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Definition of Acoustic Music

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TheSnail 13 Dec 08 - 12:16 PM
Acorn4 13 Dec 08 - 12:24 PM
Richard Bridge 13 Dec 08 - 12:36 PM
Tim Leaning 13 Dec 08 - 12:40 PM
Ann N 13 Dec 08 - 12:40 PM
GUEST,Mr Oldbugger 13 Dec 08 - 12:43 PM
GUEST,John from Kemsing 13 Dec 08 - 12:43 PM
melodeonboy 13 Dec 08 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,Ravenheart 13 Dec 08 - 01:57 PM
Amos 13 Dec 08 - 02:23 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 13 Dec 08 - 02:35 PM
Stewart 13 Dec 08 - 02:43 PM
Stonebridge 13 Dec 08 - 03:37 PM
Tootler 13 Dec 08 - 08:11 PM
Acorn4 13 Dec 08 - 08:35 PM
Jack Campin 13 Dec 08 - 08:55 PM
Art Thieme 13 Dec 08 - 10:17 PM
Art Thieme 13 Dec 08 - 10:20 PM
kendall 14 Dec 08 - 08:02 AM
BB 14 Dec 08 - 09:06 AM
greg stephens 14 Dec 08 - 09:21 AM
Dave the Gnome 14 Dec 08 - 09:34 AM
GUEST 14 Dec 08 - 09:37 AM
TheSnail 14 Dec 08 - 09:59 AM
Will Fly 14 Dec 08 - 10:09 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Dec 08 - 10:32 AM
GUEST,Mr Difficult 14 Dec 08 - 11:19 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe without cookie 14 Dec 08 - 11:39 AM
Sing-Along Steve 14 Dec 08 - 12:02 PM
Richard Bridge 14 Dec 08 - 12:04 PM
greg stephens 14 Dec 08 - 12:23 PM
Faye Roche 14 Dec 08 - 01:39 PM
treewind 14 Dec 08 - 01:56 PM
Will Fly 14 Dec 08 - 03:08 PM
greg stephens 14 Dec 08 - 03:30 PM
Richard Bridge 14 Dec 08 - 03:46 PM
filidh 14 Dec 08 - 04:13 PM
Phil Edwards 14 Dec 08 - 06:20 PM
Joe_F 14 Dec 08 - 07:26 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Dec 08 - 09:26 PM
BB 15 Dec 08 - 08:01 AM
PoppaGator 15 Dec 08 - 02:02 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 15 Dec 08 - 02:26 PM
Nerd 15 Dec 08 - 04:18 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Dec 08 - 06:01 PM
Richard Bridge 15 Dec 08 - 06:10 PM
TheSnail 15 Dec 08 - 06:10 PM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 15 Dec 08 - 06:49 PM
bubblyrat 16 Dec 08 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 16 Dec 08 - 02:51 PM
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Subject: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: TheSnail
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 12:16 PM

So go on then, what is it?

A lazy catch-all term or a useful description?

(Sorry for the plagiarism, Mr Cringe.)


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Acorn4
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 12:24 PM

I was always baffled by the term "unplugged", when it came into vogue, because all the performers seemed to be miked and amped up, until someone explained to me that it meant "sitting down".


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 12:36 PM

To me it means without electric or electronic amplification - regardless of style.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 12:40 PM

Acoustic music.
Music you can hear?


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Ann N
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 12:40 PM

Quote Richard ''To me it means without electric or electronic amplification - regardless of style.''

That's what it means to me too :)


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,Mr Oldbugger
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 12:43 PM

"Unplugged"

means

'as long as it looks a bit like an acoustic instrument you can still plug it in'


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 12:43 PM

Richard Bridge,
                Your description is also what it says, broadly, in the O.E.D. Spot on!


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: melodeonboy
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 01:24 PM

I'm with Richard and Ann N on this one (and the OED, apparently!).


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,Ravenheart
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 01:57 PM

Say we're putting a band on the air--we're mic'ing acoustic instruments rather than taking line-level signals from pickups or electronic sources such as keyboards.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Amos
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 02:23 PM

The sound from the instrument is unamplified, and untreated electrically.

If it then goes into a mic for recording purposes, or for reaching a bigger hall or some such, that is a different matter. The sound itself is acoustic because it comes from un-electrical instruments, such that the strings vibrate the air directly to produce it. It is neither digitized nor electrically processed before it leaves the instrument.

