Interesting Questions, Facts and Information
- There are a total of 20 general entries.
Interesting Questions, Facts, and Information
saw. Musical saws can be identical to carpenters' saws, but usually the musical ones don't have the sharp teeth of the carpenters' saw.
taxi horns. The legend has it that Gershwin bought taxi horns in Paris and brought them to the US for the performance. Authentic sets of Parisian taxi horns are available for rent for performances of "An American in Paris".
|Leroy Anderson was obviously fond of the percussion section, and liked to give it unusual instruments to play. Which of his tunes features a whip and sleigh bells?||Percussionists Have the Most Fun
Sleigh Ride. The whip isn't a whip at all. It's two planks joined together by a hinge. The percussionist plays it by slapping the planks together. It's not a good idea to have one's fingers between the planks when they meet!
Leroy Anderson also used sandpaper blocks and a typewriter in his compositions.
|Which percussion instrument, which features metal bars struck with mallets, was used on Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" album?||Percussion: Beyond the Drums
Glockenspiel. Several sources list the xylophone as appearing on the "Born to Run" album, but it is actually a glockenspiel (I'm looking at the liner notes - it's a glockenspiel). The album was a monster hit for Springsteen - he was declared to be the "Future of Rock and Roll" and made the covers of "Time" and "Newsweek" in the same week. There must have been some serious glockenspiel fans back then...
The glockenspiel is similar to a xylophone, but it has metal bars while the xylophone has wood bars. It is also similar to a vibraphone, except that the latter has aluminum bars and a sustain pedal like a piano. You can play a vibraphone on Wii Music; it's probably the same as playing a glockenspiel.
|Which stringed instrument, played with drumsticks rather than the traditional felt-covered hammers, does Blue Man Group use in their show?||Percussion: Beyond the Drums
Cimbalom. Blue Man Group mainly uses custom instruments (with a particular fondness for PVC pipe) but they do use some regular instruments with slight modifications. The strings on their version of the cimbalom are grouped and tuned to the same note so that their aggressive playing style won't result in sour notes if they hit the wrong string.
The cimbalom is a larger version of the hammered dulcimer. For those of you with a puzzled look on your face, the hammered dulcimer is a trapezoidal wood box with strings across it that are hit with soft-covered mallets called hammers. The cimbalom is the "grand piano" version of a hammered dulcimer - it is the one that you'll usually see in an orchestra. If Nintendo comes out with a Wii version though, it will probably be a hammered dulcimer.
|Which percussion instrument, used as common metal-working tool in years past, was played by the Beatles on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"?||Percussion: Beyond the Drums
Anvil. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", written by Paul McCartney, was rather a cheerful song until you listened to the lyrics. The anvil was used to simulate the sound of the hammer, which was a murder weapon in the song. Not surprisingly, the song was among the last that the Beatles recorded (the others probably thought McCartney needed a break).
Anvils have been around for quite a while as a forging tool, but for some reason, they've also had a presence in music. Several classical musicians have included them in their works, including Giuseppe Verdi in his famous "Anvil Chorus" (you'd recognize it if you heard it). And of course, they were a favorite of Wile E. Coyote.
|Which percussion instrument, traditionally associated with Latin music, was used by the Rolling Stones throughout the song, "Sympathy for the Devil"?||Percussion: Beyond the Drums
Maracas. Mick Jagger considered "Sympathy for the Devil" to be a samba, and the song did have the driving samba drums. Maracas aren't really common in samba music - you're more likely to hear ganza or chocalho creating a similar sound. But Mick must have liked the maraca sound -- the Stones also used them in their song "Jumpin' Jack Flash".
A set of maracas is traditionally made of dried gourd or fruit shells filled with unequal amounts of beans, seeds or pebbles. The two maracas will have different tones based on the amount of the filler within. Nowadays, maracas are made from all sorts of material - leather, wood, plastic, and you can even buy Wii maracas to go with your Wii theremin!
|Devo hit the charts with a song named after and featuring the electronically-created sound of which percussion instrument?||Percussion: Beyond the Drums
Whip. Devo didn't actually use a whip instrument in their 1980 song, "Whip It"; the sound was created on an ElectroComp 500 synthesizer. This became a rather common trend in the 1980s - using electronic equipment to create percussion sounds. Oddly enough, the whip is far more common in classical music than pop music, and most of us probably first heard it used in Christmas music - it can be heard in "Sleigh Ride".
