Music of United States


The music of the United States includes a number of kinds of distinct folk and popular music, including some of the most widely-recognized styles in the world. The original inhabitants of the United States included hundreds of Native American tribes, as well as native Hawaiians and Inuits, who played the first music in the area. Beginning in the 15th century immigrants from England Spain and France began arriving in large numbers, bringing with them new styles and instruments. Africans imported as slaves provided the musical underpinnings of much of modern American music, including blues, jazz, rock and rolland hip hop. Other styles of music were brought by Hispanics from Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico, the Cajun descendants of French-Canadians, Jews, Eastern Europeans and Irish, Scottish and Italians.

American music can be viewed as unique, or nearly so, due to the sudden creation of the country and its national identity. In contrast to other countries, the United States has not had centuries of cultural evolution, producing a distinctive field of American music. Instead, the music of the United States is that of dozens or hundreds of indigenous and immigrant groups, all of which developed largely in regional isolation until the Civil War. It was only during the Civil War, when soldiers from across the country commingled, that the multifarious strands of American music began to crossfertilize each other, a process that was aided by the burgeoning railroad industry and other technological developments that made travel and communication easier. Indeed, with the limited exception of colonial New England hymns and, debatably, Native American music (which predates the United States), the ballads of the Civil War were "the first American folk music with discernible features that can be considered uniqe to America: the first 'American' sounding music, as distinct from any regional style derived from another country" (Struble, xvii).

 Appalachian folk music

The early 1940s saw the first major commercial success for Appalachian folk. Singers like Pete Seeger emerged, in groups like the Almanac Singers and The Weavers. Modern country music stems from diverse roots, with Appalachian folk and country blues the most fundamental sources. Coalescing numerous influences, including Irish and Scottish music, honky tonk, jug bands and hillbilly music, a variety of primarily white performers invented close harmony duets, bluegrass and Appalachian folk revival old-time music. With a honky tonk root, modern country music arose in the 1940s, mixing with R&B and the blues to form rockabilly. Pop country became dominant in the 1950s, with its center in Nashville; this became known as the Nashville Sound, and was soon challenged by a grittier form of country called the Bakersfield Sound, based out of Bakersfield, California and outlaw country from Texas.

Music of Kentucky is heavily centered around Appalachian folk music; that of music—and its associated descendents, especially bluegrass music in the 1940s—has largely developed in Eastern Kentucky. Bill Monroe, the most influential inventor of bluegrass, was from Kentucky. Singers gather annually at Benton, Kentucky on the fourth Sunday in May to sing from a tunebook called The Southern Harmony. This event, organized in 1884 and called The Big Singing or Big Singing Day, is considered by many to be the oldest indigenous musical tradition in the United States. It was organized by James Roberts Lemon, a newspaper owner and publisher in western Kentucky.


Old-time music, a traditional style of American music, has roots in Irish, Scottish and African folk music Practitioners play it with stringed instruments such as the bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle  for the Okeh  label. The recordings became hits and Okeh, which had previously coined the term "race recording" for African-American  recording artists, began using old time music as a descriptive term for records by artists of Carson's style.
Old-time music is traditionally played at dances, and is considered to be dance music. This contrasts with bluegrass music. Bluegrass music developed from old-time music, shares the same song list and instruments, but is more oriented toward solo performance than is old-time music.
Old-time music experienced a great revival in the early 1960s in areas such as Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Alan Jabbour, founding director of the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress , became a leader of this revival while a student at Duke University
Traditionally, players learn old-time music by ear. Even those musicians who can read music will learn and play old-time tunes by ear. However, a broad selection of written music exists for those with an interest.


Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music  with its own roots in the English, Irish traditional music  and Scottish traditional music of immigrants from the British Isles  (particularly the Scotch-Irish  immigrants of Appalachia , as well as the music of African-American slaves. It was this tradition that A.P. Carter  used and collected for the songs played and written by the Carter Family. Bluegrass songs are played with each melody instrument switching off, playing the melody in turn while the others revert to backing; this is in contrast to Old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together, when indeed they are playing together rather than solo
Bluegrass as a style probably developed sometime in the 1930s As with any musical genre, no one person can claim to have "invented" it. Rather, bluegrass is an amalgam of old-time music , blues , ragtime and jazz . Nevertheless, if any one person can lay claim to having "invented" bluegrass it would certainly be Bill Monroe The bluegrass style was named for his band, the Blue Grass Boys, formed in 1939. Monroe's 1945-48 band, which featured banjo player Earl Scruggs, singer/guitarist Lester Flatt, fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Cedric Rainwater, created the definitive sound and instrumental configuration that remains the model to this day. Unlike mainstream country music, bluegrass continues to rely on acoustic stringed instruments. The fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar or folk guitar, mandolin, and upright bass are sometimes joined by the dobro (also known as a resophonic guitar or steel guitar), and a bass guitar is occasionally substituted for the upright bass.
Besides instrumentation, the distinguishing characteristics of bluegrass include vocal harmonies featuring two, three, or four parts, often featuring a dissonant or modal sound in the highest voice; an emphasis on traditional songs, often with sentimental or religious themes; and improvised instrumental solos.
Notable artists: Bill Monroe; Flatt and Scruggs; Doc Watson; John Hartford; Lester Flatt; The Stanley Brothers; The Seldom Scene; Ricky Skaggs; Alison Krauss; Hazel Dickens; Rhonda Vincent; Country Gentlemen; Johnson Mountain Boys; Ralph Stanley; Osborne Brothers

Cajun music

Louisiana's Cajun and Creole communities also saw some mainstream success, in the form of zydeco and the beginning of swamp pop. Clifton Chenier was the most influential musician of this period





  • (cordofoni) bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle dobro 

  • (aerofoni)

  • (ancia libera)

  • (membranofoni)

  •  (idiofoni)

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