Monthly Archives: July 2017

Saxophone

The saxophone is a family of woodwind instruments. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. Like the clarinet, saxophones have holes in the instrument which the player closes using a system of key mechanisms. When the player presses a key, a pad either covers a hole or lifts off a hole, lowering or raising the pitch, respectively. The saxophone family was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1840. Adolphe Sax wanted to create a group or series of instruments that would be the most powerful and vocal of the woodwinds, and the most adaptive of the brass instruments, that would fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections. Mr. Sax patented the saxophone on June 28, 1846, in two groups of seven instruments each. Each series consisted of instruments of various sizes in alternating transposition. The series pitched in B and E, designed for military bands, have proved popular and most saxophones encountered today are from this series. Instruments from the so-called “orchestral” series, pitched in C and F, never gained a foothold, and the B and E instruments have now replaced the C and F instruments when the saxophone is used in an orchestra. The saxophone is used in classical music, military bands, marching bands, and jazz. The saxophone is also used as a soloing and melody instrument or as a member of a horn section in some styles of rock and roll and popular music. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.

The saxophone consists of an approximately conical tube, usually of thin brass, flared at the tip to form a bell. At intervals along the tube are between 20 and 23 tone holes of varying size and two very small vent holes to assist the playing of the upper register. These holes are covered by keys  The fingering for the saxophone is a combination of that of the oboe with the Boehm system, and is very similar to the flute or the upper register of the clarinet. Instruments that play to low A have a left thumb key for that note. The simplest design of saxophone is a straight conical tube, and the sopranino and soprano saxophones are usually of this straight design. Most commonly, however, the alto and tenor saxophones incorporate a detachable, curved “neck” above the highest tone hole, directing the mouthpiece to the player’s mouth while the instrument is held in a playing stance. The baritone, bass, and contrabass saxophones accommodate the length of the bore with extra bows and right angle bends between the main body and the mouthpiece.

Organ

In music, the organ is a keyboard instrument of one or more pipe divisions, each played with its own keyboard, played either with the hands on a keyboard or with the feet using pedals. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria, who invented the water organ. It was played throughout the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman world, particularly during races and games. During the early medieval period it spread from the Byzantine Empire, where it continued to be used in secular (non-religious) and imperial court music, to Western Europe, where it gradually assumed a prominent place in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Subsequently it re-emerged as a secular and recital instrument in the Classical music tradition.

Most organs in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia can be found in Christian churches. The introduction of church organs is traditionally attributed to Pope Vitalian in the 7th century. Due to its simultaneous ability to provide a musical foundation below the vocal register, support in the vocal register, and increased brightness above the vocal register, the organ is ideally suited to accompany human voices, whether a congregation, a choir, or a cantor or soloist. Most services also include solo organ repertoire for independent performance rather than by way of accompaniment, often as a prelude at the beginning the service and a postlude at the conclusion of the service. Organs are also used to give recital concerts, called organ recitals. In the early 20th century, symphonic organsflourished in secular venues in the United States and the United Kingdom, designed to replace symphony orchestras by playing transcriptions of orchestral pieces. Symphonic and orchestral organs largely fell out of favor as the orgelbewegung (organ reform movement) took hold in the middle of the 20th century, and organ builders began to look to historical models for inspiration in constructing new instruments. Today, modern builders construct organs in a variety of styles for both secular and sacred applications.

The pump organ, or harmonium, was the other main type of organ before the development of electronic organs. It generated its sounds using reeds similar to those of a piano accordion. Smaller, cheaper and more portable than the corresponding pipe instrument, these were widely used in smaller churches and in private homes, but their volume and tonal range was extremely limited, and they were generally limited to one or two manuals, pedalboards being extremely rare. The chord organ was invented by Laurens Hammond in 1950.[9] It provided chord buttons for the left hand, similar to an accordion. Other reed organ manufacturers have also produced chord organs, most notably Magnus from 1958 to the late 1970s.[10]

The organ has had an important place in classical music, particularly since 1500. Spain’s Antonio de Cabezón, the Netherlands’ Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and Italy’s Girolamo Frescobaldi were three of the most important organist-composers before 1650. Influenced in part by the latter two of these men (not by Cabezón), the North German school rose from the mid-17th century onwards to great prominence, with leading members of this school having included Buxtehude, Franz Tunder, Georg Böhm, and above all Johann Sebastian Bach, whose contributions to organ music continue to reign supreme. During this time, the French Classical school also flourished. François Couperin, Nicolas Lebègue, André Raison, and Nicolas de Grigny were French organist-composers of the period. Bach knew Grigny’s organ output well, and admired it. In England, Handel was famous for his organ-playing no less than for his composing; several of his organ concertos, intended for his own use, are still frequently performed.

After Bach’s death in 1750, the organ’s prominence gradually shrank, as the instrument itself increasingly lost ground to the piano. Nevertheless, Felix Mendelssohn, César Franck, and the less famous A.P.F. Boëly (all of whom were themselves expert organists) led, independently of one another, a resurgence of valuable organ writing during the 19th century. This resurgence, much of it informed by Bach’s example, achieved particularly impressive things in France (even though Franck himself was of Belgian birth). Major names in French Romantic organ composition are Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, Alexandre Guilmant, Charles Tournemire, and Eugène Gigout. Of these, Vierne and Tournemire were Franck pupils.

