Instruments of Aloria: The West
|Instruments of Aloria: The West|
Written in 308 AC, "Instruments of Aloria" is a short book of the instruments of western Aloria, with some detail of eastern instruments in later revisions. It explains the evolution of instruments and how they traveled across the continents to become the instruments we know today. The book includes instruments common and unheard-of to the modern citizen. Written by Easterner Wan-Xia, the book is written from the perspective of an outsider. As such, the book is far from a book of history. Still, the book is meant more as a starting point for the musically curious.
Instruments of Aloria: The West
I am Wan-Xia, a skilled luthier and scholar of the musical arts. In this handbook, I will include a brief guide to Aloria’s musical instruments and their history, from the Asha Oud and the D’Ithanie Baryton to the Viola Da Gamba to Da Bracci. There are many colorful instruments in our world, from every corner of the far west to the far east and anywhere in between. I feel it best to go chronologically in the order of the instruments’ creations. In this edition, I shall be writing about the instruments of the western world, that being Daen, Regalian Archipelago, Ceardia, the North Belt, and other such areas, with brief mentions of the Far West, Sendras, and Farah’deen when applicable. Though I come from Dexai, I am a scholar of western music and have a great passion for the wider world.
The Lute and Family
We shall start with the Qadir, though it may seem to be a bit of an unconventional place to begin at first. However, it is here we find what they call the Oud. The Oud is much like a lute, however, able to play microtones, which, by our modern music standards, sound very exotic. It has eleven strings, grouped into six courses, or groupings. That means that we have five groups of two and one single string by its lonesome. The Oud is played with a wooden straw-like piece known in common as a plectrum, or in Faraddi as a “Risha.” Some Qadir were later enslaved by the Altalar, yet continued to play the Oud well into slavery, where it was taken up by some of their fellow slaves of the Ailor Race.
The Ailor, who later became the Ithanians, Daendroque, and Dressolini, took the instrument and modified it to their tastes in music. Thus birthed the Lute, a much more commonly seen instrument today, removing much of the microtonality of the instrument, giving it a more traditional Ailor sound. Lutes vary in size from the smallest of Lutes to the largest of Theorbos, the later being a lute with two sets of strings, the lower one being fretted to allow for the playing of melodies, and the upper one being left to be plucked as open strings, allowing for basslines to be kept underneath the melody.
The Lute has since spread all over the Ailor world, from Daen to Ceardia and everywhere in between. Indeed, even some elves have taken up the Lute due to its pleasing mellow sound and its applicability. In Daendroque lands later came the Guitar, which later gained metal strings, whilst in Dressolini lands came the Mandolin.
The Tulum and Bagpipes
The Qadir are also known to be the originators of the bagpipes, or as they call them, the Tulum. The Tulum is typically less showy than the average set of bagpipes, but are uniquely Qadiri in their origins, with the name meaning “skin container”. The Tulum lacks a Common translation. However, due to how close Ceardia is to Farah’deen, it was only a matter of time before the Highland Ceardians got ahold of the Tulum and modified it to their western ears and eyes. The Tulum became the Bagpipes, a common tradition in Highland culture. They are typically made of plaid fabric instead of animal skin and consist of more pipes, which create the famous “drone” sound.
Bowed String Instruments of the West, Including the Violin and Family
Dating back to the Nasha of the Sundial Isles, the Suvial Altalar took a hold of the idea of a bowed string instrument from the race that preceded them with the Ravanahatha. This was a crude bowed string instrument with five strings, and a gourd for a soundbox. The idea of bowing string instruments traveled back east to Daen, but had already seemingly been in use by the Asha, with the Rebab and eventually the Lyra, or the “Rahaz and the “Lezara,” as they are called in Ibeth.
The Ailor had taken a hold of the Lyra and Rebab as instruments of their own after being freed from slavery. However, they, yet again, modified these instruments into what was first called the “Lira de Braccio,” known more commonly as the “Viola De Braccio,” with “De Braccio” meaning of the shoulder, and the “Lira Da Gamba,” which, like above, is now known as the “Viola Da Gamba,” or “Of the Leg.” The Violas of this time had six strings, and were rarely specified as to which was referred to when composing music, with musical compositions simply referring to the “Viola” with the decision of Da Gamba versus Da Braccio being left up to the musician or the conductor. Violas came in about seven different sizes, from the rare “Pardessus De Viole of more modern Ithanian origins, down through the Treble, Alto, Tenor, and two Bass varieties, one tuned an octave below the Tenor, and one much lower, known as the “Grade Basse,” meaning “Grand Bass.”
The old Violas were unique to the modern Viola family as they were fretted with gut frets, much akin to an old guitar. The Viola Da Gamba gave birth to the Baryton, which is very similar to a Bass Viola Da Gamba, having, however, an additional ten or so strings that run behind the neck of the instrument. These strings run behind the neck of the instrument and are plucked with the thumb of the hand used to hold down the fingerings of the main bowed melody strings.
