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Guitar...Why?

saulgoldie 14 Mar 12 - 09:17 PM
Leadfingers 14 Mar 12 - 10:19 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 14 Mar 12 - 10:46 PM
GUEST,Klump 14 Mar 12 - 10:51 PM
GUEST,songbob 14 Mar 12 - 11:08 PM
Phil Cooper 14 Mar 12 - 11:53 PM
Don Firth 15 Mar 12 - 12:10 AM
Gurney 15 Mar 12 - 02:08 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Mar 12 - 02:19 AM
GUEST,Paul Burke 15 Mar 12 - 03:06 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Mar 12 - 03:17 AM
banjoman 15 Mar 12 - 06:51 AM
Tootler 15 Mar 12 - 07:47 AM
GUEST 15 Mar 12 - 08:00 AM
Bernard 15 Mar 12 - 08:49 AM
Big Al Whittle 15 Mar 12 - 10:30 AM
meself 15 Mar 12 - 10:47 AM
Little Hawk 15 Mar 12 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,AvoidingThrownFruit 15 Mar 12 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,leeneia 15 Mar 12 - 10:57 AM
Jack Campin 15 Mar 12 - 11:23 AM
Little Hawk 15 Mar 12 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 15 Mar 12 - 01:04 PM
beardedbruce 15 Mar 12 - 01:04 PM
Greg B 15 Mar 12 - 01:36 PM
Big Al Whittle 15 Mar 12 - 07:35 PM
PHJim 15 Mar 12 - 09:33 PM
GUEST,Learnt from a Record 15 Mar 12 - 10:00 PM
GUEST,Whistle Stop 16 Mar 12 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,CS 16 Mar 12 - 10:00 AM
Will Fly 16 Mar 12 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,CS 16 Mar 12 - 10:10 AM
Will Fly 16 Mar 12 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,olddude 16 Mar 12 - 10:30 AM
Mooh 17 Mar 12 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,josepp 17 Mar 12 - 04:01 PM
Don Firth 17 Mar 12 - 07:10 PM
GUEST,Ole Juul 17 Mar 12 - 07:18 PM
Jon Corelis 17 Mar 12 - 07:50 PM
Will Fly 18 Mar 12 - 12:39 PM
Stringsinger 18 Mar 12 - 01:56 PM
Will Fly 18 Mar 12 - 03:54 PM
GUEST 18 Mar 12 - 07:47 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 19 Mar 12 - 02:18 AM
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Subject: Folklore: Guitar...Why?
From: saulgoldie
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 09:17 PM

So I'm looking at so many threads here, and other references, other discussions and youtube clips. And it seems like the most common instrument in Folk, Rock, Jazz, and more is the guitar, pretty much a six string. Anybody wanna weigh in on why they think it is and how it came to be?

Saul


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Guitar...Why?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 10:19 PM

Its probably one of the easiest instruments to accompany songs with !


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 10:46 PM

It's easy to play "well enough for folk music", but an unending challenge for those who wish to master it. If all you want to do is strum along with your singing, that's fine. If you'd rather learn to play Bach, that's fine too.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,Klump
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 10:51 PM

Well for one reason, instruments like the Tuba are a bugger to play when you're singing.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,songbob
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 11:08 PM

Guitars have been attached to "folk music" since the "folk revival," and through it, back to early USA country music recordings. It was a popular urban instrument in the 19th C., and provided a moderately-easy accompaniment instrument for American parlor songs. Folk songs in the US moved from the rural, fiddle-and-banjo milieu to the urban surroundings of the 1930s-50s folk revival, melding country-style guitar to straight-forward folk-style singing.

Now, of course, this is totally over-simplified, and doesn't take Great Britain into account (though it can be argued that the US revival "set the style" and was attached to the more typically unaccompanied British styles around the same time).

To truly over-simplify, the popularization of "folk(ish) music" resulted in a popular parlor instrument, the guitar, being attached in the public's "ear" by such performers as Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Theo Bikel (sp?) and the like. Add true folk performers who grabbed what popularity they could from the times (Josh White, Leadbelly, and Brownie McGhee come to mid), all of whom played guitar, and the guitar became "THE" American folk instrument.

Of course, the versatility of the instrument added to its popularity, as it could do backup, lead, ensemble or solo roles, and in many styles, from Bach to Be-Bop, and ballads to blues.

Add the various styles of physical instruments, from flat-top to archtop, acoustic, electric, or hybrid, not to mention 6-, 9-, and 12-string models, and you have the perfect instrument (if true traditional accuracy of style is not your highest aim).