A


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 02:35 PM

Difficult this. Back in the 60s/70s, most folk clubs I attended were completely acoustic i.e. no mics and no amps. I have a great dislike for plugged in acoustic guitars. They are very convenient - and practical, but - to my ears - they just don't sound very good. And why anyone would want to record with a plugged in guitar amazes me. A friend of mine has a beautiful £2,500 handmade guitar - but when he made a recording he plugged in. Why?


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Stewart
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 02:43 PM

It always baffles me why someone with an expensive, well-crafted acoustic guitar or other instrument would put an electronic pickup on it to make it sound like a cheap electric guitar. A good quality microphone is the best sort of sound reinforcement for a good acoustic instrument. The best situation is to play in a good acoustic hall where no sound reinforcement is necessary. To me that is true 'acoustic music'.

I have a vintage Martin guitar, with no pickup, and always mic it. Occasionally someone will say "Wow! that guitar sounded great. What kind of a pickup were you using?" I take that as a compliment, that 'acoustic' micing sounds the best.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Stonebridge
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 03:37 PM

I run a folk club that describes itself as an "acoustic music venue". All that means is that I do not allow electronic or electric instruments. That is to say, instruments whose method of sound reproduction requires electricity. This rules out, eg, electric guitars and keyboards. There is no problem amplifying guitars, voice or other string or wind instruments using microphones, because the amplification is only sound reinforcement. The instrument is still "acoustic".
It is about how the sound is produced. Acoustically or electronically.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 08:11 PM

Richard Bridge's original definition was

without electric or electronic amplification - regardless of style.

To me that means no microphones or amplifiers at all.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Acorn4
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 08:35 PM

Some clubs make an exception for electric bass, which I think is OK as the alternative can take up a huge space in a small room.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 08:55 PM

Also, electric bagpipes are usually played quieter than air-driven ones.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 10:17 PM

It's the wood (of a guitar) and how it smells and how it vibrates under your hands and against your body --- plus the exquisite sounds when those vibes rebound from the sides and back wood of the instrument to ripple across the spruce sounding board top of your instrument. And then, it hits the sensing hairs of your inner ear---and the vibrations continue to your brain-----so you, and others, can hear it.

Yes, the beauty of it is in the ear of the behearer.

Being a male, a vibrator never had much thrill for me. But if I was female, I might definitely figure a way to adapt my guitar for other purposes!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Art Thieme
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 10:20 PM

Yes, I'll have what she's having.

Art


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: kendall
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 08:02 AM

No electricity at all. Period.

I've never heard an acoustic guitar that sounded good when plugged into an amp. They all sound, well, "metalic"


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: BB
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 09:06 AM

I agree with Stonebridge - if we didn't use PA, purely as sound reinforcement, we wouldn't be able to run our club, as there is no other suitable venue in the village. But the acoustics of the room are truly awful, and we use the PA to produce, hopefully, what one would usually hear in a acoustically good room.

The only exception we make to not allowing 'electric' instruments is keyboard, as in Helen Hockenhull of Grace Notes, as I don't really think it's practical for her to lug a piano around!

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 09:21 AM

If anyone cares to come to the Greyhound in Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent, on Wednesday night, Dec 17, you will hear what I personally mean by acoustic music. You will hear the Boat Band playing acoustically, no mics, no PA, in the bar,(not a back room, folk clubby sort of thing, by the way).
Now, I know this meaning of the word acoustic(ie unamplified)is disputed by many. As we see on this thread, many people use it to mean only a bit amplified. Or no electric guitars, but maybe an electic bass and keyboards. I would use that looser meaning myself sometimes, in the phrase "they've gone for an acoustic sound on this tour", or some phrase like that. But I still think, basically, that "acoustic"(in the context of live music) means "unamplified": the music goes from the instrument to my ear by acoustic means, unprocessed electrically.
It's all much like the meaning of folk. There are still people using the old meaning of acoustic, but usage is gradually changed to the new.Sadly, in my opinion,it is a perfectly good word as it stands. But I am resigned to the fact that "acoustic night" at the local pub will be nothing of the sort.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 09:34 AM

Tough one. Saw David Gray at Tea in the Park some years ago and a lot of his stuff was definieltely accoustic music, to me. Ie, he was singing and playing accoustic guitar. However it was at a festival of many thousands of people in a field of many hundreds of acres. If he was to sit in the corner strumming away only the people closest would have heard him. So they mic'd him up and put it through a multi-mega watt PA. We could hear him half a mile away:-)

And what about recordings? How can you achieve recordings if no electronics are allowed for accoustic music. There is the wax cylinder and wind-up gramaphone of course but do we realy want to go back to those days?

