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Questions tagged [history]

The study of how music has developed and changed over time.

34
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6answers
38k views

What are the practical reasons for still having transposing instruments?

I understand that historically there was a need for transposing instruments. e.g. Brass instruments would use lead pipes to change their key and players in brass bands would like to stick to the same ...
39
votes
5answers
6k views

When were the terms “Major” and “Minor” applied to keys?

In 1547, Heinrich Glarean published Dodecachordon in which he posited that in addition to the 4 existing pairs of church modes (plagal and authentic versions of modes with finals on D (Dorian), E (...
28
votes
4answers
42k views

Why note B is marked with H in Scandinavia and Germany?

At least in Scandinavia and Germany two notes are marked differently than in most other countries: B -> H B♭ -> B I have heard that this is due to mistake in interpreting messy sheet notes, as ♭ is ...
18
votes
3answers
4k views

Origin of the 'squigly line' used for quarter note rest?

This has been driving me nuts - I can't find a single thing on the net that would indicate why the quarter rest is penned the way it is. Did it evolve from some initial or abbreviation or was it ...
14
votes
3answers
908 views

What is the reason for pitch inflation?

There's this phenomenon among instrumentalists to constantly raise the pitch of the concert A. This generally occurs among string players, since the range of tunings for woodwinds, for example, is ...
7
votes
3answers
440 views

Physiological basis for note durations?

For some reason (probably read something like this a long time ago), I have it in my head that there was some sort of physiological basis for some note durations. This may have been something like, a ...
29
votes
5answers
3k views

Examples of songs or phrases played in different temperaments

I've read about the fact that 12 tone equal temperament is a relatively recent phenomenon, and that historically, each key would have a different character due to the unequal temperament. I'm curious ...
20
votes
7answers
4k views

Is there a known point in history where dissonance became acceptable?

So, I'm not a scholar of music history, but I have a basic timeline. The evolution of Western music theory had several times in which certain chords and intervals were considered too "jarring" or "...
18
votes
2answers
1k views

Music education audio lessons

I am currently learning to play the guitar, and that has sparked an interest in learning more about music in general. I would like to learn about music theory, ear training, history, musical styles ...
6
votes
3answers
943 views

How to grok 20th-century pop music as evolution of classical harmony

With sufficient training, a student of harmony may build forwards from Bach through Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, etc... understanding music of a period in terms of what has gone before. But it's going ...
12
votes
2answers
4k views

When did the half-step/whole-step modulation in the middle of a song become popular?

Many pop songs in modern times will use a half step or a whole step modulation in the middle of a song in order to increase excitement. I would like to know when this strategy started, and if it is ...
10
votes
1answer
322 views

Was the pitch A given that letter because the minor key was originally the “basic” mode?

It's something that's puzzled me; The key that has no sharps and no flats, in essence the "basic" key, is C Major. Well, fine, but why C? Why not label that key and note A, if it's the foundation of ...
14
votes
5answers
9k views

Origin of the asymmetrical keyboard layout of a piano

The piano keyboard has white keys based on the C Diatonic scale plus black keys, which add the remaining notes used in western music. The asymmetrical way in which the black and white keys are placed ...
14
votes
2answers
872 views

What did ancient cuneiform notation look like, and how did it work?

I looked at Wikipedia of course... According to Wikipedia: The earliest form of musical notation can be found in a cuneiform tablet that was created at Nippur, in Sumer (today's Iraq), in about ...
12
votes
2answers
408 views

When did keyboard partitions start to use the G-clef for the upper staff ?

When you look at very old sheetmusic (for harpsichord or organ), you see that the upper staff has a C-clef, first line. The lower one is the familiar bass F-clef, fourth line. Why and when did the ...
11
votes
3answers
3k views

Did they ever make a double bass this huge?

I have seen some pictures where the double bass is literally enormous. Seems like a single person wouldn't be an able to play it on his own. But I don't know for sure if these pictures are real or ...
9
votes
5answers
3k views

What are some examples influences from external cultures on the development of Western classical music?

