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2020 has been a difficult year for many, so now is the perfect time to think of a thoughtful gift for the musicians in your life. As we move into the season of gifts and giving, start planning ahead. November also hosts the ever popular “Black Friday” on the 27th of the month, and it is a perfect opportunity to grab some great online offers for your family and friends. Or why not think of supporting some small local businesses with unusual gifts like a music class, hand made local guitar or artwork. Also remember there are plenty of places where you can buy sustainable gifts, like second hand instruments or equipment. Just make sure check the reviews or test the instrument. Without further ado, here are 20 ideas for fun festive season gifts…

Don’t forget to check out your local music stores, or second hand shops. Online, places like Gumtree or Facebook Market place often have listings for second hand instruments. Support your local teachers too. Many have valuable skills to share, and don’t forget that the internet allows you to have lessons in particular styles with specialised teachers from all over the world.

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

Introducing Gabriele Cortinovis

* What was the first thing that made you interested in music?

Music has always represented a fundamental factor in my personal training since I was little. The search for new albums and artists meant broadening my horizons as a person and as an artist. Learning how to play was a natural consequence of my interests.

* Who inspired you to make music? Any famous musician or idol that you admire?

I started with English rock and my first reference artists were Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and I soon discovered Jazz with artists like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Always in search of something new, I discovered through a friend some songs by Paco de Lucía and since then I have always devoted myself more intensely to Flamenco that fascinated me so much.

* Where does your passion for flamenco come from?

As one of my teachers said: Flamenco “has land”. It is a music that has its history and its geography, its sounds so peculiar and unique. Its harmonies and rhythms are not only the expression of a culture, but they are almost unique within the western music scene. For a guitarist it is a visceral challenge.

* Who did you study with?

I started studying flamenco in Lisbon and Paris with private teachers, and after a few years I traveled to Jerez de la Frontera and Seville where I was able to study with great names in flamenco such as Manuel Valencia, Augustin De la Fuente, Antonio Rey, Niño de Pura , Eduardo Rebollar, Pedro Sierra, Rafael Riqueni and many more.

I studied at the Christina Heeren Flamenco Foundation in Seville, and did the Master in flamenco guitar interpretation at the Esmuc in Barcelona with Rafael Cañizares.

* What is your favorite flamenco guitar piece?

I don’t usually have favorite pieces, nevertheless “Orate” by Diego del Morao and “Tauromagia” by Manolo Sanlúcar are among the records that have fascinated me the most.

* Where to see the best flamenco in Barcelona and (Spain)?

Here in Barcelona there are many quality tablaos but also a more “underground” world, highly developed.

* How would you describe the music you usually do?

I work especially with traditional flamenco and Argentine tango. Lately I am dedicating myself a lot to popular music, thanks to another band that I have in Italy and I also do some “experimental research”.

* How is your creative process?

I work a lot analyzing topics that I like to understand and be able to reproduce the elements that are most interesting to me to feed and structure what comes from inspiration.

* How has been your experience as a guitar teacher at Shine?

Since I started working at Shine I have grown a lot as an artist and as a person. Students give me an opportunity to see the many faces of music and how it moves each one. The environment in the School is also very pleasant and favorable to the exchange of knowledge between students and teachers.

* What do you think has been the greatest contribution you have made to the students you have worked with over the years?

It is very difficult to answer this question, it would be interesting to know the response of the students … I would say that my classes have the purpose of getting students closer to the music that they like the most through the guitar, and of course of working to be autonomous in understanding their favourite themes and be able to interpret them.

*Photography: Fabio Toschi

* How do you think the Internet has impacted the music industry?

It has made it possible for many to come into contact with new music and meet distant artists with relative ease.

On the other hand, music streaming platforms have made it more complex for an artist to earn their salary from recordings. It is a complex problem where costs and benefits must be considered. Something that I really do not share in the contemporary situation is the excessive attention of the public and of the musicians to the social networks that turn the love for music into a phenomenon of Voyeurism (for the public) and of exhibitionism (for the artist). Many times musical success no longer depends on the quality of the content but on the way in which one manages to teach it.

* If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?

