Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zummara

A zummara is a double clarinet made from two pipes.  The pipes are made from cane, bird bone or metal played with a single reed each.  There are five or six tone holes in each pipe. 

Zummara, or double clarinets, are primarily played in Middle Eastern music.  There are different versions and names in different countries.  Zummara is the Egyptian name of the instrument.  It is 30-35 centimeters long.  One tube may have 4-6 holes while the other acts as a drone or they could both have holes.  The range is very limited, usually only about a fourth.

That concludes the challenge! We made it!  Thank you to everyone who visited me throughout the month.  It has been fun and I look forward to hearing what else you all have to say in the future.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yu

A Yu was a free reed wind instrument used in ancient China.  It was invented by Emperor Ching Yu, but after another emperor took over the popularity declined.  The man never actually knew how to play the instrument and was eventually found an imposter.  What a scandal!

They are made of multiple pipes of bamboo, each having a free reed also of bamboo.

There is also a percussion instrument called a Yu.  It is made from wood in the shape of a tiger with serated teeth.  It is played by striking the teeth with a bamboo whisk.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xylophone

The Xylophone in Greek translation means "wooden sound".  It is made from bars of wood producing pitch from the scale when struck with a mallet.  They range from 2 1/2 octaves to 4 octaves and are set up in the same way as a piano.

Modern western xylophone are made from rosewood, padak, or synthetic materials such as fiberglass.  Mallets are made from anything from very hard rubber or acrylic to yarn depending on the type of sound. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Washboards and Woodblocks

The washboard is used as a percussion instrument in jazz, zydeco, skiffle, jug band and old-time music.  It is played by tapping or scraping the metal with a thimble.  They can also be played with a wisk broom or wire brushes.  Sometimes, woodblocks, cowbells or small cymbals are added. 

Woodblocks are basically a slit drum made from a single piece of wood and struck with a stick.  Eastern Asia music uses woodblocks of various sizes ranging from small, hand-held to enormous and immobile.

Orchestral woodblocks are typically made from teak or other hard wood.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Violin and Viola

The violin and viola are so closely related that I had to include them both in this post

The violin is the hightest pitched, smallest string instrument of the violin family which also includes the viola, cello and double bass.  It has 4 strings tuned in perfect 5ths. 

The viola is the middle voice between the violin and the cello (refer to my "C" post).  It is usually between 1 and 5 inches longer than the violin.

Music written for the viola is written in alto clef, which is rare.

Both violin and viola are made of wood and played with a bow

Here is a video of both but I would start the video about 35 seconds into it...Adele anyone?

Or a little Charlie Daniels?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Ukelele

The Ukelele, or Uke, is another instrument that I want to learn how to play

The ukelele was discovered in Hawaii in the 19th century, where the name translates "jumping flea".  It gained popularity in the US in the 20th century and has since been popular all over the world.

It is a member of the guitar family and typically has 4 nylon or gut strings.  They come in 4 different sizes:  soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.  The soprano is known as the "standard" ukelele in Hawaii and was the original size.

Here's Jason Castro playing a Uke on American Idol...

and a little Soul Sister by Train...

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tuba

Of the three instruments I could've talked about today (trumpet, trombone and tuba),  the tuba is the most fun.

The tuba is the largest and the lowest pitched brass instrument.  They are made in 4 different pitches and range from 12-18ft long.  The tubas made to sit on a person's lap are known as concert tubas or simply tubas.  the tubas that wrap around a person's body are known as Sousaphones, named after John Phillip Sousa.

Tubas have either piston valves or rotary valves and range from either 3-6 valves.  Most sousaphones have 3 valves.

Here is one of my favorite pieces...Gustav Holst Suite in F.  ENJOY :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Saxophone

The saxophone, or sax, was invented by a Belgium instrument maker named Adolphe Sax in 1846.  Although saxes are made from brass, they are considered a woodwind instrument since the sound is made by a vibrating reed and not by the player's lips.

The saxophone was originally used in military bands but more recently, they are known to be used in concert bands, big bands, and symphony orchestras.

There are four main types of saxophones, or saxes:  Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bari or Baritone

Here is a combination of all 4...A little Queen anyone???

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Recorder

I think we have all played a recorder at one time or another.  Elementary music class?  If not, you have been robbed!  It's the single most common and easiest instrument to play.  Try it sometime.

