84

My father was a French horn player for the New York Phil and later the Pittsburgh Symphony. It was a rare day when he didn’t go down to the basement and play a series of scales and arpeggios, sometimes for extended periods. I talked to him about it, but years ago so I can’t tell you if the following thoughts are his or mine: There’s a lot of repetition in ...


81

The biggest thing to understand about an Orchestra is that they operate "at a loss". To have a successful orchestra, you need to be able to have donors, ticket sales, and subscriptions. Donors make up the most of the monetary substance. Subscriptions come in second, and ticket sales dead last. On the other end (money out), you need to pay staff, ...


80

Yes, all wind instruments can be played out of tune. Very out of tune. Source: I work with junior concert bands. To elaborate, the frequency produced by a given wind instrument is a function of the fingering, but also the embouchure (mouth position), airspeed, and any number of other factors. Learning to play in tune is a major part of starting to learn ...


68

Instruments don't just produce one frequency at a time. When you play a single note on a melodic instruments (like piano, wind instruments, string instruments, etc.), you produce many different frequencies at a single time--a whole spectrum is produced. But this spectrum isn't random. It pretty closely follows the harmonic series, which can be thought of as ...


61

Instruments are easier to play than they used to be. Take intonation, for example. Wind instruments don't play in tune by default. This is not a surprise to any player, or any parent of a junior-school concert band member. That being said, some take more skill to play in tune than others. Typically, modern instruments have better intonation (they are closer ...


55

I'm told that my great-grandmother, a professional pianist, practiced her scales for some hours each day. I don't think that you're "ever done," unless you've decided to quit playing. As with any sort of athlete, you have to practice to keep your skills sharp, and scales are one of the best exercises to do. You could probably substitute other exercises, ...


55

Piano strings are attached to a cast iron frame, also known as harp. Cast iron is much less sensitive to humidity and temperature changes than wood. This is the main reason why they stay in tune relatively well. In contrast, harpsichords are somewhat similar but their frames are made of wood and they require much, much more tuning. Other factors are that ...


51

The drums CAN play melodies, but the number of pitches and notes you have available are limited by the number of drums you have (not counting creative applications of "bending" the drum head to produce higher pitches). Terry Bozzio is an example of a drummer who uses a massive drumset so that he can play more complex melodies on the drums. In a video of his ...


50

There are actually quite major differences: The Xylophone has a series of wooden bars, tuned to the relevant notes The marimba has similar wooden bars with resonators (originally gourds, now tubes) underneath The Vibraphone is a variant of the marimba, often with metal bars, but with a spinning butterfly at the top of the resonator giving a tremolo effect ...


50

Yes, wind instruments can play out of tune, even when the instrument is "tuned properly" (which isn't as well-defined as it seems). In fact, the same can be said for fretted string instruments as well. For wind instruments, the way you blow into the instrument can drastically affect your pitch. As a flute player, I can vary between as much as a whole step ...


44

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 ...


39

Supposedly Heifetz said, "If I skip practicing one day, I notice the difference. If I skip two days, the critics notice. If I skip three, the public notices."


39

With many string instruments, it's seen as a bad thing to need to look at the fingerboard - often, it's desirable to be able to play the instrument by feel. This is essential if you're reading music at the same time, which in most classical contexts, you would be! Even in the pop/rock world it's often seen as better to be able to play by feel - many fretless ...


38

Put as simply as possible, horns are tubes. Blowing in special ways makes certain notes sound from those tubes. By changing one's embouchure, those notes start at a fundamental, then gradually go up in harmonics. The first notes (in key C) would be C, G, C, E, G.Those notes are the ones we hear when a bugle is played - Reveille, Last Post, etc. Bugles only ...


34

Learning the guitar as a beginner has many inherent challenges from the very start. For one, you are asking the new guitar student to teach their brain how to tell their fingers to contort in very strange and unnatural ways that they have never before even remotely contemplated. And the finger strength needed for many chords has not been developed yet. ...


