Previous Instruments of the Week
This lovely instrument is famous throughout Greece and is used mainly in playing Rebetiko music.
a pandoura instrument
The bouzouki is based on an ancient instrument from Asia and the Middle East called a pandoura. It is incredible that an instrument that could make so many different sounds was created thousands of years ago!
This is a clip from my very favourite music venue - The Green Note in Camden, London. Every month, on a Sunday afternoon, you can hear rebetiko being played live by amazing musicians. The band, from Cyprus, are called Megla, and they play early rebetiko from the 1920's and 30's that would have been played by immigrants coming to live in Greece from Asia Minor ( the Asian part of Turkey).
Not all bouzouki music is rebetiko,though. Have a listen to Amir John Haddad improvising (making the music up as he goes along) to some Spanish flamenco music!
Finally, I can't resist putting an one more Green Note clip. This shows how beautiful the sound is when lots of bouzoukis play at the same time.
This week, let's take a look at the flute. Some of you may remember watching Peter and the Wolf and hearing this tune every time the bird appeared:
The flute is played by blowing over the hole in the mouthpiece, so it belongs to the wind instrument section of the orchestra. To make the sound higher or lower (pitch!) you move your fingers to open or close holes along the length of the instrument- a bit like we do when we play the recorder.
If you want a really high sound though, you could try the piccolo - a smaller version of the flute with a much higher pitch.
The flute is used for lots of different types of music - classical music, like in Peter and the Wolf, but also rock, jazz and folk music. What I didn't know until today was that you can beat box on a flute! And it sounds brilliant. Have a look at this:
This is another lovely example - the flute is a very popular instrument in India, and here, the flute is accompanied by the Indian tabla drums.
Finally, some folk music from Ireland. Please fast forward to the middle of the video if you don't have much time, so you can hear how amazing the flute sounds when it speeds up (changes tempo!)
â€‹Trumpet-like instruments have been around for thousands of years! They were used during battles or hunting, and some early trumpets have been dated to 1500BC!
Trumpets are mainly made from a metal called brass, so they belong in the brass section of the orchestra.
You play the trumpet by nearly closing your lips so you can make a buzzing sound ( a bit like blowing a raspberry!). This is called an embouchure.
Trumpets are used in lots of different types of music, especially jazz, folk and classical.
Jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan plays this amazing track from 1964. This might change your mind about jazz if you didn't think you liked it.
For a very different jazz track, this is Miles Davis from his incredible album Kind of Blue. This music sounded so different when it came out that people were shocked. Miles Davis uses a special kind of scale (set of notes) and lots of rests (pauses in the music) to create a kind of mood. How do you feel when you listen to it? How different is it from Lee Morgan's Sidewinder? Which do you prefer and why?
Finally, a different kind of music again - this time folk music from Serbia. This type of music is usually called Balkan Beats and uses the brass section (instruments made of brass, like trumpets) to create a strong rhythm (long and short notes) that make you want to dance!
This week, let's turn to the double bass. This is an early version of the bass guitar, but it is still used today for so many great types of music- jazz, classical, blues, rock and roll, rockabilly, country music, bluegrass, and folk.
You might have noticed that it is like a really big violin - so big that you have to rest it on the ground to play it - no way that would fit under your chin!
This is an acoustic instrument, so you don't need to plug it in - it already sounds really loud.
The double bass is used a lot in classical music, and as it is played by plucking or bowing the strings, it is found in the string section of the orchestra. This exhilarating (extremely exciting) track begins so softly, with the double bass strings being plucked (this is called 'pizzicato') before building into a huge wall of sound.
Next, a totally different way to play the double bass. This is Ray Brown, one of the best ever jazz players who loves to improvise (not just playing notes on a page, but making it up as you go along). You have to be pretty amazing to play the double bass because, just like with a violin, there is no way of telling where to put your fingers to hit the right note, so you could easily play notes too sharp (too high) or flat (too low).
Now Elvis, the most famous rock and roll star ever, with Mystery Train. Listen closely- can you hear the double bass?
Last week, we looked at the guitar- both acoustic and electric. This week we will look first at the electric bass guitar, which is like an electric guitar in lots of ways.
You play it by strumming (brushing your fingers over the strings) or plucking (picking the strings with a guitar pick)
Also, you plug it into the electricity supply to make it sound loud
But the main difference is the pitch - the sound of the bass is much lower, and it only has 4 strings.
