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The piano is a very popular instrument among music teachers because students are able to learn about the basics of music much better on this instrument than on any other. It is a versatile instrument and the best choice for a new student of music. It is also one of the few instruments that enables the player to play the accompaniment and the melody at the same time. This stringed acoustic musical instrument was invented in early 18th century by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Padua, Italy. He was employed by the Grand Prince of Tuscany, Ferdinando de Medici as his Keeper of the Instruments. It is called a pianoforte in Italian meaning an instrument that produces soft and loud sounds in accordance to the pressure of the pianist’s touch on the keys. Modern pianos have a total of 88 black and white keys, 52 white keys and 36 black keys, allowing the player to play as many as 88 different notes from the deepest bass to the highest treble. The original version of the piano was refined by Johann Zumpebut. It was a difficult instrument to play until it was popularized by Bach who was an international celebrity.
Playing the piano was the chief form of entertainment in earlier times until the arrival of the radio. Women were allowed to display their musical talents at parties and social gatherings. It was a greatly desired asset of women in the 18th and 19th centuries and they were considered more desirable if they could play the piano. The ability to play increased their social status and their marriageability. It was a testimony of the family’s status on the socioeconomic ladder too. Nonetheless, playing professionally was looked down upon. Piano skills were limited to the upper strata of society as it was quite an expensive hobby to indulge in.
The popularity of the piano waned with the introduction of the electronic keyboard which is cheaper and lends itself to playing popular music. Despite all the challenges to its existence, the piano continues to remain popular especially among students of music and music theory. Every key on the piano can be used for only one pitch and since there are distinctive black and white keys, you can look at the keys to see which note you are playing.
Learning to play the piano improves your dexterity and your ability for hand-eye coordination. Music has a calming effect on the human body and reduces heart rates and blood pressure. It improves your concentration skills as you need to have split concentration to be able to use both hands, read the music, work the pedals, and listen to the notes you are playing all at the same time. This skill of divided attention helps you to improve your multitasking skills in other aspects of your life. It is easy to play the piano without much physical effort unlike other musical instruments such as the guitar which can give you calluses and wind instruments which requires a lot of lung strength.
An electronic keyboard or digital keyboard is a synthesizer with built in small loudspeakers and low-wattage power amplifiers. They include the entire range of digital pianos, synthesizers, electronic organs, stage pianos, and digital audio workstations. They are popularly used by beginners, home users, and for use nonprofessionally. Yamaha and Casio are the most sought after brands in electronic keyboards. These keyboards come with unweighted keys. In fact, only the higher priced models have velocity-sensitive keys. One of the reasons for its popularity among non-professional users is its portability. It is also capable of reproducing a wide range of instrument sounds such as the violin, piano, and pipe organ to name a few. The electronic keyboard has preset sounds of different instruments and also electronic synthesizer sounds. The user selects what he wishes to create the desired effect.
The electronic keyboard is the mobile version of the piano and produces music differently. The market is flush with different kinds of keyboards with varying features and varying prices. It was originally invented in the 1800s but really became popular in the 1980s. The beginner keyboard has keys made from plastic and range only from 2 to about 4 octaves. It also has very limited digitized instrument sounds. The arranger keyboards are more sophisticated and are suitable for solo artists. They come with chord recognition software, back-up capabilities, and USB ports. They also have prerecorded accompaniment tracks in different music genres. Digital workstation, synthesizers, organ, hybrid, and the digital piano are the other varieties of electronic keyboards with the digital piano being the most sophisticated version.
The introduction of the Hammond Organ was a major breakthrough in the history of electronic keyboards. The electric piano in the 1940s and the music synthesizers in the 1960s were later developments in the evolution of the current form of electronic musical keyboards. It was the adoption of MIDI or Musical Instrument Digital Interface that allowed electronic keyboards to be linked to computers and other instruments for the purposes of programming and for input that really revolutionized the electronic musical keyboard industry. That was the start of the production of versatile, lightweight, beautiful sounding, and affordable keyboards by manufacturers such as Korg, Yamaha, Casio, and Rolland that have made it possible for you and me to master these black and white keys.
