Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based businessman Don Gayhardt is a fintech executive who also dedicates his time to philanthropy and other business ventures. For example, as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, Don Gayhardt provides oversight to a group that allows children to train in subjects related to music and the performing arts at multiple locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
When children are exposed to music from a young age through classes like those provided by Music Training Center Holdings, it can inspire a love of music that stays with them throughout life. Some young music students may even be influenced to pursue music in a professional capacity and seek admission to a music school after graduation from high school.
If you are among the many students who wish to study music at an institution of higher education, here are four questions to ask yourself before you choose which school to attend.
1. Which suits my needs best: a university or a conservatory?
Higher education in music can be pursued in a traditional university setting or at a conservatory exclusively dedicated to the study of music. The type of school that’s right for you will depend on your professional goals and the kind of experience you want to have as you earn your degree. A conservatory will require students to take some general education courses, but the primary focus of study will be on music. Coursework is often more intense at a conservatory, as the main purpose is to teach students to become professional performers. The level of competition for admission into a conservatory also may be much higher than at a university.
On the other hand, the benefit of attending a university or college to major in music means that your experience is likely to be more balanced. For instance, you’ll have the opportunity to take classes in a much wider range of subjects within and outside of music. Students who choose to attend a university can still train to become performers, but they’ll also be able to prepare for other career paths in music, such as business, therapy, and education.
2. What are the faculty and curriculum like at the school I’m interested in?
The faculty and curriculum at the music school you choose to attend play a significant role in your development as a music student. Learning about and meeting the faculty you would be learning from is an important part of choosing a school. The majority of music programs at the university level require students to take a certain number of hours of private lessons with different instructors every semester. If you feel like you wouldn’t get along with the instructors at a school, or simply don’t enjoy their style of playing or teaching, it’s going to be much more difficult to enjoy your lessons and, by extension, to learn. If you like the faculty members at a particular school, it’s important to ascertain how accessible they are outside of class for questions and help with assignments.
The same consideration should be given to the curriculum of the school that you are considering. Look into the types of classes that are offered, as well as which courses are required and what your elective options are. Additionally, make sure to do some cross-referencing when it comes to claims. If a school says that its curriculum prepares students for a certain type of work in music, check out the accomplishments of its alumni to see if you can find evidence for this claim.
3. How can my financial situation impact my decision?
Cost may play a significant role in which music school you choose to attend. Larger, more prestigious schools located far from your hometown may not be in your budget, and it’s important to remember that you can still get an excellent music education from a smaller, lesser-known school close to home. As with anything in music, the value you get out of your music education will ultimately come down to how much work you’re willing to put into it. If you have your heart set on a more expensive school, you can look into financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and student loans, or you may choose to build up a savings account by working a job before you enroll in school. There really isn’t a “wrong option” when it comes to getting a music education—there is only the option that is right for your personal situation.
4. Would I be more comfortable in a rural or a city setting?
Though not as critical as factors such as faculty, curriculum, and affordability, it’s important to consider how the location of the school you select will affect you as a student. Schools in major cities like New York, San Francisco, or Boston tend to be part of thriving local arts scenes with many opportunities for music students to connect and collaborate with likeminded individuals. However, the busy nature of a big city may not appeal to some students. A smaller, slower-paced town may provide you with a platform to relax and truly focus on your music education through dedicated study and practice, away from the higher costs and many distractions that often accompany big city life.
Ultimately, it’s important to visit the schools you’re seriously considering before committing to enrollment. Taking a trip to the campus will help you get a feel for how comfortable you will be with the faculty, at the school, and living in the town. Remember to take notes about your experiences at each school and ask questions of music students who already attend. This will help you become as well-informed as possible when you make a decision.
CURO Financial Technologies Corp president Don Gayhardt is an experienced business executive who places an importance on positive leadership in the workplace. With over 25 years of leadership experience, Don Gayhardt also serves as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based group that provides 2,000 children in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with access to music lessons across multiple locations.
When taking up music lessons for the first time, the most successful music students tend to try harder and practice more effectively than their peers. Listed below are eight ways you can follow their lead and find success in music lessons, no matter your age or experience level.
1. Give maximum effort during practice
Successful music students practice purposefully and often because they understand that mastering an instrument demands hard work. Many music education professionals assert that raw talent is far less valuable when it comes to learning an instrument than dedication. Successful students use this to their advantage and optimize their practice sessions by setting goals, regularly tackling new challenges, and putting their full focus on the task at hand when they sit down to play.
