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In music, a written C on the score doesn’t produce the same sound for every instrument. Unlike string instruments, many wind instruments aren’t in the key of C. In high school I also played B-flat (alto) and E-flat (soprano) clarinets.  String instruments and pianos are non-transposing instruments. The note that sounds when the musicians play those instruments is the same as the note written in the music. Many woodwind and brass instruments are transposing instruments
The tuba is the largest instrument in the brass instrument family. It can weigh as much as 35 pounds. It also is the lowest pitched musical instrument, consisting of 16-feet of tubing curved into the familiar oblong shape with which we are familiar. The similarly-shaped trumpet has only about nine feet of tubing and weighs two to two-and-a-half pounds.  There may be several tubas in a concert band. Marching bands also may have several sousaphones. The…
Earlier this year I needed to update the appraisal for my violin for insurance purposes. My violin was made by a maker from a family of well-known luthiers, and its value depends on proving its provenance back to that maker.    Fortunately, I have a certificate of authenticity from renowned Philadelphia violin dealer William Moennig & Sons, from whom I purchased the violin many years ago. Not only is a Moennig certificate respected in the violin community, but I understood that Moennig had obtained my instrument directly from the luthier who made it. That makes the certificate all that more valuable…
Recently, I sent my violin to New York for adjustment by a well-known luthier. When the violin came back, I looked at it closely before trying it and asked about the adjustments.  One of my questions related to the tailgut, which attaches the tailpiece to the button on the bottom of the violin. The tail gut is rarely noticed. It usually hidden under a chinrest and lies against the violinist’s neck when the instrument is…
In 1967, violinist David Margetts lost the Duke of Alcantra Stradivari violin, a valuable instrument which was made late in Stradivari’s life for the Duke himself. Margetts did not own the violin. Rather, it was on loan from UCLA. Margetts didn’t recall whether he left the violin on the roof of his car and drove off or whether it was stolen from his vehicle while he was buying groceries. Nevertheless, he joined a surprisingly large group of musicians who have misplaced instruments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. …
When writing How Holdbacks Affect Music and Real Estate Transactions, I shared my idea to use the musical terms describing holding back of tempo with a musician friend. In response, she told me she would have used a fermata as the musical example.  The typical fermata is a symbol that looks much like an upside down letter U with a dot in the middle of it (musicians also call fermatas “birds’ eyes”). b A fermata above a note  indicates that the note is to…
In music, tempo markings frequently are written in Italian or in abbreviations of Italian words.   One abbreviation that causes a lot of confusion is “Rit.” Most musicians know vaguely that that means to slow down the tempo. The confusion arises because there are several Italian musical terms for “slow down.” And making it more confusing, two of those terms begin with the letters R-i-t!  Musical “Holdback” Terminology  One word, ritenuto, refers to an immediate reduction of tempo. It is…
One noticeable distinction between an orchestra musician and a soloist is that the orchestra musicians have their music in front of them on a music stand. Soloists playing with an orchestra usually perform from memory.  There are many explanations why soloists are expected to perform from memory. Some view it as a sign of mastery to have memorized the music. Or, they believe the soloist has more opportunity to practice and master the piece and…
Recently, I attended a concert given by a major symphony orchestra. We had excellent seats in a concert hall that held 3,000 people. We were in a box in the first promenade level with a direct view of the entire stage. We also could see most of what was going on in the concert hall, both above and below our seating level.   Disrupting an Orchestra Concert  During a quiet section in the music I heard an unusual sound–like air being blown through…
Ludwig von Beethoven, a composer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, almost single-handed change the face of classical music by transitioning it from the Classical to Romantic era. In his later years, Beethoven tragically lost his hearing. Yet, some of his greatest music, including his Ninth Symphony, was written after he went deaf.  Beginning in the late 20th century, the musical world was captivated by Mamoru Samuragochi, a deaf man who, like Beethoven, composed classical music. Audiences…