Everyday life involved music for the ancient Egyptians, who used instruments as an important part of their festivals and ceremonies. For example, farmers would sing when they sowed and harvested their crops. The royals were kept entertained by people playing flutes or stringed instruments, and became a large role during their parties. Commoners would dance to music played by small groups of people with stringed instruments.
The Egyptians had their own version of the harp, which stood seven feet tall. Priests in temples typically played the Egyptian harp. One of these specimens was found and sent to the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It dates back 2,500 years.
Even the ancient military found a place for musical instruments. When the Egyptian army marched, they heard the sounds of trumpets and drums. The trumpet played an important role in Egyptian culture, as it was believed to have been the invention of the god Osiris. Because of this, the god was often worshipped to the sound of trumpets. A wind instrument associated with the Egyptians was a double-reed instrument comparable to the oboe.
The Egyptians also played percussion instruments. For instance, artifacts reveal cymbals of varying shapes and sizes that possessed different pitches. Thanks to Egypt, the tambourine, which is heavily used in folk music, is traced back to the culture. Egypt was also home to another instrument much like the tambourine. It was called the sistrum, which looked like a rattle, but produced a “jiggling” sound when it was shaken.
One of the oldest instruments in the world belongs to the Aborigines of Australia, who created the didgeridoo. Many people believe that this instrument is the earliest specimen known to man. A long, hollowed-out tube is responsible for the body of the didgeriroo. When played, it has a muffled tone that can continuously produce sound when the player is familiar with a special kind of breathing. The instrument also allows the didgeridoo player to sing when they are playing and the result is a complex harmony.
The Chinese Lute
The lute was also a part of ancient Chinese music , although it was called a pipa. The original instrument was named after the loquat fruit with the earliest known specimen dating back to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC , 206 BC). In time, the pipa went through a period of improvement. A new structure and techniques enhanced the way people played the instrument. The pipa was at first held transversely, but new changes made it a vertical instrument. At first, a pick was used to make sound, but new techniques meant that strings were directly plucked.
From the west, the erhu (also known as the ‘Huqin’) was introduced to the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty. The instrument was played on the lap, where a bow was moved across vertical strings. The Chinese also played flutes with an early version dating back more than 7,000 years ago. It was at first made out of bone, but later flutes would be fashioned out of bamboo, which made it accessible for commoners and professional musicians alike to play. The instrument was played by covering the holes and blowing through the side hole while moving the fingers between all of the different holes.