10 Phenomenal Women who changed the Classical Music World

There is no doubt that women have come a long way in many different fields including music. In celebration of the International Women’s Day on 8 March, here we will take a look at 10 phenomenal women in music who have contributed their talents to help shape music history. From the 12th through to 21st century, we celebrate these 10 extraordinary women who broke new ground and left an indelible mark on the classical music world.

1. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

One of the first known composers in the history of Western music, Hildegard of Bingen was a 12th-century Benedictine nun with an extraordinary musical vision.

10 Phenomenal Women who changed the Classical Music World
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

For most of her life, she lived in an enclosed hilltop monastery. There, she wrote sublime, haunting songs for her nuns to sing at their devotions. Hildegard absolutely refused to behave conventionally, going on preaching tours – a highly unusual practice for women at the time – in a male-dominated church.

Around 800 years after her death, interest in her music began to grow. In 1979 came the first English performance of four of her incredibly vivid songs. In 2012, Hildegard was canonised and named a Doctor of the Church.

2. Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729)

French harpsichordist and composer Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was a musical pioneer at the height of the French Baroque era. Her family was musical, and from the age of five Élisabeth was already singing and playing the harpsichord in the Court of Louis XIV. She is considered the first woman to have composed an opera in France, which was titled Céphale et Procris and quilled in 1694.

Her chamber music for harpsichords and violins are gems, combining the qualities of both French and Italian Baroque styles. She’s particularly noteworthy as she composed across so many forms and styles in her career. Her keyboard music is being championed in a new recording by London-based Spanish pianist Antonio Oyarzabal, who performs her Pieces for Harpsichord on a modern instrument.

Sonata no. 6 for violin and piano: Allemande
Véronique Mathieu, violin
Stephanie Chua, piano

3. Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)

Farrenc was a French composer, pianist and teacher, and one of the most influential musical figures of the 19th century. She took to piano from a young age and applied for the prestigious Paris Conservatory, aged 15.

After a stint as a concert pianist, in 1842 she was hired as a professor of music at the Paris Conservatory – the only such appointment for a woman that century. She stayed at the conservatoire for 30 years, where she developed a reputation as one of the finest piano professors in Europe and trained some of the great virtuosos of the age.

Farrenc was paid far less than the male professors at the conservatory, and fought for parity with her colleagues. It was a long fight, and her compositions formed a key part of her campaign. She succeeded and was able to take home a pay check of the correct size.

Mélodie en La Bémol Majeur · Louise Farrenc
Brigitte Engerer · Piano
Farrenc: Chamber Music

4. Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)

10 Phenomenal Women in the Classical Music World
 Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)
Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)

A 20th-century composer and suffragette, Ethel Smyth was a key figure in music and women’s rights, acclaimed for her skill at “writing conversations in music”.

She wrote six operas, of which The Wreckers has been called “the most important English opera composed during the period between Purcell and Britten”. For more than a century, her opera Der Wald was the only opera by a woman composer to have been staged at New York’s prestigious Metropolitan Opera.

Smyth was imprisoned in 1912 for throwing a rock through a window of the Houses of Parliament while protesting in favour of women’s rights. The story goes that English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, a great admirer of Smyth’s music, visited her in prison and found her conducting her fellow inmates, using a toothbrush as a baton.

5. Amy Beach (1867-1944)

10 Phenomenal Women in the Classical Music World
Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Amy Beach, first American woman to publish a symphony

At the turn of the 19th century, Amy Beach made history as the first American woman to publish a symphony. Her ‘Gaelic’ Symphony, published in 1896, was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, no less.

Beach showed extraordinary musical flair from a very early age. Her parents told stories of young Amy harmonizing her mother’s lullabies aged two and composing waltzes in her head aged five. Soon, she moved onto Beethoven and made her concert hall debut aged 16.

As a 19th-century woman, Beach struggled to be granted the same opportunities as her male counterparts. For much of her life, she used her position as the country’s best-known female composer to nurture other women. She once said: “Music is the superlative expression of life experience, and woman by the very nature of her position is denied many of the experiences that colour the life of man.”

6. Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) – Lullaby, for Viola and Piano

Rebecca Clarke was a violist, performer and a composer who led the way in getting women the places they deserved on concert hall stages and in orchestras in her day. In 1912, she became the first woman to play in Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra, and she performed internationally.

She didn’t compose prolifically, but what she did write was dazzling – her impressionistic Viola Sonata showcases the instrument’s incredible versatility and virtuosity, shedding its reputation as a soft accompanying instrument.

7. Florence Price (1887-1953)

Florence Price was one of the first women to have a symphony performed by a major US orchestra, and the first Black woman to do so: she made history in 1932 when Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E minor.

Price wrote numerous orchestral works, chamber pieces and songs, and was also a pianist and teacher. Due to her race and sex, she didn’t get the recognition she deserved in her own lifetime, but new music of hers was recently discovered and she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves.

Cantilena by Florence Price (1887-1953)
Nicole Keller, organist on the Muller Pipe Organ (2021) at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio

8. Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)

10 Phenomenal Women in the Classical Music World
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was the 20th century’s greatest music teacher.

A prolific composer and conductor, and teacher to some of history’s greatest music-makers, Boulanger was an unstoppable force in 20th-century music.

She wrote several choral, chamber and orchestral works, was the first woman to conduct many major US orchestras, and her star roster of pupils included Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass and Daniel Barenboim, no less.

Boulanger’s passion for pedagogy followed the tragically early death of her sister Lili Boulanger, who was then considered one of France’s most exciting young composers. When Lili died aged just 24, her elder sister lost her taste for composing. Instead, she decided to dedicate herself to a lifetime of teaching and nurturing others in music.

