Everybody loves music, right? Whether it’s one genre or another that we prefer, we can all agree that music is universal. And here are 100 facts about music you might not have known before.
- The global music industry was worth $19.1 billion as of 2018.
- Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee have 6.6 billion views on YouTube as of February 2020.
- Shakira is the first person to have more than 100 million likes on Facebook.
- Katy Perry is the first person to have more than 100 million followers on Twitter.
- Eminem’s Rap God has the most words in a song, at 1,560 words.
- The oldest musical instrument in the world is a 35,000-year-old bone flute.
- The 3,400-year-old Hurrian Hymn No. 6 is the oldest song in the world.
- Music in Ancient Greece ties to Greek theater.
- The Roman Catholic Church’s liturgical music is the most common genre from the Middle Ages.
- Modern operas were first written around the end of the 16th century.
- Most of today’s classical music developed during the 18th century.
- The modern orchestra goes back to the 19th century.
- Concerts first became commonplace in the 19th century.
- Radio and television made music more accessible to people over the 20th century.
- The 20th century saw new instruments and musical styles developed across the world.
- Paul McCartney was the first musician to make a live broadcast into outer space.
- Metallica holds the world record for performing on all seven continents in a single year.
- British singer Katie Melua holds the world record for the deepest underwater concert.
- Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is the most-streamed song of the 20th century.
- Queen’s four members appear on a commemorative British £5 coin issued in January 2020.
The Seikilos Epitaph is the oldest musical composition in the world.
Dating back to the 1st century AD, it was on a column marking a grave in Turkey. The epitaph includes both a musical score and a short set of lyrics. The lyrics read, “While you live, shine. Have no grief at all. Life exists for only a short while. And Time demands his due.”
The world’s largest performing rock band included 953 musicians.
The Beijing Contemporary Music Academy achieved this record on June 16, 2016. They performed in the city of Tianjin, China. The band included 349 singers, 154 guitarists, and 151 drummers. 100 bassists also took part in the performance, along with 100 keyboard players, and 98 players of wind instruments.
Japan’s Folk Music and Dance Association assembled the world’s largest shamisen ensemble.
The shamisen is a traditional Japanese musical instrument that looks like a violin. The 1,911 participants all used the Tsugaru Shamisen in their performance. It took place in Tokyo, Japan, on October 23, 2016, and lasted 6 minutes and 5 seconds.
Simon Desorgher assembled the most number of chimes as a single musical instrument.
Also known as tubular bells, Simon Desorgher’s instrument included 120 aluminum tubes. The tubes have various lengths tuned to musical scales. The longest tube measures 4,877 mm long, while the shortest is 473 mm long.
David Stanley and The Music Man Project assembled the world’s biggest triangle ensemble.
The triangle is a musical instrument made by bending a metal bar into a triangle. It’s played by tapping the triangle with a metal rod. The ensemble included 1,521 players on October 15, 2017. They performed as part of the London Palladium’s Music is Magic concert.
The world’s longest concert by multiple artists took place from March 17 to April 5, 2017.
The concert was part of Canada’s celebration of their country’s 150th anniversary. Participants included the Epidemic Music Group, and lasted for 453 hours, 54 minutes, and 40 seconds.
The largest erhu ensemble assembled in Raoyang, China, on October 19, 2019.
The erhu is a traditional Chinese musical instrument that looks like a violin. 2,024 participants took part in the performance. Their sponsor was Raoyang Gold Suona Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The performance lasted for 5 minutes and 18 seconds.
Hong Kong hosted the largest harmonica ensemble on November 13, 2009.
The Tom Lee Music Company assembled 6,131 participants for the performance. They performed at the Happy Valley Recreation Ground for 7 minutes and 25 seconds.
The record for the world’s longest marathon team drumming is 3 days, 8 hours, and 2 minutes.
The team included Janel Spalding, Aaron Houseago, Holly Jones, Ryan Murray, and Lorraine Dorrington. They performed from August 26 to 29, 2016. The performance was live-streamed and seen worldwide.
The most number of people to play a single piano at the same time is 23 people.
