Acoustic music

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Acoustic music is music that solely or primarily uses instruments that produce sound through acoustic means, as opposed to electric or electronic means; typically the phrase refers to that made by acoustic string instruments. While all music was once acoustic, the retronym "acoustic music" appeared after the advent of electric instruments, such as the electric guitar, electric violin, electric organ and synthesizer. [1] Acoustic string instrumentations had long been a subset of popular music, particularly in folk. It stood in contrast to various other types of music in various eras, including big band music in the pre-rock era, and electric music in the rock era.

Musical instrument History and classification

A musical instrument is an instrument created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates to the beginnings of human culture. Early musical instruments may have been used for ritual, such as a trumpet to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications.

Musical acoustics or music acoustics is a branch of acoustics concerned with researching and describing the physics of music – how sounds are employed to make music. Examples of areas of study are the function of musical instruments, the human voice, computer analysis of melody, and in the clinical use of music in music therapy.

An electric musical instrument is one in which the use of electric devices determines or affects the sound produced by an instrument. Electric musical instruments are an example of electric music technology. It is also known as an amplified musical instrument due to the common utilization of an electronic instrument amplifier to project the intended sound as determined by electric signals from the instrument. Two common types of instrument amplifiers are the guitar amplifier and the bass amplifier. This is not the same as an electronic musical instrument, like a synthesizer, which uses entirely electronic means to both create and control sound.


Music reviewer Craig Conley suggests, "When music is labeled acoustic, unplugged, or unwired, the assumption seems to be that other types of music are cluttered by technology and overproduction and therefore aren't as pure". [2]

Overproduction is the excessive use of audio effects, layering, or digital manipulation in music production.

Types of acoustic instruments

Acoustic instruments can be split into six groups: string instruments, wind instruments, percussion, other instruments, ensemble instruments, and unclassified instruments. [3] String instruments have a tightly stretched string, that, when set in motion creates energy at (almost) harmonically related frequencies. Wind instruments are in the shape of a pipe and energy is supplied as an air stream into the pipe. Percussion instruments make sound when they are struck, as with a hand or a stick. [4]


The term may designate a recording cut with a stylus activated directly (through a diaphragm) by sound waves rather than by electronic impulses.


It was first applied to recordings in the early 1930s (electric recordings were first made in 1925), and to instruments in the mid-1960s, in response to the widespread use in commercial folk and pop music of electric guitars and other electronically amplified instruments. Used of a room, it indicates that room's acoustical characteristics. [5]

The original acoustic instrument was the human voice, which produces sound by funneling air across the vocal cords. The first constructed acoustic instrument is believed to be the flute. The oldest surviving flute is as much as 43,000 years old. The flute is believed to have originated in Central Europe. [6] Moors brought the oud into Europe during the Moorish invasion of Spain in the 8th century AD. These two instruments enabled rapid development in the acoustic instrument realm throughout the Renaissance.[ citation needed ] By 1800, the most popular acoustic plucked-string instruments closely resembled the modern day guitar, but with a smaller body. As the century continued, luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado from Spain took these smaller instruments and expanded the bodies to create guitars. Guitar use and popularity grew throughout the 19th century and more acoustic instruments were crafted, such as the double bass. As electric instruments took hold during the 20th century, many stringed instruments were redefined as acoustic. Instruments that involve striking or vibrating the strings, such as the violin, viola and cello, fall under the acoustic category. The violin became popular during the 16th and 17th centuries, due to technological advancements in building them, brought on by luthiers such as Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Amati. The modern version of the instrument developed gradually from older European acoustic stringed instruments such as the lira. [7] [ not in citation given ]

Vocal cords composed of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally, from back to front, across the larynx. They vibrate, modulating the flow of air being expelled from the lungs during phonation

The vocal cords, also known as vocal folds, are folds of tissue in the throat that are key in creating sounds through vocalization. The size of vocal cords affects the pitch of voice. Open when breathing and vibrating for speech or singing, the folds are controlled via the recurrent laryngeal branch of the vagus nerve.

Central Europe Region of Europe

Central Europe is the region comprising the central part of Europe. Central Europe occupies continuous territories that are otherwise sometimes considered parts of Western Europe, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe. The concept of Central Europe is based on a common historical, social, and cultural identity.

Moors medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta

The term "Moors" refers primarily to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers. The name was later also applied to Arabs.

Related Research Articles

Steel-string acoustic guitar

The steel-string acoustic guitar is a modern form of guitar that descends from the nylon-strung classical guitar, but is strung with steel strings for a brighter, louder sound. Like the classical guitar, it is often referred to simply as an acoustic guitar.

Guitar fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the finger(s)/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.

Jazz guitar

The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.


A harmonic is any member of the harmonic series. The term is employed in various disciplines, including music, physics, acoustics, electronic power transmission, radio technology, and other fields. It is typically applied to repeating signals, such as sinusoidal waves. A harmonic of such a wave is a wave with a frequency that is a positive integer multiple of the frequency of the original wave, known as the fundamental frequency. The original wave is also called the 1st harmonic, the following harmonics are known as higher harmonics. As all harmonics are periodic at the fundamental frequency, the sum of harmonics is also periodic at that frequency. For example, if the fundamental frequency is 50 Hz, a common AC power supply frequency, the frequencies of the first three higher harmonics are 100 Hz, 150 Hz, 200 Hz and any addition of waves with these frequencies is periodic at 50 Hz.