9. Martha Argerich (1941-)

10 Phenomenal Women in the Classical Music World
Martha Argerich (1941-)
Martha Argerich is a trailblazing Argentine pianist.

Few classical artists share the deep musical achievements or cult status as Martha Argerich. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she took up the piano aged five, and was soon hailed as a prodigy, performing in public. At 16 years old, she stormed the world, winning the Geneva International Music Competition and the Ferruccio Busoni International Competition within just three weeks.

What followed is a career as a recording artist and concert pianist that’s utterly unparalleled. Every performance shines with her moody, unpredictable genius. She has also fostered countless younger players and new generations of talent. As the classical music world rose to glitzy heights over the last 60 years, she has anchored an entire industry in deep musicality, integrity and inspiration.

10. Marin Alsop (1956-)

Marin Alsop is one of the world’s best conductors, having taken her baton to the helm of most of the US and Europe’s top orchestras, and served stints as chief conductor of orchestras like Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Symphony.

In 2011, she became the first woman to conduct at Teatro alla Scala in Italy in its 230-year history. Alsop is also a violinist, including in the New York Philharmonic earlier in her career, and she’s an inspiring mentor who leads life-changing education initiatives that inspire people with music all over the world.

Marin Alsop (1956-)

Final Thought – Women in Music

These are some wonderful women that combined fierce intelligence with the daring to chart their own course, making music history — and knocking down gender barriers — in the process. But there are many more amazing women musicians that persevered and have become pillars in the music history.

Beethoven’s Love Letter – My Eternally Beloved

Beethoven’s love letter is very famous and often quoted in literary media as well as television, movies, and commercials. Beethoven was known to love many women, and as his friend F.G. Wegeler once wrote, “Beethoven was never out of love.” The letter was found amongst the composers things after his death. It was not addressed to anyone specific (there was no address, city, or name written on the letter) nor was it dated with a year. It is unclear whether or not the letter was ever sent, or if it was sent, if it was returned. All we know is that it was written on the 6th and 7th of July.

Beethoven’s Love Letter

July 6th, in the morning

My angel, my all, my very self. – Only a few words today, and, what is more, written in pencil (and with your pencil)-I shan’t be certain of my rooms here until tomorrow; what an unnecessary waste of time is all this–Why this profound sorrow, when necessity speaks–can our love endure without sacrifices, without our demanding everything from one another, can you alter the fact that you are not wholly mine, that I am not wholly yours?–Dear God, look at Nature in all her beauty and set your heart at rest about what must be–Love demands all, and rightly so, and thus it is for me with you, for you with me– but you forget so easily that I must live for me and for you; if we were completely united, you would fee this painful necessity just as little as I do–My journey was dreadful and I did not arrive here until yesterday at four o’clock in the morning. As there were few horses the mail coach chose another route, but what a dreadful road it was; at the last state but one I was warned not to travel by night; attempts were made to frighten me about a forest, but all this only spurred me on to proceed–and it was wrong of me to do so.. The coach broke down, of course, owing to the dreadful road which had not been made up and was nothing but a country track. If we hadn’t had those two postillions I should have been left stranded on the way–On the other ordinary road Esterhazy with eight horses met with the same fate as I did with four–Yet I felt to a certain extent that pleasure I always feel when I have overcome some difficulty successfully–Well, let me turn quickly from outer to inner experiences. No doubt we shall meet soon; and today also time fails me to tell you of the thoughts which during these last few days I have been revolving about my life–If our hearts were always closely united, I would certainly entertain no such thoughts. My hear overflows with a longing to tell you so many things–Oh–there are moments when I find that speech is quite inadequate–Be cheerful– and be for ever my faithful, my only sweetheart, my all, as I am yours. The gods must send us everything else, whatever must and shall be our fate–
Your faithful Ludwig

Monday evening, July 6th

You are suffering, you, my most precious one–I have noticed the very moment that letters have to be handed in very early, on Monday–or on Thursday–the only days when the mail coach goes from here to K[arlsbad].–You are suffering–Oh, where I am, you are with me–I will see to it that you and I, that I can live with you. What a life!!!! as it is now!!!! without you–pursued by the kindness of people here and there, a kindness that I think-that I wish to deserve just as little as I deserve it–man’s homage to man–that pains me–and when I consider myself in the setting of the universe, what I am and what is the man–whom one calls the greatest of me–and yet–on the other hand therein lies the divine element in man==I weep when I think that probably you will not receive the first news of me until Saturday–However much you love me–good night–Since I am taking the baths I must get off to sleep–Dear God–so near! so far! Is not our love truly founded in heaven–and, what is more, as strongly cemented as the firmament of Heaven?–

Good morning, on July 7th

Even when I am in bed my thoughts rush to you, my eternally beloved, now and then joyfully, then again sadly, waiting to know whether Fate will hear our prayer–To face life I must live altogether with you or never see you. Yes, I am resolved to be a wanderer abroad until I can fly to your arms and say that I have found my true home with you and enfolded in your arms can let my soul be wafted to the realm on blessed spirits–alas, unfortunately it must be so–You will become composed, the more so as you know that I am faithful to you; no other woman can ever possess my heart–never–never–Oh God, why must one be separated from her who is so dear. Yet my life in V[ienna] at present is a miserable life–Your love has made me both the happiest and the unhappiest of mortals–At my age I now need stability and regularity in my life–can this coexist with our relationship?–Angel, I have just heard that the post goes every day–and therefore I must close, so that you may receive the letter immediately–Be calm; for only by calmly considering our lives can we achieve our purpose to live together–Be calm–love me–Today–yesterday–what tearful longing for you–for you–you–my life–my all–all good wishes to you–Oh, do continue to love me–never misjudge your lover’s most faithful heart.

ever mine
ever ours

10 Things you didn’t know about Mozart

Mozart is probably the best known name in classical music, but there might be many things you didn’t know about him—here are ten facts about the great composer that might surprise you. 