That's how I see it. Of course, I play the things, so I'm prejudiced. I can make the case for banjo and fiddle, as well, but it's hard to argue that those are as popular as guitars.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 11:53 PM

It's easier to take around than a piano.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 12:10 AM

Relatively small and portable musical instruments have been used by scops, skalds, bards, minstrels, and troubadours since the very beginning. Orpheus, considered in Greek mythology as "the father of songs" is usually depicted holding a lyre.

Great epic poems, such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, are believed to have been recited or chanted to the accompaniment of a lyre or harp. Beowulf, considered to be the first example of fairly intact manuscript of English literature (circa 800 A.D.) was believed to be delivered the same way. Benjamin Bagby has a DVD out in which he recites the first 1000 lines of Beowulf in Olde English (with modern English subtitles) accompanying himself with an Anglo-Saxon lyre-harp (CLICKY). Early minstrels accompanied themselves on instruments such as citoles and gitterns.

The lute was a full harmonic instrument and it was as prevalent it times past as the piano is today. Lots of people played it, and some played it very well. It had the advantage of being portable.

The guitar, which is not a direct descendant of the lute, but is a sort of first cousin, has pretty well replaced it as THE portable instrument, and rightly so, as it, too, is a full harmonic instrument and is capable of anything from simple strummed accompaniments to complex and fully developed classical compositions. Also, to play fairly simple accompaniments, it's relatively easy to learn.

It's a natural.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Gurney
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 02:08 AM

Cheap, portable, you can be a three-chord-specialist or John James, you can capo to change key, approximates the human vocal range, you can sing and play it at the same time, you can always borrow one...
Even its irritating failing, detuning itself according to temperature, has diminished for the tin-eared, due to electronic tuners.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 02:19 AM

Re songbob's list of influences ~~ I should say that Burl Ives was the most influential in this particular.

We had a thread on this a couple of years ago which might be worth linking to this one IIRC.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,Paul Burke
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 03:06 AM

It combines low entry cost with high status and musical adaptability, and widespread availability of cheap instruction. Because of its ubiquity, expectations and standards of playing are generally fairly high (compared to many other instruments).

It could easily have stayed an instrument associated with "cowboy" music, specialist jazz and Flamenco, had it not become associated with skiffle and R&B in the fifties, and had the classical enthusiasts like Julian Bream not been around. The redolence of adventure and rebellion (in a very uptight society) on the one hand, and high sophistication on the other, in the age of mass media, cheap recordings, and disposable income, led to a virtuous circle in which it became dominant.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 03:17 AM

It didn't just happen in the 1940s-50s, mind, with Woody, Elton Hayes et al. The daughter of the eponymous Vicar Of Wakefield in Oliver Goldsmith's 18C novel used to sing accompanying herself on a guitar, which appears from that to have been the sort of attribute that might be expected of such a well brought up but not wealthy young woman.

~M


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: banjoman
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 06:51 AM

Aside from being very portable, its also a very easy instrument to make others think that you really can play it. A lot of folkies do this and I have been doing it for 50 years with a limited number of chords. Now if you talk about banjos - well that a different matter.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 07:47 AM

The daughter of the eponymous Vicar Of Wakefield in Oliver Goldsmith's 18C novel used to sing accompanying herself on a guitar

...and in the 19th century:

"The Owl looked up to the stars above,
    And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
      What a beautiful Pussy you are..."

Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussycat


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 08:00 AM

"It combines low entry cost with high status and musical adaptability, and widespread availability of cheap instruction. Because of its ubiquity, expectations and standards of playing are generally fairly high (compared to many other instruments)."

Very well put Paul, I think you nailed it! However, the second statement puzzles me. I would have to rather agree with banjoman when he says ". . . its also a very easy instrument to make others think that you really can play it."

I can certainly vouch for that as I've fooled many people over the years. I am a flute player, but I think it is my general knowledge of music and instruments which allows me to mimic a guitar player on guitar. The standards of musical knowledge are quite low in our society, although I'm not convinced that it has ever been any different and even less convinced that it behoves me to complain about it. Nevertheless, most of our population have never taken any lessons, do not play any instrument, and do not read any literature on the subject - let alone read any music. That makes them poor judges of musical matters, including guitar playing. Over the years I have indeed found more accomplished musicians who play guitar than play, say clarinet, but I must say than when taken as a percentage of the population, I have not found very many of either.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Bernard
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 08:49 AM

I think that, of all the truly portable instruments, the guitar is unique in that many people really believe they can play it!!

Hee hee!!


