Music Mastery

Cymbal

Posted by in My Blog

The cymbal is a popular percussion instrument. Made of thin, usually-round plates of metal, they are often used in pairs to produce sound. They are used in a wide-variety of music types. Orchestras, rock bands, jazz artists, heavy metal groups, and even marching bands use them.

The History of Cymbals

Based on numerous references in paintings and artifacts from ancient cultures like ancient Rome, ancient Greece, Babylon, or ancient Egypt, we know that cymbals were used in music for a very long time. Even the Bible often refers to them in Psalms and God-praising songs.

Turkish Janissaries played them as early as the 14th century. European musicians incorporated them in their music around the 17th century, and they became a popular instrument among military orchestras a century later. For the last 300 years, their importance grew in all varieties of music around the world.

Musicians designed different types of this instrument, changing the shapes and parameters. Also different ways to play them have evolved over time. Thanks to this, they are a very versatile percussion instrument used by all types of musicians today.

Cymbal Construction

The way this instrument is constructed makes all the difference in the way it sounds. It usually is a metal plate, with a central hole used either to install it on a stand, or to attach a strap to it when played by hand.

A raised central section of the plate is typically shaped like a bell. Hitting this part makes a sound of a higher pitch and shorter sustain than hitting the outer part, called the bow. The bow can be further divided into ride and crash areas. The thicker part around the bell is the ride area, while the crash part is thinner and closer to the plate’s edge.

Cymbals differ in diameter, which affects the sound they produce. Smaller plates usually sound quieter and have shorter sustain than the large ones.

Another characteristic is the thickness. The heavier instruments typically sound louder and sharper. Thinner plates allow the player to produce lower and fuller sounds.

Cymbals also have different profiles, which is the vertical distance from the bell’s bottom to the bow’s edge. The profile influences the pitch – the higher the profile, the higher the pitch.

Types of Cymbals

This instrument comes in many different varieties. Here, we will discuss the most popular ones: crashes, rides, hi-hats, and splashes. They all have different uses and produce different sounds.

Crash Cymbals

The sound of a crash is what people most commonly think of when they think about cymbals. Used to stress specific parts of a drum pattern, they produce rather loud, distinctive sounds. They are usually located on the left side of the drum kit.

They come in a wide variety of sizes, from 8 to 24 inches usually, which makes their sound quite different in pitch. In addition to size, you can choose crashes of different thickness. The thinner ones will produce brighter tones than the thick ones.

Ride Cymbals

This is usually the largest one in a drum set. It’s typically located on the right side, and drummers often use it for playing steady patterns.

Not as melodic as a crash, the ride produces a more shimmering sound. Ranging usually from 20 to 26 inches, rides tend to be larger in size from crashes, at least in beginner sets. More advanced drummers sometimes use rides over 26 inches in diameter.

Hi-Hats

The hi-hats come in pairs, and are located on a stand, where the drummer plays them by pressing a pedal on the floor. By pressing and releasing the pedal, the player is able to produce a variety of sounds.

When open, the hi-hats are typically used to provide accent in the rhythm, and when closed, to play steady patterns. Open hi-hats make distinctive, sandy sounds, and closed ones produce metallic, muted sounds. The typical sizes range from 13 to 16 inches.

Splash Cymbals

The splashes are also used for accenting the drum pattern. However, they are also capable of introducing a variety of interesting sound effects to the music.

They are usually smaller and thinner than the other cymbals. The most common sizes vary from 6 to 13 inches, and the sound they produce is rather short and sharp. People tend to associate their sound with a splash of water, hence the name.

Drums

Posted by in My Blog

History of the Drums

Drums have been around ever since 4000 years before Christ. They first made their appearance in Egypt. In those days drums were made out of alligator skins. These skins were discovered in Neolithic cultures throughout China. Alligator skins were around from 5500 to 2350 years before Christ. Drums were also used in a variety of ritual ceremonies.

This fantastic instrument has also been used in the military and in art.