1.He was a Freemason

Mozart was initiated into the Vienna Freemasons in December 1784 and history has him down as mixing with various Masons and members of the Illuminati. Indeed, one of Mozart’s patrons, Joseph von Sonnenfels, was the leader of all of Vienna’s Illuminati by all accounts, and Mozart composed his cantata “Die Maurerfreude (The Mason’s Joy) K.471” for an event where friend and fellow Mason Ignaz von Born was honoured by Emperor Joseph II. Several of Mozart’s well-known works, including “The Magic Flute K.620” and cantata “Dir Seele des Weltalls, K.429” are inspired by Masonry.

2. He had an, um, scatological sense of humour

Mozart’s letters divulge a rather more childish sense of humour than one may expect from a classical music genius. Indeed, letters between the composer and his 19-year-old cousin reveal a sick sense of humour, with one dated November 5, 1777 including a passage in which Mozart writes, “Oui, by the love of my skin, I sh*t on your nose, so it runs down your chin.” Later on in the same letter, the young composer reveals: “Oh my ass burns like fire! What is the meaning of this? Maybe muck wants to come out?” Too much information, Wolfgang Amadeus, too much information.

3. Mozart was from a musical family (and his father may have been one of the first stage mums in history)

Mozart’s father, violinist and composer Leopold, was deputy kapellmeister at the orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzberg and author of the seminal textbook on violin playing of its time, Versuch einer grundlichen Violinschule. He encouraged Mozart to pursue his talent from an incredibly young age after, at three, the boy started picking out piano chords and, at five, began improvising minuets at the keyboard. Indeed, Leopold has sometimes been criticized for exploiting his son’s prodigious talents for money and fame, much like today’s stage mums, soccer dads or similar.

4. Mozart was one of only two children out of seven who survived infancy

Leopold and Anna Marie Mozart had seven children, but only two survived infancy: Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl) and our own Wolfgang Amadeus, who was the younger of the two. Maria Anna was a musician too, having started learning keyboard with her father at the age of seven (see below). 

5. Mozart’s sister could have been as big a genius as he was

Leopold Mozart’s daughter Maria Anna (Marianne, nicknamed Nannerl), was an excellent harpsichord and forte piano player. She was even paraded around with her younger brother as a musical prodigy in the early years. That was until (because she happened to be born a woman) she was no longer permitted to show off her artistic talents alongside her brother because she had reached the right age to be married off and it wasn’t becoming of a woman to pursue a life in public. 

6. Mozart was knighted at 14 but rarely used his title

In 1770, when he was still a teenager, Mozart was awarded the Papel Order Of The Golden Spur. His father made him sign his compositions with “Cavaliere Amadeo” for a while, but Mozart soon dropped the formality. 

7. Mozart whiled away plenty of time at the billiard table

In his downtime, Mozart liked to indulge in billiards and bowls. Perhaps the rolling of the balls accompanied well the constant revolving of his musical mind. Indeed, history has him down as humming full Mozartian melodies throughout games and stopping to make brief notes on spontaneous ideas. Mozart favoured playing alone for those very reasons no doubt.

8. He experimented with polytonality long before Benjamin Britten, John Cage et al

Several of Mozart’s works, including “A Musical Joke, K.522”, incorporated discords and the use of different musical keys simultaneously. These are techniques you would expect from more modern composers like John Cage and Benjamin Britten before you would from Mozart.

9. He was an animal lover

The Mozarts had a dog called Bimberl and among Wolfgang’s many extravagant letter sign-offs is one from December 1774 in which he writes: “Farewell! A thousand kisses to Bimberl.” This has us delighted with imagining Mozart bimbling around the streets with Bimberl (did you see what we did there?) and humming one of his cheerful melodies before popping into a cafe for a round of billiards.

10. There is a frog named after Mozart

The “Eleutherodactylus Amadeus” is a Haitian frog species, named after Mozart for the striking spectrum of sound frequencies it produces and the similarity between these and musical notes. The species was feared to have died out in 1991, but were reported as rediscovered in 2011. As well as frogs, there are cafes, orchestras, numerous cakes and even asteroids named after Mozart.

What Would Life Be Like Without Music?

Music is the guardian of the heart and the messenger of our feelings.

It is impossible to go a day without music! A constant repetition of rhythms and beats that cause someone’s foot to tap or head to shake. It’s a statement that speaks, “Art is timeless.” Music is a safe space to some and an inspiration to others.

To me, it’s practically most of my life outside of school. Music is a way for some to explain a message that a simple speech could never convey. Without music, life would be expressionless – a blank canvas that wouldn’t expect colour anytime soon.

At first, it would be noticeable that something’s missing, whether it’s when a graduation ceremony goes silent after the applause dies down, or when parties only consist of people talking with drinks in hand. Talking only does so much in conveying emotion, even when it successfully asks questions that question the mind itself. Emotion is different from thought in the way that people can never accurately express it. Maybe the words “I love you” contain love in them, but the phrase is used so much that its context loses meaning.

This does not happen with music! A song does not lose meaning because it usually never explicitly states its message, leaving itself up for interpretation. It’s almost as if the song itself becomes a topic for thought, a mix of emotion and questioning.