Students opt to learn the electronic keyboard as it is considered the next best thing to learning the piano. A piano is out of the reach of most people and you would not want to invest in it unless you are really passionate about the piano. Music schools that teach musical instruments are really becoming popular as people have realized that knowing music gives you an edge in social settings. It stimulates the brain and improves memory. Science and Maths are easier to tackle as it stimulates your abstract reasoning power. It is a fun activity that gives you an opportunity to de-stress and relax.
The violin also called a fiddle produces the highest pitch amongst all the musical instruments that are used regularly. This instrument has a wooden body that is hollow and it is played by drawing the bow across the strings. The sound occurs when the vibrations that are produced when moving the bow across the strings resonates within the hollow wooden body. The violin typically has 4 strings that are tuned in perfect fifths for notes G3, D4, A4, and E7. The strings are made of gut, steel, Perlon, or other synthetic materials. The body of the violin is made of different types of wood such as spruce, maple, and ebony. The violin maker or luthier makes and repairs violins whereas the archetier or bowmaker takes care of the bows.
The use of the violin is very important for certain genres of music especially Western classicals, in orchestras and chamber music. It is played as a solo instrument in folk music, jazz, country music, and the like. Rock and jazz musicians also use electric violins to make the sound louder and more powerful. Violins are also popular in Indian and Iranian music. The violin originated in Italy and the earliest versions of violins, as seen in pictures, has 3 strings only. The violin evolved from the fiddle, the lira da braccio, and the rebec. There have been constant changes in its construction in an attempt to improve the tone from the earlier delicate and intimate tone to the present stronger and more brilliant version.
A large number of violinists can frequently be observed up in front in any symphony orchestra. In fact, an orchestra may have as many as 10 first violins and an equal number of second violins too along with violas, cellos, and double basses. This is because violins are perfect for playing melody and they also produce the highest pitch. However, their sound is rather low and you require more of them to balance out the sound produced by the other instruments in the orchestra. Violinists use their nimble finger work to produce long melodic passages. The first violins are used to produce the melody and counter-melody and the second violins play the lower harmony.
Learning to play and master the violin can be a challenge but quite fulfilling once you have done it. It is an extremely popular instrument made even more popular by famous violinists closer to home such as Balabhaskar. Learning to play the violin can be greatly beneficial especially to young children. It can improve their attention span and memory. It also helps them with their reading skills, speech, language processing, and it helps with enhanced brain function. The social benefits of learning music need not be reiterated. It helps them make more friends as music is an ice breaker and a conversational point. It also helps children to build up their self-esteem and self-awareness which contributes to the formation of well balanced and well-adjusted personalities.
The guitar is usually played with both hands with the fingers of one hand fretting or pressing the strings against the frets while the other strums the strings with the fingers or a guitar pick. This fretted instrument has 6 strings and the sound produced when the strings are vibrated are projected acoustically through the hollow chamber of the acoustic guitar or with the help of an electric amplifier or speaker. Although it seems like a chordophone, it is different due to the way it is constructed as well as the tuning process followed. The guitar is made of wood and the strings are made of nylon, gut, or steel. The modern 6-string instrument evolved from the gittern, the vihuela, the 4-course Renaissance guitar, and the 5-course baroque guitar. The 3 types of acoustic guitars that are now currently available are the classical guitar, the archtop or jazz guitar, and the steel string acoustic guitar. The classical guitar is played with the finger picking method and not the usual strumming method.
One of the reasons why students choose to learn to play the guitar is that it allows them to play any type of music, be it rock, folk, or metal music. It is portable and if you know to play the guitar, it can make social gatherings a lot of fun with singing and dancing. You only have to master the basic chords to get started as a guitarist. The guitar is immensely teachable even to a person who is not musically inclined, which makes it a popular choice among people who are not very talented and yet wishes to play an instrument. It is affordable too unlike other more expensive musical instruments such as the piano.