You’d think only two people at most could play a piano. The students of Music School Isidor Bajic showed otherwise. Also participating were members of OPENS 2019 – European Youth Capital Novi Sad. They performed in Novi Sad, Serbia, on September 20, 2019. The composition they played was Zora (Dawn), which was specially composed for the event. The composer was an alumnus of Music School Isidor Bajic, Ivan Markovic.
Thomas Silkman has changed the most number of guitar strings in a single hour.
Changing guitar strings can be quite a hassle. It takes lots of time, patience, and effort to do. But on April 20, 2018, Thomas Silkman showed it doesn’t have to be with the right motivation. An instrument technician and music store owner, he changed 226 strings in an hour. He did so as part of his dream to set a world record. How’s that for motivation and effort?
Daddy Yankee is the first Latin artist to become Number One on Spotify.
You know Daddy Yankee for his performance in the hit song Despacito. Well, here’s something else to know about that amazing artist. On July 9, 2017, Daddy Yankee became the first Latin artist to reach Spotify’s Number One spot.
The song Despacito holds seven world records of its own.
We mentioned Daddy Yankee’s performance in the hit song Despacito only a short while ago. Well, like its performer, the song has world records of its own. Despacito holds the record for the world’s most viewed online video. It is also the most viewed music video online, and the most viewed duet YouTube video. As a single, it spent the most number of weeks in the USA’s Number One spot. It is the most liked video online, and the first to pass 5 billion views. Finally, it is the most-streamed track in the world.
Elvis Presley is still the best-selling solo artist in the world.
We’re sure you’ve heard of Elvis Presley, also known as the King of Rock and Roll. You might also think of him as old-fashioned, as the height of his career was from the 1950s to the 1960s. And by then, his glory days were long past. Well, here’s a surprise among music facts for you. With over 1 billion sales worldwide, the King is still the best-selling solo artist in the world. And he’s not as old-fashioned as you might think. Ever heard of the song Can’t Help Falling in Love? Yeah, Elvis sang that.
AKB 48 is the world’s largest pop group.
When they started out in 2010, the Japanese pop group only had 48 members. That’s reflected in their name and is, in fact, the source of the name. Today though, AKB 48 has 130 members. And that doesn’t include former members who’ve left the group for one reason or another.
There are 8 notes in music.
You could call notes the alphabet of music. They’re used to write notations which tell musicians how to perform a piece. There are 8 notes, though there are two ways to read the first seven. In most countries, they’re read as Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si. In Britain and Holland, they are instead substituted with the first 7 letters of the alphabet. The eighth note is always called the octave.
There are five kinds of musical instruments.
The five kinds of musical instruments depend on how they’re played. Percussion instruments are struck. String instruments have their strings strummed. Both woodwind and brass instruments get blown. Keyboard instruments have their keys pressed.
Orchestras have no set number or composition.
The number of performers in an orchestra depends on the kind of orchestra it is. Chamber orchestras usually include only fifty performers at most. Symphony and philharmonic orchestras usually have more than eighty performers. It is not unknown for them to exceed a hundred performers depending on the program.
Conductors select the instruments an orchestra includes.
Usually, an orchestra will have players for all five kinds of musical instruments. But this isn’t always the case. Conductors have a free hand to select which instruments to include in an orchestra. This allows them to organize an orchestra to match their musical program. Nor are they limited to traditional musical instruments. Starting in the 20th century, modern instruments can get included in orchestras. Examples include electric guitars, synthesizers, and other electronic instruments.
Orchestras don’t always need a conductor.
This might sound unbelievable, but it’s true. There are orchestra pieces that are for performances without a conductor. These pieces usually go back to the 17th to the early-18th Centuries. The Soviet Union attempted to revive the practice in the 1920s but failed. More recently, some western orchestras have performed without a conductor to some success. These include New York’s Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Even without a conductor though, orchestras still need a leader figure for direction. Called the concertmaster, this position is usually held by a violinist.
Music began to step away from religion in the Renaissance.
Music in the Middle Ages was predominantly for use in church services. The Renaissance changed all that. The printing press made it easier to produce and spread musical compositions. This was unlike the Middle Ages, where everything was hand-made. The Renaissance also saw the rise of Humanism. Under its influence, musicians experimented with new instruments and styles. Musical pieces moved away from religious themes to secular ones. The most important of those was opera, born as a Renaissance revival of Ancient Greek theater.