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 10:30 AM

well its better than being a serial killer, being a guitarist. not as good as finding a cure for a dead disease, or saving the world.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: meself
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 10:47 AM

Certainly I would rank it below saving the world - but finding a cure for a dead disease?


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 10:52 AM

How does one "save the world"? And who determines that the world is in dire peril in the first place? And why has no one started a thread called: Banjo...Why?


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,AvoidingThrownFruit
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 10:55 AM

Much like a banjo then


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 10:57 AM

One day my friend and I were playing harp (her) and guitar (me). The song was "Angels We Have Heard on High."

At one point I stopped playing and asked, "Am I rippling too much? I don't want to make this too rich and drown you out." She listened to me and demanded,

"If you can easily do that, why am I killing myself?"

Why indeed? So she did her thing (melody) and I did mine (arpeggios). Other people can kill themselves by doing it all, if that's what they enjoy.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 11:23 AM

There is no continuous tradition in the UK from the 18th century guitar to the way it's used today.

In the UK, the guitar replaced the banjo and ukulele - those were the predominant rhythm/chordal instruments in the dancebands and music-hall acts of the early 20th century. If you look at early 20th century song sheets they often have fret diagrams for chords - but they're for the uke, not the guitar. (Why the replacement? - at a guess because banjos were too heavy and expensive and ukuleles just smelt of poo).


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 12:12 PM

Owoo!!! You have just offended a legion of ukulele players, Jack! If I were you, I would move at once to an unknown location and "lay low" (to use the American expression) for awhile.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 01:04 PM

Rare few, if any, other instruments interact so organically & emotively with a valve amplifier and vintage fuzz box !!!


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: beardedbruce
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 01:04 PM

It is part of a liberal plot to disarm the folksinger-

Other than an Oscar Schmidt, you can shrug off being hit with a guitar, but if hit by a banjo you know that you have been hit.

8-{E


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Greg B
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 01:36 PM

Well, if they're honest, most male guitarists picked it up in their teens and the underlying motivation began with the same letter and had roughly the same shape.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 07:35 PM

Something of a reductio ad absurdbum...

I started playing because I wanted to be Roy Rogers. I don't really go for that stuff about the sex drive and the desire to reproduce the species being behind everything.

Guitars are beautiful they are a solace in sad times. they can earn you a living. They have been a good and kind thing, in a life with many bad and cruel realities.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: PHJim
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 09:33 PM

Big Al - Roy and Gene were a big part of my motivation. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they do the job of accompanying the voice so well. Guitars are now common in genres where they were not found traditionally.
When I was hitch-hiking through Ireland in the late sixties, I went to a fleadh in New Ross. There were musicians on every street corner, in every pub, church and schoolhouse, but I didn't see one guitar. Lots of fiddles and flutes, pipes and whistles and bodhrans, a few accordions and even a hammered dulcimer, but no guitars, banjos or mandolins. I think that would be very different at a fleadh in the 21st century.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,Learnt from a Record
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 10:00 PM

Guitar became popular in the late 1800's thru Sears & Roebuck and other mail order catalogues because it was a cheap instrument that people in the boonies could buy and doodle around on. It wasn't loud enough to be used much in public performance, and there wasn't a technique or a traditional repertoire to play, but it was convenient, and people worked out their own ways of playing it for informal entertainment.

Banjo was used a lot by entertainers, and piano, but the early recording equipment didn't pick up piano very well, and banjo cut thru better. As recording technology got better and electronic recording began, banjo pickers moved to the guitar because it had a fuller sound. All those people with Sears guitars started copying what they heard on records, and that's what guitar players have done ever since:-)


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,Whistle Stop
Date: 16 Mar 12 - 09:47 AM

Portability, polyphony, and versatility. There is not other instrument that I can think of that has all three of these attributes to the same degree.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,CS
Date: 16 Mar 12 - 10:00 AM

Why in 'folk music' so-called? Because it was popular in early US pop/rock music.

Similar phenomenon appeared to occur with the recorded female 'folk voice' during the modern era, from a more traditional unaccompanied strident assertive tone to a pale breathy girlish amplified one.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 16 Mar 12 - 10:05 AM

The guitar was a popular parlour instrument in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was also taken up as a "street" instrument in cities like London, coinciding with the rise of the keyboard in parlours. Well-brought up young ladies preferred to be associated with the keyboard rather with than a vulgar street instrument...

Anthony Baines's magisterial book "Musical instruments through the ages" (Pelican, 1961) is worth reading for a comprehensive history of the guitar and its relationships with lute and cittern over the centuries.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,CS
Date: 16 Mar 12 - 10:10 AM

I think Jack argued against that point Will:

Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 11:23 AM

There is no continuous tradition in the UK from the 18th century guitar to the way it's used today.