To say that there should be no electronics involved at all would exclude an awful lot of music, including the scenario described earlier and all electronic and digital recordings and the only way to hear accoustic music would be to attend live concerts!

Should we say, therefore that only live music, played on accoustic instruments and not enhanced in anyway at all can be classed as accoustic or do we say that provided it is any music played on accoustic instruments, including the voice, it should be included? What happens to it after it leaves the instrument should not be enhanced or modified in any way other than to increase the volume I suppose.

In answer to Bryans original question I can only answer I don't realy know. But I guess some people will have their own firm views:-)

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 09:37 AM

Some of us take great care in amplifying our acoustic instruments with quality pickups and equalization. The purpose is to be able to mix the sound for a larger audience with clarity and without feedback. Sometimes things that are quiet or have subtle dynamics need to be heard.

Each room has acoustic properties that change due to weather, humidity and even the amount of guests and if they're wearing coats.

People who insist on only natural amplification (which in some situations can be beautiful) may unknowingly encourage only loud strumming.

If someone thinks folk music should never use pick ups (which have gotten quite good these days) or microphones...they're missing out on some nice recorded music.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 09:59 AM

Perhaps I should have given a bit of background for my question. The acoustic v amplified deabte has been hammered out before.

I was asking because of something that came up on the 2008 R2 Young Folk Award - What Happened thread.

The BBC website says -

ABOUT THE AWARD

Now in its eleventh year, the Young Folk Award is Radio 2's annual search for the most promising folk musicians in the UK. The event forms part of our commitment to nurturing new talent, and is open to anyone aged between 15 and 20, performing as a band, duo or soloist and performing traditional and acoustic music with roots in any culture. The prize is a major boost for a career in music.


which implies that folk music is divided into two sub categories - traditional and acoustic. I wondered if anyone had any idea what the definition of acoustic was in this context.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 10:09 AM

The term "acoustic" has shades of meaning these days, depending on the circumstance. A purely acoustic sound is the sound of the instrument, as Greg has said, with only air between it and the listener. Great for the pub, for the home, for the concert hall with decent acoustics. The next, slightly less pure version is where the instrument has to be mic'ed up for broadcasting or recording purposes, or for large listening areas where the natural sound wouldn't carry. Further down the line of acoustic degradation is where the acoustic instrument is fitted with some of electrical pickup.

However much we might prefer the purely natural sound of our instruments - and I certainly prefer playing in a pure acoustic environment or an acoustic session than any other - the fact is that if we didn't have microphones and pickups, we wouldn't have the wonderful world of recording and broadcasting to delve into and learn from. Even the most expensive and superlative mic in the world for an acoustic recording is only going to reproduce what the engineer deems the sound to be - and that's subjective. My sound colleagues at the Beeb in the '60s and '70s were (and probably still are) the best in the business, but they were always aware of the limitations of any recording technology. The only pure acoustic sound you're going to get is when you're sat right next to the instrument itself - but we can't make do with that, can we?

I'd love to be up at Penkhull next Wednesday, but unfortunately (!) I have to be in the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham in Sussex, listening to Waterson-Carthy. However, when I've come home from that concert, I'll be able to listen to the Boat Band's excellent CDs - not quite "acoustic:", but as near as damn...


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 10:32 AM

In that context it appears that the BBC (not always the best abiter) probably meant "music from instruments and voices the timbre quality harmonics and resonances are not electrically or electronically altered".

Folk, it seems to me, might be divided into four categories

1. Traditional
2. Adopted into a community and altered (even if the origins are current and the composer known) - EG "Ride On" or ""The Ballad of Seth Daly" or "Sam Hall" or "Roots" - and maybe soon Beeswing and the Ballad of Red Molly, of which one is starting to hear altered versions. In the American genre, much blues and Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and even Bob Dylan is in here, getting furiously "versioned".   Within 10 years I'm expecting to hear Martin Simpson stuff in here (with the guitar parts simplified so that mere mortals can play them)

(Both the above being within the 1954 Karpeles defintion, and so for people like me the only true "folk" music)

3. Contemporary songs (played on acoustic instruments) that may be rare, or substantially only peformed by the composer or commissioner, or frequent, or adopted into the community but not yet altered by that adoption (for example "Liverpool Lullaby" - at least I have never heard a "different" version of it and similarly "Dirty Old Town" or "Streets of London" or "Shoals of Herring" - and curously "Fidddlers Green" that so many think is traditional but remains as far as I have yet heard unaltered - but nonetheless in the style of the tradition.

