Cards 2014

The theme for 2014 was musical instruments.

Gu Zheng 古筝

The early types of guzheng emerged during the Warring States period (475 to 221 BCE). It was largely influenced by the se (瑟), a plucked stringed instrument. It became prominent during the Qin period (221 to 206 BCE), and by the Tang Dynasty (618 CE to 907 CE), the guzheng was arguably the most commonly played instrument in China.

The modern zheng is very different from ones made centuries ago, mainly due to natural evolution influenced by local as well as historical environments but also because of the adoption of Western musical styles. Strings were once made from silk but now they are almost always metal-nylon which increases the instruments’ capabilities, volume and potentials.

There are many techniques used in the playing of the guzheng, including basic plucking actions (right or both hands) at the right portion and pressing actions at the left portion (by the left hand to produce pitch ornamentations and vibrato) as well as tremolo (right hand). These techniques of playing the guzheng can create sounds that can evoke the sense of a cascading waterfall, thunder, horses' hooves, and even the scenic countryside. Plucking is done mainly by the right hand with four plectra (picks) attached to the fingers. Advanced players may use picks attached to the fingers of both hands. In more traditional performances however, plectra are used solely on the right hand, reflecting its use for melodic purposes and its relative importance in comparison to the left hand which is used solely for purposes of ornamentation. Ancient picks were made of ivory and later also from tortoise shell. Ornamentation includes a tremolo involving the right thumb and index finger rapidly and repeatedly plucking the same note. Another commonly used ornamentation is a wide vibrato, achieved by repeatedly pressing with the left hand on the left side of the bridge. This technique is used liberally in Chinese music, as well as in Korean gayageum music.

Drum Kit

A drum kit is a collection of drums and other percussion instruments set up to be played by a single player. The traditional drum kit consists of a mix of drums (classified as membranophones) and idiophones (most significantly cymbals but also including the woodblock and cowbell for example).

A standard modern kit, as used in popular music, contains:

  • A snare drum, mounted on a specialised stand, placed between the player's knees.
  • A bass drum, played by a pedal operated by the right foot.
  • A hi-hat stand and cymbals, operated by the left foot and played with the sticks, particularly but not only the right hand stick.
  • One or more tom-tom drums.
  • One or more cymbals.

The first recognizable ancestors of the modern drum kit were born in the Vaudeville era. Pecuniary and theatre space considerations demanded that fewer percussionists covered more percussion parts. In military and orchestral music settings, drums and cymbals were traditionally played separately by one or many percussionists. The bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, and other percussion instruments were all played using hand-held drum sticks. Circa 1890, experimentation with foot pedals began. Many patented their systems such as Dee Dee Chandler of New Orleans 1904-05. Liberating the hands for the first time, this evolution saw the bass drum played with the foot of a standing percussionist (thus the term "kick drum") and became the central piece around which every other percussion instruments would later revolve.

By the 1930s, Ben Duncan and others popularized streamlined drum kits leading to a basic four piece drum set standard: bass, snare, tom-tom, and floor tom. Jazz drummers greatly influenced the development of the modern drum kit.

With the ascendance of rock and roll in the 1960’s, the popularity of drum kits flourished.

The Electric Guitar

Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, use an amplifier that can electronically manipulate and shape the tone. Early amplified guitars employed a hollow body, but a solid body was eventually found more suitable, as it was less prone to feedback.

An electric guitar uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical impulses. The most common guitar pickup uses the principle of direct electromagnetic induction. The signal generated by an electric guitar is too weak to drive a loudspeaker, so it is amplified before sending it to a loudspeaker. Since the output of an electric guitar is an electric signal, the signal may easily be altered using electronic circuits to add colour to the sound. Often the signal is modified using effects such as reverb and distortion.

Invented in 1931, the electric guitar became a necessity as jazz musicians sought to amplify their sound in the big band format. During the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar became the most important instrument in pop music. It has evolved into a stringed musical instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles. It served as a major component in the development of rock and roll and many other genres of music. However the electric guitar has hardly moved on from the late 1950s. With even today the most popular guitars being designed and first built in the late 1950s. Advancement since the late 1950s has been very slow in the instrument itself with most advancements being in the guitar amplification equipment.

The Piano

The word piano is a shortened form of pianoforte, the Italian word for the instrument. The Italian musical terms piano and forte indicate "soft" and "strong" respectively, in this context referring to the variations in sound volume the instrument produces in response to a pianist's touch on the keys.

The piano was founded on earlier technological innovations. The first string instruments with struck strings were the hammered dulcimers. By the 17th century, the mechanisms of keyboard instruments such as the clavichord and the harpsichord were well known. The harpsichord produced a sufficiently loud sound, but had little expressive control over each note. The piano was likely formed as an attempt to combine loudness with control, avoiding the trade-offs of available instruments at the time. The invention of the modern piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731) of Padua, Italy. While the clavichord allowed expressive control of volume and sustain, it was too quiet for large performances.

The Rebana

Rebana is a Malay tambourine that is used in Islamic devotional music in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. The sound of rebana often accompany Islamic ritual such as the zikir. The name rebana came from the Arabic word Robbana meaning "our Lord".

There are many type of rebana, the biggest rebana known is Rebana Ubi. Rebana Ubi are widely use by the Malay people in East Coast Malaysia such Kelantan or Terengganu. This type of rebana is the only rebana with a decorative pattern on the body and the face. Smaller rebana also known as Kompang is widely use by Malay people when celebrating the bride and groom in a wedding ceremony. Rebana Hadrah came from the state of Johor.

The Rebana is the image engraved on one side of the Malaysian 1 sen coin.

The Saxophone

The saxophone is a conical-bore woodwind musical instrument, usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece. It is popular in military band music, and is commonly used in jazz and classical music.

The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846. He wanted to create an instrument that would be the most powerful and vocal of the woodwinds, and the most adaptive of the brass—that would fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections. Saxophones are pitched in B♭ and E♭ because they were designed for military bands. Saxophones pitched in C and F never gained a foothold.

Saxophones come in different sizes and pitches. The commonly known saxophones are the alto and tenor saxophones, which have a bend. Soprano saxophones are straight.

The Sompoton

The sompoton is a musical instrument of the Kadazan-Duzun people in Sabah, Malaysia. It often accompanies song and dance performances.

The sompoton is made from a hollowed gourd and eight bamboo pipes. Small pieces of bark from the polod tree are shaped into reeds and are attached to the pipes. Beeswax is used to attach the pipes to the gourd, and also to seal off any gaps to prevent air from escaping.

The sompoton can be played by both blowing and sucking. Only four of the pipes have sound holes. Three others are played by opening or closing the hole at the end of the pipes using one’s fingers. The eighth pipe is not played. It is only used to balance the positions of the other pipes as part of constructing the sompoton.

The Violin

The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola, cello and doublebass.

The violin, while it has ancient origins, acquired most of its modern characteristics in 16th-century northern Italy, where the port towns of Venice and Genoa maintained extensive ties to central Asia through the trade routes of the silk road. Further modifications were made in the 18th and 19th centuries to bring it to its current form.

The earliest stringed instruments were mostly plucked (e.g. the Greek lyre). Bowed instruments may have originated in the equestrian cultures of Central Asia, an example being the Tanbur originated in modern-day Uzbekistan. Turkic and Mongolian horsemen from Inner Asia were probably the world’s earliest fiddlers. Their two-stringed upright fiddles were strung with horsehair strings, played with horsehair bows, and often feature a carved horse’s head at the end of the neck. The violins, violas, and cellos we play today, and whose bows are still strung with horsehair, are a legacy of the nomads.