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Frédéric Chopin: Polish Piano Virtuoso

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) was a thin, frail virtuoso pianist from Poland (see Figure 1). Chopin ("sho-PANH") single-handedly revolutionized the world of piano music. He changed everybody's idea of what [more…]

Spurring Musical Creativity for Composing

You can't overestimate the value of a good musical imagination. It's the single most powerful source for composing music — if you can tap into it. The imagination is so powerful, in fact, that it was long [more…]

Examining Mozart's Operas

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) lived at the height of the Classical period in music history — a time of elegance, beauty, refinement, and grace. He wrote 22 operas — 10 of them as a teenager. Although [more…]

Bebop's Birth into the Jazz Scene

Bebop jazz was born from the unique difficulties faced by jazz musicians during World War II. Because of limitations on many aspects of the jazz world, the growth of bebop coincided with the breakdown [more…]

A Brief History of the Banjo

Modern banjo-playing has historical roots that go back over 150 years to late 19th and early 20th century classic banjo styles, mid-19th century minstrel banjo styles, and even earlier African musical [more…]

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Composers

Despite the incredible variety of styles within the world of classical music, great composers share certain consistent qualities that make their music great. [more…]

A Brief Fusion Jazz History

Free jazz constituted one jazz branch that flowed during the 1960s. Another stream blended jazz with rock, funk, and other styles and became known as fusion [more…]

Defining Jazz: The Swingin' Thing

Although jazz listeners may not agree on which music and musicians qualify as jazz, at a basic level, you can identify jazz by a few distinguishing traits: swing and syncopation, improvisation, bent notes [more…]

Jazz Appreciation Basics

When you start getting a rush from jazz improvisers' rhythms, harmonies, and melodies, you know you're on the road to true jazz appreciation. To truly appreciate jazz, you need to identify each part [more…]

Why Aren't Operas Written in English?

It's no secret that most operas are not written in English, which gives opera in general a reputation for being boring. To a certain extent, that reputation is earned: If you can't understand what's going [more…]

Discovering Jazz History

Although jazz is performed by musicians of many colors and mixes elements of many kinds of music, it's essentially African-American music. Interwoven with jazz's history is the history of the black experience [more…]

Finding the Right Spot for Your Piano

Whether you bought a piano or an electric keyboard, the first thing to do when you get your new baby home is to find a spot for it to live. This spot doesn't have to be a permanent resting place — pianos [more…]

How the Piano Changed Music

The concept of using dynamic markings (which indicate the relative loudness of different sections in the music) in sheet music came about around the same time as the piano — for good reason. Before the [more…]

Deconstructing the Drumset

Before the advent of the drum set, drums were played one at a time. Each drummer played one drum, and in order to make bigger and better noise — er, music — more drummers were needed. Then somewhere along [more…]

Minimalist and Avant Garde Music in the 20th Century

The most interesting periods of music are those at the turning point from one accepted musical style to the next, such as the break from Baroque music to Classical music. These turning points are generally [more…]

Constructing Music Concrête

Music concrête is a type of music that sprang directly out of the evolution of music technology. As a throwback to classical music being inspired by poetic forms, music concrête has its roots in the 1920s [more…]

Joining Two Rock Guitar Styles: Progressive Meets Heavy Metal

It's not surprising that as progressive rock and heavy metal both took off in the 1970s that they would eventually cross over. Bands like Jethro Tull, Kansas, and Rush successfully mixed the muscular guitar [more…]

Auditioning Players for Your Blues Band

Before you can audition players for your blues band, you have to find them. You can pass the word around your neighborhood, workplace, or school, but that will net you just so many candidates, and their [more…]

How to Tune a Guitar to Itself Using the Fifth-Fret Method

Tuning a guitar to itself using the fifth-fret method is an important and useful guitar skill. The fifth-fret method is the most common type of relative tuning, and it's all you need if you're planning [more…]

How to Read the Circle of Fifths

Understanding how to read the circle of fifths will help you understand the relation between music's major keys and their relative minor keys. A major key and its relative minor use the same key signature [more…]

How to Read Key Signatures

Key signatures are important when reading music. You must understand how to read key signatures in order to know how to play the notes the way the composer intended. The key signature is a grouping of [more…]

What Is Music Theory?

Understanding music theory means knowing the language of music. The main thing to know about music theory is that it is simply a way to explain the music we hear. Music had existed for thousands of years [more…]

How to Recognize the Beat in Music

Recognizing the beat in a song means finding the pattern and speed of the music. If you know how to recognize the beat, you can control all of the other elements of the music. [more…]

How Musical Notes Are Constructed

You couldn't read or write music without notes. If you think of music as a language, the notes are like letters of the alphabet. If you know how to recognize the notes, you can learn the language. [more…]

How to Find Notes on a Guitar

Finding notes on your guitar is not the same as reading notes on sheet music. To understand how to find notes on a guitar, it helps to break up the neck of the guitar to see where all the notes lie. [more…]


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