34

It's easiest for the player to put downward pressure on the instrument string when the bow is making contact with the string near the end that the player holds (the 'frog' end). This means that on a downstroke (extending the arm), it's easier to start the bowing action with firmer pressure. Players tend to take advantage of this by using downstrokes to ...


34

I would strongly advise you NOT to buy any instruments. You don't need to. Do you imagine composers play lots of instruments? They don't. The only instrument Berlioz played was a guitar - tolerably - yet he wrote a book on orchestration! What possible use would it have been to Ravel if he had learnt to play the harp?!! If you buy a violin you'll end up ...


32

Yup, probably. A few reasons I say this: In my experience, the biggest strength of Yamaha musical instruments is consistency -- to see something that looks handwritten is a pretty big red flag. You haven't mentioned a serial number at all. I assume that if there was one, you would include it. One aspect of that consistency is that every single genuine ...


31

A tuning fork comes close, though amplifying it by placing it on some resonating object - a wooden table, piano case, or try your head :-) - will add some harmonics. The sound-producing element of a Fender Rhodes electric piano is essentially a tuning fork, though other parts of the instrument are designed to 'dirty up' the pure tone. The tone of a flute, ...


30

Under a strict definition of "instrument": pipe organ -- they'll shake your bones like a rock concert. The claim is that the Atlantic City Music Hall organ is the world's loudest instrument, with one of the stops being louder than a train whistle. Several articles, inluding the Wiki article, this one and the link above indicate that this is acknowledged by ...


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

There are two concepts and ideas that happen in music which, when combined, explain why this happens. The first is that the way certain instruments are constructed affects what sounds they can produce. The E♭ alto saxophone, the B♭ clarinet, and the horn in F each can easily play in the key designated. Typically, when learning to play these ...


28

A piano/keyboard with its usual 88 notes covers the range of most other instruments put together. A lot of instruments have a range of two or three octaves only. A lot of instruments can (usually) only play one note at a time, whereas keys are capable of many. So, someone who is writing music for several instruments has it all covered with piano/keyboard. ...


28

An electric violin is very quiet. Some with chambered bodies are loud enough to be heard by other people in the same room; some (the "skeleton" type) are only just loud enough for the player to hear in a quiet room. Unlike many other electric instruments, there is no difference in technique between an electric and a "normal" violin. The electric violin also ...


27

I'm going to suggest an alternative route. Get him an electric cello. The weak point in cheap instruments is the acoustics, and to meet the price point they have to be constructed in a more rough-and-ready manner. As soon as you go electric, you don't need those acoustics. Production is much more straightforward, and there are simply fewer variables with ...


27

There is something like what you described and it's called harpejji. It's not placed on your lap, but on a stand in front of you, but it is pretty much what you described: The instrument aims to bridge the gap in sound and technique between the guitar, bass guitar, and piano. The playing surface has an isomorphic keyboard ...


26

Sharp-keys are in some ways nicer to play than flat ones. The preference for these keys is perhaps most extreme in folk styles: going through two collections of celtic-style fiddle music[978-1-85720-202-1],[1-871931-04-5], I found the distribution to be this crass: ♭♭ : 5 ♭  : 5 ♮  : 7 ♯  : 57 ♯♯ : 70 ♯♯♯: 9 In particular D major is really a great ...


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. ...


23

If a customer hasn't made his decision after an hour, etiquette dictates you offer him a cup of coffee, not ask him to leave. I've had a lot of experience buying instruments, though mostly pianos, and have found 15 minutes of play time not to be nearly enough to purchase something in that price range. In fact, especially if the store has a wide selection, I'...


23

The black and white bits are the same, except you will probably only get 49/61 of them instead of the 88 you're probably used to. The action will be rather different, too. No matter how loudly or quietly you try to play, the volume will remain the same. There is no sustain pedal, so that will be different, too. You'll have to acclimatise yourself to playing ...


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