The recorder was popular during Medieval times through the Baroque era.  During its heyday, it was associated with pastoral scenes, miraculous events, funerals and marriages.  It made a revival in the 20th century due to its suitability to be a teaching instrument for younger players.

Recorders are made of either plastic or hard woods and come in a variety of sizes.  They have 7 finger holes to make the pitch and are capable of playing between 2-3 octaves.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quinticlave

OK, so we are at the dreaded letter "Q".  Did you have as difficult of time as I did with this letter?  No matter what theme I thought about, the Q was always my problem letter.  It was a stretch but here we go for today.

A Quinticlave is in the Ophicleide family, conical bored, brass keyed bugles.  The Ophicleide was invented in 1817 and was later succeeded by the tuba and euphonium.  The word Ophicleidi is Greek for "serpant" and "keys".

I couldn't find any videos and this is the only picture I could find that might be what it looks like.  This has been a learning experience for me too.  Have you ever heard of a quinticlave???

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Piano and Percussion

Here's another letter that I couldn't decide on:  Piano and Percussion

The Piano is the basis of all music.  I'm sure most of you know that piano is played by means of a keyboard.  The sound is made when a felt tipped hammer hits the steel strings when the keyboard is played.
The piano was founded on earlier technical innovations such as the harpsichord and the clavichord.  The modern piano was credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori in Italy.

And Percussion is the heart beat of all music.  The word "percussion" is derived from the Latin words "percussio" translated to beat or strike in a musical sense and the word "percussus" which is a noun meaning "a beating".
Percussion instruments can be classified as making a definite pitch or an indefinite pitch.  An example of a definite pitch would be an instrument such as a timpani or marimba which plays pitched sounds in order to play a melody.

An example of an indefinite pitch is an instrument that produces a sound where no pitch is discernable such as a snare drum or cymbals.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Oboe

My sister, who is almost 7 years younger than I am, plays the oboe.  Growing up, I got to hear here at ALL levels of her ability.  The oboe is apparently very difficult to play and can be very displeasing to the ear when played incorrectly.  Thank goodness, she got to be pretty good after some practice.

The oboe is another double-reed instrument also in the woodwind family.  Remember the bassoon and the English horn?  Well, the oboe is the baby in the family.

Modern oboes are made of grenadilla, also known as African blackwood.  They have 45 pieces of key work made from nickel silver.

How about a little Super Mario Brothers???

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nguru

The Nguru is a nose flute from New Zealand.  The Maori carved from wood, the stem of a gourd and whale's teeth.  They were often adorned with elaborate carvings.

Also called the nose flute, only the smaller varieties were played with the nose.  More commonly, Nguru are played with the mouth.

I had a little trouble finding a video to demonstrate the Nguru but I did find this one.  Enjoy!
Apparently this is also a band named Nguru and a famous basketball player also shares the name.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mellophone and Mandolin

OK, "M" is another letter that I couldn't choose just one instrument.  I have played the Mellophone and I want to play a Mandolin.

The mellophone is a brass instrument, used to replace the French horn in marching.  It is different from the French horn in that its bell faces the front and it uses piston valves instead of rotary valves.

This video is the Ohio State mellophone section playing Kansas' Carry On My Wayward Son

The mandolin is a string instrument in the lute family.  The soundboard comes in many different shapes but typically the round or teardrop shaped.  Modern mandolins originated from Naples, Italy in the late 18th century.  They have 4 pairs of metal strings.

This is a solo by Chris Thile from the band Nickel Creek

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Lamberg drum

So, as you will see with some letters of this challenge, it was a little difficult to find instruments that started with a few letters.  The "L" was one of these letters.  Of course I could've used Lyre but that seemed so broad so I thought I would go outside the box and choose Lambeg drum.

A Lambeg drum is a large drum used in Northern Ireland by Unionists.  It is beaten with malacca canes.  They are usually carried in parades using a neck harness.

The shell is usually made from oak and the skins are primarily made of goat skin.

Here are some being played

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kazoo

Anyone can play the kazoo, so no excuses!  If you can hum, you can play.

The kazoo was given its name by Warren Herbert Frost, its inventor, in 1883.  However this kazoo wasn't the "submarine" shape that is used today.  The submarine shaped kazoo was first invented by George D. Smith in 1902 in Buffalo, NY.  They are made of either metal or plastic.