2. Start your lessons before you even leave the house
Successful students look for ways to get as much as possible out of the time they spend in music class, and one way that they accomplish this is by taking time to do their warmups before leaving home for their lesson. Students who get their hands and fingers moving on an instrument with a 15-minute warmup at home are prepared get started right away when they arrive to class. This gives the student more time to spend working on new material instead of using the beginning of the lesson for warmups.
3. Show up prepared
To be successful, a music student must be reliable. This means that he or she shows up for all lessons on time with the necessary supplies for the session, including his or her instrument and music sheets. It also means that the student has spent enough time practicing between classes to move forward with the new material the teacher has planned. Showing up ready with the right tools and enough practice lays the foundation for the student to be focused and engaged in the day’s lesson.
4. Use your teacher as a resource
Successful music students take advantage of the knowledge available to them through their instructors. They aren’t afraid to ask questions during a lesson when they don’t understand a concept, and they work to analyze and understand the information presented to them in class. Additionally, a successful music student may choose to ask his or her teacher for specific feedback on topics like the student’s strengths and weakness as a musician, areas that should receive extra focus during practice sessions, and new practice strategies that may improve the student’s overall playing style.
5. Study more than just musical notes
A successful musician’s interest in music extends beyond simply learning to play notes on an instrument. The best students seek out supplementary knowledge on many different music topics through reading, watching videos, attending performances, and listening to recordings. They may find a musical piece that inspires them and choose to research its history, learning when, how, and why it was written. Participating in music research outside what is taught in lessons broadens the student’s perspective and enriches the learning experience, making for a more well-rounded musical education.
6. Routinely record yourself during practice
One way that successful music students improve their skills on an instrument is by recording themselves as they practice. Recording a practice session gives the student musician an opportunity to hear his or her performance objectively and identify mistakes that may otherwise go unrecognized. Students who save these recordings will also be able to document their progress as musicians, which may help keep them motivated to work toward success when faced with difficulty in their lessons.
7. Don’t let frustration make you feel discouraged
No matter how much students practice their instruments, there will always be challenges to face on the path to proficiency. Successful music students approach challenges with a patient, positive attitude, and do not let problems cause them to lose confidence. The students who eventually become highly successful on an instrument are those who see struggles during the learning process as opportunities to improve, rather than insurmountable problems.
8. Find genuine joy in music
The last and arguably most important factor that sets successful music students apart from their peers is a true passion for music. This is not to say that students who genuinely love music don’t encounter frustration or trouble as they learn, but these problems never erode their overall enjoyment in the process of mastering their instrument. Many successful musicians truly enjoy practice sessions, seek out a variety of musical experiences, and will always strive to learn more, even when they’re at the top of their game.
The former president of Dollar Financial Group, Don Gayhardt today is the CEO of CURO Financial Technologies Corp, a company that offers accessible financial solutions to underserved populations through brands like Rapid Cash, Opt+, and Cash Money. In addition, Don Gayhardt serves as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, LLC, an organization that gives children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the opportunity to take music lessons focused on a wide range of areas, including classes on subjects such as playing in a rock band.
When groups of children or adults form a band with friends or other musicians, the first performance can be an exciting yet intimidating prospect. Below are 10 useful tips to help musicians of all ages prepare for their band’s first public performance.
1. Practice more than you think you need to.
If your band earns a spot to give a performance, take the opportunity seriously. Make sure that in the weeks leading up to the gig, your band dedicates enough time to practice so that every member feels completely prepared when the day arrives. If you don’t take time to prepare, it will show in the quality of your performance, and you may not receive another opportunity to play at the venue. Practice until you feel completely comfortable with the show you’re scheduled to put on—then practice some more.
2. Establish a set of pre-show best practices.
Before you take the stage, your band needs to get focused. For this purpose, it can be useful to have a pre-show ritual to help clear the mind of any nervousness and put you in the right mindset to perform to the best of your ability. Your pre-show routine can consist of any activity that makes you feel relaxed and ready to put on a great performance. Whatever you choose to do before your band takes the stage, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. In addition, getting enough sleep before the performance will ensure you’re rested, refreshed, and ready to shine.
3. Look the part.
Every eye in the audience will be trained on you and your band during the performance, so it’s important to go onstage showing that you take your music seriously by dressing for the occasion. The correct attire will differ depending on the genre of music you play, but the important thing is to dress in a way that makes you feel confident and demonstrates that you’re invested in your music and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to share it with the audience. In addition, try to coordinate your outfit with your bandmates. You don’t all have to wear the same thing, but sharing a similar style will make you appear more cohesive and professional.
