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Musical Instruments

Musical instruments and learning to play have always been linked with increased intelligence and lots of other skills. The ultimate smart pursuit you could do is picking up piano or the guitar. The rehearsal and performance schedules most musicians pursue also build responsibility skills and confidence.


A bass guitar looks very different from an upright bass. First of all, it's about a quarter of the size and completely electric. The two instruments have their low, vibrating tones in common, though, and four thick, large strings. Since the 1950's, when electric instruments became more popular, the bass has replaced the upright bass in most contemporary music, with the exception of classical music and the orchestra.


The cello is a stringed instrument and is the second largest string instrument, next to the double bass. A cellist plays a cello by standing it on the floor and leaning over it, one hand on the neck and the other playing a bow across the strings. The cello is beloved in classical music because many people argue that the sounds it makes are the closest to a human voice than an instrument can get.


There is a whole family of clarinets, a popular woodwind instrument. There are about a dozen different sizes and tones for these instruments, with some much more rare than others. Clarinets are played with a reed in the mouthpiece and have the most range out of any woodwind instrument. Depending on the skill of the musician, a clarinet can go four octaves in range. The reed is made from a special type of cane, called the Arundo donax.


The drum is the oldest instrument in the world. As long as people have existed, they have stretched leather and animal skin across wood and shells and whatever else they could get their hands on. Most drums are an untuned instrument and are hit with parts of a players body or objects like drumsticks. In a drum kit, there are various components like cymbals and a snare drum that the musician plays with all four limbs.


A flute is a woodwind instrument but, unlike other woodwinds, it doesn't get its sound from a reed. It gets its sound from the angle at which a flautist, or flute player, blows air into the mouthpiece of the instrument. The world's very first flute was made of mammoth tusk and was created about 30,000 to 37,000 years ago.


The guitar is a six-stringed instrument that adapts to many different styles, from jazz to country to rock and roll. Instruments like the guitar, with strings and a long neck with frets on it, have been around for almost 5,000 years. In 40 AD, the Romans had an instrument called the cithara that very closely resembles today's guitar. The next big development came in the 1930's, when electric guitars first hit the scene.


Instruments like the harpsichord were around in the 17th century and used the technique of a metal hammer hitting a string to produce sound. An Italian man first built the piano using the basic principles of a harpsicord, and called it a pianoforte. Johannes Sebastian Bach approved of the piano design in 1747 and, from then on, it became a wildly popular musical instrument.


Unlike a lot of more ancient instruments in this stamp collection, the Saxophone was invented in 1841 and patented in 1846 by a guy named Adolphe Sax. People who play Sax's invention now are called saxophonists. Mr. Sax worked at an instrument shop in Brussels and was very interested in combining a clarinet-style instrument with something that sounded like brass. There are several styles of saxophone, like the alto, bass and tenor saxes.


A trombone is in the brass family and its Italian name means "big trumpet." A user plays a trombone by pressing their lips to it and making the air inside it vibrate. When it does, they can slide the slider up and down, lengthening or shortening the trombone to change the sound's pitch. From the 16th century, when trombones started being used, to the 18th century, the instrument was called a "sackbut."


Trumpets date back to 1500 BC and play some of the highest notes on the register of the brass family. Tutankhamun, the famous Ancient Egyptian king, happened to be buried with several bronze and silver trumpets. These early instruments were most likely used in the military and for signaling purposes, to transmit messages and warn of danger.


The violin as we know it was developed in 16th century Italy, where the craft of fiddle-making was perfected. Don't worry, the "fiddle" isn't a joke about a violin, a lot of violins are called this name, no matter what style they're used for. A person who works with violins is called a luthier. It's four steel strings are usually played with a bow of horsehair or plucked with the violinist's fingers.