These I'd dub in my coinage that no-one else agrees with "neofolk".

If the above three relate to the English tradition they might all be thought "Anglicana", if American, "Americana", if Irish or Scottish Manx or Breton - "Celtic" (I'm not sure about Welsh, I think I hear something different in there).

Then there is the stuff played on acoustic instruments but with no apparent connection to the tradition. It sounds as if this might be where the Young Folk Award is supposed to fit in, and I'd probably put Leonard Cohen in here too. I wouldn't call this "Folk" or "Traditional", although some of it is perfectly fine to listen to.

So for me stuff by Steeleye Span even if traditional and even if folk would not be acoustic, and neither would (although it might be for some) the Watersons on stage at Cambridge with an umpteen kilowatt PA rig. Bellowhead falls somewhere between the two since teh balance of the instruments and voices is altered in the mix - maybe folk but not acousic IMHO.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,Mr Difficult
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 11:19 AM

Ok, A Dobro or any other Resonator Guitar is an Acoustic Instrument.. yes ?

So If I was to modify a cheap Import Resonator,
replace the metal cone with a speaker, rig up a replacement bridge,
and install a battery powered internal amplifier..

There'd be no need to plug it into an amp, the sound would be produced direct from the instrument
to the ears of the listener..

so would this still be an acoustic guitar ?


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe without cookie
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 11:39 AM

Acorn4: 'I was always baffled by the term "unplugged", because all the performers seemed to be miked and amped up'

Acorn, it's the musicians that have been unplugged, not the instruments....


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Sing-Along Steve
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 12:02 PM

I think it has been made clear already, but here's my two cents:

An acoustic guitar is one that needs not be amplified in order to produce its native tone, as opposed to, say, a Fender Stratocaster, which thing has its own tone only to the extent that it is amplified.

An acoustic guitar with a pickup in it is not, IMO, the same thing as a strictly acoustic guitar, even of the same model. They often have completely different tonalities.

Acoustic music is music that is created by strictly acoustic instruments. Amplification of an acoustic instrument (like a mic in front of an acoustic guitar) is just that, amplification of ACOUSTIC music. The sound that comes through a PA system of a plugged-in guitar is not acoustic music, it's electric music or at least acoustic-electric music.

Take this for example:

Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys: ACOUSTIC band, all gathered around a or several microphones which were used to amplify strictly acoustic music.

The later incarnations of Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys: at most, an electric-acoustic band, as they almost all adopted plugs for their instruments as the technology became available. They were also clear in many interviews about how they liked what the pickups and so on did to change the tonality of their instruments.

Anyway, I'm more of a purist about these things.

Sing along,

Steve


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 12:04 PM

Mr Difficult, that is not acoustic.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 12:23 PM

Mr Difficult: an amplifier hidden inside a box is still an amplifier.In fact, this seems remarkably irrelevant, as in my experience(yes I do use them) amplifiers come in boxes anyway.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Faye Roche
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 01:39 PM

Does it matter?


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: treewind
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 01:56 PM

It's funny, but when I see an advert or listing for an "acoustic music" club I know it's likely to be amplified, while if it's described as a "folk" club is usually isn't.

And a "devil's dictionary" style definition might be that acoustic music uses acoustic guitars instead of regular ones.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 03:08 PM

But when I and other local musicians in Sussex advertise an acoustic session - it really means that: no amplifiers, no mics.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 03:30 PM

Slight threadcreep(I blame anahata) but wasn't the |DEvils' Dictionary a great book?


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 03:46 PM

What's "regular" guitar? Do you hang it up on a rope so that like a pendulum it returns with a fixed periodicity?