And being the 80s girl that I am, here is a kazoo version of Europe's The Final Countdown :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jug

Yes I know...the past couple days have been a stretch, but also an experience.  There are just not many instruments that begin with the letter "J".  So, now for something completely different....The Jug

A Jug as a musical instrument reached the height of it's popularity in the 1920s.  The jug is a glass or stonewear jug played with the mouth with an embouchure like a brass instrument, buzzing the lips.  The jug does not actually touch the players mouth, but acts as a resonating chamber.

Although the jug is used primarily as an acoustic instrument, they have been known to be played amplified from time to time.  Snoop Dog is reportedly a modern day jug player.  Who knew???

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ipu

What?  You've never heard of an Ipu?  I hadn't either until this challenge.  I am learning all sorts of new things.

An Ipu is a percussion instrument made from a dried gourd.  An Ipu Heke is two gourds joined together.  They are usually polished with sand or sandpaper.

The Ipu is used as a drum in Hawaii to accompany hula dancing. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Harmonica

The harmonica, also called a harp, is a reed free wind instrument.  It is played by blowing air in or drawing air out of small holes called reed chambers.  Reeds are pre-tuned depending on the various size of reed.

The harmonica was developed in Europe in the early 19th century.  In 1857 a clockmaker named Mathias Hohner started producing harmonicas.  The Hohner name is the most well known today in making the instrument.  Shortly after he began making them, he shipped some to emigrants living in the United States.  Abraham Lincoln reportedly carried a harmonica in his pocket.

In the 1950s, harmonicas were used to play the blues.

This is my favorite.  Runaround from Blues Travelers

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Guitar

The guitar is one of my favorite instruments to listen to.  There are so many varieties of guitars and music played by guitars.

Acoustic guitars have been used for over a thousand years.  Finger picking is usually used for these hollow bodied guitars.
The electric guitar was introduced in the 1930s with the assistance of an amplifier and players mainly use a plastic pick to strum the strings.  Pickups are used to carry the sound.
The different varieties of guitars are countless.

Guitars generally have 6 strings and the player uses frets to find their position on the neck.  Frets are metal strips that are divided on the neck using a mathmatical equation to equally divide the scale.

All of us have heard guitars.  Below are a couple of my favorite guitarists.  Who are your favorites?

The first video is Steve Vai, my all time favorite guitarist playing "Glorious"

This is Eric Johnson playing "Cliffs of Dover".  A friend of mine in college called this "The Happy Song" and it has stuck with me.

OK, one more.  This is that same friend playing a cover of Erruption from Van Halen.  Pretty good, huh?  The band's name is Green Vegas.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for French horn

I bet you thought I would choose the flute today, didn't you?  Well if I had my choice in 6th grade, I would have.  Instead, my dad basically told me that I was going to play the French horn.  He was a band director and always needed more French horn players in the band.  He thought I would have more opportunities if I chose to play the French horn.  It turned out that he was right.

French horn was my main instrument starting in 6th grade and continuing through college and beyond.  I have had opportunities to travel all over the world in various groups due to my playing and I am so thankful for those experiences.

The French horn is a brass instrument with about 12-13 feet of tubing that ends in a flared bell.  The horn uses rotary valves.  On a single horn, 3 valves are used.  On a double horn, 4 valves are used including one used by the thumb.

This is my favorite piece to play and it was the highlight of my senior recital.  The player here is Barry Tuckwell, formerly the principal player of the London Symphony Orchestra.

  Did you know that Jon Stewart and Ewan McGregor also played the French horn???

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for English horn and Electric bass

I couldn't decide which instrument I wanted to post about today so I am going to be including both:
English horn and Electric bass

The English horn is another double reed instrument found in the woodwind family similar to the bassoon. 

It is thought to have originated in Silesia around 1720.  It is very similar to an oboe (return on the 17th for more), but is longer and has a bell shaped.  The reed is also slightly angled on an English horn.  The fingerings are the same on both instruments but the English horn is a fifth lower.  An F played on an English horn would be the same as a C played on an oboe.