Learning to play the guitar makes you more popular in society. Music is a great ice breaker and helps to connect people at a social gathering. You can be the centre of attention and bring a diverse group together with spontaneous playing and sing-alongs. Besides playing for fun, knowing how to play the guitar really well can help you to create your own music band. Studies have also shown that memorizing the chords of the guitar helps to improve cognitive memory. Learning musical instruments helps you to be multitaskers and so also with the guitar; guitarists too have to read guitar tabs and scores while also ensuring they play the chords correctly, they have to be prepared with the upcoming notes, and listen to the sounds being made too.
Playing the guitar strengthens your hands and wrists, so you must persevere despite the calluses and sore fingers. Music teaches you discipline as you have to manage your time to ensure you get enough practice. Practicing daily is hard work, you need patience and will power to dedicate your time to improving your music skills. Playing the guitar improves brain function and it helps with delaying mental decline as you grow older.
A drum kit or drums as they are more popularly called are a group of drums and percussion instruments such as cymbals that are arranged on stands and are played by a single person. The player holds drumsticks in both hands and operates the pedals that control the bass drum and cymbals with his feet. The first assembled drum kit made its appearance about a hundred years ago. A drum kit is identified by the number of pieces it has, so therefore you could have a 3-piece kit, 5-piece kit, or a 7-piece kit. A typical drum kit consists of a snare drum, a bass drum, one or more toms, the hi-hats, cowbell, and one or more cymbals. Experienced players may add more drums, cymbals, and other instruments as per their preference. Heavy metal drummers often use double bass drums while progressive drummers use gongs and tubular bells. Drum kits are used extensively in traditional and popular music styles such as jazz, rock, pop, and blues. The drum stool or throne of course is a part of every drum kit, irrespective of how big or small it is.
Drums were quite popular in the military as it helped the soldiers to have a rhythm during their marching practice. When bands started to replace orchestras, the importance of percussion instruments grew. Fast paced rock’n’roll music began to replace the more traditional forms of music and finally in the early 20th century, when William Ludwig brought out the bass drum pedal, that was when the cultural explosion took place. Drum kits became an essential feature of every band. Music bands such as The Beatles greatly popularized the use of the drum kit.
One of the reasons for the popularity of drums is that it allows us to make music from our surroundings. Even a toddler is able to create a rhythm with just a stick and a hollow vessel. It is just so natural to us and is also the reason why drums are a multicultural instrument being used by communities in the Amazon Rainforest or even in the far away Sahara Deserts. There is a wide diversity in the type of drums being used by different cultures but the purpose underlying all of them remain the same; that is, to create music, to create a rhythm, to express a feeling, and for community celebrations!
When parents decide to send their children to learn music, they usually opt for popular instruments such as the guitar and the piano. However, it has been found that playing the drums is a great stress buster. Hitting a drum can relieve frustration and disappointment. It can boost your mood, your brain power, and even increase academic performance. Drumming helps the child to be confident. Playing the drum requires discipline and focus to be able to play loud or soft as required. It requires that you are able to read non-verbal cues. Reading non-verbal cues is an essential life skill in today’s unsympathetic world.
The tabla originated in the Indian subcontinent and is popularly used for classical especially Hindustani classical music, folk, and popular music. This membranophone percussion instrument consists of 2 hand drums and therefore the word tabla is said to have originated from the Persian word tabl meaning drum. The 2 drums are slightly different in shape and size, they are single headed and barrel shaped, and they produce different timbres. The right tabla or dayan or dahina tabla is played using the fingers and palm of the right hand and the bayan or bahina tabla is played using also the wrist along with the fingers and palm of the left hand. The left tabla, also called Duggi, is bigger and in the shape of a kettledrum. These drums are made of hollowed out brass, wood, or clay. They are placed side by side on a Chutta or a toroidal bundle.