In general, I think the most urgent thing is to resolve the artist’s constant precarious situation. I think it is a priority to reconsider the salaries for artistic services (classes, concerts and bowling) and also that the value of an artist is measured in its real production and musical quality and not so much in the number of followers.

* What upcoming musical projects do you have in mind?

I’m in a new stage of composition with my Italian band “Rayuela” with which we create “new popular music” and I’m also gathering ideas for a more Jazz-Rock project without any rules, we’ll see …

* Any advice or tips for those who want to study the guitar and enter the world of music?

I would say that it is important to lose your fear of studying music, students who do not doubt their possibilities are those who tend to advance more and with more serenity. Do not think that it is something unattainable at any age. Knowing that time spent on music is quality time that you spend on yourself.

Take a lesson with Gabriele!

The flamenco guitar

The guitar is a very versatile instrument, with which you can play songs from different musical genres. Flamenco, which is very popular in Spain and throughout the world, is one of them and flamenco guitar is one of the most popular varieties of Spanish guitar.

The origin of the word “flamenco” is inexact. It is believed to come from the cultural tradition that gypsies introduced to Spain during Arab domination since before the 15th century. However, it was during the 18th century when flamenco was recognized as a musical genre and elevated its artistic expression from the cultural fusion of Muslims, Gypsies, Spaniards, Africans and Caribbean that at that time coexisted in Andalusia.

The first historically documented flamenco guitarist dates from the year 1850 known as Francisco Rodríguez “El Murciano”. However, the oldest record of flamenco music dates from 1774 in the book Las Cartas Marruecas by José Cadalso.

In general, when we talk about flamenco we refer to the result of a harmonic mix of different cultures and musical styles that has an artistic expression of deep feeling through cante (singing), dancing and toque (the way the guitarist plays the flamenco guitar). Over time, other instruments such as the flute, cajon, and violin have enriched this music, which has allowed it to renew melodies and shape the flamenco that we know today.

The flamenco guitar is similar to a classical guitar but with thinner parts and less internal reinforcements. It usually has nylon strings and is used in toque.

This instrument is often equipped with a kick plate (pickguard), commonly made of plastic, whose function is to protect the guitar body from rhythmic beats.

Flamenco guitars are normally made of cypress wood, a material that brightens the sound and adapts very well to the characteristics of this musical style. In addition, it has a narrower box so that the sound is smaller and does not overshadow the singer’s voice.

Perhaps the main difference between a classical guitar and a flamenco guitar is that in the last one, the harmonic bars are located in a different way, which generates a more percussive and brilliant sound. 

Regarding posture, the flamenco guitarist often crosses his legs and supports the guitar he is highest on, while the neck keeps it almost horizontal with respect to the ground.

Since 2010, flamenco has been considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

Some of our teachers offer recommendations for those who are interested in studying flamenco guitar:

César Munuera, graduated in flamenco guitar from the Conservatori del Liceu, assures: 

“Of course, it is essential to study Paco de Lucía, and there are many important works to study about him such as: Guajiras de Lucía, Almoraima, Aires choqueros, Fuente y caudal, Llanto a Cádiz, Percusión flamenca, Recuerdo a Patiño…”

The guitarist Manuel Fuentes comments: 

“Paco de Lucía is the benchmark for any flamenco, but then there are Vicente Amigo, Gerardo Núñez, Tomatito, etc., who are from a later generation but equally great.

In my opinion, in flamenco there are no specific works that are essential … the most important thing, beyond listening to guitarists, is listening to cante and the more traditional flamenco to understand the rhythm and singularities of each palo.
You have to listen to a lot and, above all, study a lot of technique in the most meticulous way possible … Since this genre develops specific guitar techniques that do not exist in any other style. “

The director of the Shine School of Music and expert in classical guitar, Milos Sajin, mentions some important works:

Our music school is located in Barcelona, ​​a place historically recognized for being one of the first spaces where flamenco flourished in Spain between the 19th and 20th centuries.

Have fun studying music with us! The classes we offer are personalized and for all ages. Although you are a beginner or already have a more advanced level, do not worry, our music courses will always be adapted to your needs and interests.

