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Quick Start Guide

What is Music?

The word music is derived from the Greek, mousike, which translates as “art of the Muses”. Music as an art form can be defined as sound organised in time. If we break music down into its various elements we discover it is made up of pitch (which regulates harmony and melody), rhythm (associated with tempo, mater and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of texture and timbre.

Music can range from aleatoric (chance art based on the principles of randomness) to improvisation right through to strictly organized compositions.
Greek philosophers defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies and vertically as harmonies, and common sayings such as “it is music to my ears” point to the notion that music is often ordered and pleasant to listen to.

What qualifies as music in terms of creation, performance and significance can vary dramatically from culture to culture and social context. Music is very important to many cultures and is often inextricably linked to their way of life. But what may be music to the ears of one culture may well give another a headache.

Musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez described the difference between music and noise as a culturally defined border. It was his contention that, “even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus ... by all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be, expect that it is ‘sound through time’.”

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What is an Artist?

An artist is person who practices any of the creative arts, such as a sculptor, a writer, or a filmmaker. It is phrase used to describe someone who is exceptionally skilled at his or her chosen task and is often used to refer to a singer, an actor or a musician. A musical artist can specialise in performance (either signing or playing an instrument), composition or production.

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What is a Musician?

A musician is a person who has a talent for playing or writing music. Musicians can be classified by their roles in either creating or performing music.

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What is an Instrumentalist?

An Instrumentalist is a person who plays a musical instrument.

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What is a Singer?

A singer is a person that uses their voice as an instrument. Musicians can accompany singers and instruments or they may sing a cappella (without accompaniment). Vocal skill is a combination of innate talent and training. Those that sing professionally are often referred to as vocalists. In order to sing you must learn how to produce musical sounds with the voice. Almost everyone who can speak has the ability to sing also, because in many respects singing is merely a variation of sustained speech or speaking. Singing can be performed informally, just for pleasure, in the shower, the car or using a karaoke machine.

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What is a Composer?

Composer is derived from a Latin word meaning “the one who puts together” and refers to a person that writes music for performance.

In Western society the term ‘composer’ is often used specifically to describe famous figures from classical music such as Mozart. In popular music genres the composer is typically called a songwriter (as the music generally takes the form of a song).

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What is a Music Producer?

A music producer is often referred to as a record producer in the music industry. This person can have many responsibilities including orchestrating recording sessions, directing musicians, delegating the production budget and resources, and overseeing the recording, mixing and mastering processes.

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What is a Music Genre?

A genre is a category of musical composition characterised by similarities in form, style or subject matter.

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What is Fusion Genre?

A fusion genre occurs when two or more genres are combined. The most famous of all fusion genres (and rightly and genre in its own right now) is unquestionably rock and roll, which originally developed as a fusion of blues, gospel and country. Fusion genres are often characterised by variations in tempo, rhythm and dynamics.

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What is Music Psychology?

Music Psychology is the interpretation and understanding of musical behaviours, sounds and ideas through psychological theory and methods using a wide range of empirical approaches. Music psychology offers a unique perspective on music.

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What is Musicology?

Musicology is the study of music as an academic subject, as distinct from training in performance or composition; scholarly research into music.

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What is Pitch?

Pitch refers to how high or low a note sounds. Musicians use pitch to distinguish the frequency of a note. On a piano high pitches are on the right side of the keyboard and low pitches are on the left. Pitch ranges are often referred to in terms of the human singing voice. In female singer with a high pitch voice is called a Soprano whilst a signer with a low pitch is called an Alto. In male singers Tenors are high and Bass are low.

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What is Melody?

Melody takes it’s meaning from the Greek word, meloidia, meaning “singing or chanting”. It is a linear succession of musical notes that are perceived as a single entity. A melody is composed of one or more musical phrases or motifs and is often repeated throughout a song or piece in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their “melodic motion”, or the intervals between pitches (predominantly conjunct or disjunct or with further restrictions), pitch range, tension and release, continuity and coherence, cadence, and shape.

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What is a Subgenre?

A sub genre is a division within the category of a genre. For example the rock music genre has many subgenres such as punk rock, hard rock and soft rock to name just a few.

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What is Rock Music?