A life without music would first become a life without emotion, where the most a person can convey is through explicitly stating what they feel, and in today’s society, we don’t like to say what we feel. We go to music to help us through what we don’t understand because music does. It’s the guardian of the heart and the messenger of our feelings.

Time would pass, but art would only attract those interested in painting, drawing and anything appealing to the eye. The ears would lose attention, only listening to what people have to say, not what they mean. The eyes would ask for more attention, aiming to be appealed as much as they possibly can. When all one person hears is talking, he looks upon visual artwork to satisfy the growing hunger for inspiration and colour. The blank canvas of colour only becomes a blank canvas of colour; it doesn’t speak because there is no music. It is only candy for the eyes.

Art that does not speak does not have meaning, and it is difficult to have art that speaks. As music continues to disappear in society, the eyes look for more to see. When a sense is no longer used often (the ears in this case), another must take its place and give the mind what is missing.

In the time that passes, people who would look only for music careers (if they were to exist) would look upon jobs that do not interest them and that they do not specialize in to take care of themselves. A whole group of musicians and artists that rely on music would disappear just as music does. The spectrum of entertainment shrinks and the eyes that take the place of the ears become attached to television without music, advertisements without music and words without music and emotional meaning.

In turn, the population is no longer connected. With the passing years without music, the people lose their connectivity. Again, the emotion is gone, and so is the attachment to each other. Friends that could appear because of a similar music taste could never meet each other because they have nothing else in common. Strangers that hear a song when walking on the sidewalk could never enjoy it together because the song does not exist. The human tendency to be social starts to lack a certain element because emotional attachment forms through fewer possibilities. A million scenarios of friendship or love never take place because music does not bring people together.

There is always the idea: “We don’t know what we’re missing.” If music never existed in the first place, we wouldn’t know that we’re missing it. It’s the same idea as saying that society today could be missing something important because it was never created in the first place. This is extremely true, and maybe people would instead bond with each other over something that would’ve never been thought to bring people together in the first place. There’s always a possibility. It’s only when that person picks up the two pencils and starts drumming to a beat that we realize we’ve been missing something all along.

I invite to you all to listen to all of the emotions transmitted on this amazing piece: Beethoven Coriolan Overture.  Enjoy! 


Top 8 Oldest Musical Instruments in the World!

Music is often called the world’s universal language. No matter where somewhere may be from, everyone seems to understand the feelings that music evokes. While we may never know for sure when our ancestors first developed music, we do know that some of the earliest examples of musical instruments appeared over 40,000 years ago. These findings suggest that the early modern humans who first settled in Europe already had musical traditions – it is believed that they created their instruments soon after they settled in Europe. Our ancestors may have developed music about 50,000 years ago, during the “cultural explosion”, the time period when humans began creating art, jewelry, ceremonially burying the dead.

On this Blog we will list the top 8 oldest musical instruments known! 

8. Tutankhamun’s Trumpets

Age: about 3,340 years old
Country of Origin:  Egypt
 Material(s) Used:  One with sterling silver, the other from bronze or copper

The pair of trumpets from Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb are believed to be the oldest playable trumpets in the world. These trumpets are the only ones that have survived from ancient Egypt and are over 3,000 years old. They were discovered in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter during an excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Both trumpets feature are finely engraved with decorative images of the god Ra-Horakhty, Ptah, and Amun.

In 1939, the trumpets were played before a live audience and the performance was broadcast internationally through BBC radio. Since their discovery, there have been claims that the trumpets have the power to summon war. People have connected the British entering World War II with the trumpets because the war in Europe started five months after the BBC broadcast.

7. Jiahu Flutes

 Age: 7,000 – 9,000 years old
 Country of Origin:  Jiahu, Yellow River Valley, China
 Material(s) Used:  Red-Crown Crane wing bones

The bone flutes discovered at the Jiahu archaeological site are the oldest known musical instruments from China. Thirty-three flutes in various states were uncovered at the site – about 20 of the flutes are intact and the rest are broken or fragmented. Six of the flutes are complete and are considered to be the oldest playable, multinote musical instruments ever found. The flutes vary in size and have five, six, seven, or eight holes.

Researchers have played the best-preserved flute and have uploaded audio recordings that showcase musical signs that are thousands of years old. Tonal analysis revealed that the seven-holed flute produces notes similar to the familiar Western eight-note scale that begins with “do, re, mi.”

6. Lithophones

 Age: between 4,000 and 10,000 years old
 Country of Origin:  Different parts of the world; oldest examples from India and Vietnam
 Material(s) Used:  Resonant rocks

The name “lithophone” is used for any musical instruments made of rocks that produce musical notes when struck. These types of ancient instruments have been uncovered around the world, with some of the oldest known examples coming from Vietnam. The lithophones from Vietnam are called Dan Da and consist of 11 large stone slabs, positioned vertically close to one another. Researchers determined that the stones were chiseled and could produce music by hitting them.

One of the best-known examples of lithophones are the Musical Stones of Skiddaw. Over two centuries, a series of lithophones were built around the town of Keswick in northern England.

5. Bullroarer

 Age: about 20,000 years old
 Country of Origin:  Different parts of the world; oldest examples from Ukraine and France
 Material(s) Used:  Thin slat of wood and cord

The bullroarer is a ritual musical instrument used by many ancient and current cultures around the world. Historically, it was used for communicating over long distances. The oldest known example of a bullroarer was found in Ukraine, dating back to the Paleolithic period (about 18,000 BCE). In addition to the oldest bullroarer from Ukraine, archaeologists have uncovered ancient bullroarers in other parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent, Australia, and the Americas.

