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Article

Buzuq  

Scheherazade Qassim Hassan

Long-necked lute, probably of late Ottoman origin, introduced during the 20th century to urban Arab centres in Iraq, Syria, and the Lebanon. The soundbox resembles that of the classical ‘ūd. The neck has 24 movable frets, and the two or three strings are tuned in 4ths. Originally used by Kurds, Turkmen, and some Roma musicians, it is now used also by Arabs to accompany songs and for classical Arab ...

Article

Richard Johnston

Guitar, mandolin, and ukulele manufacturer. It was founded in Houston, Texas, in 1976 by Bill Collings (b 1948), who had moved from Ohio to Texas following a failed attempt at medical school. After building a few guitars and some banjos, Collings moved to Austin in 1979. His background as a machinist led him to emphasize precise jigs and fixtures even when he was working out of a small single-car garage. Demand for Collings guitars, specifically for updated versions of Martin and Gibson flat-top styles from the 1930s, prompted his move to a 1,000-square-foot shop in 1989. Two woodworkers were hired, including Bruce Van Wart, who is still in charge of wood selection and top voicing on the firm’s acoustic guitars. By this time, production had increased to a level that allowed sales to a few retailers.

In late 1991 the company relocated to a much larger facility on the outskirts of Austin, and the number of Collings guitar models, and employees, began to grow. Bill Collings was one of the first flat-top guitar builders to offer fully carved arch-top models as well. These deluxe jazz guitars were quickly accepted as the equals of those from premier American builders, and they sold for similar prices; but only a few were completed each year. Collings was also one of the first small, independent guitar companies to incorporate CNC (computer numerical control) carving machines for building both guitar parts and the precise tooling to aid in their assembly, which is still done by hand. One of the signature differences between the Collings models and the Gibson and Martin originals that inspired them is that Collings uses an unglued bolted mortise and tenon neck joint, rather than a traditional dovetail....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[Doctor Rhythm]

Electronic percussion instrument released in 1980 and manufactured by the BOSS division of Roland. Very popular, small, inexpensive and easy to use, the Dr Rhythm model DR-55 was one of the first drum machines to use ‘step-write’ programming, where in ‘write’ mode the user can select a sound and use buttons to move incrementally (‘step’) through each beat of the beat pattern and select a choice of sounds. It can store up to six 16-step drum patterns and two 12-step patterns, the latter for triple-metre rhythms. Its four (analogue) voice-circuit sounds are snare, kick drum, rim-shot, and hi-hat. The pattern can be switched during playing, and volume, tempo (45 to 300 beats per minute), tone, and accent can be globally adjusted. The DR-110 Graphic (1983) adds a graphic display showing a step-programming grid for the drum voices, and includes 16 preset patterns plus 16 memory locations for user-programmed 12- or 16-step patterns, plus two ‘song’ memories for up to 128 bars of patterns. Its drum sounds can be programmed or played in from drum pads....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Electronic device that changes the sound of an instrument, especially used with electronic or electric instruments such as electric guitar, bass, and keyboard. An effects unit can be a rack-mounted box with manual controls (most commonly used in studios), a tabletop box with manual controls (commonly used by a DJ), a box set on the floor (a ‘stompbox’) and usually operated by the foot, or built into an amplifier (including those in some electric guitars). Multi-effects (multi-FX) devices combine several effects in one unit, allowing combinations to be pre-set and accessed with one touch. The most common stompboxes have one pedal and one effect, but some offer multiple effects and a simple pedalboard for selection. Effects units can be connected into an ‘effect chain’. If an effects unit in the chain is turned off, the signal passes to the next in the chain, allowing the performer to choose which effects in the chain to control. Multiple effect chains can be controlled from an ‘effects management system’....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[KTV]

