Tidbits of Acoustic Instruments

WOW, does she have enough instruments?

How many acoustic instruments have you tried or are you a collector? I’ve tried my fair share including a banjo and accordion years ago. Are we addicted to trying them and guilty of acoustic instrument accumulation?

It is interesting how many Zoom meetings I’ve attended and to see all of the instruments hanging on walls, perched on stands, and generally all around the room. Only one instructor admitted to hiding her hoard behind a covering and I really wondered what was back there.

So here is just a brief historical run down on the several different acoustic musical devices. The definition of an acoustic instrument is they lack any electronic equipment. I hope some of these tidbits and website links entice you to take a look.

Autoharp: Derived from the zither family and first established in the 1800’s. Here is more history to review: Autoharp History

Native American Flute: (according to Bing Futch) is around 4,000 years old. However, a very small Neanderthal Flute was

discovered to be about 50,000 years old. Flute History

Penny whistle: is around 400 years old. Very interesting history can be read at this site: Penny Whistle History

Guitars: are very old, possibly from the 12th century and as this website states there is evidence where Hittites and Babylonians played stringed instruments. Please check out this website the pictures of some fabulous old guitars are worth the time. Guitar History

Fiddles: The first fiddle contest was in the U.S. in November of 1736. Of course violins were created many years previously. Fiddle History

Mountain Dulcimer: is thought to have beginnings in the Appalachian Mountains in the early 1700’s by German immigrants that brought over the German Scheitholt. Mountain Dulcimer History

I found an article by David Schnaufer from 2003 stating the Dulcimer was considered a zither and the earliest one found was in 1560. Click here to read his article “The Grand Old Dulcimer Club”. David Schnaufer

Hammered Dulcimers: came from the Middle East around 900AD and an ancestor to the piano. This was surprising to me. Hammered Dulcimers

Mandolins: came to America from Europe in the 1800’s, but have a rich history as well. This article could be the depict beginning of many of the instruments we play today.

“Deep in the grottos of France are beautiful cave paintings made between 15,000 BC and 8500 BC. These paintings include one of a man with what appears to be a simple one-stringed instrument that is being played with a bow. This musical bow represents the first stringed instruments man invented. They were played by plucking the string with the fingers, and later by tapping the string with a stick. An increase in volume was first gained by holding the bow in the mouth. Later, gourds were attached to the bow to act as resonators.” Mandolin History

Banjo: This is the oldest known Banjo, 1770-77 from the Surinamese Creole culture. Banjos too have come a long way. Banjo

Ukulele: is based on several small, guitar-like instruments of Portuguese origin, the machete is one of them. Portuguese immigrants brought the machete to Hawaii where Ukulele’s were developed in the 1880s. Ukulele means Jumping flea which could be the description of how the fingers move on the little keyboards. Ukulele

Such is the rich history of acoustic instruments. And they can all play together as a community. That is the sweet part of acoustic instruments, they complement each other.

Getting back to the original question, how many instruments do you play, tried, or have on hand? It seems many of us are reluctant to admit the number of stash we have. There is nothing to be ashamed of though. Either you are playing them or they are truly part of a collection.

At present I have three Dulcimers, one being a McSpadden Bass that I’m going to sell as I use my MAXDAD for a bass now. However, I am looking at getting a Chromatic for music therapy so I can expand my ability to play modes. That is another story in itself, the dreaded theory.

Keep the Music in the Air,

NancyJ, your VP

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