The History and Features of Country Music

When someone mentions country music, you might immediately think of steel guitars, a Southern accent, and Stetson hats. There’s nothing wrong in thinking about these things while talking about country music. However, there’s a lot more to this music genre than you think.

Country music is one of the widest among the many different genres of music and covers plenty of sub-genres. You, therefore, might not truly know what country music is even when you’re convinced that you know everything about it.

The origins of country music

This genre of music was born when there were several music traditions in the southern parts of the United States. You can trace its origins to the 1920s, when music recording was in its early stages. So, this music genre certainly has a rich and unique history. Over the years, it was influenced by rock, folk, and other genres. While it is quite true that these genres had an effect on country music, it also influenced them.

Mandolins, guitars, and other string instruments were used in the early days while composing country music. Drum was introduced into this genre during the 1930s. The late 1940s saw the introduction of the piano into this music genre.

The first recordings of country music took place in the 1920s. At the time, this genre had a big following among the traditional Christians in the rural south-east. Owing to the growing popularity of radio stations, the spread of this form of music was rapid.

A brief overview of the genre

Usually, this genre is seen as the one that’s simple to produce and listen to. This is one of the major reasons behind its popularity. Often, the lyrical content dominates the musical content in this form of music. Repeated chords are selected together to create harmony. Three chords are commonly repeated, though more than three might be repeated, especially when it comes to chorus.

The lyrics are mostly about the everyday lives of the general public. They often focus on the themes of work, loneliness, and love. Songs in country music have lyrics that tend to be under 150 words. Nevertheless, the messages in these songs are poetic and far reaching.

The instruments used in country music

Most songs in this genre have a twangy sound, which gives them a certain degree of uniqueness. If you observe closely, many songs in the genre use instruments that are common to folk music. The major instruments used in country music include steel guitars, banjos, fiddles, and string basses.

One of the most iconic instruments used in this form of music is the banjo. It may not be as common as before in recent times, but it has played an important role in country music. Because of the unique sound that it produces, the instrument is easily distinguishable. It has also spawned a variety of country music sub-genres.

You can’t ignore the role of fiddle in country music. It was mostly combined with the banjo while making country songs. What makes the banjo, fiddle, and other older instruments unique are the high-pitched sounds and quick rhythms. They make country music easy to identify.

As country music continued to evolve, it was no more a music from the south. It had become extremely popular and included modern instruments such as bass, guitar, and drum.

The core formula

When you study the foundation of country music, you’ll notice three major foundational characteristics. The chord progression, the bridge, and the story form the foundation of this genre. You’ll notice that the chord progression is simple to play and listen. It doesn’t matter whether the song has been written in a pub, a ranch, or a studio. The chord progression is the foundation of a country song.

What makes it catchy and easy to remember are the repeated chords. Some find it hard to follow other music genres such as classical or jazz because of their complicated forms and progressions. Simple chord progressions and catchy riffs form the heart of country music. You can find this type of structure in many of the best country songs of all time. It is enhanced using vocal harmonies, the bridge, and chorus.

Chorus in country songs

Another feature of country music is the bridge or chorus. Songs in this music genre have choruses that are quite touching and memorable. The most successful, inspiring, and beautiful country songs throughout the history of music came with an arrangement that had incredible choruses. The addition of chords, vocals, or instruments enhance the chorus and elevate the entire experience of songs in this genre.

Chorus also serves as the punctuation of the message that’s conveyed through these songs to the audience. Even those who aren’t the avid listeners of country music would tell you that a great chorus is the genre’s defining feature. 

Narration of a story

When you listen to country music, you’ll somehow feel that it has excellent storytelling ability. The songs in this genre were mostly based on the lives of their writers. Most of them lived in rural or poor neighborhoods that showed them a darker side of life.

This served as a motivation for the lyrics and the experiences found expression in words. The story in a country song evokes certain emotions in you and is often inspiring. Many listeners can also relate to such experiences. A country song can be as touching as a poem that has been composed beautifully.

An essential part of country music is the use of a narrative, which provides a compelling element to the songs. It is something that binds all elements of the music together. Most country songs released today also have this feature. The range of experiences and emotions include that of love and loss.

The listeners might have gone through the exact experiences conveyed by the singer. This emotional content of country music, therefore, makes it one of the popular music genres. During live performances of country songs, you can see everyone in the audience swaying as they feel the lyrics.

The cowboy connection

A cowboy has always been one of the popular symbols of the West. Before country music was commercialized, the cowboy was the romantic interest in country songs. A heartbroken cowboy was featured in many of these songs.

The artists were seen in Western clothing or were dressed as cowboys during live performances. The most noticeable symbol was the cowboy hat. In fact, there was a time when very few country artists would perform without wearing it.

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