4. Give yourself enough time for a sound check.
You should arrive at the venue early enough that your group has time to warm up and make sure that all of your equipment is functioning before the show begins. Warming up during a sound check before the show will also give the audio technician at the venue time to set volume levels before the audience arrives, allowing your band to sound balanced when you first take the stage.
5. Have a strong stage presence.
Stage presence is a key part of how the audience perceives your show. If you seem reluctant or low-energy, they are likely to respond less enthusiastically than if you show a strong stage presence. Many musicians even choose to develop an onstage persona in order to feel more confident in front of an audience. Simple actions that can improve your stage presence include standing up straight, moving around the stage instead of staying in place, and interacting with the audience throughout the set.
6. Interact with your bandmates on stage.
Another way that the audience perceives the energy onstage is based on how often and how well you interact with the other members of your band. It may sound strange, but this aspect of your performance is something that should be practiced during rehearsals. Engaging with your bandmates throughout the set shows a connection that the audience will respond to, and will help your performance seem more authentic.
7. Play through your mistakes.
Mistakes are bound to happen, especially during your first gig when nerves are running high. The important thing to remember if someone in your band makes a mistake is to keep playing. Don’t stop in the middle of a song because of a mistake. Push through the stress that you may feel and don’t let it affect the rest of your set. To help your group learn from the mistakes that you make, consider recording the performance so that you can revisit it later and evaluate what needs to be improved. However, if you choose to do this, don’t forget to also notice what the band did well and give yourselves credit.
8. Enjoy yourself.
No matter what the circumstances are surrounding your performance, make sure that you enjoy the experience as you show off your hard work and have a good time on stage with your bandmates. When you have fun doing what you love, it shows. The audience will know you’re enjoying yourselves, and may be more inclined to enjoy listening to your performance in return.
Don Gayhardt is a Pennsylvania-based business executive with more than 25 years of leadership experience in the fintech sector. In addition to serving as the president and CEO of CURO Financial Technologies Corp, Don Gayhardt applies his leadership experience to a position as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, LLC, a group that offers quality music programs to children in the Philadelphia area.
One form of music that many parents would like their children to take an interest in is classical music. Studies have shown that exposure to classical music in childhood can have a positive impact on the development of memory skills and spatial-temporal reasoning. Parents who want to foster an interest in classical music in their children should consider the following helpful tips:
1. Demonstrate excitement about classical music.
When a parent shows enthusiasm for a certain type of music, their positive energy is bound to have an impact on their child’s opinion. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your own interest in classical music to your child in everyday situations. It can be helpful to make sharing music a regular family activity, taking turns sharing your favorite classical pieces with your child and listening to music your child has selected.
2. Play classical music in your home and on car trips.
In addition to showing an active interest in classical music, incorporate classical songs into your family’s daily routine. Play pieces from your favorite composer as you cook dinner, or in the car as your take your children to school. You can also consider playing classical music for your children as a lullaby to help them fall asleep. The more familiar your child is with the genre, the more interest they may develop in it.
3. Engage your child’s interest with questions.
Asking your child opinion-based questions about classical music is an excellent way to engage their attention. When you play a piece, ask your son or daughter how the music makes them feel. Ask your child about the parts of the song they most enjoyed, and what the music makes them think of.
4. Take your child on a field trip to the symphony.
Taking your child to a symphonic performance is an excellent way to foster a love of classical music. Apart from the novelty of being out of the house, going to the symphony and seeing the lights, witnessing the orchestra setup, and hearing the music in person for the first time can leave a lasting impression.
If you believe your child is mature enough to sit through a symphony performance, make sure to pick the right show. Some local orchestras host performances specifically designed for children, featuring music from the soundtrack of popular children’s films. For children who aren’t quite interested enough to sit through a symphonic performance, the ballet can be a great alternative. Ballet performances provide visual entertainment while featuring classical music as a soundtrack. The Nutcracker is a perennial ballet favorite for families with young children.
5. Encourage your child to take music lessons on a classical instrument.
Some children may become interested in the genre if they are allowed to take lessons on a classical musical instrument. Developing as a musician can teach your child to appreciate all genres of music, including classical, in a way that they never would have otherwise. Great beginning instruments for this purpose include the piano and classical guitar. Though the right age to begin lessons will vary from child to child, a majority of professionals suggest that five years old is a good age to start piano, while guitar may be better for eight or nine year olds, due to the hand dexterity necessary to swiftly change chords.