Bass guitar is used in so many types of music, especially rock, reggae, pop, disco, funk, and heavy metal.
Have a listen to Queen playing some rock now. I bet you recognise this bass guitar riff, it is the most important part of the whole song!
Now listen to this...can you notice anything?! Chic have used the bassline from Another One Bites the Dust and created their own brilliant disco track. Which one do you prefer and why?
Now a classic pop track from Michael Jackson. Can you hear the bassline?
Finally, you might recognise this next track from Fleetwood Mac if you ever watch motor racing...
I hope you are inspired to find some more brilliant electric basslines.
Let me know if you find any and I will feature them on this page.
Next week, the double bass...
All guitars are played by strumming or plucking the strings with your fingers or with a pick which you hold between your index (pointing) finger and your thumb.
The acoustic guitar doesn't need to be plugged into any electricity supply to make it louder, because of the sound hole which makes the sound of the strings echo.
Acoustic guitar is used for pop, folk, early blues, and country music. Listen to Seasick Steve play some blues on his acoustic guitar.
Now for some folk music as Don Mclean plays his acoustic guitar in the beautiful track 'Babylon'.
Another type of acoustic guitar music is flamenco, which is an exhilarating gypsy music from Spain. This video is great because you get a close up of the amazing Paco de Lucia as he plays the flamenco guitar.
The electric guitar is also used for blues, folk and pop, but mainly known for rock music. It has a louder and much more raw sound than the acoustic guitar.
Listen to Cream perform 'Strange Brew', a fantastic example of rock music.
Another type of music linked to electric guitar is heavy metal which is a type of extra loud and exciting rock music. Here are Black Sabbath playing Paranoid.
Can you compare the sound of the electric guitar to the acoustic guitar? What is different about the sound? Which one do you prefer?
The piano is almost the same as a keyboard- but the difference is that a keyboard is an electronic instrument which has to be plugged into a power source (needs electricity). A piano is an accoustic instrument so it doesn't need any power ( no need for any electricity).
Both instruments are played by pressing the keys, which are the black and white notes.
Have a look at this demonstration of a pianist playing the French composer Erik Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1. This is a lovely example of classical piano.
Can you see that when the player's hands are on the left side of the piano keyboard, the pitch sounds lower? When their hands move to the right, the pitch goes higher.
Drums are such an important part of any piece of music, because they play the rhythm (long and short notes) which gives the music its identity. The drumbeat can change a piece of music into reggae, jazz, rock or any other genre (style of music).
Drums are part of the percussion section of the orchestra, but the ones in this picture are used for rock music, like in this track, I'm One by The Who.Listen for how the music changes from a peaceful, gentle song into a rock track just by the drums coming in. Can you feel the difference in the style of music?
Another exciting style of drumming is jazz drumming. Here is is the amazing Art Blakey performing a drum solo in 1959.
However, not all drumming takes place on a drum kit.
This wonderful musician is called Uday Deshpande, playing the traditional Indian "tabla" drums. The left hand plays the bass (lower pitch) on the big drum and the right hand plays the lead (main rhythm) drum.
Angelique Kidjo worked with the fantastic drummer Tony Allen on her album Remain in Light. We have heard his music before -go back to Previous Tracks of the Day and listen to Fela Kuti and Africa 70. This is afrobeat - an exciting mix of African and jazz music.
The saxophone is a versatile instrument (in other words it can be played in lots of different styles of music, like jazz, reggae, ska, two tone, afrobeat, rock, punk and soul).
You play the sax by blowing down it so it is known as a wind instrument.
Like most wind instruments, it comes in different sizes, from the smallest soprano
to the largest baritone!
This video shows some of the different sounds you can make on the saxophone, Which is your favourite?
This track by Hazel O'Connor called Will You is what made many people want to start playing the sax. What do you think of it?
For a very different saxophone sound, this is Cannonball Adderley on the sax with Miles Davis on the trumpet on the jazz standard ( A piece of music that is played by almost all jazz musicians who improvise around it) Autumn Leaves.
Finally, this is the band called Madness with their two tone classic One Step Beyond - I think you might love this one.
You don't usually see a banjo in an orchestra. It is usually used in folk music, especially folk music like 'bluegrass' and 'old time'.This clip from the film Deliverance shows one of the most famous examples of banjo playing where the guitar player has a competition with the banjo player to see who is the best musician! Who do you think is the winner?