Although several cultures have used the bullroarer, Australian Aborigines are best known for using the instrument. Aborigines use the bullroarer in initiation ceremonies, in burials to ward off evil spirits, and against bad omens.

4. Isturitz Flutes

 Age: 20,000 – 35,000 years old
 Country of Origin:  Isturitz Cave, France
 Material(s) Used:  Vulture Wing Bones

The flutes found at the Isturitz archaeological site in southwestern France range in age from about 20,000 to 35,000 years old. Fragments from more than 20 separate flutes were uncovered at the site. The flutes were made by various cultures that lived in the area including Aurignacian, Gravettian, and Magdalenian.

While most of the flutes are in pieces, two of the most complete flutes were created by the Gravettian culture and are between 22,000 and 28,000 years old. These flutes are well-crafted and show obvious signs of use, especially around the finger holes. The area around the finger holes look polished, which has been interpreted as wear from playing.

3. Hohle Fels Flute

 Age: 35,000 – 40,000 years old
 Country of Origin:  Hohle Fels Cave, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
 Material(s) Used:  Griffon Vulture Bone

The flute from the Hohle Fels cave was discovered in the fall of 2008 and is between 35,000 to 40,000 years old. Of all the ancient bone flutes uncovered so far, the one from Hohle Fels is the most complete and closely resembles a modern-day flute. The instrument is about 8.5 inches long and the part of the instrument where the musician blew into is still in tact.

Archaeologists say that this flute and the others found in the region “demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe.” A few years ago,Wulf Hein, an “experimental archaeologist”, made a replica of the flute and used it to play The Star-Spangled Banner.

2. Divje Babe Flute

 Age: 43,100 years old
 Country of Origin:  Cerkno, Slovenia
 Material(s) Used:  Cave Bear Femur

Prior to the discovery of older bone flutes, the Divje Babe Flute was considered the oldest example of a musical instrument ever found in the world. Over the years the flute has drawn differing opinions over who made the flute and whether or not its actually a man-made object in the first place. Some archaeologists believe that the flute was made by Neanderthals while others have suggested that it was made by Cro-Magnons.

In 2015, a new study was released stating that the flute was actually just a bone chewed up by hyenas. If the findings in the study are true, there is now no existing evidence that Neanderthals possessed the knowledge to make musical instruments. Despite the new findings, the flute is currently displayed in the National Museum of Slovenia as a Neanderthal flute.

1. Geisenklösterle Flutes

 Age: 42,000 – 43,000 years old
 Country of Origin:  Geisenklösterle Cave, Blaubeuren, Germany
 Material(s) Used:  Mute Swan bone and Mammoth Ivory

The three flutes found at the Geisenklösterle Cave archaeological site are the oldest instruments in the world. Two of the flutes are made from the bones of mute swans and the other flute is made from mammoth ivory. Researchers have radio carbon dated the flutes and estimate that they are between 42,000 and 43,000 years old. The flutes are linked to the Aurignacian, an archaeological culture associated with the earliest modern humans in Europe.

Some researchers believe that these flutes, and other early musical instruments, helped large groups of early humans develop and maintain strong bonds. They believe that these bonds helped our species expand its territories further than the more conservative Neanderthals, who went extinct in most parts of Europe about 30,000 years ago.

Where Christmas Carols come from? Brief history!

Ho ho ho.. Soon it will be coming that time of a year–a lot of people’s favourite time–Christmas. The houses in your neighbourhood have Christmas lights on, Christmas music has been played non-stop on the radio, and everywhere you go people seem to be so excited (or anxious) about this heartwarming season. When it comes to Christmas caroling, you probably think of a group of people singing in front of your house. However, do you know that carols were not always about Christmas and they started as early as the middle ages?  To understand where Christmas carols came from, let’s look at the history of carols first.

History of carols

The history of the genre “carol” was in fact not without questions. There were various possible forms of the genre, and a lot remains unknown about the early carols.

What most believe is that English carol was connected to French carole, a type of monophonic dance-song with choreography that was popular from the mid-12th to the mid-14th century.

In medieval England, the term carol referred to the songs of a certain form–with a burden (refrain) and some verses (stanzas). The burden was repeated after each verse. The text could be in English or Latin and the subject was about the Virgin, the birth of Christ, or the Saints of Christmas, but the text could also be about anything else. The carols could also be processional music.

“Monophonic” means there is only one melody line; therefore, you can imagine that medieval carols were rather simple musically. The following clip presents one example of a medieval carol:

In this clip you can hear the repetition of the burden (“Noel, Noel….”) after each verse, and the texture is monophonic–all the singers sing the same melody.

In the XV century, carols became polyphonic and more and more elaborate.

“Polyphonic” means multiple melodic lines are sung or played at the same time, and thus the music would sound pretty busy, especially when there is text on top of multiple melodic lines. Furthermore, each verse could be sung to different music.

The subjects of fifteenth-century carols could be religion, society, politics, etc. The popularity of carols declined through Reformation, during which Christmas customs were suppressed by by the Puritans, and was not revived until the nineteenth century.

Christmas Carols

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, carols were no longer connected to the medieval carol form; they were similar to strophic hymns with Christmas text, although some still had refrains.

In the twentieth century, the folk music movement motivated the collection of carols, and The Oxford Book of Carols (1928) was an important publication of the movement. This collection included various carols–medieval carols as well as Christmas songs from other countries–and therefore the term “carol” began to mean Christmas songs in a broader sense.

Nowadays Christmas carols are sung either from door to door or by a full a choir at a fixed place.