6. Read your child stories that involve classical music.
Reading books about famous classical composers to your children during story time may be an effective way to educate and entertain them at the same time. Books like Why Beethoven Threw the Stew by Steven Isserlis and The Farewell Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza are great choices for teaching children about classical music during story time. Other books like Listen to the Birds by Ana Gerhard, which includes an accompanying CD, can teach your kids about the genre and allow them to hear the sounds of the distinct instruments used in classical music.
7. Watch movies about classical composers.
If your child connects better with films than books, there are many family-friendly movies that can help them learn to appreciate classical music. For a lesson on the life of one of the world’s most famous composers, consider the film Beethoven Lives Upstairs. Other movies for children that incorporate classical music include animated features like Looney Tunes Musical Masterpieces, as well as Disney’s version of Peter and the Wolf.
No matter whether you’re a long-time musician, a new music student, or somewhere in between, people who are passionate about music often consider practice or performance an important part of daily life. However, travel can make practicing some traditional instruments difficult, leaving a musician on a trip without an outlet for creativity.
If you are a musician who is planning to travel soon, but don’t want to sacrifice your ability to make music while away from home, the following six instruments are easy to take with you no matter where in the world you go.
A lightweight, hollow-body instrument commonly associated with the Hawaiian Islands, the ukulele has an appearance similar to that of a miniature acoustic guitar. It features four nylon strings and is usually made out of wood, though plastic models are also available. The ukulele comes in four sizes, with the 30-inch baritone being the largest and the traditional soprano being the smallest at just 20 inches long. The instrument is notable for being fun, inexpensive, and relatively easy to learn how to play.
There are many options for the percussionist who wants to take an instrument on the go. While they do not produce the same sound as the standard drum kit, hand drums like the West African djembe are a practical option for travel. Although traditional djembes are made from a goatskin stretched over a wooden body, a hardier, more functional option for the traveling drummer is a djembe made from fiberglass and equipped with a metal tuning key. Another ideal hand drum for the traveling musician is the mini cajon (Spanish for “box”), like those designed by the instrument company Meinl. While standard cajons are large enough for a drummer to sit on when playing, the miniature version from Meinl is just under 9 inches tall and almost 6 inches wide. These birch wood instruments have a warm tone and produce a crisp sound that make them ideal for accompanying other musicians on the road.
Guitarists of all ages can bring their craft with them wherever they go thanks to a modified version of the instrument designed specifically with the traveler in mind. One of the best acoustic options is the Backpacker guitar, made by C.F. Martin & Co. Available in both classical and steel string form, the instrument has a slimmed-down body design that makes it perfect for storing in a packed car or in the overhead compartment of a plane. Although the skinny body of the wooden guitar prevents it from producing the louder, fuller sound of a standard size acoustic, it has the benefit of weighing only two pounds, making it extremely portable and the perfect option to bring along on outdoor excursions.
Alternatively, electric guitarists may be interested in the Ultra-Light Electric made by the company aptly named Traveler Guitar. At 3 pounds and just 28 inches long, the compact Ultra-Light produces a sound identical to a full-scale electric guitar and comes with a removable leg rest frame for functional lap playing. Musicians can pair the Ultra-Light with a mini amplifier and have the freedom to shred on the guitar anytime, anywhere.
For its size, the harmonica has a lot to offer the traveling musician as it spans three octaves and can play both single notes and chords. The typical beginner’s harmonica is the 10-hole diatonic type in the key of C—the version most often played in music genres like folk, blues, and pop. Though a harmonica needs to be in the right key in order to most effectively accompany other instruments during a song, these metal mouth organs are small enough to stuff in your pocket, making it easy to fit a set of them with a wide range of keys into a travel bag.
While many standard wind instruments like the flute and clarinet are already small enough to take on trips, they can be expensive to replace or repair if they are lost or damaged. For this reason, the ocarina is an excellent, economical option for a wind instrument player who wants to make music while traveling. Ocarinas are small, rounded vessel flutes with a total of 10 holes—two for the thumbs and eight for the fingers. They are made from plastic, terracotta, or even metal, and produce pure notes in a limited range. Some versions are highly decorative, and musicians may choose to wear them around the neck on a string for convenient carry.
Arguably the simplest and most often-forgotten instrument that musicians can take wherever they go is their voice. Through singing lessons and practice, musicians can learn to develop a controlled, melodic vocal tone welcome in any musical setting. Singing can also lead to a variety of emotional, social, and health benefits for the singer. Studies show that singing can strengthen the immune system, improve the body’s blood circulation, reduce stress, and even boost self-confidence. Additionally, singing in a group is a great way to make friends and enjoy the wonderful social aspect of music while on the road.
