Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Music in the Crossroads

Some systems have a few basic musical instruments, and give no real progression or nod to alternate development paths of music and such. I've always had a fondness for odd instruments. Figured I'd compile a few here. A variety of traditional instruments exist, often developed outside of their "normal" chronology. The ones discussed here are the unusual ones that arose within a particular culture.

I had a hard time placing which race would be most likely to make such a contraption. Ultimately, I settled on Goblins as the most likely. It's deceptively simple, yet decidedly odd. Goblin instruments tend to be those that can stand alone, with at most a single other player for accompaniment.

The wheelharp; a strange instrument with a great deal of potential in an eccentric packaging. Not dissimilar to a Hurdy Gurdy, it belongs to the Gnomes, along with the accordion and its relatives. Like Goblins, Gnomes tend not to be hard to herd into something resembling any musical group, so their instruments are solo-focused in nature, similar to that of the Goblins.

Both races appreciate music, they just (usually) tend to be very small group or solo performances.

The hang is a type of melodic percussion instrument. Quite capable as a solo instrument, many of them can be played together. They, and other metal instruments are common with the Dwarves, although the hang drum in particular is a favorite. Often played with a vocal accompaniment, depending on the event there may be only a few Dwarves playing, or any with musical talent may join in on a traditional, well known song (be it vocal or rythm work). Dwarven orchestras are widely known as being both remarkable and thoroughly immobile.

The kalimba/mbira is another metallic instrument, similarly capable alone or with accompaniment. It is, however, possible to make in far more portable versions than things like the hang drum. Still, as with most instruments, they are made in multiple sizes and ranges, up through those that are so massive they must be played with weighted hammers by a team of dwarves.
Shown is a tabletop variant. The elves have a very similar instrument, although it's uncertain who had it first. The timbre of the instruments tends to vary, and those familiar with the instrument can tell the difference between an Elvish and Dwarven one in the same key, playing the same song with the same musician. Other instruments favored by the Dwarves tend to be brass instruments, such as the trombone.

The Viola Organista is representative of what might be obtained from the collaboration of the Dwarves and Gnomes or Goblins. Less eccentric, but a bit more refined in its performance.

The glass harp in all its forms is the work of the Elves, requiring immense artistry in the creation of the instrument and fine dexterity to play it. A capable solo instrument, the haunting beauty of the glass harp truly shines when played by a group. Artists by nature, it's rare to see a performance smaller than a duet, save for virtuosos. The Elves also have a fondness for woodwind and string instruments.

The glass harp is traced to as the origin of two instruments, the first of which is the handbell. Dwarves took the standalone nature of the individual components of the glass harp and adapted it to their preference for metal instruments. Dwarves tend to play them as a large ensemble, whereas Elves will often use a far smaller group, with each member responsible for more of the song.

The second of the instruments inspired by the glass harp was the glass harmonica. Gnomes and Goblins took the concept behind the glass harp and added mechanisms, making it both more complicated and easier to play at once.

Orcish instruments tend to be simple and unadorned, trading complexity for skill required to play. Instruments such as the musical saw are fine examples, typically played solo or in small groups. Larger ensembles tend to be heavily percussion biased, with the gamut of instruments one might find in a drum line or orchestra,

The didgeridoo is another example of simple yet versatile instruments favored by the Orcs.

The tongue drum is exemplary of Orcish melodic percussion instruments, along with various melodic drums.

Whether they're known as Hobbits or Halflings, they have a fondness for string instruments, not unlike the Koto. Starting a small ensemble in Halfling lands can be as simple as sitting down and playing; you're liable to wind up performing at least a duet. Guitars, banjos, and ukeles and their relative instruments are common on the go, while things such as the Sitar, Koto, and steel guitar
tend to be used by house bands and other such groups that set up in one place. Panpipes and flutes are also common among halflings.

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