This brief history is of course much simplified and generalized. Hopefully I have helped understand a bit more of the origins of these wonderful songs, as some of you have already listened or played so many of them by now? Either way, enjoy the magic of the season and this wonderful video!!

10 Most Expensive Musical Instruments Ever sold

Music is an unfailing way to express one’s emotions and feelings and it happens to be a form of art that is universally loved. Music can be a way to relax or a way to muster energy for exercise. With all the different genres, there’s something in music for everybody.

Some brilliant musicians have made this planet a better place to live in with their exceptional music. While it is their skill and an innate talent that distinguishes them from the rest, their instruments also contribute to their excellence.

Hundreds of unique musical instruments have been made since the Stone Age, but some are so extremely rare that collectors spend chunks of money to own them and preserve important musical history moments, while many consider these rare instruments and the stories behind them priceless.

Let’s look at 10 most expensive musical instruments of all time:

1. MacDonald Stradivarius Viola

The MacDonald, named after one of its 19th century owners is one of the only 10 Stradivarius violas intact today. It was played by the eminent Amadeus Quartet co-founder Peter Schidlof until his death in 1987. The prized viola was put up for auction with a stupefying minimum bid of $45 million in 2014, but failed to secure a buyer. So, for those in the market, this one-of-a-kind musical treasure is still available!

2. Duport Stradivarius Cello

Named after its one-time owner, 19th century cellist Jean-Louis Duport, the 1711 Stradivari-crafted cello was purchased by the Nippon Music Foundation, who are inexhaustible Strad collectors in 2008 for a cool $20 million, despite its visible dent, rumoured to be caused by Nepoleon Bonaparte’s boots when Duport allowed Bonaparte to handle the infamous cello.

3. Vieuxtemps Violin

With a pristine condition at the age of 275 years, the Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin has no cracks and has never been repaired or patched. The instrument, crafted by renowned Italian artisan Guiseppe Guarneri in 1741, has been used by Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. The Vieuxtemps’ current anonymous owner, who purchased the violin in 2012 for $16 million, has provided lifetime use to top-selling classical violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.

4. Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin

The Lady Blunt is one of the only 2 best-preserved Stradivari-build violins in existence, which was auctioned for charitable relief after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The online sale raised $15.9 million, nearly 5 times the amount of the previous Stradivarius record holder. It is believed that the best-preserved Strad offered for sale in the past century.

5. Hammer Stradivarius Violin

The violin is named after a 19th century Swedish collector and its first owner Christian Hammer. The Hammer Stadivarius was crafted during Stradivarius’ aforementioned ‘golden era’ in 1707. The Hammer also shattered the Lady Tennant Strad’s record when it sold to an anonymous bidder in 2006 for a jaw-dropping $3.54 million after 5 minutes of bidding.

6. John Lennon’s Steinway Z Piano

In addition to the iconic white grand Steinway, John Lennon and Yoko Ono had a 1970 Steinway Model Z upright on which he composed and recorded Imagine in 1971. At auction in October, 2000, George Michael purchased the worn out instrument, which is said to have cigarette burn marks, for $2.1 million. Michael sent the piano on tour to sites of violent tragedies, echoing the sentiment of Imagine’s lyrics.

7. The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius

Stradivari is perhaps the most famous name in string instruments for very rare and extremely expensive violins. Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari crafted instruments from 1680 through the 1730s. The Lady of Tennant-Lafont Stradivarius was made in 1699, the year before what is considered Stradivari’s ‘golden era.’ The Lady Tennant was gifted to a Scottish millionaire’s wife who was an amateur violinist, before being sold at Christie’s for a record-breaking $2.03 million in April of 2005, and subsequently being loaned to numerous modern violin luminaries.

8. Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster

Eric Clapton constructed Blackie using a ’56 Stratocaster body, a ’57 neck and pickups from another instrument. His custom guitar can be heard on numerous Clapton hits since it was his favourite, both in studio and on stage. Clapton sold Blackie at Christie’s in 2004 for $959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads rehab centre.

9. OM-45 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar from C.F. Martin and Company

C.F. Martin started producing guitars in America in the mid-1800s. Today, they make more than 50,000 instruments per year. After 1929 for a year, Martin started producing their OM (Orchestra Model) line, which is said to be the most beautiful guitar ever made. The OM-45 Deluxe was Roy Rogers’ guitar of choice, and was auctioned for $554,500 in 2009, although a rare, modern replica can be bought for less than $80,000.

10. Gasparo Bertolotti da Salo Viola

One of the oldest violin makers, Gasparo developed the art of string making during the 16th century and took on pupils to continue the tradition. Only about 80 instruments made by Gasparo are still in existence today. Gasparo’s viola sold at auction for $542,500 in April 2010.

Why is important to learn Music History?

Have your ever asked yourself, “Why do I need to know this?”

Sometimes it can be a difficult question to answer. I remember asking my trigonometry teacher that question in high school. Every now and then, a music student will ask me such a question when we’re going over a challenging concept. I might be explaining the theory behind diminished 7ths and a student will politely ask, “Ms.”? Why do I need to know this?”

The other day, our family was listening to some classical radio in the car and I was explaining something about the instrumentation of the piece. My 7-year-old rolled his eyes and said, “Mo-om. I don’t need to know this.”

It is probably true that the specificity of the instrumentation of this piece wasn’t something he needed to know at the moment. However, familiarity with music history is important.

Why do we need to know about music history?


Music is a universal feature of the human experience. Yet each culture and society has its own style of music. When we study the music of cultures in the past (and cultures in the present) this gives us huge clues into what life and society was — or is — like, and how people felt about it.