Find more information about our music courses, in person and online, at the following link: https://shinemusicschool.es/classes/

Sources: 

Wikipedia, Flamenco Guitar: History, Style and Context de Manuel Peter (2003), publications of the Andalusian Palace (2020) 

Mary Lou Williams

“The first lady of the jazz keyboard”

Mary Lou Williams, born in 1910, was a pianist, arranger and composer from Atlanta, U.S. She was the first woman to be ranked with the greatest of jazz musicians and an important contributor to every aspect of jazz.

Her career began in the late 1920’s and lasted for more than half a century. She first started playing piano because of her mother, a classically trained pianist, picking out simple tunes at age two, she was a prodigy with perfect pitch and a highly developed musical memory by the time she was four years old. At age ten she was known as “the Little Piano Girl” and was performing for small audiences throughout Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her professional debut with big bands came in 1922, at age twelve, when she substituted for a pianist in the Buzz and Harris Revue, a traveling show.

By 1925, at just 15 years old, Williams was a full-time working musician with a  solidified status as a jazz great. She helped develop the Kansas City swing sound of the 1930s. And in the 1940s, she mentored some of bebop’s most famous innovators like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.

Williams was an expert at her instrument and whatever she apparently ‘lacked’ for not being a man she made up for on the bandstand. Her musical ability allowed her to gain the respect of many men, both inside and outside of the jazz community. Mary Lou focused on the plight of her race and mourned the loss of the jazz heritage, and even later in her career tried to educate young blacks of the next generation about their jazz heritage. Mary Lou’s concerns and activities were noble and based on her preoccupation with racism.

She often had to legitimize her place on the bandstand through a demonstration of her musical ability. Simply because she was a woman, the men in her field did not expect her to have abilities equivalent to that of a man. The culturally appropriate place for Mary Lou was not on the bandstand, but rather in the home. Mary Lou broke the culturally appropriate gender roles by pursuing her music rather than motherhood. 

In the 1960s and ’70s she composed a number of liturgical pieces for jazz ensembles, including Black Christ of the Andes (1962), a cantata; Mass for the Lenten Season (1968); and Music for Peace (1970), popularly known as “Mary Lou’s Mass.” In 1970 she also recorded a comprehensive performance-lecture entitled The History of Jazz. Five years later she was appointed to the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and in 1977 to the faculty at Duke University.

Mary Lou was privy to many race issues throughout her life and time as a jazz pianist. Race and gender combined to make life as a composer difficult for Mary Lou. Not only was Mary Lou Williams a woman, but she was a black woman, and black women in the first part of the twentieth century were not afforded many rights.

Critics had a difficult time responding to Mary Lou’s music and classifying her as legitimate. While working for and touring with Andy Kirk’s band, the Clouds of Joy, Mary experienced first-hand the difficulties of segregation. Travelling even to a ‘northern’ city such as Kansas City, the effects of segregation remained rampant; even musicians’ unions were segregated. Luckily for Andy Kirk and the band, this did not prevent them from performing at many different venues. Conversely, later in her career, Mary Lou worked at Café Society Downtown, a club in New York City that practiced full integration and treated blacks and whites equally, and also she volunteered her time playing benefits for the NAACP as well as for the Committee for the Negro in the Arts.

For Williams, jazz was a vast and mighty tool of expression and one that, she believed, could serve as a crucial and necessary portal for black peoples to commune with and convey the complexities of their past. On many occasions, she set to writing — informally in unpublished essays and letters but also at times in public forums — in order to elaborate on the ways in which her own “modern music” was both a statement in aesthetic “progress” and yet, likewise, constitutive of old forms.

Her last recording was “Solo Recital” (Montreux Jazz Festival, 1978), three years before her death, a mixture of spiritual themes, ragtime, blues and swing. In 1981, Mary Lou Williams died of cancer in Durham, North Carolina, at the age of 71. Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman and Andy Kirk attended her funeral at St. Ignatius Loyola Church. She was buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh. Looking towards the end of her life, Mary Lou Williams said, “I did it, didn’t I? Through muck and mud.” And to this day we remember her as “the first lady of the jazz keyboard.”

Research from: Npr Music, Cedarville university, NY Times, Wikipedia