Electronic music player that accompanies singers with pre-recorded music. The name comes from Japanese, kara (‘empty’) and oke (‘orchestra’). The basic karaoke machine includes some form of music player, a built-in audio mixer, microphone inputs, and audio outputs. The first karaoke systems included a microphone, eight-track tape player, amplifier, loudspeaker, and printed songbooks. Later machines display the lyrics on a video screen, and the more expensive versions can adjust the pitch level to suit the singer without changing tempo (some early systems allowed for changing the pitch but only by changing the tape speed, altering the tempo). Some early 21st-century versions include an Auto-Tune audio processor to correct intonation and software for making music videos. Karaoke systems for public spaces often are integrated into a pedestal that holds the controls, song storage, microphones, and video display, with separate loudspeakers. Portable systems resemble portable CD players, with or without a video screen. Wireless-microphone karaoke systems by companies such as Entertech use television or entertainment consoles for both audio and video. Video-game versions allow singers/players to receive scores or perform ‘with’ famous bands, sometimes as an animated character onscreen....

Article

Lambda  

Anne Beetem Acker

[Korg Lambda ES50]

Analogue string synthesizer manufactured in 1979 by Keio of Tokyo as part of the Korg range. The Lambda has a 48-note keyboard with full polyphony, three voltage control oscillators, chorus and vibrato effects, and one voltage control filter. An unusual feature is the incorporation of two envelope generators for each note. The preset orchestral sounds have limited editing capability. The presets form two groups, each with an independent output: a percussion set (pianos, clavis, and harmonics), and an ensemble set (brass, strings, chorus, and organ). The unit has a joystick that facilitates simultaneous control of pitch bends and chorus phase speed. The string sounds are particularly prized, and modern synthesizer makers include Lambda string sound samples in their libraries. The Lambda was used for live performance and recordings by many rock musicians of the late 1970s and early 1980s including Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, and Les Rockets....

Article

Sumanth Gopinath

[portable media player]

An easily transported, often handheld machine that plays pre-recorded and/or broadcast media, sometimes possessing recording capability; the term is most often associated with portable digital audio and multimedia players. The history of the portable media device can be linked decisively, if not exclusively, to the invention of audio recording (portable magic lanterns and other cinematic precursors were common in the 19th century). Mechanical audio devices such as the suitcase gramophone, popular among sailors and soldiers, emerged during the first two decades of the 20th century, and early radio kits were portable, preceding the often-discussed “domestication” of the record player and the radio into household furniture. Radio sets became fitted components in automobiles around 1930, and so-called portable player pianos—portable player piano mechanisms applied to regular pianos—were even invented around the same time. But despite the commonplace description of such devices as “portable,” the term has meant different things at different times and for different devices: one could articulate a scale-of-portability continuum dependent in part on object size, ranging from media playback and transmission machines that were transportable (which by definition would include all consumer models), to those moved about with relative ease while usually requiring stationary setup and usage (including the examples above), to handheld and pocket-sized devices that could allow for media consumption while on the move. Another consideration in portability was the power sources for such devices, which during the first half of the century shifted from the mechanical to the electrical but which were still hampered by the limitations of batteries, notably their cost, size, and storage capacity....

Article

Mark Tucker

(b Belzoni, MS, March 21, 1930; d Chicago, IL, April 24, 1970). American blues pianist and singer. He received instruction as a boy from such local pianists as Frank Spann (his stepfather), Friday Ford, and Little Brother Montgomery, and played piano in church. He worked with various blues bands, performing in bars and clubs in the area around Jackson, Mississippi, then served in the U.S. Army (1946–51). After settling in Chicago in 1951 he led his own group at the Tick Tock Lounge, then in 1953 began to play with Muddy Waters, remaining a key member of the band until the late 1960s. In later years he began singing more frequently, often leading his own groups or performing as a soloist; he appeared at the Newport and Monterey festivals on several occasions and also toured England and France. Spann’s strengths as a blues-band pianist were his aggressive, hard-driving keyboard style (influenced most strongly by Maceo Merriweather, whom he replaced in Muddy Waters’s band) and his highly refined ensemble skills....

