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Laurence Libin

A term used for an instrument that does not incorporate pickups or microphones for the purpose of electronic amplification or manipulation. It is normally used only when it is necessary to distinguish between such an instrument and one of the same or a similar type that does incorporate pickups or microphones: for example ‘acoustic bass’ as opposed to ‘electric bass’ and ‘acoustic guitar’ as opposed to ‘electric guitar’. In most cases, therefore, an instrument is assumed to be acoustic unless its name explicitly states that it is electric or electronic....



David Fuller

Left-hand accompaniment figure in keyboard music consisting of broken triads whose notes are played in the order: lowest, highest, middle, highest (see ex.1), and taking its name from Domenico Alberti (c1710–1746). Research has suggested that, obvious as this little figure may seem, Alberti was in fact the first to make frequent use of it. The term ought to be restricted to figures of the shape described and not extended loosely to other types of broken-chord accompaniment....



Konin Aka

Scraper of the Baule and Agni-Morofwe peoples of Ivory Coast. A serrated stick passes through a hole pierced in a nut; the right hand moves the nut along the stick against which the left hand occasionally presses a small resonator. The instrument, played only by women and young girls, is used for rhythmic accompaniment to singing for amusement....


Robert Anderson, Arturo Chamorro, Ellen Hickmann, Anne Kilmer, Gerhard Kubik, Thomas Turino, Vincent Megaw and Alan R. Thrasher

The application of archaeological methods to the study of musical instruments, broadly defined. Through analysis of material remains from earlier times, investigators seek to reconstruct, however tentatively, sound-producing artefacts and their functions, and relate these to instruments and practices that still survive. Complicating the picture is the problem that some cultures, including presumably early human, have had no concept of music as a distinct activity, yet virtually all have made use of sound-producing implements; even if not ‘musical’, these are all subjects for investigation, although undoubtedly, many such implements have gone unrecognized for what they are.

The late 20th century and early 21st have seen significant archaeological finds throughout the world, notably in China; many discoveries await thorough analysis, and earlier ones are being reinterpreted. This article outlines some salient aspects of the field; for further discussion and bibliography, see entries on specific regions and peoples (e.g. Latin America, Mexico, Aztec music, etc.) in ...


Clive Brown

Symbols appended to musical notation which indicate to the performer the manner in which particular notes and phrases should be played.

Until the late 18th century the only signs commonly used to indicate distinctions of articulation were the slur and the staccato mark (a dot, a vertical stroke, or a wedge) placed above or below the note head. In the 19th century composers became concerned to specify their requirements with ever greater precision, and other forms of articulation mark were introduced, though only a few of these were widely adopted. The principal meaning of the slur has remained relatively constant, though the manner of its employment has varied greatly over the centuries. Except where slurs are written over a succession of notes on the same pitch to indicate portato, they specify that notes of different pitches should be performed without separation, that is, legato. There is, strictly speaking, no greater or lesser degree of connectedness; terms such as ...


J. Richard Haefer


Conch horn of the Aztec or Nahua peoples of central Mexico, and other pre-Contact cultures. It was called puuaqua in Tarascan and paatáotocuècheni or paniçatàopáni in Zapotecan. The Aztecs called this the instrument of the ‘Wind God Quetzalcoatl; he who breathes life into a void’. It was usually played in pairs, and the shell was about 15 to 20 cm long.

The tecciztli [tecziztli, tezizcatli] was a similar instrument made from the Strombus gigas shell (about 12 to 18 cm long) though examples of clay or bone have been found. It was a priest’s instrument played ceremonially with the quiquiztli and teponaztli to please the ‘Sun God’. Traditionally it was played at midnight to awaken the priests to prayers.

The quiquiztli, made from the larger Fasciolaria gigantea shell (30 cm long or longer), was used for signalling in battle as well as for priestly functions including the sacrificial flaying of men and before the death of slaves....



K.A. Gourlay

revised by F.J. de Hen


Bullroarer of the Kuma of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It consists of a slightly concave ellipsoidal piece of wood measuring 30 × 10 cm along the axes. The instrument is whirled by a cord attached to one end and the sound produced is said to resemble the growling of a leopard. The bullroarer has associations with spirit voices and secret ceremonies such as circumcision, and has restrictions against women and non-initiates seeing it, as is customary for other bullroarers of the Congo. The varied names collected by de Hen suggest an onomatopoeic derivation, for example, the Adoi, Amanga, Andebogo and Andowi kundrukundru, Aimed kunzukunzu, Bagbwa and Mamvu egburuburu and arumvurumvu, and Bangba and Mayogo mbirimbiri. This pattern is not always followed, as with the Mbole inano, Nyali upa and Zande gilingwa.

F.J. de Hen: Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Musikinstrumente aus Belgisch Kongo und Ruanda-Urundi (Tervuren, 1960), 171ff...


Mervyn McLean

(‘ground bamboo’)

Stamping tube set of the ‘Are’are people of Malaita, Solomon Islands. Among the neighbouring Kwarekwareo they are called ‘au ni wado. A set consists of ten bamboo tubes 13 to 46 cm long, closed by a node at the lower end. Unlike the kiro stamping tubes which accompany singing, they are carefully tuned to a pentatonic scale. A single musician sits on the ground or on a low seat, legs spread. On the ground between his thighs he places a stone against which he strikes the tubes of his choice, held four in each hand. Between the two largest toes of each foot he wedges one of the two remaining tubes, which he strikes on smaller stones, one by each foot. Alternatively the tubes may be shared among two or three musicians, in which case the ensemble may increase to 12 with each player holding two tubes in each hand. The simultaneous and alternate striking of the tubes produces a sound like a xylophone....