Introduction to Country Music

  • Originated in the early 20th century, Country music is also known as Country and Western.
  • It’s rooted in American folk music, particularly Appalachian folk music, blues, western and cowboy music.
  • Instruments typically featured include the banjo, steel guitar, and fiddle.

Key Features of Country Music

  • Country music is characterised by its simple forms, heartfelt lyrics, and wide usage of acoustic instruments.
  • It’s centred around themes of love, loss, heartache, and life in rural areas or the ‘country’.
  • The typical structure of country songs includes verse-chorus form, and often includes a middle eight section.

Recognisable Artists

  • Iconic artists like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Hank Williams have significantly contributed to the genre.
  • More recent artists such as Taylor Swift and Keith Urban have brought country music to a broader, international audience.

Technical Aspects

  • The use of the Nashville Number System, a method of transcribing music by denoting the scale degree on which a chord is built, is a unique technical aspect of country music.
  • Country melodies are often supported by open chords, which are played with some string un-fretted.
  • Harmonically, Country music may employ secondary dominants, adding interest to the standard I, IV, V progression.

Role of Technology

  • The use of amplification technology has allowed country music to move from the fields and front porches to concert halls and international tours.
  • The invention and acceptance of multitrack recording technology in Nashville in the 1960s influenced the sound of country music, making it more polished and commercially viable.

Impact on Society

  • Country music has played a large role in reflecting and shaping American cultural identity, especially dealing with themes important to the Southern United States.
  • Country music has influenced various forms of global music, including rock and pop music.
  • This genre’s wide listenership has led to the establishment of Country music festivals across the world.