The Drums Use in the Military

The Chinese military were the first troops to make use of this instrument. They were used to help keep their troops motivated. They would also assist in developing a pace for marching. The Chinese military would also use them to make a call for announcements or for orders. The drums would often be used during war to make changes to an outcome of a major battle.

The Drums Use in Art

There are times when drums may be used to express emotions. Particularly in communication, entertainment and spiritualism. Drums were often played during religious or spiritual passages, or during prayer times. Over the years, drumming has become a very powerful form of art. It is often used in dances. They may also be used for discipline of all kinds. The drums are often use for creating rhythms in all kinds of music.

Other Uses of the Drums

Most of the time drums will be played by a couple of sticks. One stick in each hand. The hand then strikes the drums with the stick. Drums can be used in music therapy. This is because they have a tactical nature, and a range of people can use them. You will also hear drums being played in jazz and other popular music genres. These genres refer to drums as a drum kid or a drum set. Most of them will also come with cymbals.

Construction of the Drums

Most drums are often in the shape of a shell. They have a circular opening where the head of the drum has been stretched. The rest of the shell will vary accordingly. In the western countries of the world, most drums will be a cylinder shape. These particularly drums can be opened one end of them. Some will have a couple of heads. Others will have one head. They can also be used in orchestra’s will have their head sitting on top of the opening of the drum. A counter hoop will then be held onto the shell. Some drums in orchestra’s will also come with a foot pedal. This can be tuned to exact pitches of what the sound is to be.

What the Sound Is Like

The sound of this instrument will depend on a few different factors. This includes the way the instrument has been constructed, its shape and its type. They have a wide variety of uses and sounds in music. For example, in jazz, they will have a high pitch sound and they will be quiet. If in rock however, they will be dry and low-pitched and will be very loud. Each type will have their own individual and unique sound.

Trumpet

Posted by in My Blog

The trumpet is a part of world history and is much more than a musical instrument. The trumpet has played a crucial part in almost all forms of civilization on the planet for thousands of years now.

The earliest forms of metal trumpets can be dated back to around 1500BC. In the grave of King Tut of ancient Egypt, silver and bronze trumpets were discovered while other ancient versions were found in Scandinavia, China, South America and Asia. It is, therefore, logical to assume that even before that time people had been blowing into objects to create sounds such as animal horns or conch cells.

The early forms of trumpets were not used to make music as they are known to today. They were typically used for military and religious applications and this has been proved by historians who have carried out studies on major religious records and other forms of historical records. In the military, for instance, trumpeters were heavily guarded since they used to transmit important information over long distances. The current version of a trumpeter is the “bugle”.

The developments in instrument design coupled together with metal making during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance made these trumpets more suitable for making music. These trumpets were however not fully developed and could only produce a handful of notes. Changing the keys also dictated the switching of the different pipes on the horn.

By the beginning of the 1800’s, various improvements such as keys and valves led to the chromatic use of the instrument. With these developments, the instrument could play complete musical notes needed by composers and it rightfully earned its place as a musical instrument.

In the twentieth century, the emergence of “Pop Music”, trumpets became widely popular since they projected clear focused sounds hat could easily be translated to tape, unlike other musical instruments. Virtuosos such as Louis Armstrong made the trumpet a major musical instrument in popular music records during the 1930’s and its popularity has progressed quite well to date.

In the field of religion, it has been used multiple times to represent power and even end of time for humankind therefore compounding on its use a means of communication. This information may be coded widely understood by the people that may hear its sound.

In the current times, it can be heard in almost all types of musical genres and is widely used in many nations during national functions to symbolize specific phenomena. It is worth remembering that a trumpets are much more than musical instruments but are symbols of human communication for centuries.

Tuba

Posted by in My Blog

History of the Tuba

The tuba is best known as a member of the brass family, although it is also known as a wind instrument and an aerophone. It can be viewed as a rather new instrument considering that it only first appeared in the mid 1800s. It has the lowest pitch of all the brass instruments and like the others, it is played by blowing directly into the mouthpiece through closed lips. This creates the vibration needed to make the sound. What also makes this instrument unique is that there is a record with the exact date when the creators of the instrument were granted a patent for it. Apparently, this instrument was first recognized as the tuba on the 12th of September in 1835.