Although there is a common misconception that only children benefit from learning to play an instrument, research shows that starting music practice later in life can provide many advantages for adults as well. Read on to learn seven reasons why picking up an instrument later in life is an excellent idea for adults over 50.
1. Playing music gives the brain much-needed mental exercise.
As we grow older, studies show that the brain becomes less alert, but learning to play an instrument can help strengthen cognitive function and keep the mind sharp. This is due, in part, to the fact that playing a musical instrument requires many different areas of both the left and right sides of the brain to work together at once. Of course, the longer a person has played an instrument, the more positive effects he or she is likely to experience. Still, studies show that seniors who took just six months of lessons on an instrument like the piano showed improvement in skills like planning, verbal fluency, memory, and information processing.
2. You may have more time to dedicate to hobbies.
Many people who are over the age of 50 are in a much better position to learn how to play music than they were in their younger years. Older adults may be less busy than people who are still attempting to raise a young family, for instance, and retirees likely have more personal time to focus on hobbies. In addition, older music students may be more financially settled and have the funds to invest in a higher quality instrument and a better music teacher than they would have in the past.
3. You are more aware of what kind of music you enjoy.
Older adults learning how to play an instrument for the first time go into the practice with many years of exposure to music, and they tend to be surer of their tastes and preferences. Younger individuals may struggle with which instrument they should learn to play out of uncertainty about what they enjoy, and often vacillate between different instruments while trying to find one that suits them best. Older first-time musicians are less likely to encounter this problem because they have a more well-developed sense of who they are and what they like. Additionally, years of life experience can also bring with it a stronger sense of self-discipline and time management skills, both of which are important when it comes to practicing a new instrument.
4. Playing music can broaden your social life.
After the age of 50, many people find themselves feeling isolated as their children have moved away from home, they have gone through a divorce, or their partner has passed on. Learning to play a musical instrument is an excellent way for older adults to meet friends and make new social connections in a fun, organic way, whether through group music lessons or local music meetups. Broadening one’s social life through music can enhance feelings of belonging, provide a sense of purpose, and result in a boost of confidence and self-esteem.
5. Playing music can help you let go of stress.
Higher levels of stress often accompany the aging process for a variety of reasons, including illness, major physical changes, and lack of companionship. Learning to play an instrument can be an excellent way for older individuals to relieve stress by triggering a release of the stress-relieving chemical dopamine in the brain. Additionally, playing an instrument provides older musicians with an outlet for creative self-expression, which can elevate their mood and help them work through any emotional difficulties they’re struggling with.
6. Playing an instrument can help you bond with younger generations.
An older adult who learns to play an instrument has a hobby that is both easy and enjoyable to share with younger people, like their grandchildren. Music is an incredible unifier that allows people from different generations and with different life experiences to share a common interest. Older adults can use their skills on an instrument and their love of music as a tool to bond with the young people in their lives.
7. Taking lessons on an instrument is easier than ever.
Of all the reasons that adults over 50 should consider learning to play an instrument for the first time, perhaps the most basic is that taking music lessons is simpler and more convenient than ever before. While traditional music lessons are still available to those who wish to take them, there are also countless smartphone apps, websites, DVDs, YouTube videos, and books that can help any beginner learn basic skills on the instrument of his or her choice. With all the benefits that music has to offer, and the ease with which a beginner can learn through modern tools, older adults have every reason to take advantage of music lessons.
By the time children reach the age of 10, many of them will be able to learn how to play some of the bigger brass and woodwind instruments that were physically unsuitable for them before. Not only are instruments from the brass and woodwind sections a unique and entertaining choice for children who want to play music, they can also help growing kids develop better hand-eye coordination, learn better breath control, and increase their confidence. Additionally, the band atmosphere in which many students practice at school gives children the opportunity to socialize and make new friends with similar interests. Listed below is a helpful guide to the popular brass and woodwind instruments available to young musicians.
Brass instruments are known for their loud, bright tones. To play a brass instrument, a musician uses his or her lips to create a vibration against the mouthpiece, which is then amplified through the instrument’s metal body. Brass instruments are used in a wide variety of music genres, but are especially notable for their place in jazz, marching bands, and professional orchestras. The following are among the most popular brass instruments for children to learn.
