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39 votes
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Why does Brahms stand next to Bach and Beethoven?

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 ...
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37 votes

Why does a 97 / 92 key piano exist by Bösendorfer?

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 ...
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37 votes
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Why did we never simplify key signatures?

Actually, it seems to me that designating the key by a letter instead of the arrangement of sharps or flats is not simplifying the process. Simply stating the intended key by letter and accidental ...
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32 votes

Why is the double bass the only instrument in the violin family tuned in fourths?

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 ...
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28 votes
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"The intervals considered dissonant have changed since the 'Middle Ages'"; How so?

OK, so first a clarification of the contexts: The quoted materials are mostly concerned with Western European music. The music of the Middle Ages almost certainly refers to the liturgical music of ...
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28 votes
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What was the motivation for the invention of electric pianos?

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

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, ...
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27 votes
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Why is Debussy's remark brilliant (on going out and smoking, at the start of Beethoven's developments)?

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 ...
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26 votes

Aldous Huxley and 5/4 Meter in Music Predating "Take 5"

Brubeck's exploration of 5-beat and other asymmetrical meters was revolutionary for jazz, but it had been going on for decades in classical music, largely inspired in the late 19th century by the ...
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25 votes
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When were the terms "Major" and "Minor" applied to keys?

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 ...
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25 votes
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What is the oldest instrument ever?

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

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 ...
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24 votes

What is the rationale of electronic keyboards having the voices that they do?

Yes, MIDI is primarily a communications protocol. But it also includes specifications for the General MIDI sound set. 128 sounds. Here they are, with their Program Change numbers. https://en....
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22 votes
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Why is a 440 Hz frequency considered the "standard" pitch for musical instruments?

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 ...
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22 votes
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How did composers "test" their music?

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" ...
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22 votes
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Why didn't more composers who composed violin concertos compose viola concertos?

Various reasons. The viola is acoustically less well-designed than the violin. It sounds a fifth below the violin and has the same proportions, so it would have to be 50% larger; but because you ...
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21 votes
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Is counterpoint still used today?

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. ...
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20 votes

Has music notation become more prescriptive?

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 ...
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20 votes
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Unusual keyboard in a picture

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 ...
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20 votes
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Why is reverb typically called "wet' or "drippy"?

Reverb is actually the effect of playing in confined, walled spaces - the sound bounces off the walls giving a diffused sort of echo. In a wide open space there is zero reverb. (The original, now ...
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19 votes
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Why is the lowest note on the piano an A?

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 ...
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19 votes

How did students remember what to practise between lessons without any sheet music?

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 ...
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18 votes

Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons", Who Chose the Title?

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 ...
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18 votes
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Are octaves, fifths, fourths and thirds considered as "consonant" in all music cultures?

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 ...
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