The dayan or right tabla also called Chattu is laced with thongs and hoops and has wooden dowels on the sides. The dowels and hoops help to increase the tension of the membrane. The dayan is tuned to the Sa raga which is the ground note in Indian music. The bayan is constructed and tuned in such a way as to produce a sound that is a fifth to an octave below the dayan drum. Playing the tabla is complex and the musician has to use his fingers and palms to create different sounds and rhythms. The use of the heel pressure of the hand on the tabla changes the pitch and tone colour of the 2 drums during a performance.
The tabla is essential during kirtan and bhajan singing and is an integral part of the bhakti devotional traditions of Sikhs and Hindus. It is also quite popular among Sufi musicians and is an important qawali instrument. The heartbeat sensation that it produces is responsible for its popularity in pop music too. In Hindustani music, the tabla is played using the khula bol and band bol techniques whereas in classical music the tali and khali methods are used. The Indo-Pak region has 6 gharanas of tabla namely the Benares gharana, Lucknow gharana, Punjab gharana, Delhi gharana, Farukhabad gharana, and the Ajrara gharana. The craftsmen make tablas according to these gharanas. The playing styles and the composition of music also changes from gharana to gharana.
Some of the well-known tabla maestros include Ameer Husain Khan, Alla Rakha Khan, and Zakir Hussain amongst others. Learning the tabla helps students to be a part of the great Indian classical music tradition. Like all musical instruments, playing the tabla improves the student’s ability to concentrate. It also helps in the development of the motor and auditory cortexes of the brain. Playing the tabla requires stamina and improves the physical fitness of students. The concentration that is required when playing the rhythms helps to improve their listening and focusing skills.
The mridangam is an ancient percussion instrument that is an essential part of the South Indian Carnatic music troupe. Its origin can be traced back to at least 2000 years. This is a two-headed drum that is frequently used by Hindustani classical musicians from the north too. It is also called by other names such as tannumai, mrdanga, and pakhawaj. The other percussion instruments used along with the mridangam are the kanjira, the ghatam, and the morsing. When used for Hindustani music ensembles, it is accompanied by the ghatam, tabla, and the kanjira. The earlier versions of the mridangam were made of hardened clay and thus this word comes from the Sanskrit word mrt meaning earth or clay and anga meaning limb.
As per ancient Hindu mythology and as depicted in paintings and sculpture, the mridangam was the favourite instrument of deities such as Ganesha and Nandi. It is believed that when Nandi played the mridangam during the Tandav dance of Lord Shiva, the rhythm produced rang across the three worlds. This musical instrument is also said to reproduce the sound of Indra moving through the heavens on his elephant. This is the reason it is referred to as the deva vaadyam or the Divine instrument. Mridangam is very popular in Newa or Newar music, which is the traditional music made popular by the Newars in Nepal.
The mridangam is reputed to have caused the development of the tala or rhythm system. Legend also has it that the tabla was made by splitting the mridangam in half. Percussion instruments such as the mridangam were mostly used to accompany lead players and vocalists but it is now possible to observe artists holding one instrument shows too. The mridangam holds a special place in Tamil culture where it is called the tannumai. It was used along with tudi, murasu, and parai to sound the war call during the Sangam period as it was believed that the holy sound would protect the king and drive away the enemies. Mridangam also was a part of the musical ensemble used for the performance of antarakottu or dance drama that was the precursor of the now famous Bharathanatyam.
The mridangam has a really smooth tone and is capable of producing great harmony on the drum heads, with one being bass and the other treble. The side that produces the lower bass sound is called the eda bhaaga or thoppi and the side that produces the higher treble sound is called the bala bhaaga or valanthalai. Although originally made from hardened clay, it later began to be made from different kinds of wood to increase its durability. Today the wood of the jackfruit tree is used for its construction. The body of the mridangam is hollow and each end is covered with goatskin that is secured to the body with leather straps. Playing the mridangam like all musical instruments gives a student discipline and focus. Time management and creativity are other skills that are by-products of learning to master the mridangam.