Wonder Contributors

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Katie from Irvine, California. Katie Wonders, “What song type was created first?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Katie! 

Do you love to listen to music? Some kids like to listen to their favorite tunes when they study. Others think jamming to the latest songs helps long trips in the car pass by more quickly. Athletes know that certain songs can get their blood pumping and ready for the big game.

But have you ever thought about HOW you listen to music? Probably not…after all, everyone knows you just pop in your headphones and plug in your MP3 player full of digital music, right? Would you believe it hasn’t always been done that way?

How people listen to music has changed dramatically over the course of the last 100+ years. All the way back in the late 1800s, the first musical recordings were produced on small wax phonograph cylinders that could hold a whopping two minutes of music.

Phonograph cylinders eventually gave way to vinyl and plastic long-playing (“LP”) records. The larger vinyl records could hold almost 45 minutes of music. Of course, you had to be careful with them, since they were easy to scratch and would warp easily if they got too hot.

In the mid-1960s, the 8-track tape became popular. It took off because it was the first format you could easily take along in the car with you. An 8-track tape deck became a popular add-on in many vehicles. Unfortunately, the popularity of 8-track tapes waned and were largely forgotten when cassette tapes shot onto the scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Cassettes were hugely popular because they could hold more music — about an hour’s worth — and were smaller and thus even more portable. Another huge benefit was that you could buy blank cassette tapes and easily record your favorite songs from the radio onto them. You could also make your own custom mix tapes of your favorite songs.

Cassettes remained popular for many years until digital music took over with the invention of the compact disc. Compact discs could hold even more music — over 80 minutes — and had the best sound quality of any format yet. They were also very portable and durable.

Although compact discs are still produced today, they’ve largely been replaced by purely digital music downloads. Today, most people download music electronically via the Internet and load it onto digital music players, often called MP3 players after the most popular type of digital music file: the MP3.

Digital music files are unparalleled in their quality, portability and storage. For example, a 120 gigabyte MP3 player can fit in the palm of your hand and hold over 280 hours of music! To get that much music in any other format, you’d have to carry around over 2,000 compact discs, almost 3,000 cassette tapes, nearly 4,000 8-track tapes and over 28,000 vinyl records!

Given all the changes that have taken place in music formats over the years, it can be fun to WONDER what the next 10 years will bring. What do you think? In another 10 years, how will you be listening to your favorite music? Will you still be carrying around an MP3 player? Or will there be something even smaller and more fantastic ahead?

16 Join the Discussion

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    • Good for you, Bumblebee! We are so excited to hear what you are saving your hard earned money for, too! We love listening to music on the go, and we think it’s lots of fun to have a song in our heads even if we’re not actually listening to music! What’s your favorite kind of music to listen to, Bumblebee? :)

  1. Hi Wonderopolis!! We loved your post today. We like to listen to music at the end of the day to relax. Some of us even like to sing music!! We hope to hear from you soon!

    • Hi there, Miss Serritella’s Class! Thank you so much for stopping by to say hello and comment! We love learning about your favorite ways to listen to music! We think music can be very relaxing, especially classical music! Other types of music, like rock ‘n roll, make us want to get up and dance! It gives us energy! Thanks for telling us about your favorite way to enjoy music! We hope you have a terrific Tuesday! :)

  2. I love music! :D I hear it all the time. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about sea stars.

    BTW, I am in Springdale, Pennsylvania. I left Clarkston, Michigan yesterday and it took five hours! I will be back at my home location (Dublin, Ohio) this Thursday.

    Also, I need to ask you a question. After wonder #1006, why did you put two older wonders instead of the next wonder of the day?

    TJ :)

    • WOOHOO, thanks for telling us about your travels, TJ! We are so glad this Wonder made you smile, too! Music is so much fun to listen to, no matter where you are!

      Safe travels back to Dublin, Ohio, TJ! Have fun!

      Great guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too! Nice work, Wonder Friend!