For example, when we listen to and study music from the Baroque period in Europe, we learn the importance of patronage, the influence of the Church on what was composed, the emphasis on decorum. If we study music from ancient Africa, we learn about the importance of drums in their culture and how music was a form of communication between tribes.


When you study music and listen to different kinds of music, you’ll develop a vocabulary around music. You’ll also begin to reflect on your own particular tastes and learn to articulate them.

You might discover that you dislike classical opera because the vocals are too dramatic for you to enjoy. You might tell someone that “Claire de Lune” gives you goosebumps when you hear it because of the dissonant chords.

This ability to discuss music and appreciate different styles of music opens up doors for rich, fulfilling and new experiences. Connection with other people of similar interests and sharing musical experiences together become possibilities.


It might be difficult for you to believe that what now plays on a classical music station was once the “pop music” of its time.

But the music of the past is still important today! Imagine attending a ballet of The Nutcracker without the music. Would it have the same meaning and nostalgia? Would it be as enjoyable without the familiarity and beauty of Tchaikovsky’s score?

Whether you spend a lot of time listening to rock and roll, jazz or hip-hop in your household, it was influenced by music and musicians of the past. Many current performers in the music industry have connections to classical music. They also likely studied a musical instrument before becoming a famous performer. (Check out Justin Bieber playing a little piano here)

There are plenty of ways that classical music makes its way into present day music. Groups like Kevin Olusola, Pentatonix and the Piano Guys combine classical inspiration with modern day rhythms and songs to create their breathtaking compositions.

Music of the past sets the framework for the music your family enjoys today. Studying music history helps you to both acknowledge and appreciate that connection, as well as understand the music evolution

How the winter weather can affect your musical instrument and how to prevent it!

As temperatures start to drop during fall and for the coming winter months, our musical instruments reflect the change as much as we feel it. Just as we take extra measures to take care of our skin and body during this season, our instruments would need some extra care too to keep it working at 100%. Today we will be discussing important instrument care tips to prevent the bad consequences of the Winter season.

Why Cold Weather is Bad News for Musicians

Science class will teach you that water occupies less and less volume as it changes temperature from gas to liquid and finally to solid when frozen. Simply put, the colder the water is, the less space it takes up. As your musical instrument gets cold it shrinks, just like water (but not nearly as much!).

If you play a woodwind instrument, then you may notice more squeaks this time of year. If your woodwind instrument uses reeds, they will be harder to work with and sound “dry.” If you play a brass instrument, maybe a tuning slide will get stuck. Guitars and other string instruments will drift out of tune more frequently. And many schools and churches that own pianos have a lot of problems maintaining them in the winter.

Damage can be done when an instrument shrinks as a result of the cold air. If your instrument is made of real wood, the cold air can cause cracking, which is very expensive to repair. Sometimes they are broken beyond repair.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Instrument Against Weather-Related Damage

1. Avoid Temperature Extremes

Extreme cold is mainly detrimental to the finish and varnish checking of wooden instruments (small cracks in the varnish), especially where temperatures drop below the freezing point.

The problem most commonly happen when you have your instrument outside in below freezing weather for 15 to 20 minutes. For example, walking home with it, then immediately upon entering a warm room, opening the case to remove your the instrument. 

The solution to this problem is prevention:

  •  Minimize the amount of time your instrument will be outside.
  • Prepare your instrument for the change. Keep it in a cool place 7.2°C to 10°C (45°F to 50°F) for an hour or so before going out. The same rule applies when bringing it in from the cold.
  • If the instrument has been outside in the cold for a long period of time, do what you can to gradually warm it up. Never take it from the freezing car and then drop it off by the fireplace or close to a heater for a quick warm up. Instead, pick a relatively cooler room in the home to leave it for an hour so it can gradually warm up.
  • If possible, try not to take your instrument out in extremely frigid temperatures. Don’t leave it in the car at all during the winter.

2. Maintain Proper Humidity

Lack of humidity is another problem. Because the air is cold, the water in the air condenses and/or freezes and leaves us with very dry air. Damage caused by dryness can be much more serious than damage caused by excess humidity, and usually requires the prompt attention of a competent repair person. 

One symptom of excessive dryness is a change in the contour of the back and top of the instrument. String instruments have slightly arched top and back. If the wood becomes to dry, it shrinks, and top and back can become flatter.The finish can also distort with low humidity, especially caused by the wood shrinking. Happily, this problem usually corrects itself when humidity returns to normal levels.

The worst problem associated with excessive dryness is cracking of the top of your instrument. Repairing these cracks and the subsequent damage to the finish will require an experienced repair person to swell the wood with humidity, glue the cracks and touch the finish of the top. This can be very time consuming and costly. 

Just like using humidifiers in the winter to add moisture into the air and create a more comfortable environment, your instrument can also benefit from some quality time next to a humidifier. The best practice is to avoid any big swings in the humidity levels, and to keep it consistent between 40-60%.

The most reliable way to track the humidity levels in your home is investing in a highly rated hygrometer with thermometer. Even though they are not 100% accurate, it will give you a rough estimate of the humidity surrounding your instrument. Watch your instrument, it will also tall you when it is particularly dry.

In addition to a standard humidifier in the home, consider using a humidifier in your instrument case or your instrument. Professional  cases often have a humidity gauge built into the lid so that the owner always knows that their instrument is stored at the proper humidity. Be careful, though, to not rely on the case humidifier as the only source for humidity, as they may not release enough moisture to make a difference.

Final Thoughts

Avoiding most if these winter problems require only the use of a little common sense. 