Article

Syndrum  

Hugh Davies

Electronic percussion instrument invented in Los Angeles by Joe Pollard, a professional drummer. In 1976 he met Mark Barton of the Tycobrahe Sound Company in Hermosa Beach, California, who made some well-received prototypes. Along with Donald Stone, they patented the design and formed Pollard Industries of South El Monte, California. The Syndrum is played like a drum, but has a piezo-electric sensor mounted in the centre of a mesh-covered ‘head’. Syndrums were initially made in two forms: the 477, a drum (also in sets of two and four) connected to a separate electronic console, and the 177, a single-drum unit with built-in controls governing electronically generated sounds. The two-head 277 followed. While the Syndrum was very popular with rock bands and for disco in the late 1970s and early 80s, Pollard Industries failed and in 1978 was sold to Research Development Systems, Inc., which added the Syndrum CM, a single-head drum with controls on the sides. All the drums offered multiple sound effects including the ‘laser’, bird calls, clave, anvil, several types of toms, bass drum, and snare drum. Used Syndrums remain popular, and many keyboard synthesizers and sample libraries offer Syndrum sounds. In ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Monophonic analogue synthesizer produced between 1982 and 1984 by Synton Electronics, a Dutch firm founded in 1973 by Felix Visser. The device was created by Visser along with the product specialist Marc Paping and product developer Bert Vermeulen. Synton originally built vocoders, but soon began importing and distributing Fairlight, E-mu, and Linn products in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The Syrinx 1, created about 1975, was never produced commercially. Only 300 Syrinx 2 synthesizers were built. First priced under £400, but prized by collectors, originals sold for more than £1200 in the early 2000s. The device is not MIDI-compatible and has no presets, but includes two voltage control oscillators, a voltage divider, a noise generator, two ADSRs (attack decay sustain release envelope generators), two low-frequency oscillators, a pulse-width modulator, a ring modulator, and three voltage control filters. It features a mixer and a touch pad that can control pitch-bending and other parameters. All but the last series (which were mounted in a flight case), had a 44-note keyboard. The Syrinx 2 was distributed in the USA by Robert Moog. Synton went bankrupt in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Sound-effects device that utilizes the player’s mouth as a resonator, allowing the player to form an electric guitar’s or other electronic instrument’s sounds into words and phrases. Output from a phenolic diaphragm speaker is sent through surgical tubing to the player’s mouth, where the sound is modified and picked up by a microphone.

The guitarist Alvino Rey initiated the technology in 1939. In 1950 the Nashville steel guitarist Pete Drake used a small low-powered loudspeaker and funnel coupled to a hose, but it only could be used in the recording studio. The rock guitarist Joe Walsh recorded his hit song ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ with Drake’s system, spurring the need for an onstage version. Bud Ross, owner of Kustom Electronics, introduced a portable 30-watt driver, but the low-powered diaphragm could not hold up to stage use. Walsh then asked Bob Heil (b St Louis, MO, 5 Oct 1940) to build a high-powered version for live performance. The resulting Heil Talk Box was introduced in ...

Article

Wasp  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

Small analogue–digital hybrid synthesizer designed by Chris Huggett with rock musician Adrian Wagner and manufactured between 1978 and 1981 by their firm, Electronic Dream Plant (EDP), in Combe, near Oxford. The Wasp was also briefly available in kit form. This synthesizer has a two-octave, solid, monophonic ‘keyboard’ with pitch-bend and portamento controls; the diatonic keys, knobs, and lettering are yellow on a black background, to match the instrument’s name. For a real keyboard, it substitutes flat copper plates under a printed vinyl sticker. The conductive plates sense skin capacitance to trigger the associated pitches. The Wasp contains two oscillators, a white-noise generator, a filter, and an envelope shaper, and offers various voltage-controlled features, as well as a small built-in loud speaker and sockets for connecting to other EDP products. The circuitry incorporates a digital pitch-coding system which facilitates links with other devices, including microcomputers. In its shiny black plastic case and with batteries in place, the Wasp weighs only 1.8 kg (a deluxe version with wooden case and conventional keyboard is heavier but still easily portable). Although relatively inexpensive, small, and rather fragile, the Wasp was powerful and versatile for its time and developed an enduring following. EDP developed a still smaller model, the Gnat, with one oscillator and pulse width modulation, and the Caterpillar, a three-octave keyboard controller with four-voice polyphony. Other EDP creations included the Keytar, a guitar controller based on the Wasp, which was never produced, and a microcomputer-based 252-step sequencer called the Spider....