Music technology is the use of any device, mechanism, machine or tool by a musician or composer to make or perform music; to compose, notate, play back or record songs or pieces; or to analyze or edit music. The earliest known applications of technology to music was prehistoric peoples’ use of a tool to hand-drill holes in bones to make simple flutes. Ancient Egyptians developed stringed instruments, such as harps, lyres and lutes, which required making thin strings and some type of peg system for adjusting the pitch of the strings. Ancient Egyptians also used wind instruments such as double clarinets and percussion instruments such as cymbals. In Ancient Greece, instruments included the double-reed aulos and the lyre. Numerous instruments are referred to in the Bible, including the horn, pipe, lyre, harp, and bagpipe. During Biblical times, the cornet, flute, horn, organ, pipe, and trumpet were also used. During the Middle Ages, music notation was used to create a written record of the notes of plainchantmelodies.
During the Renaissance music era, the printing press was invented, which made it much easier to mass-produce music (which had previously been hand-copied). This helped to spread musical styles more quickly and across a larger area. During the Baroque era (1600–1750), technologies for keyboard instruments developed, which led to improvements in the designs of pipe organs and harpsichords, and the development of a new keyboard instrument in about 1700, the piano. In the classical era, Beethoven added new instruments to the orchestra to create new sounds, such as the piccolo, contrabassoon, trombones, and untuned percussion in his Ninth Symphony. During the Romantic music era (c. 1810–1900), one of the key ways that new compositions became known to the public was by the sales of sheet music, which amateur music lovers would perform at home on their piano or other instruments. In the 19th century, new instruments such as saxophones, euphoniums, Wagner tubas, and cornets were added to the orchestra.
Around the turn of the 20th century, with the invention and popularization of the gramophone record (commercialized in 1892), and radio broadcasting (starting on a commercial basis ca. 1919-1920), there was a vast increase in music listening, and it was easier to distribute music to a wider public. The development of sound recording had a major influence on the development of popular music genres, because it enabled recordings of songs and bands to be widely distributed. The invention of sound recording gave rise to new subgenre of classical music, the Musique concrete style of electronic composition. The invention of multitrack recording enabled pop bands to overdub many layers of instrument tracks and vocals, creating new sounds that would not be possible in a live performance. In the early 20th century, electric technologies such as electromagnetic pickups, amplifiers and loudspeakers were used to develop new electric instruments such as the electric piano (1929), electric guitar (1931), electro-mechanical organ (1934) and electric bass (1935). The 20th-century orchestra gained new instruments and new sounds. Some orchestra pieces used the electric guitar, electric bass or the Theremin.
The invention of the miniature transistor in 1947 enabled the creation of a new generation of synthesizers, which were used first in pop music in the 1960s. Unlike prior keyboard instrument technologies, synthesizer keyboards do not have strings, pipes, or metal tines. A synthesizer keyboard creates musical sounds using electronic circuitry, or, later, computer chips and software. Synthesizers became popular in the mass market in the early 1980s. With the development of powerful microchips, a number of new electronic or digital music technologies were introduced in the 1980s and subsequent decades, including drum machines and music sequencers. Electronic and digital music technologies are any device, such as a computer, an electronic effects unit or software, that is used by a musician or composer to help make or perform music. The term usually refers to the use of electronic devices, computer hardware and computer software that is used in the performance, playback, recording, composition, sound recording and reproduction, mixing, analysis and editing of music.