A piano’s frame is of iron.
You might think that a piano is almost completely of wood. But if it were, it might rip itself apart. This is because the strings inside a piano are tightly-pulled. They have to be to make their sounds right. But they’re pulled so tight that the tension is equivalent to twenty tons of force put on the frame. This is why a piano’s frame is of iron. It has to be to hold up to all that force.
Schumann stuck his hands into an animal’s guts.
Robert Schumann was a composer who lived in the early-19th century. He was one of the most important romantic musicians. Here’s an interesting (and grisly) example of music facts about him. He would stick his hands into a recently-slaughtered animal’s guts. He thought it would cure him of any diseases he had or might get.
Haydn’s tomb has two skulls.
Joseph Haydn was an 18th century Austrian composer. He contributed to the development of the modern orchestra. So much so, that he’s called the Father of the Orchestra. One particularly morbid example of music facts is that he has two skulls in his tomb. This is because someone stole his skull shortly after his death. His family put a placeholder skull in his tomb as a result. His original skull was later recovered and replaced in his tomb in 1954. Despite that, the placeholder skull remained in his tomb, hence the two skulls.
Rossini’s Di Tanti Palpiti is also known as the rice aria.
Gioachino Rossini is one of the most famous opera writers in history. One of the songs in his opera Tancredi is also known as Di Tanti Palpiti. It’s also called the rice aria, and by Rossini himself. This is because he composed the whole song while waiting for a dish of rice to finish cooking. Now there’s a tasty example of music facts.
70 different pieces of wood make a violin.
This might worry anyone thinking of starting to learn how to play the violin. You have to clean and maintain your own violin, after all. But there’s no need to worry. Those 70 pieces of wood together make up the 9 basic parts of a violin. And those are the only ones you need to know about to clean and maintain your violin.
The London Symphonic Orchestra almost boarded the Titanic.
We’re sure you’ve heard of the Titanic disaster. And we’re sure you’ve also heard how so many of the ship’s passengers and crew died. Well, here’s something from music facts that sounds like it’s from Final Destination. The London Symphonic Orchestra was going to travel to the USA on the Titanic. But the Titanic’s launch got delayed following an accident involving a sister ship. To stay on schedule, the orchestra had to use another ship to get to the USA. It was there that they later learned about the Titanic disaster. Talk about a close brush with death.
Leonard Warren died after singing “to die, a momentous thing”.
Here’s something grim and ironic from music facts. Leonard Warren was a popular opera singer with New York’s Metropolitan Orchestra. On March 4, 1960, he was performing in the opera La Forza Del Destino. Immediately finishing Don Carlo’s Act III song, Leonard Warren fell over and died. There was no autopsy, though it’s thought that he died of a heart attack. He was 40 years old at the time.
Opera singer Nellie Melba died after a face-lift operation.
Face-lifting is a surgical procedure that reduces the physical appearance of aging. Done by a good doctor on a healthy patient, it is safe with small chances of complications. But there can be complications. One possible complication is blood poisoning, caused by bacteria in the blood. One victim was Nellie Melba, a famous Australian opera singer who died in 1931. She was 69 years old.
Yuri Gagarin sang a song in space.
To pass the time, Yuri Gagarin sang a song during his historic mission to space. It was spontaneous, as the cosmonaut was waiting for reentry to finish. This song was The Motherland Hears, composed by Dmitri Shostakovich. Now there’s something interstellar from music facts.
Orlande de Lassus got kidnapped three times for his voice.
Orlande de Lassus is one of the greatest musicians and composers of the Renaissance. He was also a talented singer. So much so, that he got kidnapped three times as a boy for his beautiful voice.
Opera singer Adelina Patti wore the most expensive opera costume of all time.
Adelina Patti was an opera singer from the late-19th century. During a performance at London’s Covent Garden in 1895, she wore a costume worth £15 million. It was and remains the most expensive opera costume of all time.
Franz Liszt bought a dog so he wouldn’t lose more hair to his fans.