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: filidh
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 04:13 PM

i think there is a real problem of expectations now that there is so much electric music everywhere. i often paly small rooms that have no need of any amplification. people seem to expect it.

a few years ago there was a power failure at a small folk festival that i was playing while i was on an outdoor stage. after a couple of minutes i started playing eithout the amps. the organizers tried to stop me, i appealed to the crowd and they said they could hear me, and we went on. the power outage lasted a few hours so after about twentyn minutes other musicians noticed there was a stage stilln playing. a couple joined me and we paled for two hours. the audience loved it.

it was the way it was done for millinea so go non electric music!!!

we also ended up with the crowds from other atages as well and a party broe out. too small a space, lots of music=party!!


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 06:20 PM

Go non-electric music - yep, I'll second that.

In my experience there aren't many rooms where acoustic instruments* actually need amplification, as long as people will shut up and listen. If they won't, you need the PA to reach the people at the back who are trying to listen - but once you've got the PA, there's no incentive for anyone else to shut up. I did a couple of songs at a songwriters' club a while back (the old Why Worry?, which shows how long ago it was); there was a PA (and stage lights), in a room about half the size of the room used by the all-acoustic club I usually went to. It was awful - every time I took a breath I heard the sound of 50 people talking through my songs. To this day I've no idea if I went down well or not.

*With the exception of the acoustic bass guitar, which probably sounds quite good if you're the one playing it, but doesn't project much further than that.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Joe_F
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 07:26 PM

"Acoustic music," like "organic food", tempts me to supercilious sarcasm, but I forbear.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 09:26 PM

acoustic - thinner than a cou pole
it's what Scottish farmers poke their cows with.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: BB
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 08:01 AM

Pip Radish, you're right - there aren't many rooms where acoustic instruments, or voices for that matter, need amplification, including, in my fairly wide experience of them, village halls, but our club room, in a concert situation, as opposed to singaround, *does* need it, otherwise, people at the back of the room simply can't hear properly. Believe me, I wish it were otherwise!

And we're still an 'Acoustic' club on the nights that we have singarounds nor use mics, to indicate that we are not purely 'folk', traditional or otherwise, and that we are 'acoustic', as opposed to having 'electric' instruments. What else would you call it?

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: PoppaGator
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 02:02 PM

From my point of view (as owner/operator of an acoustic guitar), the presence of a microphone is completely irrelevant.

The sound of an acoustic guitar, even when played through a mic, is completely different from the sound of electric guitar.

In fact, even the presence of a decent pickup in/on an acoustic guitar does not necessarily make the music less "acoustic." The exception would be a case where the pickup is either sonically very crude, or deliberately designed to distort the instrument's natural/acoustic tone in an effort to masquerade as a Stratocaster, or whatever.

And yeah, yeah, I know that there's no microphone or pickup in the world that perfectly reproduces the pure sound of an instrument. So what? When it's necessary to make oneself heard in a large area and/or noisy environment ~ or simply to record ~ you do the best you can, which is usually passably OK. The sound you could produce when all alone in a sonically perfect room would be better, of course, but that level of perfection is neither necessary nor is it a realistic expectation in the typical performance venue.

I also don't think there's any significance to whether or not the song selection includes exclusively traditional material. The low-key sound and the personal vocal approach of a solo performer (or a small group) playing non-electronic instruments is essentially the same whether the song being sung is new or old.

I hold to this opinion as an aspirant to the traditional role of "songster." If Mississippi John Hurt could adapt popular songs of his time (like "Creole Bell" or "Funky Butt") to his solo-guitar picking style and his customary vocal style, I insist upon my right to do the same kind of thing with, say, "You Don't Know Me," "These Days," and "Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)." Not to mention 20th-century songs a bit more likely to be considered by some as "folk," like the works of Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Woody Guthrie, etc.

What I do may or may not be what you'd call "folk music," but it is definitely "acoustic music," whether I'm playing quietly at home or through a mic and PA out in the world somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 02:26 PM

I think acoustic music is simply great music played by musicians who don't have hang ups about 'definitions' 'historial instruments' 'singing in the right accent'

etc..etc...etc...etc......


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Nerd
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 04:18 PM

I'm with Joe F...the temptation to sarcasm is great. This is because all music is acoustic. "Acoustic" should strictly mean "having to do with sound waves." Whether there is electricity involved in producing a sound wave has no bearing, in physics, on whether the wave is "acoustic."

There is a latter-day dichotomy between "acoustic" and "electric," two terms which never were opposites until very recently. Originally, it was not "music" that was defined as acoustic or electric, but the machines that produce music. The reason an electric guitar is only weakly acoustic, is that the guitar itself produces only very weak sound waves. The audible sound waves are produced outside the guitar itself, in an amp. But the music that comes out of the amp is no less acoustic for being electrically produced, and the resulting MUSIC is still acoustic, physically speaking.

