queen after him), would have songwriting contests on the ukulele. The monarchs of Hawaii made sure that the ukulele would become completely intertwined with the musical culture of Hawaii.

Spreading to the Mainland
In the early 1900s tourism in Hawaii was starting to take off, and people were enchanted by the beautiful tropical islands with their unique music and dance traditions. Several touring shows of Hawaiian performers crossed the mainland, introducing people to the sound of the ukulele. In 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. One of the exhibit areas was a Hawaiian Pavilion which featured daily performances by hula dancers and musicians. It proved to be one of the most popular exhibits at the Exposition. Tin Pan Alley songwriters fell in love with Hawaii and the ukulele became a popular instrument on the mainland, so much so that ukuleles started being made off the island.”

Source ~ http://www.athenslibrary.org/athens/services/make-music-at-your-library/history-of-the-ukulele