Fans trying to get a piece of their idols isn’t a recent thing. In fact, it goes as far back as the 19th century. One notable example involved composer Franz Liszt. Fans went to great lengths to get souvenirs of the composer. These included not only his portraits but even his gloves and handkerchiefs. They even fought over his garbage like broken strings or a spent cigar. Women were also known to pinch at him to get his hair. It got so bad that Franz Liszt finally bought a dog. Not to keep his fans out of fear of the dog, but so he could get its fur. The composer would snip at the dog’s fur, which he then handed to his fans as his hair.
Mozart has a chocolate brand named after him.
Here’s something sweet from music facts. Called Mozartkugel or Mozart ball, they were first sold by Paul Fürst in 1890. They are handmade and have Mozart’s images shown on the wrapper. They remain in the market today and are very popular in Austria.
Havergal Brian’s Gothic symphony requires a thousand performers.
This is big among music facts. Brian’s Gothic symphony needs that many performers to play. Of those thousand, 800 are singers, and the remaining 200 make up the orchestra.
Domenico Scarlatti’s Fugue in G Minor is also called the Cat’s Fugue.
Scarlatti composed his version of Fugue in G Minor for a harpsichord. But the interesting part is that he personally nicknamed the piece Cat’s Fugue. This is because his inspiration was his cat walking over his instrument’s keys.
Karaoke means empty orchestra.
The Japanese word karaoke comes from two other words. Karappo, which means empty in Japanese. And okesutura, the Japanized form of orchestra.
Henry Ford was a patron of country music.
Henry Ford is famed for founding the Ford Motor Company. He was also a notorious racist, at one point even supporting Nazi Germany. That is also why his support for country music was problematic. Ford supported it as an alternative to Jazz, dominated as it was by colored artists.
Country music was another form of folk music.
All that changed when the Cold War began. Many folk singers had left-wing sympathies. Others rebranded their music as country music to avoid getting called Communist.
Nashville is the Home of Country Music.
Nashville in Tennessee, USA, is often called the Home of Country Music. But it wasn’t unchallenged. In the 1920s, Atlanta competed with Nashville in the number of radio stations and studios. And in the 1950s, Dallas also competed with Nashville until the death of producer Jim Beck.
Bluegrass country music comes from Kentucky, USA.
In the 1930s, musicians in Kentucky experimented with Celtic fiddles and modern styles. The result was what’s now known as Bluegrass country music.
Bill Monroe is the Father of Bluegrass.
One of the greatest bluegrass artists was Bill Monroe and his band The Bluegrass Boys. Together, they set many of the genre’s standards. One of their songs is Uncle Pen. Bill Monroe dedicated it to his uncle, Pen Vandiver. It was his uncle who taught him how to play the fiddle. Now there’s a heartwarming example of music facts.
The Day the Music Died refers to two plane crashes that killed musicians aboard.
The first Day that Music Died was on February 3, 1959. A plane crash in Ohio killed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. The second was in 1963, involving a plane crash in Tennessee. Killed aboard were Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas.
Jimmy Dean turned one-hit success into a long-term opportunity.
Jimmy Dean was a country singer who made stunning success with his 1963 single Big Bad John. He used this success to start a television program. Further success led him to found the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company.
Dolly Parton once said no to Elvis.
Elvis Presley approached Dolly Parton in 1974 about her song I Will Always Love You. He wanted to record the song, but she refused after Elvis’ manager asked for half of all profits. This ensured Dolly Parton millions of dollars in the future from sales of her song.
Country music is now a global phenomenon.
Country music is usually associated with the American countryside. But, the styles and themes of country music have since spread around the world. One notable example is Indian singer Bal Kishore Das Loiwal, also known as Bobby Cash. Coming from India, he made his career in Australia and gained recognition in 2005. This recognition came from the Country Music Association of Nashville, Tennessee.
George Strait has more Number One hits than any artist of any genre.
George Strait is also known as the King of Country Music. In over thirty years of performing, 60 of his songs would make it to the Number One spot. This is more than any singer or musician in any genre of music has ever achieved.
Julie Andrews learned to play the guitar for the Sound of Music.