So, I think it's largely safe to presume that the core of Western musical theory developed almost entirely within Europe -- Greece in its very early history, mainly Italy and also the Franco-Flemish ...
1
vote
5answers
1k views

Why do we always call a quarter note a **quarter** note? [closed]

Edit: After a lot of discussion I try to restate my question so that it becomes easier to understand: A concise version of my question, suggested by Stinkfoot: Why do we always call a quarter note a ...
17
votes
5answers
4k views

Was Bach the first to use thumbs on a keyboard?

This question reminded me of a claim that I've heard before, namely, that J. S. Bach was the first keyboardist to utilize the thumbs in his playing technique. I'm not sure where I've heard this, but ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is the “longest note value still in common use” called a “breve”, when breve means “short”?

This Wikipedia page says that the double whole note, or breve, is the "longest note value still in common use". However, breve in Italian means 'short'. How did the longest commonly-used note value ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Naming convention for augmented 6th chords

There are three types of Augmented 6th chord the German, the Italian, and the French. Most chords are named for the intervals they contain or their function, but these seem like just arbitrary names ...
9
votes
1answer
477 views

Scales in modal versus tonal music

When tonal music replaced modal music, why were 6 of the 8 scales (modes) used in modal music abandoned in favor of only two, major and minor? Superficially this would look like a reduction in the ...
8
votes
1answer
3k views

How did “Mary had a little lamb” become popular blues?

"Mary had a little lamb" had long been a popular choice for blues musicians to jam and solo on stage. Ever since watching the rendition by Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan, it also had been one of my ...
8
votes
1answer
736 views

Origin of the Backbeat

Ok, so I've heard a lot on the origin of the backbeat. Some say it came from African voodoo and others say from the Middle East. Where did it actually come from? Also, people say it was expressly ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

When did the appearance of the quarter rest in music change from its original appearance?

WHEN did the appearance of the quarter rest in music change from its original appearance - as a backward looking number 7 -( ) to its current look ()? I have been searching the Internet with no luck. ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Why don't pianos use multiples of 12 for the number of keys?

In one of the answers of this question, some pianos with 44, 61, 76, and 88 keys are introduced. I just don't get it. Why notes are not following any formula? I mean, a piano with 63 keys means that ...
15
votes
1answer
1k views

At what point in history did the relationship between pitch and frequency become well-known among musicians?

I think I've read that even very ancient cultures were able to discern that an octave difference corresponded to a pipe of twice the length, and so on. But at what point were musicians and composers ...
10
votes
1answer
574 views

Where did the term backbeat come from?

In most modern music in 4/4 beats 2 and 4 are where the snare hits are and are usually referred to as the backbeat. Normally in 4/4 the 2 and 4 beat would not be accented, but the snare hits do just ...
8
votes
5answers
1k views

Why intervals are not named after distance [duplicate]

I was wondering about the foundations of the way we name intervals. For example, the interval between C and G is a fifth because there are five notes from C to G. But it's a common mistake of the ...
8
votes
2answers
30k views

Why is the guitar tuned E A D G B E? [duplicate]

Why is the standard tuning for the guitar E A D G B E, from the lowest string to the highest? The interval between strings is a perfect 4th, except for the interval between the G and B strings, ...
4
votes
1answer
294 views

When did voice parts start using treble clef?

Parts for soprano, alto and tenor voices used to be written with the corresponding variant of movable C clef. When did the transition to treble (G) clef happen, and what drove the change -- composers,...
3
votes
2answers
87 views

What exactly is a Christmas carol?

I looked up differences between Christmas carols and other Christmas songs. Generally about carols being about nativity or some other traditional songs not necessary religious while other Christmas ...
3
votes
2answers
320 views

Prevailing theories about discovery of harmonic intervals

Are there any prevailing theories for how Paleolithic man discovered and shared knowledge about harmonic intervals? EDIT: I'm not referring to the mathematical characterization of the overtone ...
0
votes
1answer
155 views

Why (Occidental) conventional rhythm notation became conventional? [closed]

Human languages evolve and adapt themselves to the needs (phonetics, auditory, contextual) of the users. To what extent has been showed that Occidental music notation followed that path? Is it just ...