An nth characteristic mode, for n > 1, will have nodes that are not vibrating. For example, the 3rd characteristic mode will have nodes at L and L, where L is the length of the string. In fact, each nth characteristic mode, for n not a multiple of 3, will not have nodes at these points. These other characteristic modes will be vibrating at the positions L and L. If the player gently touches one of these positions, then these other characteristic modes will be suppressed. The tonal harmonics from these other characteristic modes will then also be suppressed. Consequently, the tonal harmonics from the nth characteristic modes, where n is a multiple of 3, will be made relatively more prominent.

String instrument musical instrument that generates tones by one or more strings stretched between two points

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when the performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

Twelve-string guitar steel-string guitar with twelve strings from four to six courses

The 12-string guitar is a steel-string guitar with 12 strings in six courses, which produces a richer, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar. Typically, the strings of the lower four courses are tuned in octaves, with those of the upper two courses tuned in unisons. The gap between the strings within each dual-string course is narrow, and the strings of each course are fretted and plucked as a single unit. The neck is wider, to accommodate the extra strings, and is similar to the width of a classical guitar neck. The sound, particularly on acoustical instruments, is fuller and more harmonically resonant than six-string instruments.

The acoustic bass guitar is a bass instrument with a hollow wooden body similar to, though usually larger than a steel-string acoustic guitar. Like the traditional electric bass guitar and the double bass, the acoustic bass guitar commonly has four strings, which are normally tuned E-A-D-G, an octave below the lowest four strings of the 6-string guitar, which is the same tuning pitch as an electric bass guitar.

An electric violin is a violin equipped with an electronic output of its sound. The term most properly refers to an instrument intentionally made to be electrified with built-in pickups, usually with a solid body. It can also refer to a violin fitted with an electric pickup of some type, although "amplified violin" or "electro-acoustic violin" are more accurate in that case.

Luthier person making or repairing string musical instruments

A luthier is someone who builds or repairs string instruments generally consisting of a neck and a sound box. The word "luthier" comes from the French word luth, which means lute. A luthier was originally a maker of lutes, but the term now includes makers of stringed instruments such as the violin or guitar. A luthier does not make harps or pianos, as these require different skills and construction methods because their strings are secured to a frame.

Archtop guitar type of steel-stringed acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar

An "archtop guitar" is a hollow steel-stringed acoustic or semiacoustic guitar with a full body and a distinctive arched top, whose sound is particularly popular with jazz, blues, rockabilly, and psychobilly guitarists.

Outline of guitars Overview of and topical guide to guitars

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:

History of the violin Wikimedia history article

The violin, viola, and cello were first made in the early 16th century, in Italy. The earliest evidence for their existence is in paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari from the 1530s, though Ferrari's instruments had only three strings. The Academie musicale, a treatise written in 1556 by Philibert Jambe de Fer, gives a clear description of the violin family much as we know it today.

Music store retail business that sells musical instruments and related equipment and accessories

A music store or musical instrument store is a retail business that sells musical instruments and related equipment and accessories, and may provide maintenance services for these instruments and accessories. In United States and Canada, most music stores in the 2010s sell a range of electric instruments, instrument amplifiers; electronic instruments; drum kits and acoustic classical, concert band and jazz musical instruments. Stores may sell the sound reinforcement system and PA system gear or sound recording equipment.

Acoustic guitar type of guitar

An acoustic guitar is a guitar that produces sound acoustically by transmitting the vibration of the strings to the air—as opposed to relying on electronic amplification (see electric guitar). The sound waves from the strings of an acoustic guitar resonate through the guitar's body, creating sound. This typically involves the use of a sound board and a sound box to strengthen the vibrations of the strings. In standard tuning the guitar's six strings are tuned (low to high) E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4.

Experimental musical instrument

An experimental musical instrument is a musical instrument that modifies or extends an existing instrument or class of instruments, or defines or creates a new class of instrument. Some are created through simple modifications, such as cracked drum cymbals or metal objects inserted between piano strings in a prepared piano. Some experimental instruments are created from household items like a homemade mute for brass instruments such as bathtub plugs. Other experimental instruments are created from electronic spare parts, or by mixing acoustic instruments with electric components.

Eric David Chasalow is an American composer of acoustic and electronic music. He is Graduate Dean at Brandeis University, and Director of BEAMS, the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio.

Jazz violin use of the violin or electric violin to improvise solo lines in jazz

Jazz violin is the use of the violin or electric violin to improvise solo lines. Early jazz violinists included Eddie South, who played violin with Jimmy Wade's Dixielanders in Chicago; Stuff Smith; Claude "Fiddler" Williams, who played with Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy. Joe Venuti was best known for his work with guitarist Eddie Lang during the 1920s. Georgie Stoll was a jazz violinist who became an orchestra leader and film music director.

Martin Swan is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, record producer, recording engineer and instrument designer.

Music technology

Music technology is the study or 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 plainchant melodies.


  1. Safire 2007.
  2. Conley, Craig (August 16, 1999). "Review: Unwired: Acoustic Music from around the World". Splendid. Archived from the original on December 25, 2008. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
  3. "Instrument List".
  4. "Acoustic Instruments".
  5. Carr, Bruce (January 20, 2001). "Acoustic (term)".
  6. Iain Morley, "The Evolutionary Origins and Archaeology of Music", PhD diss. (Cambridge: Darwin College, Cambridge University, 2003): 47–48.
  7. Rosenberg, E. S. (September 1, 2006). "National Geographic: Remembering Pearl Harbor, Created by Nationalgeographic .com, Washington, D.C., and Second Story Interactive Studios, Portland, Ore. Maintained by Reviewed March 1-7, 2006". Journal of American History. 93 (2): 626–627. doi:10.2307/4486400. ISSN   0021-8723.External link in |title= (help)


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