Though there are several different versions of the trumpet, the most commonly played is the B-flat trumpet. The standard range of the trumpet spans the F-sharp note below C4 to the B note two and a half octaves higher. The notes are manipulated by a musician using three piston valves located on the instrument’s top. Trumpets are arguably easier to learn how to play than other brass instruments, and a reasonably good quality trumpet can be purchased for a beginning student at an affordable price.
The French horn is often referred to simply as “the horn” in orchestral settings. It is among the more difficult of the brass instruments for young students to learn. Because of the way that the instrument is designed, horn players are much more likely to play the wrong notes, and performing without cracking or hitting a wrong note requires precision. Despite its difficulty, the French horn is celebrated for its rich, beautiful sound, and plays a distinct and important role in orchestra performances.
The trombone is unique among brass instruments because the player uses a slide to create different pitches rather than valves. The most commonly used version of the instrument is the tenor trombone, which plays in the key of B-flat, though the sounds it produces are one octave below the B-flat notes played by the standard trumpet.
The tuba is by far the largest instrument in the brass family, and accordingly, it plays the lowest notes. The instrument is made from a single long, metal tube that can range in size from nine to 18 feet, with the longest tubes creating the lowest sounds. The standard version of the tuba is played while the musician is sitting down, with the instrument on his or her lap, though specially designed tubas are used in marching bands.
In contrast to the brass section, players create music on a woodwind instrument through one of two ways. For reed instruments in the woodwind family, a player produces notes by blowing through a mouthpiece equipped with a strip of thin material known as a reed. The reed, which may be made from materials like wood, plastic, metal, cane, or synthetic materials, is responsible for creating the vibrations that produce a sound, rather than the musician’s lips. For flute instruments in the woodwind family, sounds are produced when a musician blows air across the edge of the instrument’s mouthpiece. The following woodwind instruments are among the most popular for children to play.
Of all the instruments in the woodwind family, the flute is the highest pitched, and creates a sound similar to that of a whistle when a player blows air across the top of the instrument’s tone hole. It is an extremely popular instrument for young musicians. The most commonly used flute in bands and orchestras is the soprano flute, which often plays the melody part in an orchestral performance. Flutes are a great choice for student musicians because they are widely available and easy to transport to and from classes.
The clarinet family comprises several reed instruments that range from the small, high E-flat clarinet to the large contrabass, which plays deep, low notes. The most commonly played clarinet is the soprano version, which produces notes in B-flat. The clarinet is typically made of wood with metal keys covering holes that span its length, though some clarinets are built from plastic, plexiglass, metal, or other synthetic materials. It is a popular choice for beginner musicians, though it may take young children some time to learn how to cover the instruments’ holes, some of which are not entirely covered by the keys.
Though made of brass, the saxophone is considered a woodwind instrument because it is played through a mouthpiece equipped with a reed. The four most commonly used members of the saxophone family are the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass versions, with the most widely-played being the alto and tenor. Like instruments in the brass family, the saxophone can often be heard in jazz and big band music, though it also has found use as a unique component of rock groups in recent years.
Music has been a part of human culture throughout the ages, with some evidence suggesting that mankind has been creating songs for more than 50,000 years. Since then, it has evolved to become a crucial part of numerous societies. To explore the role that music has played in human history, check out the following facts about the songs, instruments, and musicians of the ancient world:
1. The oldest-known piece of music is called “Hurrian Hymn No. 6.”
“Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is the oldest melody to be discovered in its entirety, with an estimated composition date sometime between 1400 and 1300 BC. Etched into a Sumerian clay tablet found in Syria in the 1950s, the melody, written for a 9-string lyre, honors the fruit and fertility goddess Nikkal.
The oldest full musical composition—consisting of a melody with lyrics—is a 2,000-year-old song entitled “Seikilos Epitaph.” This song was engraved on a marble column that served as a gravesite marker in Turkey, and includes the lyrics “While you live, shine / Have no grief at all / Life exists only for a short while / And time demands its toll,” according to an article on History.com.
2. The world’s first instruments include flutes and drums.
In Germany in the early 2010s, archaeologists discovered flutes carved from mammoth ivory and bird bones, which scientists estimate to be more than 40,000 years old. Though researchers cannot say with surety what people used the instruments for, they speculate that the bone flutes were used in either religious rituals or for recreational purposes.
The next-oldest instruments ever found are drums, some of which date back to 6000 BC. Formed by animal skin membranes stretched tight across a shell made from objects like gourds and wood, drums of different designs and sizes have been discovered in the ruins of ancient societies located in places like Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey.