The Many Variations

The tuba comes in a few different variations. There are several tubas that have differing pitches, including F, E-flat, CC and BB-flat. To create these different pitches, the size of the tuba also varies, with the F tuba being the smallest with a total of 12 feet of tubing and the BB-flat tuba being the largest with a total of 18 feet of tubing.

Simplicity of Playing

The tubing of the tuba is wrapped so that the musician can easily hold onto it while playing. The tubing slowly increases in diameter as it goes from the mouthpiece to the end of the instrument, which is called the bell. There are also different models that use either piston or rotary valves. There is much debate pertaining to which valve type is superior, but there is still no real proof as to which one is actually the better type to use. Not all tubas are limited to only three valves. In fact, tubas can possess any number of valves ranging from three, to six in total. Despite this, there has still been quite a few exceptions. The least expensive tubas tend to only have three valves as they go up in price with each additional valve. The valve on a tuba is responsible for lowering the pitch that the instrument develops.

The tuba may not be as popular as some other instruments, but it is one that appears to attract a decent amount of interest. As mentioned before, many will take it up for use in marching and school bands. While it can be an expensive instrument when purchased new, the three valve tuba is one of the more affordable instruments. It also can be easier to learn than several others, although it can be a little more complex than some other brass instruments.

Piano

Posted by in My Blog

For generations the piano has inspired audiences and composers throughout the world. The mystique associated with this instrument has encouraged millions of people to study and learn the secrets behind it. The unique nature of the piano, using both the bass and treble clef, has led to it becoming one of the most important and well-know instruments all over the globe.

Bartolemo Cristofori of Italy, is widely credited with building the first piano in the early eighteenth century. However, mankind’s use of hammers on strings to create music, dates back to the Middle Ages. The first instrument that resembles the modern piano was a hammered dulcimer on which the player would use mallets to create sound out of taut strings. By the seventeenth century, keyboard instruments such as the harpsichord and clavichord had been in use for many years and were well known. However, the harpsichord and clavichord presented their own unique set of problems. The clavichord had a limited range of sounds and was only able to play these limited notes. Conversely, the harpsichord had an excellent range of notes but was only able to play at one volume, restricting the ability of the musician to fully express the works they were playing.

Cristofori was an expert harpsichord builder, creating instruments for the wealthy Medici family, amongst others. Unfortunately, even an expert harpsichord maker couldn’t overcome the volume issue that musicians were grappling with. Spending hours in his workshop trying to fix this problem, he came up with the idea for a piano, with the range of a harpsichord but the ability of the clavichord to change volume depending on the touch of the musician.

And so the pianoforte was born. After Cristofori, in the eighteenth century, piano-building flourished particularly in Vienna. The Viennese pianos were known for their ethereal tones and wooden frames with leather hammers. The Viennese pianos, similar to the modern day instrument, featured a seven octave range instead of the initial five octaves designed by Cristofori, enabling composers such as Bach to extend the range of their music. The design centre then briefly shifted to Paris in the late eighteenth century, before the modern upright piano was invented in London in 1826 by Robert Wornum, enabling more private homes to make use of it as a means of studying and enjoying music.

Music training is a process that takes years, even for prodigious players. Most importantly the musician must train in order to gain good ‘technique’, beginning by doing simple, repetitive finger exercises that focus on the placement of the wrist and hand on the instrument. Historically, students were encouraged to separate the movement of the hand from the movement of the arm. In many cases, they would place a coin on the back of the hand to encourage a steady hand movement. In recent years, however, teachers have been teaching students to adopt a more relaxed wrist position which enables a greater expression of the music.

The importance of the piano to the world of music cannot be overstated. After Cristofori developed the original design, for the first time musicians were able to control both their volume and utilise a full five octaves when playing and performing. Now we are able to play using a seven octave instrument, controlling both volume and expression through touch and utilising the sustaining pedal. Thanks to the work of Cristofori and others, musicians today are still utilising the piano as a means of entertainment and to further develop their technical and musical skills.