In the UK, the guitar replaced the banjo and ukulele - those were the predominant rhythm/chordal instruments in the dancebands and music-hall acts of the early 20th century. If you look at early 20th century song sheets they often have fret diagrams for chords - but they're for the uke, not the guitar.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 16 Mar 12 - 10:22 AM

Indeed Jack did (which is why I made my comment) and, though there may no be no continuous tradition in the way the guitar is played, the guitar didn't suddenly disappear and then reappear. Baines's book is worth reading as it shows the complex relationship, coexistence and relative popularity of the guitar with other instruments.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,olddude
Date: 16 Mar 12 - 10:30 AM

cause I am a stubborn person and won't give up. 50 years of practice and I still can't play the damn thing


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Mooh
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 10:05 AM

The only problem with acoustic guitar as I see it is a lack of volume in many circumstances. Otherwise it will give you pianistic chords, drum-like rhythm, reedy to flutey single notes, a wide dynamic & tonal range, and is the most portable of instruments to allow these things. Besides, one can be a "3 chord Gord" or a highly advanced player and still entertain ones self and others. Add to these things an adaptability to a wide variety of styles and being firmly rooted in the family tree of styles and cultures and the guitar is a winner. A seemingly universal appeal to youth, in image, tone, style, and voice, has it firmly rooted in our minds too. There are more guitar types than types of other instruments, more tunings, more sounds.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 04:01 PM

If you try to start discussions concerning any other instrument than guitar in this forum, you will get virtually no responses.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 07:10 PM

Well, cathedral organs are not that portable, and even if they were, you'd hava a helluva job trying to drag one into a folk club.

Honk! Toot!.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,Ole Juul
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 07:18 PM

Well, even if they didn't do a body scan or use sniffer dogs, they'd
probably stop you at the door anyway.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Jon Corelis
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 07:50 PM

"Well, if they're honest, most male guitarists picked it up in their teens and the underlying motivation began with the same letter and had roughly the same shape. "

Actually, there's a converse argument to be made. When I saw Chuck Berry in concert some forty years ago, the way he handled his guitar on stage left NO doubt as to which gender, and which specific part of that gender, he meant the instrument to represent. Believe me, it was IMPOSSIBLE to mistake his meaning. (I've never since been able to hear those "hard" chords of his without thinking about that.)

Jon Corelis
The summer will come: an Irish song


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Mar 12 - 12:39 PM

If you try to start discussions concerning any other instrument than guitar in this forum, you will get virtually no responses.

Try banjos... I'm sure there'll be lots comments, but I'm not sure what the quality of those comments will be.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 18 Mar 12 - 01:56 PM

The guitar obviously is accessible but another fact is that it's versatile and portable.
It can perform music from any culture if tuned appropriately.

Banjos because of their function historically and the difference in tuning makes them less versatile. Usually, in bluegrass, they rely on other instruments. In Appalachian ballad singing they are effective accompaniment but limited in music scope with the exception of Pete Seeger who expanded the versatility of the instrument to play accompaniment to different types of folk music. The tenor or plectrum banjo was a band instrument, also,
not interesting in its own right to carry a concert by itself. Also, it tends to favor noisier
singing.

It's amazing what Burl Ives was able to do with his concertizing, bringing musical versatility to American traditional folk music with just an oom-plunk accompaniment on the guitar.
Carl Sandburg also was "instrumental" in the guitar folk song accompaniment as an adjunct to his poetry reading whereas following in the troubadour tradition of Elizabethan songsters such as Dowland and Campion with the lute, Richard Dyer-Bennet was able to
fashion quite a career in his day calling himself the "modern troubadour combining classical guitar accompaniment arrangements to his trained voice using folk songs.

The simplicity of the guitar as accompaniment has been underplayed. This and it's versatility will mean that it will be the instrument that is preferred for folk music from over the world for some time.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Mar 12 - 03:54 PM

Lots of sense there, Frank. As far as the banjo's concerned, there aren't very many Bela Flecks in this world.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Mar 12 - 07:47 PM

All over the planet in the past 40 or 50 years, people have been transposing the sound and style of traditional instruments onto guitar, often (I think) because they are much more practical to keep in tune and play with other instruments, and they're everywhere. Just around Africa they've done it with styles of kora (Mali), mbira (Zimbabwe), valiha (Madagascar) and you find it in Asia too.


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Subject: RE: Guitar...Why?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 19 Mar 12 - 02:18 AM

Because it's such an easy instrument to play badly!!

GfS


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