Actress Julie Andrews is very well known for her role in the musical the Sound of Music. And here’s something fun from music facts: one scene required her to play the guitar. Only, Julie Andrews didn’t know how to play the guitar. Instead of getting a double, she decided to learn how to play. Now that’s professionalism.
The Sound of Music saved 20th Century Fox from going bankrupt.
Before the Sound of Magic showed in cinemas, 20th Century Fox was on the brink of bankruptcy. This was because of the box office failure of Cleopatra in 1963. The Sound of Music’s debut in 1965 saved the studio.
The origins of the word Jazz are not known.
One theory is it’s taken from a baseball term meaning fighting spirit. Another theory is that it was slang from the 1910s, gism or jism. Both words had sexual connotations.
Nonverbal signals are common in jazz performances.
These signals take many forms, from nods of the head to subtle pointing of an instrument. They are usually used to signal the beginning and end of performances. They are also used to signal the start of another part of a musical program. There could be other meanings as well but they are always about a program’s performance.
The most common instruments in jazz are what’s called the Piano Trio.
A piano trio includes a piano, a bass, and drums. This simple combination has all the essence of jazz between them.
Jazz allowed for modern dance to develop in America.
Jazz made music very accessible to the public in the form of bars and music halls. This, in turn, inspired dance to grow beyond classic forms like waltz and tango.
Jazz has positive effects on creative thinking and health.
Here’s something soothing from music facts. Studies show that jazz music stimulates the brain into producing Theta brainwaves. These brain waves are usually most active during problem solving and creative activities. Jazz’s rhythms are also known to reduce anxiety and stress the same way a massage does.
Jazz inspired the word hipster.
The root of hipster is hep, 1930s slang for someone considered fashionable. Those included jazz players, and from there developed to hipster.
There are two kinds of music therapy: active and receptive.
Music therapy is a scientifically-backed form of medicine used to improve quality of life. Its two forms are active and receptive. In active music therapy, patients perform music. This is helpful for people with weak lungs or reduced physical ability. In receptive music therapy, patients listen to music provided for them. This is helpful for people with mood and anxiety problems.
Music therapy is not a stand-alone method.
Study shows that while music is an effective means of treatment, it’s best used with others. One example is for therapists working with troubled youth. Active musical therapy has helped build trust from the patient to the therapist.
Maroon 5 was originally called Kara’s Flowers.
You’ve heard of Maroon 5, and that they started in 2001. But in fact, they started long before that. The group first formed in 1994, as Kara’s Flowers. They achieved modest success, but only made big as Maroon 5.
Madonna’s career goes back to before she started singing.
Madonna’s become famous as the Queen of Pop and an inspiration to a generation of youth. But what you might not know was that she wasn’t always a singer. In the 1970s, she was a drummer for the band Breakfast Club.
Katy Perry once released a gospel album.
This is a surprise from music facts. You might know that Katy Perry got scouted in high school. What you might not know is that her debut is a gospel album called Katy Hudson.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller is the most-selling album of all time.
We’d be very surprised if you didn’t know about Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Not when it has sold 66 million copies worldwide, on top of other accolades.
Britney Spears once had a picture taken of her with a shaved head.
Britney Spears caused a stir in 2007 when she shaved her head. One photo of her taken afterward sold for $500,000. This made it the most expensive photo ever taken by the paparazzi.
The Beatles once sang about Marijuana.
This can be a shocking example of music facts, but it’s true. The Beatles sang Got to Get You into My Life in 1966. They released it as part of the album Revolver. Paul McCartney admitted in 1997 that the ‘you’ in the song’s title referred to Marijuana.
Paul McCartney sang during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
You know that already. What you didn’t know was that he got paid only £1 for his performance. But that’s not the amazing part. What’s amazing is that he wanted to perform for free. The chance to perform on the world stage in the Olympics was enough. But, the law required minimum payment to formalize the arrangement. Thus the £1 payment.
A dog once walked into Led Zeppelin’s recording studio.
Here’s something fun from music facts. Led Zeppelin was recording a new single when a black dog walked into their studio. That song was later released with the name Black Dog.