The origins of the rock music genre can be traced back to 1940s and 50s America where Chuck Berry was widely regarded as the godfather of rock and roll. He developed a unique sound that evolved from rhythm and blues among other influences and went on to inspire a generation after generation of music lovers. Rock & Roll in its most pure form consists of three chords, a strong, insistent backbeat, and a catchy melody. Rock music as we know it today usually has a strong back beat, and often revolves around the guitar, either solid electric, hollow electric, or acoustic and often employs bass guitar, and drums. However it is not uncommon for other instruments to be utilised such as keyboards, brass and strings.

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What is Heavy Metal Music?

Heavy metal is generally considered a subgenre of rock music due to its obvious similarities. Heavy Metal performers do often use the same instruments as rock musicians, however the style of music they play is usually harder, louder and more intense.

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What is Indie Music?

Indie music, like heavy metal, is a sub genre of rock music. Indie originally took its name from the unsigned alternative rock bands and musicians, or those who signed with an independent label rather than a major. Today Indie Pop or Indie Rock is more of a term for the style of music as many of the big bands from the 80s and 90s have since “sold-out” in the eyes of some of their fans by signing lucrative recording contracts with the big labels.

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What is Pop Music?

Pop, or popular music, is a term used by the music industry to define the style of music favoured by the general public at any given time. It is for this reason that ‘pop’ music can never be pigeon-holed in one particular genre – in the fifties it may have been rock’n’roll, in the eighties bands such as Wham and Culture Club would have fallen into that category, whereas today the pop charts are dominated by R&B, Hip-Hop and Dance.

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What is Rhythm & Blues (R&B)?

R&B is a fusion genre that originally brought together the musical stylings of the Rhythm and Blues genres but has since since evolved to incorporate the sounds of other contemporary genres and subgenres:

Blues gets its name from the unhappiness of the performer who would often sing about depression or heartbreak. It is a sombre form of music that gained popularity in the early 20th century alongside Jazz and influenced the early development of Rock music.

Jazz enjoyed a strong following during the Roaring Twenties and although its popularity has waned there is still a thriving scene in existence today. It’s a more experimental and less rigid expression of music and often very brass-heavy.

Rap is a type of popular contemporary music of African American origin in which words are recited rapidly and rhythmically over a pre-recorded, typically electronic instrumental backing.

Hip-Hop originated in black and Hispanic areas of deprivation in the boroughs of New York City in the 1980s. It often features a group of rappers or an individual rapping over the top of a DJ.

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What is Disco Music?

Disco was characterized by the use of real orchestral instruments, such as strings, which had largely been abandoned during the 1950s because of rock music. In contrast to the 1920s, however, the use of live orchestras in nightclubs was extremely rare due to its expense. Disc jockeys (commonly known as DJs) played recorded music at these new clubs. DJs Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles were key players on the disco scene and would become an inspiration for their house, garage and techno counterparts for years to come.

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What is House Music?

With its origins in the disco music of Chicago, House took its name from the warehouse parties and, in particular, the Ware House club. The early eighties saw DJs such as Frankie Knuckles cut together disco and electronic music as well as use reel-to-reel tapes to increase the impact of the kick drum. House music is often used as a catchall phrase to categorise all forms of contemporary dance and electronic music.

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What is Techno Music?

Techno developed at around about the same time as house was taking hold in Chicago and New York, the main difference being that Techno was set against the urban decline of Detroit's failing automotive industry and the fall out from the race riots of 1967. Fusing the kick drum with a new machine, the Roland TB 303, an analogue bass unit, producers such as Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May opened another chapter in dance music's history. Europe was experimenting too; bands such as Kraftwerk and Gary Numan influenced the sound by giving it a more mechanical feel. Often dark and brooding, techno has given birth to some fierce, pounding dance floor monsters as well as highbrow industrial soundscapes.

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What is Electronic Dance Music?

Electronic dance music is made using computers, keyboards and synthesisers, and is a style of popular music commonly played in dance music nightclubs. The disco techniques of looping, sampling and segueing continued to be used within techno and house music. The electronic dance music boom took place in the mid 1980s with clubs such as Manchester’s and Ibiza’s Manumission at the forefront of the movement. This is also the time when different genre’s and sub-genre’s of electronic dance music were developed including house, techno, trance, progressive and ambient.

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What is Electro House Music?

Electro house is a fusion genre of house music and techno that rose to become of the most prominent genres of electronic dance music today. Stylistically, it combines the four to the floor beats commonly found in house music with harmonically rich analogue.

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What is Trance Music?