      We are doing something a little different on the weekends– we’re giving our older Wonders time to shine! Since we have more than 1,000 Wonders to share, we want to feature older ones on the weekends. That way, you can Wonder with us and learn something new! :)

  3. I know this you can liste to listen to music by putting on headphones even though I knew this one I still wanted to drop by. :)

    • Great comment, Landon! Thanks for telling us about how you enjoy listening to music– using headphones! What is your favorite kind of music, Wonder Friend? We’re so glad you stopped by today, thanks for saying hello! :)

  4. Hi! Bumblebee is my older sister. We have a CD player that has a radio on it, but the CD player is broken so it won’t work. Me and my sister’s favorite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and when the CD player broke, we got an iTunes account so now we have all the music we want. It’s cool! Thank you for today’s wonder!! I love it! :) ;)

    • How neat, Berkleigh! We love when your family members comment! We’re glad you’ve found a few ways to listen to music, especially the great music of your favorite band! We bet you and your family would have fun creating a musical group of your own! Thanks for sharing your comment on our musical Wonder today! We love hearing from you! :)

  5. I absolutely adore the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and all alternative rock music. I dislike country and pop. I’m just not that type of person. :P What is y’all’s favorite music?

    • We’re glad you’re back, Bumblebee! We are also happy to know that you and Berkleigh are sisters- how super cool! It’s WONDERful that you both enjoy similar music, it’s fun to jam with your family! Some of us here at Wonderopolis enjoy musicals, while others prefer classical music. However, when we are having a dance party, we love rock ‘n roll! It all depends on our moods, but we love listening to music of all sorts! :)

  6. Speaking of music, have you heard about this computer radio called Pandora, it has all the radios in it. ;) ‘;)

    • How cool, Carlos, thanks for telling us all about Pandora! We love listening to music online, especially because we can hear new music, new and old, that we wouldn’t have discovered on our own! What a SUPER neat idea! Technology sure is awesome! Thanks for sharing your favorite way to listen to music! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do you listen to music?
  • How will you listen to music 10 years from now?
  • How did your older family members listen to music when they were your age?

Wonder Gallery

hhCharming young kid listening to musichhVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to jam? Find a friend or family member to help you explore one or more of the following fun activities:

  • Have you ever been to a large music store? It can be fun to browse through thousands of musical recordings to see the diversity of recorded music available. But even the largest music stores in the world pale in comparison to the online music stores available today. With the help of a friend or family member, browse through an online music store. Look for a sorting feature that lets you explore music in different genres. Pick out one or two types of music that you’ve never heard before and give it a try. You never know when you’ll find something you like. For example, you could try world music to listen to examples of music from foreign countries around the world!
  • Are digital music files the final frontier in music formats? Or will something else replace them someday? What could it be? Put on your thinking hat and consult your crystal ball. Brainstorm about what you think music formats will look like in the future. Ask your friends and family members for their opinions. How could digital music files be improved upon? How will your children and their children listen to music decades in the future?
  • So how do YOU listen to music today? Chances are, you’ve probably always listened to either digital MP3 files or compact discs. But what about your older friends, family members and relatives? We bet they remember the good ol’ days of cassettes, 8-tracks and vinyl records. Grab an older friend, family member or relative and take a stroll down memory lane. Ask them about what music formats they’ve listened to over the years. What was the first record or 8-track or cassette they ever owned? Do they still have it? Do they still have any old music players you could see and experiment with? What do they think about modern music being mostly digital? Do they like the old formats better? If so, what do they like about them? Have fun reminiscing about times past. What musicians were their favorites? Do they have an old favorite song that they’d like to share with you? What do you think? Do you like “old” music? You never know when you’re going to come across a hidden gem!

Still Wondering

Children won t miss a beat in ReadWriteThink’s A Musical Prompt: Postcards From the Concert musical lesson that combines listening with personal response on a postcard.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day features one of the stars of the sea!

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