I play the electric bass so I cannot abandon it in today's post.  I started playing electric bass in 9th grade because I wanted to play in the high school jazz band.  I taught myself and I was horrible for the first year until I started getting pointers from friends. 
This carried on to playing in college and tried my hand at the rock band thing for a while but it didn't work out.  The bass was always my "fun" instrument and I had a lot of fun with it.

The electic bass most commonly has 4 strings tuned to E, A, D, and G although some have 5 or 6 strings.  Since my hands are small, 4 strings were enough for me.

One of my favorite bass players was Stu Hamm.  Listen below to see why...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians of Northern Australia around 1500 years ago.  The modern day didgeridoo is 3-10 feet long, most being around 4 ft.  They are usually made from hardwoods, such as eucalyptus or bamboo.  The mouthpiece is usually covered in beeswax to soften it.  They are played by constant vibration of the lips and players use a technique known as circular breathing where they inhale through the nose while exhaling through the mouth simultaneously.

Traditionally, didgeridoos were played for ceremonial dancing and singing.  Only men were able to play or sing, but both women and men were able to dance.  Female didgeridoo players do exist but they play on an informal basis and are not encouraged.  The taboo is especially known in the indigenous groups of South East Australia where woman who played or even touched a didgeridoo was considered "cultural theft".

Aren't you glad you aren't indigenous Australian?  I know I am!

I have heard them played and have to say that there is no common comparison to any other instrument I have heard before.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Cello

The cello is one of those instruments that I would love to learn how to play.  It has such a rich sound and is very versatile.  It is mainly played in symphony orchestras or chamber music but has recently also made its way onto the pop scene

A cello is a bowed string instrument that is part of the violin family. The cello has 4 strings tuned in fifths. The typical cello is made from wood, with the top made of spruce and the bottom and sides made from maple. Above the body is a carved neck which leads to the pegboard or scroll. The pegs are used for tuning.  On the bottom is a tailpin, which raises the cello up to playing position and holds it in place. The bridge is on the main body to hold the strings up from the wood.

Strings were traditionally made of sheep or goat gut. Modern day strings are usually wound with aluminum, titanium or chromium. 

Traditionally the bow is made from brazilwood, but it is also made from carbon fiber or fiberglass. The bowhair is made from horsehair or synthetic hair.

The cello is played in a seated position with the neck over the left shoulder.

My favorite cellist is Yo Yo Ma.  Check him out...

And now for something completely different, check out Apocalyptica play Metallica! :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Bassoon

The Bassoon is near and dear to my heart because my mom played.  When I was in high school, my whole family joined the community band.  It was the only time I got to see my mom play bassoon but it was a memory I will have forever.  The bassoon is a double reed instrument in the woodwind family.  It can be used in bands, orchestras and chamber music.  The bassoon has a baritone sound, similar to a man's voice.

A little Raiders of the Lost Ark anyone???  Listen here...

The bassoon contains 6 main pieces put together and is made of maple.  The pieces include the reed, the bocal, the wing joint, the boot, the bass joint and the bell.  The bassoon has 16 keys and spans a 4 octave range.

The most common basson is the German Heckel model.  This modern day bassoon was designed in large part by performer, teacher and composer Carl Almenräder.  In 1831, Almenrader started a factory with Johann Adam Heckel who continued to refine the bassoon.  These became the standard instrument used.

Peter and the Wolf narrated by David Bowie

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Alpine Horn

Whether you have been preparing for months or are planning to wing the challenge, it is finally here!  I am so excited to see what everyone is blogging about this month.

In college, I double majored in music and psychology.  Although I don't use my music degree professionally, it will always be a major part of my life.  For that reason, I have decided to blog about various musical instruments this month.

Have you ever heard the Ricola commercial and wondered "What is that?"

Todays post is about the Alpine Horn, AKA Alphorn, Alphora used in that commercial.
The Alpine horn is carved from wood, usually spruce and sometimes pine. Originally makers would find a tree slightly curved at the end but now attach the bell-shaped end separately. A cup-shaped piece of hard wood is used as the mouthpiece
They were originally used as warning for military use, to signal in village communities substituting for church bells in medieval times or earlier, or used to announce daily activities.  The first known description was by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner in 1555 using the words lituum alphinum.

The alpine horn has no openings, so the sound uses natural harmonic series.  They have a 4 octave range.

I had an opportunity to play one of these at a music convention and they have a beautiful sound!