Named after the favoured head-state of those frequenting the Indian beaches of Goa, trance music has its roots in the early experiments in electronic music as well as the parties at Anjuna beach. Playing to throngs of fluro painted partygoers, DJs would add drum loops to eighties electronic music.

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What is Progressive House Music?

The term 'progressive house' was coined to distinguish a sound being pushed by British producers such as Andrew Weatherall and Justin Robertson. There sound was rougher, more leftfield and drew on European influences as well the Balearic house sound that DJ Paul Oakenfold had brought back from Ibiza a few years before.

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What is Ambient / Chill-Out Music?

The first ambient hero was Alex Patterson who with his band The Orb released Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, an album of incredible beauty, which even today is held in the highest regard. Other prime exponents in the field of ambient music such Aphex Twin (Selected Ambient Works 1) and Mixmaster Morris aka The Irresistible force both made forays into electronic mood music with vary degrees of success and notoriety. In more recent years the 'chill out' scene has been influenced by the likes of Jose Padilla and the Balearic sounds of Ibiza's Café Del Mar and the neighbouring Café Mambo. Chill out has moved away from its earthy roots in recent years and become highly marketable although there have still been some classic offerings from the likes of Air, Groove Armada, Zero 7 and Lemon Jelly to name but a few.

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What is Hip-Hop Music?

Hip-Hop began in the area around The Bronx in New York as a cultural movement amongst the young black community and quickly spread across New York, America and eventually the rest of the world. There are four main disciplines associated with hip-hop, they are: MCing, DJing, graffiti art, and break dancing. The term “hip-hop” was first used in the 70s by the Sugar Hill Gang, but these days it is more commonly used to refer to a particular genre of music and, in particular, Rap music.

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What is Latin Music?

Latin, or Latin America music, is a genre that includes the music of all Latin American countries including the Caribbean and often Spain and Portugal. The styles of music within the genre are extremely diverse with the use of the Spanish language (and occasionally Portuguese) the only real consistent trait. These styles include Tango, Son, Salsa, Samba, Bossanova, Tropicalia and Latin Pop.

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What is a Synthesizer?

A synthesizer (or synthesiser, or synth) is an electronic musical instrument that produces a variety of sounds by generating and then combining signals of different frequencies. Unlike traditional instruments, synthesizers create electrical signals rather than direct acoustic sounds, which are amplified through a loudspeaker or a set of headphones. There are three types of synthesizers, which differ in operation: analogue, digital and software-based. A modern digital synthesizes use a frequency synthesizer microprocessor component to calculate mathematical functions, which in turn generate signals of different frequencies.

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What is MIDI?

MIDI (short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a music industry standard communications protocol that enables MIDI instruments and sequencers (or computers running sequencer software) to communicate with each other to digitally facilitate the playing and recording of music. Most of the contemporary music we hear today will have been written with and played by MIDI sequencers.

MIDI has many benefits and advantages for the modern music producer and recording artist. It is extremely compact (thousands of songs will fit on a single CD). It is extremely efficient because just about any computer can read its language, it’s also extremely powerful and incredibly versatile – at the click of a button you can control an entire orchestra, or change the key or tempo of a single instrument.

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What is Sampling?

The practice of copying music (or sampling) has been around for almost as long as it music itself and is perhaps most apparent in classical music, whereby composers commonly created new works upon the musical themes of earlier composers. Almost every new musical era since then has paid homage to the previous era by “quoting” their predecessors musical stylings in their own music.

Musical "quotation" is the analogue upshot of digital sampling. A musical "quote" occurs when an artist takes a distinctive and recognizable portion of another era's or composer's music and using it in a new context. In the early 1940s, musique concrete composers, such as Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, cut, spliced, and manipulated pre-recorded tapes in creating their music. In the 1950s, renegade artists, such as William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, employed their "cut-up method" to rearrange musical works into random collage. There are even sample-esque elements in The Beatles' songs "Revolution Number 9" and "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!”

Today sampling is prevalent in all forms of contemporary music from Pop to Rock to Hip-Hop.

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What are Loops?

A loop refers to a segment of music that is replayed a number of times. It was called a “loop” because the effect was originally achieved by splicing two ends of recording tape together to form a literal loop.

In electronic music, a loop is a sample which is repeated. This effect is perhaps most commonly produced with the aid of with computer based looping software, although a similar effect can be created with tape loops, delay effects, cutting between two record players or with a sampler.

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