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The first musical instruments

Music is known as the universal language. No matter where it comes from, everyone is capable of perceiving the feelings it evokes. Knowing for sure when our ancestors first developed music is still a matter of debate. What we do know is that the history of musical instruments goes back to the beginning of human culture.

Can you imagine then what could have been the first musical instrument created by man?

Although there is no exact date for the creation of the first musical instrument, archaeological finds suggest that there was music from primitive times and that percussion and wind instruments were the first to appear.

The voice was probably the origin of the man’s musical expression through the songs together with the accompaniment of hands and feet following a rhythm, such as a horn to signal success in hunting, or a drum in a religious ceremony. We know that the oldest known drum dates back 30,000 years when man used the stretched skin of animals to create sound.

From archaeological sites in Europe, bamboo flutes, whistles, brawlers and tubes made of short bones have been found that produced sound when blown through them. 

The discovery in the cave of Hohle Fels, Germany, of a flute carved from vulture bones more than 35,000 years old, could be the oldest musical instrument created by man. It also demonstrates the presence in Europe of sociable and creative humans, who preceded the Neanderthals.

Some consensus among the scientific community suggests that the first flutes date from about 37,000 years ago. However, most historians believe that it is impossible to determine the specific time of the invention of musical instruments, since many of the first musical instruments were made from animal skins, bones, wood, and other non-durable materials.

Over time, in each society new musical instruments were created and they were adapted to different areas of life. Here are some examples:

The Jewish shofar, a wind instrument made from a hollow animal horn, is still played on Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and must be heard by the congregation.

Since the ancient Chinese empire, the instruments were identified with the cardinal points, with the seasons and with natural phenomena. The use of the bamboo flute or dizi in traditional Chinese music became very popular.

In medieval Europe, trumpets, long associated with military operations, had a ceremonial role in the establishment of European kings and nobles and were in fact considered a sign of nobility.

The harp is known to have been used from early times in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and India and was imported to China after the end of the 4th century AD.

In Greece, the standard plucked instrument was the lyre, known in its fully developed form as kithara (or sitara in India). Years later, the Arabs added a neck to the well-known kithara, and baptized the instrument as an alud (lute in Spain), which would later become a vihuela with the arrival of Romans and Arabs to Spanish lands. first musical compositions for guitar.

Drum ensembles reached extraordinary sophistication in Africa, and the small, hand-beaten drum is of great musical importance in West Asia and India. The native cultures of the Americas have always made extensive use of drums, as well as other beaten and shaken instruments.

Bowed instruments came to characterize Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. By the 16th century, the European violin was already distinguished in two ways: the viola (leg violin) and the violin (arm violin). The violin or violin was the smallest of the family, the tenor was simply called viola, while the bass became known as violoncello (diminutive of violone).

Of all the oldest instruments, the organ showed the most remarkable development from the High Middle Ages to the 17th century. Created in ancient Greece in the 3rd century b.C, this instrument evolved from small portable designs for smaller churches to increase in size and carry overlapping keyboards, placing them in boxes like the way we know today.

The clarinet or “small trumpet” emerged in the late 17th century and, like the oboe, gave rise to a family that extended to a double bass clarinet in the 19th century and later to a sub-bass. Clarinets have been in the orchestra since approximately 1780.

In 1845, the Belgian instrumentalist and luthier Antoine-Joseph Sax, built a family of valve instruments called saxhorns, using the cornet as the basis for his invention. Sax invented the saxophone, a single reed instrument like the clarinet but with a conical tube.

By all historical accounts, the Rickenbacker Frying Pan (named for its resemblance to a banjo with a frying pan) was the first electric guitar invented in America by the German immigrant Adolph Rickenbacher during the 1920s. The problem for guitarists in those years was the volume, since the acoustic guitar could not be heard well when used in large bands and orchestras with singers. Years later, the development of the concept of electricity and radio technology facilitated the creation of the instrument we know today.

In the 60s different styles of music were created, as many artists began to experiment with the use of synthesizers. One of the first to appear was BUCHLA in 1963, by composer Morton Subotnick. Elements of piano and percussion were combined with electronic sounds, thus abandoning the traditional music of always.

It’s clear that humans and music have a deep and long connection that goes back through the centuries. Music is here to stay, and as people continue to play and invent, new and wonderful instruments continue to emerge.

If you are interested in music and learning an instrument, browse our menu and see what sort of sound interests you. Visit our teachers pages and get to know them too! You may be the next inventor of a new age of music!

Sources: 

Wikipedia, BBC Mundo, LiveScience, EuropaPress, Britannica, Lacarne Magazine