In Dressolini lands, the Violas were modified and expanded to become the now much more common Violin family. This family includes Violins, modern Violas (based off of the Viola Da Braccio”, the Violoncello (known as the Cello more commonly, based off of the Bass Viola Da Gamba”), and the Double Bass. They had removed the frets in favor of a plain neck and shortened the scroll of the instrument to accommodate fewer strings, with only four being used. These strings are occasionally made of steel instead of the usual sheep gut, with steel being more durable, but at the sacrifice of the more tender, milder sound gut strings bring to the instrument.
However, the older style of Viola made its way to the Regalian Archipelago first, and, in Anian lands, became the Braci, a three-stringed fiddle. Similarly, the Hurdy Gurdy came about with its unique design featuring a cranked wheel that is used to “bow” the strings. The strings are then changed in length by pressing keys on the side of the instrument’s neck, producing notes. The Hurdy Gurdy also features drone strings, adding to its unique sound, making it a string equivalent to the Bagpipes. Also in Anian lands came the Horn Violin, which as the name suggests, has a horn that projects the sound of the strings outwards. This gives the instrument a unique, tinny sound.
The name is quite a misnomer, as brass instruments can be anything from wood, to an animal horn, to conch shells, and much more. However, it is the name we use today, and what I shall refer to this diverse group of instruments as. The earliest brass instruments we can find come from all over the world, save Ceardia. The idea of buzzing ones’ lips into a tube to produce sound seems to be fairly universal and ancient. The idea has been brought all over the west, including to Genevaud lands, with their Mountain Horns, low and bellowing.
In Daen, the more traditionally thought of brass instruments was created. The Ithanian people have Ithanian Horns, famed for their curled appearance and rotary valves. In Dressolini lands, there came about the Sackbut, the precursor to the Trombone, with a more mellow sound. The Dressolini people also created the trumpet, but in a more primitive form, which notes were made purely by buzzing their lips at various speeds, with three holes on the body of the instrument, which were used to stabilize the pitch, not to make the pitch. However, as time went on, valves were added to various brass instruments, like the Baritone horn and its cousin the Euphonium, the modern Trumpet, the Tuba, and other such instruments. In Leutz-Vixe lands, in the city of Saxonar, came the Saxhorn, an instrument similar to the Baritone and Euphonium, but with a sound more akin to the Ithanian Horn and another instrument to be mentioned in the woodwind section, the Saxophone.
Some others, to name a few, including the Serpent, which is a curling instrument that snakes around itself, befitting its name, which later became the aforementioned Tuba, Conch Shells (which are exactly as they sound!), and War Horns of all sorts of shapes and materials.
Woodwind instruments are a more modern invention, relatively so, except for the flute, typically made from bone or wood back in the day. These have popped up all over the world. The modern flute, made of metals, is unique amongst most woodwinds in that it lacks a “reed,” a piece of wood that vibrates to create sound, instead, the user blows over the mouthpiece like blowing a bottle. Early flutes were held in the mouth, like recorders. They use holes along the body that are used to make pitches, while a modern flute uses “keys which cover the holes by being pressed down. This is something more universal amongst woodwinds, with a few exceptions, such as reed pipes.
Clarinets are much more recent inventions, created in Regalia only about one hundred years ago. These have reeds, held on by a ligature, and keys, though originally only had holes. They are made of wood and are most often stained black in color. Oboes are similar in design, originating from Ithania, coming from the earlier Shawm. Oboes make use of “double reeds” which are essentially two reeds that make a tube that is blown into, similar to the much larger Bassoon and all its varieties.
In the brass section, we mentioned the Saxophone, invented in Saxonar. This is akin to the Clarinet, and, indeed, is modeled after it in how it works. It uses keys and a single reed but is uniquely made of brass, giving it a golden sheen. Saxophones come in various shapes and sizes, from Soprillo all the way down to Sub-Contrabass, including the most often seen Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. Other varieties include double-reed Saxophones, Slide Saxophones, and much more. However, these are rare, with many only having a few in existence, mayhaps even a single instance.
A few other instruments exist in the west, like Crumhorns, which also come in various sizes, to Gemshorns, made from an animal’s horn, hollowed out and given holes to adjust the pitch. Ocarinas are another common instrument, which has many sizes, and Kelhorns, which have strange interiors that snake around. The Kelhorn makes use of the double reed, too.
Keyboards are an interesting class of instruments in that many fall under multiple categories. The original would seem to be the Etosian Hydraulis, a type of organ known as a “Water Organ,” which makes use of moving water sources to blow air through the pipes, such as waterfalls or manually pumped water. Later instruments include the Clavisimbalum, Clavichord, Harpsichord, and Virginal, all of which pluck the string in some way from the side. These all had much softer sounds, which created a need for a louder version. Thus was born the Piano Forte in Dressolini lands. The name literally means “Soft Loud.” However, the name did not stick, and later was shortened, ironically, to the Piano, simply meaning “Soft.” The Piano percusses, or hits, the strings with a hammer, made of softwood, often tipped with felt. They hit the strings, causing them to vibrate and make tones, each string is tuned to a pitch.
- Though this list is far from comprehensive, it has shown to be a great starting point for musically curious.
- Some argue that the Oud may have originated from the Asha, too, but this is controversial, as pre-Allorn art shows the Race plucked string instruments of a sort.