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Questions tagged [history]

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

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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 (...
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9answers
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Why is the double bass the only instrument in the violin family tuned in fourths?

Out of the 4 instruments of the Violin Family (Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass), the bass is the only instrument tuned in fourths. Wikipedia states The double bass is generally tuned in fourths, ...
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12answers
10k views

Why does conventional playing style give the string manipulation to the left hand?

For the majority of players, the right hand is used for most tasks that require exacting manipulation: writing, throwing, etc. However, guitar, violin, lute, etc., etc., use the right hand for ...
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6answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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Has music notation become more prescriptive?

Another question asks about the Meaning of 1/1 and 1/2 beneath pedaling marking near some sustain pedal markings. It looks like they are used to specify a particular amount of pedal to use while ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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Why is a 440 Hz frequency considered the “standard” pitch for musical instruments?

I was reading the Idiot's Guides: Music Theory (3rd edition), and I read: The "standard" pitch today that most musicians tune to is the A above middle C, which equals 440 Hz; all the other ...
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Why is the lowest note on the piano an A?

I've always wondered why almost every piano's lowest note is an A. In fact, I've never seen a piano whose lowest note is not an A, and I have also noticed that this pattern only occurs in pianos; most ...
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4answers
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Did baroque composers think of ritardando on their compositions?

I've been always told that whenever I play any baroque piece on the piano, I should take special care when attending to, for example, the amount of right pedal I should use. It sounded perfectly ...
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6answers
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Why is the aeolian mode the minor scale?

I've studied music theory for many years now, and one thing has always confused me about the naming methodology for the minor scale. A major scale is based off the Ionian mode and consist of only ...
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5answers
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What is the history of considering Rock 'n' Roll to be “the Devil's music”?

Historically, what evidence has been cited in support of the claim that Rock 'n' Roll is the music of Devil? This notion exists in the popular culture, fueled by Footloose and half-remembered grade-...
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7answers
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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 "...
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3answers
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Are octaves, fifths, fourths and thirds considered as “consonant” in all music cultures?

Our western music culture revolves around the rule that certain intervals are very consonant, and others (such as the interval between a B and F) are dissonant. The octave is the most consonant ...
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3answers
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How much do we know about how ancient Greek and Roman music sounded?

Specifically for music composed earlier than the third or fourth century A.D. I have heard several reports about deciphering examples of ancient greek musical notation. And you can find CDs of "...
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3answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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3answers
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J. S. Bach's place in musical history

Was there any reason Bach didn't follow the trends of the times? He was surely very much in touch with contemporary composers, and knew of Handel's and Scarlatti's works specifically. Amazingly, he ...
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2answers
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Why does Brahms stand next to Bach and Beethoven?

I've often heard the expression, "Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms" as sort of a summary of classical music, or something. I feel that I understand why Bach and Beethoven should serve as pillars of ...
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3answers
578 views

Did baroque composers expect you to “bring out” the voices in their pieces, the way today's critics seem to enjoy in players?

So, I recently had a, sadly, way too short conversation with a pianist on the train. According to the guy, in the 17th and 18th century polyphonic keyboard works were not played in such a way that ...
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3answers
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What is the historically informed way of playing the 1/16 notes in Handel's Water Music suite no. 1 overture?

Handel's Water Music suite no. 1 starts with a slow overture with 1/16 notes at the middle and end of each measure: Some performances play it "as written" [Koopman], but some play the 1/16 notes ...
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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 ...
15
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2answers
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Singing an opera “all'italiana”

When an opera is played without staging (be it either a rehearsal or an actual concert) it is called all'italiana (translated: "in the italian style"). Or, at least, this is how we call it here in ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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3answers
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Baroque music composed in the 21st century

Which characteristically Baroque elements of music composition still have currency in the 21st century? Are there any 21st-century composers or songwriters who still compose primarily or largely in ...
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5answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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History of screaming in music throughout the world

Screaming is a common technique in metal and other music genres but according to Wikipedia it has also been used in blues music and very few times in more classical Western works. Are there other ...
14
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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 ...
14
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2answers
335 views

Is the Baroque Schleifer, slide, or glissando symbol evolved from the Gregorian chant quilisma?