3. Ancient Greeks used music both recreationally and academically.
Music was a cornerstone of life in ancient Greece, and people played it on all kinds of occasions, from the celebratory, to the everyday, to the somber. It served as a way to entertain guests at weddings and social gatherings and to console the grieving at funerals. It was even played on a regular basis for workers undertaking their daily tasks in an effort to make labor more tolerable.
The ancient Greeks’ believed that music had a divine quality that promoted healing and allowed people to relax, but they also saw music as an academic tool. Music was one of four elements of mathematics education in Ancient Greece because of the role that ratios play in the relationship between melody and harmony. Thus, they considered music to be less of an art and more of a quantitative science.
4. Some cultures still play ancient instruments today.
A number of modern musicians still play instruments that originated thousands of years ago in places like China, Australia, and many Middle Eastern countries. In China, people carry on the tradition of playing the guqin, a plucked instrument with seven strings strung across a long, narrow board. Some claim that the Chinese philosopher Confucius played the guqin, because he considered music to be a crucial part of maintaining a clear heart and mind.
In countries like Azerbaijan, Turkey, Greece, and Tajikistan, musicians still play a large frame drum known as a daf. The daf has a hardwood frame covered by a membrane, which is often made of goatskin. Played by the hand, the dafa is sometimes equipped with small metal ringlets around the interior to produce a tambourine-like sound.
In Australia, aboriginal peoples still play a long flute known as a didgeridoo, which is formed from local hardwoods. These instruments tend to be between 3 and 10 feet long, and are played by vibrating one’s lips continuously through a large mouth opening at the top while tapping out patterns along the side.
5. You can hear recreated ancient music on the Internet.
In 2013, a researcher from Oxford University claimed that he was able to accurately reconstruct the sound of the lyrics and melody of the “Seiklos Epitaph” through new findings about ancient Greek vocal notations. To play the song as it was originally meant to be heard, he used an instrument known as a canon, which has eight strings and is similar to a zither. That song can be heard here. Many people have also attempted to recreate “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” using a variety of instruments, including different forms of lyres that may be similar to those used at the time the song that was written. Several different versions of “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” can be found here.
Professional songwriters are the backbone of the music industry, creating original content for musicians and singers to perform. If you’ve ever dreamed of writing songs for the world’s most popular musical acts, these tips can help you get started:
1. Take up a musical instrument.
You don’t need to know how to play an instrument to write lyrics, but you will have to be able to play one to compose a melody. Learning to play an instrument is a rewarding hobby that can make the songwriting process much easier, and options like the piano, guitar, and keyboard are common choices for aspiring songwriters. If your primary motivation for learning to play an instrument is so you gain the ability to write songs, it may be helpful to focus on learning to play chords on your instrument rather than practicing scales. Mastering the major and minor chords on an instrument can provide you with a solid foundation for building catchy song melodies.
2. Listen to a lot of music.
One habit that many accomplished songwriters have in common is listening to a lot of music written by other artists. Routinely exposing yourself to new music can help inspire new ideas and help you develop a writing style that is uniquely your own. Listening to others’ music can also help you identify new chords to play on your instrument, which broadens the tools you have to work with when writing. If you’re not sure how to find new music, try using an online music streaming service like Spotify to explore the work of bands and artists from many different genres.
3. Become familiar with basic music theory.
Though it’s not mandatory to study music theory in order to write a song, being familiar with some of the basics can make a big difference. For example, studying the roles of chords, scales, and keys in a song can help you learn how to determine which notes naturally go together and allow you to create the most pleasing chord progressions. Reading up on the different types of chord progressions can also help you better understand the way that song melodies are typically structured.
4. Know the parts of a song’s lyrical structure.
In addition to understanding the structure of a song’s melody, an aspiring songwriting should also understand the different parts of a song’s lyrical structure. Knowing the difference between a verse, a refrain, a chorus, a pre-chorus, and a bridge—and how these components all fit together—can create a blueprint for your own songs and help you write them in a way that makes sense to your listeners.
5. Practice writing on a regular basis.
As with any hobby, you need to practice songwriting in order to improve. Therefore, you should regularly set aside time that you can exclusively dedicate to songwriting and stay on task, even if you can only manage to find half an hour in your daily schedule to do so. On days when you’re not feeling particularly creative, you can explore the many online songwriting blogs, which are full of suggestions for songwriting exercises that will help you get the most out of your writing session.
