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42

The TL;DR answer: Some instrument families (saxophones, clarinets, double reeds) have variants which change the instrument range by something other than an octave. To make it easy to switch between instruments in the same family, the parts for these instruments are transposed so the same written note has the same fingering, but produces a different actual ...


38

replete's answer is correct that the original reason was to have a bigger range, as needed for some organ music. However, I don't think that's the reason those Imperial models are so sought-for over all these years – actually playing the lowest notest is scarcely musically useful. The reason why people want Bösendorfer Imperial is that they sound awesome, ...


37

I don't know that there is any evidence that the tritone was ever formally banned by the Catholic Church, although that story does get passed around a lot. An actual Church document that discusses this and puts the claim in context is needed. I see no mention of tritones or intervals of any type in Musicam Sacram of 1967. The Sacrosanctum Concilium of 1963, ...


35

First, a history lesson: Peter Cornelius originally claimed that these "Three Bs" were Bach, Beethoven, and Berlioz. It was Hans von Bülow that then replaced Berlioz with Brahms, and Bülow did it with a little pun: since a flat looks like a "B," he said that "My musical credo is in E♭ major, with three Bs in the key signature: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms!" ...


33

With long open strings, the span to reach notes especially at the nut end would be too much for a lot of players if it retained the 5ths pattern of tuning. Making the tuning in fourths means that the left hand can encompass three notes in a scale and then move across to the next string in the same hand position. That said, it's not difficult to slide up a ...


29

In short, the German musical tradition (largely based upon Beethoven's towering presence) is one that prioritizes thematic development. Beethoven was known, for instances, for sometimes introducing and developing new themes in his codas! This propensity for thematic development was not necessarily shared by the composers in the Italian and French traditions....


28

Your logic fits and, as some of the commentators have stated, I've pondered about this in the past. Usually your dominant hand naturally can handle doing a lot more work, like you've stated. In playing instruments, the dominant hand also should be used for doing the "big jobs": in drumming, the dominant hand would be hitting the hi-hats. In a normal 4/4 ...


28

Technically, there are no reasons, but practically, there are quite a few. Obviously, we've reached the point where we can construct instruments that are fully chromatic, so there is no need to change crooks and play only the overtone series. The practical reasons are many, and mostly stem from the fact that if all instruments were pitched in C, any time ...


28

A lot of instruments from the analog era were supposed to sound like other "real" instruments, and were as good as technology allowed then, which is not very. But over time, some have become popular in their own right. Electric pianos were indeed supposed to sound like acoustic pianos (although some manufacturers saw the potential of adding features like ...


26

The modulation you describe is often mockingly called the "Truck Driver Gear Change". As you say, it is quite often used, to the point of being cliche. It has it's own page on TVTropes. At one time, there was even a "Hall of Shame" website (gearchange.org) devoted to it, although this seems to have disappeared. Here's a copy of the page from 2012 via the ...


25

It's probably not possible to tell. Wood and bone can often be inherently musical when struck, so some kind of proto-claves likely existed before recorded history. Rocks may have also been used for percussion from very early on. In 2012, the BBC reported on a finding of bone flutes as the "oldest instruments" ever discovered, at 42,000 - 43,000 years old. ...


24

The minor scale is not called the "minor scale" because it is the most minor. Names don't have to accurately reflect the definition. Modes are sometimes classified as "minor" or "major" depending on their third (a minor third usually comes with other minor degrees like the flat 7th which is common to all minor modes of the major scale). And of all the minor ...


23

In the late medieval system there were six normal notes, C D E F G A, and one note that had two forms, soft B (b) which was a semitone above A and hard B (♮) which was a whole tone above A. As written in the earliest sources, hard B looked a bit like an H with an added crossbar which may have been the reason for the change to H (or it was the next letter of ...


22

One of the clearest examples is a tablet from Ugarit that is generally labelled h.6. If you search around for Hurrian Hymns, h.6, and Hymn to Nikkal you can see some drawings and photographs. Some of the primary scholars that have written and attempted to decode the notation system are Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, Martin West, Richard Crocker, and Duchesne-...


22

440 Hz is the standard that has been adopted. Before it was, an instrument tuned in one country or even city was out of tune in another; confusion reigned. The short version of it is that countries got together in a conference and agreed on using 440 Hz as a standard. Bach tuned at 415 Hz, which was the standard in those days and is still ...


22

Not all composers nowadays write using computers. Many still write by hand using ink or pencil. Multi-instrument works (chamber, orchestra, etc) were written as either what's known as "piano-score" or "short-score". Many, many composers are / were pianists and so were able to check their music by playing through the piano score. Once they are satisfied with ...


20

What a great question! From an early historical standpoint, I can think of several cases where this has happened. I'd be interested in more answers, and especially later historical examples. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, accidentals were often not notated, with the composer relying on the performer's knowledge of musica ficta to provide the correct ...


20

Let's apply some perspective warping here. You'll see that the black keys, viewed from the front, come in alternating groups of 2 and 3 after all. Their arrangement does not correspond all that well with the lines separating the white keys, but then we are talking about a detail with very limited visibility. So I strongly lean towards this being just a ...


20

Counterpoint is simply the relationship between multiple musical lines. As such, any excerpt of music with more than one line is displaying some sense of counterpoint, whether intentional or not. Note also that there are multiple eras and traditions of counterpoint, each with their own distinct styles (what many erroneously call "rules"). Palestrina is ...


19

No, they are not considered consonant in all music cultures. The perception of consonance and dissonance can be different among cultures. The same interval can be perceived (and labeled) differently by different cultures. This is influenced by many factors (and the harmonic series is not the only one!) For example, in medieval times major thirds were ...


19

That's because the solfege syllables for the non-chromatic notes (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si/Ti) were first. They were thoroughly historically anchored in music theory, long before someone thought about adding chromatically altered versions of them. Because most vowels were already used it was very difficult to invent a system 'on top' of the already known ...


19

Besides the copyist mentioned in the other answer, students could simply write on their own! No need to have someone copy it for them. Also it was not uncommon for teachers to write stuff down for their students. I have had teachers that give handwritten scores (or copies of them) and notes to their students. This still is a way that is pretty cheap ...


18

I hope no one minds that I got curious, and did a bit of digging into this on my own. I discovered what appears to be an excellent resource answering this very question. The book is entitled Between Modes and Keys: German Theory, 1592-1802 by Joel Lester (1989). I do not have access to a copy of the book, but I've been able to see several relevant portions ...


18

Le quattro stagioni is the original title of this work, which translates to 'The four seasons'. This title was indeed chosen by Vivaldi himself, who deliberately composed the pieces to reflect the mood of each season. The wikipedia article sums the titles up pretty nicely!


18

Early pianos started out with the existing range of harpsichords, having between four and five octaves, usually starting at low C. This stands to reason, because Bartolomeo Cristofori, generally credited with being the inventor of the piano, was an expert harpsichord maker. By the time of Mozart, the range had standardized to five octaves, starting with ...


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