Questions tagged [instruments]

For questions about generalities about instruments or groups of instruments.

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58
votes
10answers
12k views

Have orchestras included any modern instrument lately?

Over the years orchestras have added various new instruments to their set and I'm thinking that there are quite many modern interesting instruments that might be included in an orchestra set. Have ...
56
votes
10answers
22k views

Do advanced musicians still practice scales every day?

I'm wondering if you're ever "done" or do you just go practicing them forever?
48
votes
10answers
20k views

Why can't drums produce melody?

A note is a vibration at a certain frequency. A drum produces a tone with a certain pitch much like a string percussed with a mallet. Why is a drum unfit for playing a melody while a string inside a ...
46
votes
16answers
78k views

What instruments are inexpensive, portable and not too loud?

I'm a college student, and I'd really like to start playing an instrument. But I want to find something that is: Inexpensive Small and portable enough to fit in a backpack Quiet enough to practice in ...
42
votes
2answers
5k views

Why do instruments have a key?

There are many instruments that have keys other than C. For example: The Eb Alto Saxophone The Bb Clarinet The Horn in F Why do these instruments have a key in the first place? Here's a more ...
40
votes
3answers
174k views

What is the difference between a xylophone, a glockenspiel, marimba, a xylorimba and a marimbaphone?

What is the difference between an xylophone and a marimba? And a glockenspiel and a xylophone, its just the material and size of glockenspiel?
36
votes
6answers
41k 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 ...
35
votes
9answers
11k views

Can wind instruments be played out of tune?

I believed that the trombone stands almost alone among wind instruments, in that it allows to play a continuous pitch range. The rest have a discrete set of possible notes (pitches), hence things are ...
35
votes
17answers
65k views

How to minimize the pain for a beginning guitar student so they won’t give up before they develop callouses?

This is a common problem and solving it will ultimately lead to a much higher success rate for beginning guitar students. So I wanted to share the information here on Music and Theory. Many of my ...
34
votes
12answers
25k views

Can I play pipe organ as a pianist?

I've never played pipe organ. I'm a pianist and a friend of mine ask me to play on the church on his wedding on a pipe organ. Are there enough difficulties playing a piano song on the pipe organ to ...
31
votes
3answers
2k views

Can one tell by ear whether a bowed instrument is being played up or down?

I went to a concert the other day and noticed that the bows (violins, cellos, violas) were all coordinated as the orchestra played. It looks neat, but is there an audible difference if they're not in ...
31
votes
13answers
114k views

What is the Difference between Maple and Rosewood Fretboards

Is there a difference that's based on feel or sound - why are they the two most widely used choices?
30
votes
10answers
8k views

Why don't “classical” stringed instruments mark their note positions?

So, I understand why classical strings (violins, cellos etc.) aren't fretted, because of the change this makes in the tone. I've often wondered though, why the note positions aren't marked on the neck ...
25
votes
5answers
4k views

Why are double staff pieces of music not properly aligned for Middle C?

I am a guitar, flute and (a long time ago) bassoon player. I can play a few things on a keyboard, badly, in short: I know how it all works. I'm trying to help teach my wife to play a harp. It has a ...
24
votes
6answers
4k views

Should low frequency players anticipate in orchestra?

"The bigger the instrument, the heavier the strings, the bigger the bow, the bigger the mouthpiece, the more you should anticipate." This concept is expressed occasionally by double bass players, ...
24
votes
8answers
22k views

What are the objective differences between the guitar and the piano?

The guitar and the piano are two of the most popular instruments which allow multiple notes to be played simultaneously. The acoustic quality of the two instruments are, of course, different, but ...
23
votes
13answers
7k views

Are very cheap cellos acceptable for a beginner?

I'm looking at getting a 1/2 cello for my son. My options are either rent a mid-end one for 50$ a month, or buy a very cheap one (there seem to be some online for 150$~200$). My experience with ...
23
votes
4answers
14k views

Why is music for strings more likely to be in keys with sharps?

One thing I've noticed is that music written for strings, such as violin concertos, are a lot more likely to written in a key like D or A major than something like F or Bb major. I recently saw a ...
23
votes
5answers
8k views

Why do standard modern pianos have 88 keys?

I know that the piano contains 7 octaves plus a 4th. I also know that it accommodates the full circle of fifths (from C and back to C). But since a fifth contains 7 semitones, it only "needs" 7X12 = ...
21
votes
10answers
5k views

Are there any instruments that don't produce overtones?

Essentially all instruments produce overtones, which are frequencies other than the dominant frequency of the note. -- How do harmonics work? The use of "essentially" there got me thinking. Are ...
21
votes
4answers
9k views

The loudest acoustic instrument

There are more than a hundred different acoustic instruments, some of which are very loud. What is the loudest acoustic instrument?
21
votes
4answers
1k views

Could B♭ instruments be built in C? Why are they in B♭ in the first place?

Why did the clarinet and trumpet get made to 'be' in B♭? Could they have been made to produce concert pitch C? This would make a composer's life so much easier when physically writing scores. ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

Why do lower pitched string instruments have a larger body?

I know that increasing the length of the string will decrease the pitch, but that doesn't explain why the body of a cello is larger than a violin, only longer. What would be the "problem" with ...
20
votes
5answers
8k views

Will my wind instrument be damaged if I leave it assembled?

Almost every teacher, expert, and book has informed me that I should disassemble my (clarinet / recorder / saxophone) each time after I practice. However, it is difficult for me to see how this would ...
20
votes
2answers
12k views

Is my Yamaha guitar counterfeit?