What has happened is that the word "acoustic" has been taken from the realm of machinery (originally gramophones, and then guitars), where it meant "produces sound within the machine itself," (as opposed to transmitting vibrations electrically to a separate machine, which then produces the sound). The word has then been applied to the SOUND, which is pretty absurd. "Non-acoustic music" is like "colorless green" (or indeed "inorganic food"); it should be an oxymoron.

That said, non-electric music (which we now call acoustic) is a useful category to have. I think of it as a sort of ideal type: "acoustic" is one end of the spectrum and "electric" the other, and music is "acoustic" or "electric" to varying degrees. Music that is strictly non-electric would not be amplified at all, and cannot by definition be coming from a recording (unless it was recorded on an acoustic gramophone with a horn, diaphragm and needle). Music that is electric to a greater degree might be, for example, amplified or captured with the help of microphones, or might use a keyboard to emulate other instruments that are impractical to play. Music that is minimally acoustic (or mostly electric) would be music you could hardly hear if it weren't for the electricity (electric guitar or bass, etc.)

What this definition means is that you rarely ever encounter completely acoustic music in a professional context, and if you advocate for "acoustic music" you have to make your own decision as to what is an acceptable level of electricity. It's no good getting strict or pedantic, because you're usually not advocating complete purity yourself.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 06:01 PM

All music is acoustic music - you don't hear it with your eyes, do you? But maybe not ... ?

I don't know why you're all so hung up on definitions! After all, as we've all learned from the 'What is Folk' threads any word can mean anything you want it to mean - especially in a music context - and especially in the context of 'Folk'. So, for example, Harry Cox was a Jazz man,Scan Tester played Rock-n-Roll and the Halle Orchestra do Funky Garage.

Hey! I think I'm getting the hang of this ... perhaps I'm not an uptight, old fogey after all!


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 06:10 PM

1. Ah, but what is "bashment"?
2. Hang on, you mean I can play "acoustic music" and no-one will say I have to go away and practise some more before I am allowed to play?


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 06:10 PM

My original question was intended to be just a little tongue in cheek. My underlying point was that "Acoustic Music" as a category (rather than to do with the physics of sound) was so vague as to be meaningless.


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 06:49 PM

An instrument might be "acoustic" as opposed to electric (though these days the distinction is somewhat more blurred); a performance might be "acoustic" as opposed to amplified; a style of music may well be "acoustic" ie using primarily acoustic instruments where you might expect electric / electronic ones: eg acoustic blues, acoustic pop, acoustic techno.

Without further definition of terms, it's a pretty vague concept (just like folk music). Technically speaking, a drum kit is an acoustic instrument. Nearly all classical music- and a lot of jazz- is acoustic. And, ironically, a lot of "acoustic" music is in fact reliant on amplification (an observation, not a valued judgement)

I think part of the problem with the A-word, much like the F-word, is that as well as having specific meanings, it's also used to denote "anything by a singer-songwriter, or a bands with an acoustic guitar in", which at best tells you nothing much about the music.

(Just for clarification, I play both kinds of music, folk AND acoustic..)


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: bubblyrat
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 02:35 PM

Well, to disagree with Anahata (Dare I ??) .....We at Marlow Bottom Acoustic Club decided to call ourselves that so as to attract those performers who might otherwise, sadly, be put off by "Folk Club".Having said that, we use venues where it is seldom,if ever,necessary to use amplification, built-in or otherwise,although IF it is a particularly noisy pub, OR it is Saint Patrick's Night,then we WILL and DO use picks-up, microphones,amplifiers,etc, as a means to being heard over the usual extraneous racket....but otherwise not....I mean, who in their right mind would want to amplify a Malodeon or a Discordion anyway ??


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Subject: RE: Definition of Acoustic Music
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 02:51 PM

Depending upon the size and configuration of a venue, some amplification, by way of microphones, might be in order. Many of the old coffee houses I visited in my youth were quite small and intimate. Amplification was usually totally unnecessary since the performers were within just a few feet of the audience in most cases.

I love the sound of unamplified instruments when it is possible to hear them, and the singers, clearly. I'm in favor of whatever accomplishes that for the listener.


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