I think it's really important to know the full history of music and musicians, and celebrate everyone involved in making the banjo such an exciting instrument.
I was convinced that banjo music began in America until I watched 'Black and British: A Forgotten History'on BBC2. Then, I found out that the banjo is an instrument which first came from Africa, brought to America by slaves. This picture shows an early 'gourd' banjo, from Africa. Does it remind you of any of the African instruments we use in school?
The banjo is played by plucking the strings with your fingers, so it is called a stringed instrument. This is another way to play the banjo, called a claw hammer style because the left hand has curled up fingers, like a claw! This banjo style came from West Africa.
Now, listen to this beautiful track by P.G. Six.
Can you hear the banjo?
Finally, watch this wonderful video from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who as well as playing some amazing Old Style music, are helping to set the record straight and show the world that much American country music, from Old Style to Bluegrass originally came from Africa, and has mixed and merged with lots of different musicians over time to become the music we recognise today.
Part of the reason for focusing on different instruments each week is to inspire you to play them one day, but with last week's instrument- the harmonica, and with this week's, the recorder, I am hoping to inspire you to play them NOW!
Lots of you have a dusty recorder at the back of your cupboard from when we have learned it in school- now is the time to get it out and have a blow!
The recorder is part of the wind instrument section of the orchestra, because you blow into it. You use your fingers to cover holes to make the notes higher or lower(pitch!)
There are many different sized recorders, from the smallest (sopranino),
right through to the sub contra bass!
Have a listen to this amazing folk music track - with practice, maybe you could play as quickly and beautifully as this!
Here is another example of amazing recorder playing - this time in with one of the best rock music bands of all time, Led Zepplin, playing one of their most popular tracks, Stairway to Heaven. Can you hear the recorder?
The third instrument we will be looking at is the violin. You may recognise the violin from Peter and the Wolf - it is Peter's theme music which means that this is the music which plays when the story focuses on him.
The violin is played using a long bow which you stroke across the strings.
Another way to play the violin is to pluck the strings with your fingers. This is called 'pizzicato'.
Listen again to this amazing track by Eliza Carthy, where she first plucks the strings (pizzicato) before using the bow.
The harmonica is a lovely instrument, and I know that at least one person in our school is learning it at the moment - hello Jack! You blow down the holes, moving your mouth up and down the instrument, and breathe in and out to get higher or lower notes (pitch!) You can cup your hands around the harmonica to change the quality of sound (timbre!).
The harmonica is often used in Blues music, where it is known as a 'harp'.
Have a listen to the King of the Blues harp, Sonny Boy Williamson.
It is also used in folk music. This is Bob Dylan playing Mr Tambourine Man in 1961. You can hear the harmonica clearly, especially at the beginning, as he is warming up.
Finally, this is another brilliant harmonica track - Led Zepplin -'When the Levee Breaks' with the harmonica played by Robert Plant.
So.. the harmonica doesn't cost much money, it is easy to carry around in your pocket and it's not so loud that you will annoy everyone in the whole house.
Why not give it a try?:)
This week, let's take a look at the clarinet. I must admit I am biased because I play it, but the clarinet has a beautiful, velvety sound which many children will recognise from Peter and the Wolf, as the cat theme music is played on a clarinet.
The clarinet is played by blowing down the mouthpiece, so it is part of the wind instrument section of the orchestra. It has a very thin wooden reed which vibrates (moves quickly) and the sound is made louder because of the bell (the opposite end from the mouthpiece, which looks like the shape of a bell).
When you press your fingers on the keys, the notes go higher or lower (pitch!) You can bend the note and make it lower or higher just by moving the shape of your mouth, which many jazz and klezmer musicians can do.
The clarinet is so versatile, it can sound very different depending on the style of music. Here is a classic klezmer track (which is a Jewish celebration music) called Freilach by the Klezmer Festival Band
Compare that to the clip from Peter and the Wolf to see if you agree.
Finally, I have to just mention an amazing clarinet player called Sidney Bechet.
He was born in New Orleans, USA in 1897 and he was one of the first soloists in jazz music. He loved to play blues music and his special skill was IMPROVISING (making it up as you go along) which we love to do in our music lessons. Here he is, playing Blues in the Air.