  • One very important thing to remember is never to leave your instrument hanging on a wall during the winter months, as the heat from the furnace rises. While floor temperatures may be 18°C, five feet off the floor it may be 22°C and raise at it goes up. At higher temperature humidity becomes lower. 
  • During winter time keep your in-home humidity at approximately 45% relative to 22°C for your instrument safety.
  •  Keep your instrument in the case as much as possible and in a cooler place. Use an instrument humidifier that helps retain water and check it regularly, especially during extreme cold and low humidity season. These units contain small amount of water and can dry as fast as 24 hours.

6 tips to get you to practice your instrument

If you are like me, you probably started playing your instrument very excited and then realized it was going to take more time and effort than you thought! Or maybe you attempted to play your instrument in the past and now would like to give it another try!

For either scenario, there is always a time along the way when we get discouraged and find it hard to make consistent progress. Sometimes practicing just gets stale or perhaps you don’t know what to focus on next. Or maybe you just need some inspiration.

Today I will share a few tricks I have learned over the years that may help you stay motivated to learn your instrument!

1. Create the right atmosphere

Nothing will motivate you in your musical practice like the right environment. You might be one of those people who prefer a quiet room. Others need a little bit of stimulation. Whatever setting you like, try to be consistent so as to enter the right mindset when you start practicing.

Find your songs and find your tools before you start. If you will need water, snacks, picks, pencils, manuscript paper, and sharpeners etc. have them with you. If you use apps, download them in advance. By making it efficient you will be able to stay focussed and achieve your goals. 

2. Have your instrument “At the Ready”

Out of sight is often out of mind! Don’t put your instrument in the closet or under your bed. Keep it in plain sight and ideally in the room your occupy. When safe, keeping your instrument out of case and ready to play works best!

 3. Set goals

Setting goals is vital to getting real results and a great way of focussing your attention on what is important to you. Practicing is not synonymous with just playing through your music. You need to have the end in mind at the start of each practice session. With a prior goal for each practice session, you will find yourself progressing more quickly and effectively. Only that each goal needs to be broken down into smaller and focused objectives. Every time you complete a goal should help you feel more accomplished.

Not sure what goals to set? Here are some tips:

Stretch goals – these are the things that are well and truly out of reach right now. It will require concerted effort over a long period of time to achieve. They can be high level and should really spell out where you want to be as a player. 

Short and mid-term goals – these are vital to keeping you motivated and should be refreshed regularly to give you focus in your practice. These goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound.

For example: “I’m going to increase my speed from 100bpm to 163bpm in 3 weeks by increasing the speed by 3bpm a day”

Remember – the key to achieving your goals is to take action (any action, big or small) every day. While the many famous musicians of the world actually do practice 10 hours a day, that’s not possible for the most of us. The main thing is to pick up your instrument for at least a few minutes every day and focus on what it is you want to achieve. By doing so, you’ll quickly find out that you never want to put the instrument down and before you know it you will achieve what you set out to achieve.

Not sure what goals to focus on? Record yourself playing and listen. Critique yourself (are you rushing? Are you too slow? Are you too much “inside” the scale?”) or ask somebody you trust, who knows music very well, for feedback and suggestions on what to focus on.

Don’t ignore any areas you might find problematic. Learn to identify where you are using the wrong fingering or stumbling out of time. Decide why it’s going wrong and make up your mind how you will fix it. Obviously, different problems require different techniques.

4. Warm up

Musical instrument practice is much like a physical workout. To get yourself in the mood, ensure you do a warm up every time before you start. That way, you will be able to prepare your mind and body before the actual practice. It doesn’t have to be 15 minutes of fiddling with scales but can be something like sight reading or playing a familiar song if you like. Also, get into the right mindset by considering the keys of the pieces you are rehearsing.

 5. Be realistic

Many people – including your teachers – have told you to “get a lot done now”. Of course, it’s not realistic for you to do all your practice in one go. It gets even worse when you have a tough part to practice. The best way to go about this is to practice a little but more often. That way, you can go through a long-drawn process bit-by-bit. Think more about quality and not the quantity of your practice. Practice smarter and not necessarily longer if you want to have the willpower to keep going. Small and realistic goals should help you overcome areas that looked tricky and accept any missteps you might have made. Learn a song note-for-note! You will be amazed at how learning a song note-for-note will teach you new concepts and fresh approaches to things that you already know.

6. Find all possible ways to perform

For the semi-professional musicians out there, one of the best ways to make yourself practice is to perform for a concert, recital, exam or simply a family event. You will be amazed at what you can achieve when you need to learn material because your gig depends on it!

This can be daunting and even too scary for some, but it can also be just what you need to get you focussed and devoting the time and energy to your instrument that you need.

Also, playing for others means that you can assess your own skills in the context of the real world – with the pressure of your an audience and a crowd watching.

A Final Thought 

Motivation is one of the most important factors in the transformation of any dream into reality. When learning to play an instrument it is important to find the right mix of effort and fun to eep you motivated and moving in the right direction toward your goals.

Begin by defining your musical goals that will allow you to create a plan for an organized and realistic practice regime.

Create your own “sanctum” that creates distraction-free and relaxed environment. Be creative during your practice sessions so they don’t become tedious. Don’t set strict time limits that can create stress and anxiety.

Avoid developing band habits by slowing down your progress when necessary and seek help from others when the situation calls for it!

Finally but not less important – listen to music, especially related to your instrument! Join communities of musicians and music students on social media so you can find others that share your same interests and that might also inspire you! 

Tell me what you think?

What are some things you do to stay motivated?

Have you ever stopped playing your instrument due to lack of motivation and interest? What brought you back?

How do you keep your practice time organized and focus?