ABBA comes from the names of the band’s members.
ABBA is a band from Sweden. They enjoyed wide success worldwide, topping charts from the 70s to the 80s. Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad make up the band. Look at the first letter of their names, and put them together: ABBA.
Elvis Presley was once told he had no talent.
Elvis Presley’s first stage performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee failed to impress. This led talent manager Jim Denny to tell Elvis to go back to driving trucks. Elvis Presley refused to give up. He then stunned audiences two weeks later at the Louisiana Hayride. Talk about never giving up on your dreams.
Eminem’s first album only sold 1000 copies.
Eminem’s first album Infinite met with a mixed reception by critics and audiences. This was back in 1996. But now with Eminem one of the most famous rappers alive, things are different. A copy of Infinite would now sell between 100 to 200 dollars.
Lil Wayne almost killed himself when he was 12.
Lil Wayne shot himself with a 9mm pistol when he was 12 years old. Off-duty policeman Robert Hoobler investigated and drove Lil Wayne to the hospital. This saved his life. Lil Wayne later thanked Robert Hoobler for saving him.
Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, and Warren G once formed a band together.
The three rappers once formed a band in 1992. They called it 213, a reference to Los Angeles’ old area code.
People still buy a lot of CDs in Japan.
This is a shocking example of music facts, with online downloads so mainstream today. But a look at statistics shows it to be fact. 85% of all music sales in Japan are from CD purchases.
The cheapest a CD will get in Japan is $25.
Japanese copyright laws mandate a minimum price for intellectual properties. These include music and other media recorded on CDs. If you think $25 or its equivalent in Yen is expensive, then you’d be right. But, there is a way to get around that. Copyright laws don’t cover CD rentals, and those are much cheaper.
Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen is the shortest pop hit in the world.
Japanese comedian Pikotaro released Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen in 2016. It gained 1 million hits on the internet and a place on the USA’s Hot Billboard 100. At 45 seconds long, it broke the record for the shortest song on the chart. Guinness’ Book of World Records recognized this and gave the song its spot.
China possesses one of the oldest musical traditions in the world.
Archaeological evidence shows China’s musical tradition going back to 3000 BC. Actual records are rare, though. This is thanks to the Qin Dynasty’s destruction of pre-dynastic books and records. Qin Shi Huangdi had them destroyed to prevent them from inspiring resistance to his rule. An unfortunate example of music facts, for once.
Chinese music instruments come in 8 kinds.
Unlike western instruments, Chinese instruments come in 8 kinds. These depend on what an instrument is of. These include gourd, bamboo, and wood, with a distinction made between the latter two. Other materials include silk, clay, metal, stone, and skin.
Thomas Dorsey is the Father of Gospel Music.
He made his career writing and performing secular music. After his wife’s death in 1931, he switched genres to gospel music. He also founded a publishing house, Dorsey House of Music. It was the first-ever Black-owned and founded gospel music publishing company.
The song 4’33’’ is only silence.
Here’s one of the more intriguing examples of music facts. Composer John Cage released the song in 1952. The name references its length of four minutes and 33 seconds. At that time, none of the orchestra would play their instruments. Instead, the audience would listen only to the sounds of their surroundings. John Cage called it proof of the idea that any sound could be music.
Bagpipes may have arrived in Britain with the Romans.
A popular stereotype of Scotsmen is their fondness for the bagpipes. It’s also believed that bagpipes came from Scotland. But while bagpipes are popular in Scotland, they may not be native to Scotland at all. Archaeological evidence suggests the Hittites played the bagpipe as early as 1000 BC. Greek writers describe instruments that resemble bagpipes. Roman writers also suggest that Emperor Nero may have played the bagpipe. If so, then it is possible that bagpipes came to Britain with the Romans.
Hans Zimmer does not have a formal background in music.
You may not know who Hans Zimmer is, but you would know his music. He was the one who composed soundtracks for films like Lion King, Gladiator, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. And his only formal study in music was piano lessons as a child. Now there’s a talented example of music facts.
Japan has the shortest national anthem in the world.
Japan’s national anthem Kimi Ga Yo has only four lines. This gives it the record for the shortest national anthem in the world.