Drum

The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, it is a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player’s hands, or with a drum stick, to produce sound. There is usually a resonance head on the underside of the drum, typically tuned to a slightly lower pitch than the top drumhead. Other techniques have been used to cause drums to make sound, such as the thumb roll. Drums are the world’s oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years. Drums may be played individually, with the player using a single drum, and some drums such as the djembe are almost always played in this way. Others are normally played in a set of two or more, all played by the one player, such as bongo drums and timpani. A number of different drums together with cymbals form the basic modern drum kit.

Drums are usually played by striking with the hand, or with one or two sticks. In many traditional cultures, drums have a symbolic function and are used in religious ceremonies. Drums are often used in music therapy, especially hand drums, because of their tactile nature and easy use by a wide variety of people. In popular music and jazz, “drums” usually refers to a drum kit or a set of drums (with some cymbals), and “drummer” to the person who plays them. Drums acquired even divine status in places such as Burundi, where the karyenda was a symbol of the power of the king. Drums with cylindrical shells can be open at one end (as is the case with timbales), or can have two drum heads. Single-headed drums typically consist of a skin stretched over an enclosed space, or over one of the ends of a hollow vessel. Drums with two heads covering both ends of a cylindrical shell often have a small hole somewhat halfway between the two heads; the shell forms a resonating chamber for the resulting sound. Exceptions include the African slit drum, also known as a log drum as it is made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, and the Caribbean steel drum, made from a metal barrel. Drums with two heads can also have a set of wires, called snares, held across the bottom head, top head, or both heads, hence the name snare drum. 

The second biggest factor that affects drum sound is head tension against the shell. When the hoop is placed around the drum head and shell and tightened down with tension rods, the tension of the head can be adjusted. When the tension is increased, the amplitude of the sound is reduced and the frequency is increased, making the pitch higher and the volume lower. The type of shell also affects the sound of a drum. Because the vibrations resonate in the shell of the drum, the shell can be used to increase the volume and to manipulate the type of sound produced. The larger the diameter of the shell, the lower the pitch. The larger the depth of the drum, the louder the volume. Shell thickness also determines the volume of drums. Thicker shells produce louder drums. Mahogany raises the frequency of low pitches and keeps higher frequencies at about the same speed. When choosing a set of shells, a jazz drummer may want smaller maple shells, while a rock drummer may want larger birch shells.

Guitar

The guitar is a musical instrument classified as a fretted string instrument with anywhere from four to 18 strings, usually having six. The sound is projected either acoustically, using a hollow wooden or plastic and wood box (for an acoustic guitar), or through electrical amplifier and a speaker (for an electric guitar). It is typically played by strumming or plucking the strings with the fingers, thumb or fingernails of the right hand or with a pick while fretting (or pressing against the frets) the strings with the fingers of the left hand. The guitar is a type of chordophone, traditionally constructed from wood and strung with either gut, nylon or steel strings and distinguished from other chordophones by its construction and tuning. The modern guitar was preceded by the gittern, the vihuela, the four-course Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument.

There are three main types of modern acoustic guitar: the classical guitar (nylon-string guitar), the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar, which is sometimes called a “jazz guitar”. The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the strings’ vibration, amplified by the hollow body of the guitar, which acts as a resonating chamber. The classical guitar is often played as a solo instrument using a comprehensive finger-picking technique where each string is plucked individually by the player’s fingers, as opposed to being strummed. The term “finger-picking” can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues, bluegrass, and country guitar playing in the United States. The acoustic bass guitar is a low-pitched instrument that is one octave below a regular guitar.

Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, use an amplifier and a loudspeaker that both makes the sound of the instrument loud enough for the performers and audience to hear, and, given that it produces an electric signal when played, that can electronically manipulate and shape the tone using an equalizer (e.g., bass and treble tone controls) and a huge variety of electronic effects units, the most commonly used ones being distortion (or “overdrive”) and reverb. Early amplified guitars employed a hollow body, but a solid wood body was eventually found more suitable during the 1960s and 1970s, as it was less prone to unwanted acoustic feedback “howls”. As with acoustic guitars, there are a number of types of electric guitars, including hollowbody guitars, archtop guitars (used in jazz guitar, blues and rockabilly) and solid-body guitars, which are widely used in rock music.

Electric guitars and bass guitars have to be used with a guitar amplifier and loudspeaker or a bass amplifier and speaker, respectively, in order to make enough sound to be heard by the performer and audience. Electric guitars and bass guitars almost always use magnetic pickups, which generate an electric signal when the musician plucks, strums or otherwise plays the instrument. The amplifier and speaker strengthen this signal using a power amplifier and a loudspeaker. Acoustic guitars that are equipped with a piezoelectric pickup or microphone can also be plugged into an instrument amplifier, acoustic guitar amp or PA system to make them louder. With electric guitar and bass, the amplifier and speaker are not just used to make the instrument louder; by adjusting the equalizer controls, the preamplifier, and any onboard effects units (reverb, distortion/overdrive, etc.) the player can also modify the tone (aka timbre or “colour”) and sound of the instrument. Acoustic guitar players can also use the amp to change the sound of their instrument, but in general, acoustic guitar amps are used to make the natural acoustic sound of the instrument louder without changing its sound that much.