Do You Know The Birthplace Of Country Music?

Quick country music fans. What?s the significance of Bristol, Tennessee? If you?re really a country music buff, you should know that in 1998, the United Stated Congress named this small, sleepy southern town the birthplace of country music. It all began in the 1700s when the region?s southern Appalachian settlers brought with them?in old world ballads and songs, the music of their native Scottish Highlands. During the 1800?s and early 1900s, the region was separated from outside influences by geography. But around the time of the Civil War it was opened up to the outside world by the advent of railroads. During this time, there were touring vaudeville, minstrel and medicine-show troupes in the community that introduced new forms of music. In addition, the railroad workers themselves brought rapid changes to the settlers? original music by introducing a variety of work songs reflecting their African heritage. The native fiddle of the English, Scotch, and Irish settlers was joined by the banjo of African origin. After WWI, the guitar, autoharp, and dulcimer were introduced into the mix.

The music that was coming out of Bristol, Tennessee took another giant leap forward with Edison?s invention of the phonograph in the 1920s. A man named Ralph Peer realized that there was an untapped market for rural mountain music and set out to discover area talent. During this time period most musicians traveled to New York to record there music, but when remote recordings became a possibility, Bristol became the hub of Peer?s musical enterprise because of its proximity to such local talent as Ernest and Hattie Stoneman, the Johnson Brothers, and Henry Whitter. Soon talent from other southern states, including West Virginia, Virginia (the Carter Family) and North Carolina (Jimmie Rodgers) was recorded by Peer. These early recording sessions which took place in 1927 were known as the ?Bristol Sessions? and signified the birth of country music.

The sound that came out of the ?Bristol Sessions? influenced the bluegrass of musicians such as Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, as well as the song-writing of Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie. This influence could also be seen in the guitar-playing of Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins, in the sound of Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, and in the song-stylings of Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Merle Travis, Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakum and Dolly Parton. This country music sound became extremely popular during the ?barn dance? shows of the radio era and bluegrass festivals of the 1960s and 70s. In the mid-1990s, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance (BCMA) was founded in Bristol to call attention to and support the musical traditions of the area.

Today, nestled between quiet mountains, Bristol is thriving community with the unique quality of being located in two states--half in Tennessee and half in Virginia. However, there is no question that Bristol stands at the heart of all country music fans hold near and dear.

A Distortion pedal functions by ... well, by "distorting" the original sound wave. Some characteristics of a sound wave are a certain shape, a certain amplitude, and a certain frequency. A distortion pedal will distort some or all of these characteristics by electronic manipulation to achieve the desired distorted tone.

Typically distorted sound is "dirtier" than the original "clean" sound. If you're playing "edgy music" ... rock, hard rock, grunge, metal, things like that ... you're probably seeking a distorted sound.

While current distortion pedals manipulate the tone through solid-state electronics (most often -- some pedals use tubes, but these are most effective in "overdrive" pedals), musicians in the pre-pedal world often used damaged equipment -- amplifiers with bad or missing tubes, speakers cut with slits or tears, etc -- to achieve a distorted sound!

A distortion pedal and a "fuzz" box are basically the same thing -- both distort the original clean signal. The difference between the two is the degree and character of the distortion.

You probably do not need both a fuzz and a distortion pedal. But ... depending on the style of music you're seeking -- you'll find that one works better for you than the other. The only way to determine which is best for you is to take some time at your local music store and try several pedals.

Distorted guitar offers a thicker and heavier "base" -- a single guitar can provide a solid backing for a tune. Distortion also leads to greater sustain and can feedback in a pleasing manner. Distortion is most commonly used for solo guitar ... but is also effective when using power chords. However, fully voiced chords quite often lose their punch when distorted. Distortion can also be effective for bass guitar ... although you will generally use a pedal specifically designed for a bass.

Many people have never even heard of harp guitars, and their appearance on stage or in a music hall is likely to generate interest end curiosity before it has even begun to be played. A harp guitar sounds very much as though it has managed to combine the standard guitar with an instrument normally seen being manhandled onto a stage by a couple of strong men, and the idea of combining two such different instruments certainly sounds intriguing.

If you have never seen a harp guitar before, you may already be envisaging some instrument in your mind which managed to combine the traditional image of a guitar with the classical, almost fairy tale impression of a harp - but how? In fact, a physical combination of the two traditional shapes and designs of the instruments is almost exactly what a harp guitar is. The harp guitar is certainly rare, but at its heart it is still simply a standard six string instrument, following the design and features of an ordinary six string guitar. However, just above these normal, standard six strings are a number of other strings - harp strings, which are spread between two usually curved parts of the guitar body.

In this way, the traditional six strings of the guitar are stretched across the body and across the frets up to the neck of the guitar, whereas the harp strings are not pressed against any fret or bridge, and simple stand out to be plucked or strummed in the same kind of manner as a harp is normally played. The exact number of harp strings varies from one model to the next, and the tone and pitch of those strings varies too, as indeed does the very octave. In some cases the harp strings are tuned to an octave above that of the guitar's normal six strings, providing a complimentary and very distinctive sound which can give the impression of two quite separate instruments being played, but complimenting each other and resonating together in a beautifully balanced way.

There are also some harp guitars which have the harp strings tuned to an octave below that of the guitar's six strings, and this provides an undertone which helps to lift the voice of the guitar above a background of resonance. Because these harp guitars are so rare, it is difficult to be precise about the exact number of harp strings, their incorporation into the body of the guitar and even the octave they are tuned to, since many of the harp guitars in existence have been specially commissioned, and often the player or musician has specifically designed or requested a particular style, in order to compliment their style, music genre, or even the type of performance.

There are two examples of harp guitars however which are not custom built, and which are available, and whilst not indicative of the majority or range of harp guitar styles available, they do provide an example of how these guitars reflect the nature of two such different instruments. The first case is known as the Pikasso, and has four necks with two separate sound holes. In total the Pikasso has forty two strings. An alternative model is the Oracle Harp Sympitar which only has twenty four strings, although there are a dozen strings which run through the neck and are referred to as sympathetic strings. These instruments are extremely specialised, and to play them is quite a challenging feat.

The guitar is not an easy instrument to learn to play, but through its popularity has generated a large number of teachers and resources to aid learning. The harp is far less popular, mainly through its expense, and so is very much harder to learn. A harp guitar is so very specialised that learning it could well be a life's achievement, and those who can play it well are noted particularly in the musical world.

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