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Music

¨  What effect has the electric guitar had on the music industry?
¨  How would music be affected if the contributions of mathematics were not used?
¨  How do left-handed people play guitar in a right-handed world?
¨  Advice on changing from acoustic to electric guitar

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QUESTION:
What effect has the electric guitar had on the music industry and the course that music has taken since its invention?

ANSWER from Imagiverse on 1 November 2006:
You can easily research this by doing a search on Google with keywords such as "electric guitar history".  You should also look into 20th century music history, a lot of which are in books you can find in the library.

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QUESTION:
How would music be affected if the contributions of mathematics were not used?

ANSWER from Stephanie Wong on 24 February 2006:
It's hard to say because music HAS been affected by mathematics.  While coming up with a tune does not require music, people who have analyzed music for its mathematical patterns and who then had clout to express their opinions on music or were to compose based on their findings have undoubtedly changed music.  This is quite a large subject but I will give you a few examples.

The Ancient Greek philosophers were quite critical of music.  Note that the Greeks classified music as "harmonics", which was a subgroup of the "quadrivium" (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and harmonics).  I guess in today's terms we'd call that grouping "the sciences".  What we would consider "the arts" was in a group called the "trivium" (grammar, logic, and rhetoric).  So, it is interesting that the Greeks thought music was a science instead of an art.  Given that, Greek music was based on "modes", something like our current musical scale system.  Because of the inherent properties in each mode, music could influence the soul in different ways.  Therefore, the choice of music was heavily affected by the mode, which the philosophers analyzed mathematically.  Also, it is believed that Pythagoras was the first to discover the concept of intervals with respect to numerical ratios.  Any musician knows how important intervals are.

On we go to the Medieval Europe.  In the Middle Ages, life was largely controlled by the Church.  Thus, music was heavily controlled by them as well.  A lot of music back then was considered unchristian, with these assumptions based on the teachings of the Ancient Greeks.  Medieval music sounds much different from modern classical music because of the intervals.  The medieval composers did not use much the interval of a 3rd which gives a characteristic sound.  One big thing back then is the essential banning of the "tritone".  This was a augmented 4th/diminished 5th interval.  If you try to play those two notes together now, it does sound pretty horrible.  But the Church back then pretty much banned all use of this interval because it "came from the devil".

When technology improved so that instrument-makers could fine-tune their instruments to a proper tuning, they had to consider the spacing (numerical pitch) between each of the notes.  A scale can never be tuned perfectly.  An instrument-maker has to tune an instrument a certain way to achieve the desired progression of pitches.

Nowadays, there is a lot of technology used in the creation of music.  Undoubtedly, this requires a lot of math.

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QUESTION:
How do left-handed people play guitar in a right-handed world?

ANSWER from Steve Mitchell on 28 June 2004:
There are a few different ways to play the guitar if you are left handed.

 One way is to just tough it out and play "right handed" by using the left hand on the fret board and right hand for strumming.  The advantage is that most available guitars are "right handed" and most players are "right handed."  Strumming and fretting patterns will be mainstream.  I guess there is another advantage to playing right handed if you are a lefty because the dominant hand can be used on the fretboard.

 You can also take a "right handed" guitar and flip it over and play it "left handed."  Instead of the heavy strings being at the top, they are at the bottom.  You still use the "right handed" guitar but all the charting will have to be inverted.  It will also result in your playing sounding different due to the strumming patterns of a lefty will be different from a righty.

 If you buy a "left handed" guitar, your choices will be limited.  Your chord patterns in books will have to be reversed (inverted) for a lefty as they appear to the observer, but strumming and fretting patterns will be like a righty.  Anyone you play with will be much more difficult to "borrow" (or rip off riffs) from, but you will eventually get used to it.  The righty people you play with won't be used to doing that, and will have a much more difficult time borrowing from you.

Steve Mitchell
California, USA

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QUESTION:
Do you have any advice about what type of electric guitar and amp might be good for a someone who wishes to move from acoustic to electric guitar?

ANSWER from Steve Mitchell on 28 June 2004:
If the student has been at it a year, he/she is fairly serious about playing, and better instruments may be in order.  With all the machinery available, the cheaper instruments from Korea and Mexico can actually be pretty nice instruments.  Where they cut corners is the quality of the wood and finish, the tuning machines, and the pickups.  A Fender squire can be bought new for maybe $150 and a 90 watt Fender solid state amplifier is around $200 new.  This setup could be played in a club without any problem unless the player wants to be super loud.  (Actually, this setup can be VERY loud!)

If we are talking about practice in the house, 30 watts can be a very nice loud amplifier.  Tube amplifiers are more versatile (sound can be modified to create different textures) than all solid state amplifiers in my opinion, but typically will cost more per watt than a solid state amplifier.  Solid-state amplifiers using modeling software are not within the scope of this discussion.

Many amplifier manufacturers have low end price point amplifiers that are quite good for most purposes until you start gigging regularly and have to start worrying about direct outputs to PA boards, Inputs from different types of sources, greater volume, and greater reliability.

Steve Mitchell
California, USA

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Last Updated:
2 July 2007
 

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