The whip instrument is also known as the whip crack or the slapstick. The latter is really a different instrument - it consists of two pieces of wood attached to a handle and is played with one hand. The true whip consists of hinged wood planks that are smacked together with both hands. It produces the loud sound of a bullwhip cracking. The slapstick has a much quieter sound - horses would probably ignore you if you used it.
Theremin. The theremin was invented in the early 1900s and was originally intended to play classical music. Its spooky sound, however, turned out to be a perfect fit for horror and sci-fi movies. The Beach Boys frequently get credit for bringing the theremin into pop music on their "Pet Sounds" album, but they actually used an electrotheremin (also known as a tannerin) which has a slide bar that allows for better control of the pitch and frequency of the sound. The theremin has been used by other artists though, such as "Weird Al" Yankovic and Warren Zevon and notably by Led Zeppelin on their song "Whole Lotta Love".
The theremin looks more like a radio receiver than an instrument. It is played by moving your hands near the antenna which changes the pitch and frequency of the sound. Incidentally, there are instructions on the Internet for building your own theremin for the Nintendo Wii - another instrument for "Rock Band"!
|Bob Dylan wrote about a man who played this instrument, and The Byrds topped the charts with the song. Which percussion instrument is often played by a band's lead or background singers?||Percussion: Beyond the Drums
Tambourine. "Mr. Tambourine Man" was the first hit single for The Byrds, and their version was actually released a couple of weeks prior to Dylan's version. Quite a few artists have had better luck with Dylan's songs than he did - I'm beginning to suspect that his voice is an acquired taste. Incidentally, Dylan's stark version didn't actually include a tambourine.
The tambourine is usually a hand-held instrument that looks like a drumhead with tiny cymbals all around it, but there are different varieties of tambourines, some of which are mounted on stands and some of which are open with no drumhead. Since they require only rudimentary rhythm skills to play, they are often played by the least musically-inclined band member.
Tam-tam. "Bohemian Rhapsody" was an unlikely hit song with its mix of a cappella, opera and hard rock. It was also unique in that it scored well on the charts twice, two decades apart - first in the mid 1970s and again in the early 1990s, following the death of lead singer Freddie Mercury and the inclusion of the song in the movie "Wayne's World".
The tam-tam is a suspended gong and is the main type of gong used in western orchestras. There are actually a variety of gongs - some flat, some raised, some bowl-shaped, and besides being used for music, they are also used as signals. Theatres will sometimes use a gong to indicate that a performance is about to begin, and the upper classes use them in their homes to call the family to dinner (so impress the neighbors, and get a gong).
Tubular Bells. "Tubular Bells" was a largely instrumental album consisting of a continuous piece of music covering several genres. Oldfield played numerous instruments on the unusual album, and it was the first to appear on Richard Branson's Virgin Records label.
The tubular bells instrument consists of metal tubes of various lengths which are played with a soft-covered "hammer" (not a construction hammer, although some artist somewhere has probably experimented with that sound). Incidentally, the cover art for the album depicts a bent tubular bell which Oldfield reportedly dented while recording the album.
|If you are a "Saturday Night Live" fan, you might know what question I'm going to ask. What did Christopher Walken want to hear in the Blue Oyster Cult skit?||Percussion: Beyond the Drums
More cowbell. My apologies to non-American players who haven't seen "Saturday Night Live", but the skit is such a classic that I had to include it. It revolved around the recording of Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" and the band's use of a cowbell in the song. Walken and Will Farrell sold it perfectly, and the skit consistently ranks near the top of every "Best of SNL" list. Incidentally, Blue Oyster Cult knew nothing about the skit until they saw it, but they responded by having one of their stage hands boldly play the cowbell during a concert the following week.
As for the instrument, it was designed after the bells that cows wore so that they could be easily identified (each herd had its own sound). There is no truth to the rumor that PETA put a stop to actually bringing the cows into the recording studio, so an instrument was created that mimicked the sound. Incidentally, you can play the cowbell on Nintendo's Wii Music.