The Thin Line Between Folk Music and Acoustic Music

Plainly defined, music is a form of art offering different styles of tones that are manipulated according to the melody, rhythm, timbre, pitch, etc. Most of your understanding of music comes from what we perceive to be music.  voice expressing feelings. Everyone has an untold story, event or memory that is connected to their favourite songs. Choices and favourites in music have much to do with personal feelings attached to them.

All music types are considered folk music in some way. Folk music originally meant to identify the common people’s music was basically passed down by tradition as folk tales and memories. Folk music relates to the tradition, and the style is kept unchanged to preserve the authenticity of the tunes.

Today we have Russian folk music, American folk music, Native American folk music, Irish folk music, and so on. With the hundreds of types available today, you find that they share nothing in common musically. Traditional music today refers to a culture or music of people, passed down to generations; usually, the same way traditions do.

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 14: Folksinger Pete Seeger serenades the faithful gathered at the foot of capitol hill in Washington, DC on November 14, 1969. (Photo by Stephen Northup/The Washington Post)

Folk music is different from art or classical music but has traditional nuances. Generally, folk music is when singers are the songwriters as well, such as:

  • Pete Seeger
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Phil Ochs
  • Bob Dylan

These people wrote songs revealing the everyday man’s struggles and expressed the viewpoints about the labour, the anti-war and the Civil Rights movements. Their influence through music has changed how traditional values changed and thus are considered a true folk music form for future generations. 

16Bob Dylan plays acoustic guitar and smokes a cigarette in this headshot from September 1961 in New York City, New York.

Acoustic Music and How it Differs from Folk

Acoustic music is solely performed using instruments producing sound and is not the same as electronic or electric music. All music was acoustic once, but the acoustic music genre came into existence after the electric instruments such as the electric violin, electric guitar, synthesiser, and electric organ were created. String instrumentations are a subset of popular music, especially in folk.  It represents various music types in different eras, like how the pre-rock era had big band music, while the rock era has electronic music. The PA system amplifies acoustic music, yet the fact is that the acoustic instruments are not plugged to produce electronic sounds. Technically, though all music is considered to be acoustic even if they have to be digitised at some point for a modern device.

The everyday use of the term ‘Acoustic’ is that the instrument produces sound without any electronic assistance. E.g. an acoustic guitar, regardless of whether it has the same tonal quality or sound, is defined by plucking, strings, wood, and also the playing style. An electric guitar has some sound determined by the wood body, the strings type, etc. However, to a great extent, this sound is from the pre-amplifier, the tubes and valves, cabinet, and the power amplifier.

Instruments that are Acoustic in Nature

Though most instruments today have an acoustic version, the oldest is the percussion and flute. String instruments follow these and the next classifications are aerophones, chordophones, membranophones, resonating tines and bars, etc. In folk music, you get to see the fiddle, guitar, flute, contrabass, clarinet, recorder, bagpipes, accordion, harmonica, and percussion ones such as the Cajon, maracas, guiro, etc. In rock, you get to see contrabass, drunk kit, guitar, piano, saxophone, and harmonica.

All this, of course, is in addition to voice!

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