6. Get feedback.
Although songwriting is mostly about satisfying your own need for self-expression and creativity, it’s always a good idea to get feedback from others. Asking for the opinions of fellow musicians or well-intentioned listeners can help you understand the parts of your songs that people enjoy while allowing you to gain perspective on aspects of your songwriting that could use improvement.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking for feedback from friends or family, you can find musicians willing to provide honest opinions of your work at a number of websites, such as Frettie.com, which are dedicated to the songwriting community. Wherever you choose to solicit constructive criticism from, remember not to take any judgments too personally. It’s better to view critiques as an opportunity to grow in your craft.
7. Write with others.
Sometimes, songwriters produce their best work when they partner with another musician. Choosing to write with others can help you learn new methods that change the way you approach the songwriting process and improve your technique. While some attempts at co-writing may not result in a completed song, every writing session will give you more experience and make you a little bit better at songwriting.
8. Don’t give up.
Learning how to write great songs is a process that requires a lot of time and dedication. No matter what your songwriting goals are, it’s important to not become discouraged if you can’t immediately produce songs of the quality you were hoping for. Try not to judge yourself too harshly as you navigate through the learning process. You can even take a break from songwriting on days when you feel too frustrated or creatively “stuck” to produce anything that is meaningful to you. It’s okay to step back from your work when you need to, as long as you don’t give up entirely.
While the electric bass may not be culturally celebrated on the level of its cousin the electric guitar, the instrument plays an essential role in the creation of fluid, measured music that is pleasing to the ear. Read on for an overview of everything one needs to know about the electric bass.
The role of the bass in music
The Fender company first developed the electric bass guitar for mass consumption in the 1950s. Known as the Precision Bass, this electric, easily-transportable alternative to the stand-up bass had a fundamental influence on the evolution of popular music. The Precision Bass could not only be amplified to better blend in with other loud, electric instruments, but its physical design was also familiar enough that guitar players could learn to play it more easily than the quieter, acoustic stand-up bass.
Today, bass guitar is a core component of most modern music styles, including rock, pop, swing, funk, world beat, jazz, metal, and blues. While all instruments play significant roles in the creation of a band’s sound, the bass is arguably the most important. This is because the bass guitarist is responsible for creating a connection between the harmony of a song and its rhythm. Alongside a drummer, a bassist must keep time within a song, playing in a rhythmic pattern that establishes the pulse, or beat, of the music for the rest of the band to follow.
At the same time, the bassist must play notes that establish a harmonic foundation for the rest of the musicians. In this respect, the bass is also extremely important, because the human ear tends to hear harmonies created by multiple notes in relation to the lowest possible pitch. If a bassist plays the wrong foundational notes, it throws the harmony off and disrupts the music. This makes it much easier to notice when a bass player makes a mistake than when someone playing a lead instrument, such as guitar or saxophone, missteps.
Ways to play the bass
The bass guitar’s traditional four strings are tuned to the notes E, A, D, and G—one octave below the electric guitar’s four lowest-toned strings. The similarity between the notes and body styles of the two instruments sometimes leads guitar players to assume that learning to play the bass will be an easy task, but the transition is not usually so smooth. This is due, in part, to the fact that playing the bass requires a markedly different technique and technical skillset than people use to play the electric guitar.
Accomplished bass players may use a variety of styles to create the right sound for the genre of music they are playing. Popular playing techniques on the bass include palm muting, picking, fretting, and slap and pop. While many bassists choose to use only their fingers on the strings of the instrument, some prefer to use a pick. Famous bassists like Geddy Lee, Flea, and Duck Dunn are all notable for their abilities as finger-style bassists, while Paul McCartney, Chris Squire, and Mike Dirnt made notable accomplishments playing with a pick. Either choice is appropriate and depends solely on the preference of the bassist.
Useful bass equipment
Musicians who are interested in becoming bass guitarists need several pieces of gear to get started. Second in importance to the instrument itself is an amplifier. A bass guitar that is not plugged into an amp will not emit any notable sound. Beginner musicians can learn to play using a small, 100-watt amp, but more experienced bassists who are looking to perform shows should only purchase amps with a wattage of 200 or more. To connect a bass to an amp, all new musicians must also purchase an instrument cable with quarter-inch jacks on both ends.
Additional gear that is helpful for new bass players to have includes a guitar strap, which will allow a musician to learn how to stand while playing. Learning to play a bass while standing is more comfortable than sitting down with the bass propped on one knee, and will also be a useful technique for those who want to eventually join a band. New musicians should also consider purchasing a case for the instrument to protect it from damage, as well as an electronic tuner to make sure that they are playing in key.