I posted this question on Wikipedia a year ago, with no answers. These two musical signs look eerily similar. The Baroque Schleifer or slide (see Wikipedia page): The quilisma in Gregorian chant (...
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4answers
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Why were sound effects like the gunshot included in the General MIDI (GM) standard?

I recently learned about the general MIDI standard and one thing that I cannot understand is the last sound effect is always a gunshot. Most of the other effects like applause, telephone ring, and ...
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4answers
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Unusual keyboard in a picture

I came across the picture which represents the piano keyboard with equally spaced black keys (as if two missing were added to ordinary keyboard). The picture is a painting by Silvestro Lega, named Il ...
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2answers
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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 ...
12
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1answer
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Why is Debussy's remark brilliant (on going out and smoking, at the start of Beethoven's developments)?

From: Charles Rosen. Critical Entertainments. p. 117 Bottom - 118 Top.   In the same way, attacks on Beethoven could be profound and even persuasive, and would continue to be so after his death ...
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How did Mozart know about voice leading rules like consecutive fifths?

What education did Mozart receive in order to know basic harmony rules, like consecutive fifths are bad? And how did he make sure his compositions do not have errors? Did he have to check every voices ...
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2answers
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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 ...
12
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2answers
352 views

Why Orlando Gibbons is considered “the end of modality, the beginning of tonality”?

According to Glenn Gould (minute 28:20), Orlando Gibbons represents the end of modality, the beginning of tonality Can anyone deepen the meaning of this? Could you please point to a specific ...
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2answers
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Where did the British names for different note lengths come from?

I was always taught to use a certain set of names for the length of a note, such as crotchet, minim, quaver, and so on. I'm aware though that those terms aren't used as much outside the UK, and that ...
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2answers
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Training and Influences of J. S. Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach is undoubtedly among the most celebrated of Baroque composers, and to many the great composer in all history. The era of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in which he lived, ...
12
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1answer
220 views

In ancient Greece, did they use the Pythagoras discovery of ratios to create tetra-chord?

To my basic understanding: In ancient Greek they were primarily using tetra-chords and there was three main standard divisions of these tetra-chords called genus. In the same era Pythagoras ...
12
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1answer
152 views

How were tuning/temperaments indicated on scores (if they ever were)?

Bradley Lehman claims that the details of the intended tuning for the Well-Tempered Claivier are encoded in the squiggle at the top of the manuscript (related wikipedia link). Are there other (...
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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 ...
12
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2answers
531 views

What do these unusual signs on key signature mean?

I know that the more typical notation for the little X in the time signature is used for double sharps, but in the intro of the volume the author of this work seems to say that he is using that symbol ...
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7answers
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“The intervals considered dissonant have changed since the 'Middle Ages'”; How so?

In reading my new book 'Complete Classical Music Guide', I understand the following: If two notes are separated by a consonant the sound is pleasing to the ears. If they are of a dissonant ...
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4answers
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Was the viola da gamba or violin particularly associated with England in the late 16th or early 17th century?

The viola da gamba was an instrument in use throughout western Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries; the modern(ish) violin became popular around the turn of the 17th century. But instruments ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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Where did the symbols ♭ and ♯ originate from, and why those?

We're all used to flat and sharp signs, also naturals. Accidentals in some cases. But why those unusual signs? I suspect the ♭ may have something to do with the German B, but the ♯ sign? Something to ...
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1answer
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What's the earliest known piece of polyphonic music?

Do we know what is the earliest known piece of polyphonic music? I know that there are some 12-th century composers like Léonin and Pérotin that did this kind of thing, but did they compose the ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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Why is Italian the standard for expressive markings in music?

I was reading through the music for Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy a few days ago and I realized that I am often surprised when I see expressive markings (dynamics, tempo, accents and the like) that ...