Recently I came across a question whilst browsing the internet which just would not leave my head for days. “What is the best musical instrument?”. Whilst challenging and obviously subjective in nature, this question somehow seemed legitimate and intriguing at the same time.
Music has been an integral part of human society ever since its beginnings many of thousands of years ago and initially being primitive in nature, instruments have been evolving ever since. Initially, simple drums and flutes were quite widespread and later more sophisticated instruments, such as string instruments and more sophisticate wind instruments, became technologically feasible and quickly very popular.
Early modern humans in Europe carved this flute from a vulture bone more than 35,000 years ago.
Now music is everywhere. Whether you go to big rock concerts, classical concerts, listen to radio in the car, watch adverts on the television, run around with your iPod on the bus to work or dine in a restaurant in the evening: music is everywhere. New styles appear all the time and the music industry is evolving faster than most people can possibly keep up.
But one big question remains, be it for personal satisfaction or a choice of an instrument for your son or daughter to pick up at a young age. “What is the best musical instrument?”
What drives us to listen to some instruments more than others? What draws us to play some instruments more than others? Is there a huge cultural divide or are some instruments universal and conquer every remote spot on this planet? These questions certainly go way beyond music and touch on the essence of identity, expression, aspiration, history and even politics. Does Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious play a role in this, too?
The dictionary of musical instruments now lists more than 20,000 and this number is growing steadily! Certainly, not many people will have the patience to peruse “The New Grove Dictionary” of musical instruments before choosing what instrument to learn. A standard orchestra only has about 15 instruments and seems like a bad corner shop compared to an American hypermarket.
In many cultures, certain types of instruments have certain roles an associations. Traditionally, instruments have been used for religious roles and an organ will indubitably always be associated with a church or a cathedral whereas a loud brass band and drums have more of a militaristic and oppressive undertone in many cultures. However, some instruments really stand out and could be considered the best choice when it comes to popularity, practicability or usefulness.
In summary, it is clear, that any list can only be subjective in nature, but here are my favourites with an explanation why they should rank high in any assessment as to what could be the “best musical instrument”:
The guitar seems to be almost omnipresent in the Western culture. It is the instrument of choice for many youngsters and enjoys almost iconic status as entertainers, folk heroes or balladeers. It is an instrument that is easily portable and can be used in many social settings, making it in particular a very social instrument. Additionally, it is indispensable for most Western pop songs. basic guitar playing is incredibly easy to learn and does not need a very sophisticated ear or huge prior musical skills. Of course, as with everything, classical guitar playing is just as sophisticated as any other instrument played well.
The piano, in it’s basic design being a string instrument, can be considered as one of the most beautiful and versatile instrument. Unlike most instruments, the piano covers the entire human vocal range and is the perfect instrument for accompanying the human voice. It is also a wonderful solo instrument and ideal for anyone who wishes to entertain a group of people or even just him- or herself. Composers like Debussy and Ravel have shown how this instrument can conjure up mysterious tunes describing the sea (“La Lune”) or a dance (“Bolero”). Composers like J.S. Bach have created music of a completely different style, with mathematical perfection. And then there are compositions like those by Beethoven, which can probably be attributed to belong to the most passionate of musical pieces. And even lady Gaga uses the piano in may of her songs which have conquered many of the recent charts.
Although the violin only covers mainly the vocal range of the soprano and alto voice, it is one of the most employed instruments in any Western orchestra and enjoys being featured in many instrumentalist solos, including violin concertos of Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and many others. It is also indispensable in the orchestral music of almost any modern film. making your child learn the violin is certainly an intellectual and cultural challenge which most likely will have a positive effect in many other aspects of life.
Clearly, the voice is not really an instrument, but it needs to be mentioned in this list. Although there are various musical pieces which do not include a voice, the majority of compositions actually uses instruments to accompany a or several voices. For most people singing is associated with pleasure and expressing oneself. Not to forget about the various songs that are on the radio, which feature powerful voices with mainly an instrumental background.
The French Horn
Although it might sound a bit odd to list this instrument, it actually is one of the hardest instruments to play. Countless hours of practice are needed until an attempt of playing an intelligible piece can be made. The sound of the French horn is divine and has in innate beauty. It the instrument that stands out the most in an orchestra and receives praise. It is also the most dangerous instrument, as a single wrong note will be heard by anyone listening to a musical piece played by this instrument. if you can overcome these challenges, the reward will be amazing.
The cello has been ascribed by many to be the instrument the closes to the human voice and the human heart. When I listen to the cello, I get emotional instantly and loose myself in a world of dreams. It is not surprising that there are many cello “covers” of pop songs imitating the human voice. The cello is not an easy instrument to learn but highly rewarding and certainly has one of the most beautiful sounds. It is also a key instrument in most orchestras
What is your opinion? Write to us and let us know what you think is the “best musical instrument”.
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