I bought a new Yamaha Guitar and When you look inside the guitar hole it looks like the model number is written by hand. Can you please tell me if this one is a fake one or not? The number written on ...
19
votes
11answers
62k views

Difference between Baritone and Euphonium

What is the difference between a baritone and a euphonium, and how can you tell? My band director sometimes uses them interchangeably, but I am pretty sure that is not correct. All I know is that this ...
19
votes
5answers
10k views

How do Pre War Martin Guitars Differ From Modern Ones?

Pre-war Martin guitars are revered because of their sound. What differences are there between the construction of pre-war Martin guitars, and Martin guitars made now. And are there any companies ...
18
votes
3answers
8k views

What's the difference between the “smooth” strings and the “rough” strings?

On my acoustic, the first 4 strings are "rough" - that is they are covered in a type of metal corkscrew. The last 2 strings though are completely smooth, and don't have a corkscrew finish. Why are ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Music Store Etiquette

A music store that sells high end instruments is faced with a dilemma. It is their responsibility to sell you instruments. But you cannot buy an instrument without trying it out for some period of ...
18
votes
5answers
3k views

Trumpet low C♯ and D

Most trumpets' low C♯ and D are too high, and need correcting by pulling the 1st of 3rd valve. My first understanding was that the distance between tones in the lower register is larger than between ...
18
votes
1answer
3k views

How should I inspect a used piano prior to purchase?

I am considering finding a used grand (or baby grand) piano to purchase. This will be a standard acoustic piano, not an electronic version that "looks like" a grand piano. I am an experienced ...
18
votes
7answers
62k views

Is the sound of a semi-hollowbody guitar significantly different from that of an equivalent solid body?

I'm wondering if the sound of a semi-hollowbody electric guitar (i.e. one that looks hollow but in fact has a solid central block) really differs that much from an equivalent solid-body guitar with ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Are musical floppy drives tone wheel instruments?

So I'm doing a project involving classifying electrophones according to MIMO's Hornbostel-Sachs system (see here) and I'm looking at musical floppy disk drives specifically (see here). The drives ...
17
votes
2answers
7k views

What are some qualities to consider when purchasing a cello?

My wife is a Suzuki-method violinist but wants to dabble with some cello pieces. I'm a rock guitarist--so I have absolutely no clue what to look for in a cello. It's clearly not a Les Paul so any ...
16
votes
17answers
3k views

Instruments that challenge your ear [closed]

About a year ago I was curious about how the trumpet works, how could it play the chromatic scale over many octaves with only these three valves!? So I made some research to understand how it works, ...
16
votes
13answers
1k views

instruments you can make at home

Some of the children I teach have expressed an interest in music and learning to play. I am thinking about how I can help them do a sort of arts-and-crafts music day, where we could make some ...
15
votes
7answers
1k views

What kind of effect does practicing on difficult to play instruments have?

To clarify the title, I'm not asking if it helps your mandolin skills to play violin (or vice versa, whichever you feel is "more difficult"). Let's say you are a guitarist: Does it help or hurt to ...
15
votes
6answers
2k views

Genetic limitations to learn certain instruments

This is something that has bothered me for quite a while. I frequently participate in instrument demonstrations for children. My focus is on wind instruments but I'm also curious about others. What I ...
14
votes
6answers
4k views

Why do music directors use keyboard (or similar) instruments for composing music?

I have seen that most of the film music directors use keyed music instruments for composing music. I hardly saw directors use other instruments like strings or wind instruments for the same. What ...
14
votes
5answers
9k views

Is there any difference between a soprano trombone and a slide trumpet?

Occasionally, I will see people arguing about whether an instrument should be called a "soprano trombone" or a "slide trumpet" yet I have never seen any instrument designated as one as being any ...
14
votes
3answers
8k views

How does the piano middle pedal work? Is there a standard symbol for it?

What are the mechanics behind the middle piano pedal? I have been using the middle pedal for a variety of music, it is wonderful, but I can't figure out how it works (I mean the mechanical process). ...
13
votes
7answers
2k views

Beginner looking to learn/master musical theory and instrumental ability. Where should I begin? [closed]

I have always had a subtle but under the hood feel that music is for me. I've never trained myself nor had any real dedicated musical practice, but I have composed music on my computer. What I don't ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the oldest instrument ever?

What is the oldest musical instrument played other than the human voice, but body parts are acceptable? Did Neanderthals use instruments to play music?
13
votes
6answers
3k views

What does it mean that a Stratocaster is vintage?

Looking at the lineup of Fender and Squier I see that you can find standard and vintage guitars for about the same price. For example, Squier has both a Standard series and a Vintage Modified series. ...
12
votes
4answers
10k views

What does the distance between a pickup and strings do for the sound?

What does the distance between a pickup and strings do for the sound? Should active and passive pickups be treated differently?
12
votes
1answer
25k views

What is a transposing instrument?

I've read this term many times. However, I'm not quite sure of what it exactly is. What is a transposing instrument? What would be an example of one?
12
votes
5answers
11k views

Do weighted keys on a keyboard lead to more expressive playing?

I use an acoustic piano to learn/play classical music. I use a midi keyboard to record/produce own music. My piano has weighted keys while my midi keyboard has a very light touch. I find that I am ...
11
votes
3answers
3k views

How did baroque music sound at the time?

Historical context Let's for example consider Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 (click here to enjoy). It was composed at the very beginning of the 18th century in Germany. At that time: ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

Why are Clavichords Keys Diagonally Shaped?

Why are the keys on clavichords (as shown below) not all parallel? In fact, only 1 or 2 of the keys go straight back, the others all bend diagonally and then go straight at the end. Why is this? I ...
11
votes
3answers
398 views

Which (apparently keyboard) instrument is this?

I discovered this image recently while reading about piano. I discovered this young Portuguese pianist photo, Vianna da Motta, while learning in his early stages. I assume this is some kind of ...