music log focus on an instrument history and application music appreciation

Day 1: Focus on an Obscure Instrument: History

You see and hear instruments almost every day, but have you ever stopped to think about how long they have been around, who invented them, or how they evolved from earlier instruments?

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In this listening log, you will pick an obscure instrument and research it. Make sure you pick an instrument with which you are not familiar. There are a lot of crazy ones to choose from. Some examples of interesting instruments I would recommend include:

  • Theremin
  • Balalaika
  • Didgeridoo
  • Dulcimer
  • Sitar
  • Sarrusophone
  • Ophicleide
  • Ondes-Martenot
  • Flugelhorn
  • EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument)
  • EWI (Electronic Woodwind Instrument)

Please do not pick a familiar Western European or American instrument such as the guitar, drums, bass, synthesizer, violin, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, flute, etc… Be sure to find a recording of the instrument in action and listen to it several times before deciding which instrument you would like to study.


  1. How long has this instrument been in existence? When did it first become popular? Is it still popular or widely used today?
  1. Is one person credited with its invention, or was it the culmination of years of tradition?
  1. What family of instruments does it belong to? What similar instruments preceded it?

Day 2: Focus on an Instrument: Common Applications

Now that you have learned a bit about the history of the instrument you have chosen, you will examine its common modern applications.

  1. In what ensembles is the instrument most commonly used?
  1. What does its role tend to be? Is it a melody instrument or a bass instrument? How does this affect the role that it plays in the ensemble?
  1. How is the sound of this instrument unique, different from that of other instruments? What makes it irreplaceable?
  1. Do you think this instrument will continue to be popular? Or, if it has fallen by the wayside, why might that have happened? Could it make a comeback? Why or why not?
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