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America - Plucked Strings - History



North America



Autoharpe usa

The Autoharp is a North American variation of the Austrian zither; it is performed in the Appalachian region to accompany folk or bluegrass music.

The word Autoharp was first filed in 1926; US Music Corporation claims to own it.

The trademark registration organization in the USA (USTPO) only protects words, letters and / or numbers in their stylized form.

In fact, only the graphics of the Autoharp logo are protected, the term itself having become a word of general use.

The Autoharp has a trapezoidal shape, a circular central hearing and generally 36 strings (some auto harps having up to 48) are stretched in the length of the instrument.

The strings are fixed at the base by spikes and tuned at the top by metal pegs which allow to adjust the pitch of the sound of each string using a metal key.

The characteristic of this instrument which differentiates it from other zithers is a case placed above the strings across the width of the instrument.

This box contains a set of bars (the number of which varies depending on the instrument) equipped with dampers which neutralize the vibration of strings chosen in advance and thus allows chords to be obtained with the other free strings.

They are put into action by pressing buttons and they return to their original location thanks to a spring system.

The names of the chords obtained by these bars are inscribed with the Anglo-Saxon notation respectively (si do ré mi fa sol) on the case.

The available chords are minor, major and seventh chords.

The most common models have a set of 12 chords and a larger number for more sophisticated instruments.



Banjo usa

The Banjo is a North American plucked string musical instrument.

With its membrane soundboard, it is easily distinguished from the guitar.

This instrument is a derivative of the West African lute ekonting brought by black slaves (or more likely recreated by some of them) and which would have prompted the creation of the first gourd-banjos ("banjo in gourd").

The banjo now represents a whole family of instruments.

The origin of the modern instrument dates first to the years 1830-1840 during which the industrialization and marketing of an older instrument (seventeenth century) used by African slaves deported to the United States began.

The oldest iconographic source is found in a travelogue written by Sir Hans Sloane in 1688 and published in London in 1707.

The black musicians exploited the rhythmic aspect of the instrument with such success that the whites of the South of the United States were interested in it.

From the last decade of the nineteenth century, the banjo distinguished itself in the pre-jazz style called "Dixieland", a fashion that continued until the 1930s.

This banjo again enjoyed success after the Second World War thanks to the Americans Pete Seeger (traditional southern style) and Earl Scruggs (bluegrass).

Tany fast-playing American guitarists, like Arthur "guitar boogie" Smith, have approached music through the banjo.

Its sound box, which consists of a circular wooden or metal frame on which a membrane is stretched, produces a very particular timbre.

The material of this membrane has evolved over time: parchment, leather, skin and nowadays, synthetic material.

Different skins were originally used such as cows, pigs, weasels but especially beavers, which are very common on the North American continent.

With a long handle, originally without frets, the banjo has four or five metal strings. The older technique, on open back open back banjo for a game whose resemblance is moreover striking with that of the ekontin



Banjoline usa

The Banjoline or mandolin-banjo is a musical instrument whose sound box is like that of a banjo: metallically encircled on which a skin is stretched.

The tuning of the strings is similar to that of a mandolin: G (lowest note) - D - A - E

At the height of mandolin orchestras and banjo bands (i.e. between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century), all kinds of instruments were invented. One of the successful hybrids is the banjoline.

This instrument is the result of experiments aimed at amplifying sound, before electrical amplification allows it.

The first patent for a banjo mandolin was filed in 1882 by Benjamin Bradbury, of Brooklyn1.

The name "banjolin" was patented by John Farris in 1885.

The instrument was then popularized in the early 20th century, before the tenor banjo became more popular in the 1920s.



Guitare basse

The Bass guitar is a stringed musical instrument designed on the same principle as the electric guitar, but with a lower range.

Like the double bass from which it was inspired, the bass guitar is generally used to play the bass line within the rhythm section of a musical ensemble, but it is also used as a solo instrument, for example in jazz fusion.

A bass generally has 4 strings, but can also have 5,6,9 or more (this is called ERB, Extended-Range Basses).

The instrument consists of a handle and a solid wooden body or semi-hollow body comprising one or more microphones, potentiometers and a bridge, as on the electric guitar.

The strings generally have a 34 inch (86.34 cm) pitch, which can sometimes be longer or shorter.

Some basses with a smaller pitch (30 inches or 76.2 cm) are called short scale.µ

The key of a bass supports frets (which delimit the notes, like on the guitar) but there are, more rarely, models that do not (like a double bass) called fretless.

The method of fixing the neck (screwed, glued or crossing the body) and the type of wood used for the violin influence the sound.

The bass is considered the "pillar" in a group because of its rhythmic side with the drums and the accompaniment of the bass.



Guitare electrique usa


The Electric guitar is a type of guitar that produces sounds through sensors often called microphones1, transforming the vibrations of the strings into an electrical signal that can be modified by various accessories such as effect pedals before being converted into sound by an amp (an electronic amplifier specially designed for the guitar and a speaker).

The violin making of the electric guitar is an art radically different from that of the instruments with acoustic strings: it is not necessary to transform efficiently the vibration of the strings into sound wave.

Although the body is not a sounding board, it does however participate in the final sound.

It can be solid material, or hollow like that of an acoustic guitar (hollow body).

The strings must be made of magnetic material (steel), but they can be thinner and less taut than for an acoustic instrument.

The manufacture of the sensor (s) is an important element in the quality of the sound, as are also, and more still, the boxes and pedals of effects, the amplifier and its speaker.

The violin maker of electric guitar has developed original and even eccentric shapes for this electromechanical instrument.

Invented in the United States, the electric guitar has spread all around the planet, as has its manufacture.

The Italian instrumental invoice, already developed in the 1950s, took possession of this new instrument

The invention of the electric guitar closely followed that of the electronic amplifier.

An electromagnetic sensor patent was filed in 1909 and granted in 1911.

Tesigned for the piano, it could just as easily be applied to any steel string instrument.

Ttromberg and Voisinet proposed, without much success, the first electric guitar in 1928

An electric guitar usually has six strings (E, A, D, G, B, E) made of magnetic metal, three of which - four for jazz guitars -, the basses (E, A, D), are spun, that is to say sheathed by a winding of metal wire which weighs them down without making them more rigid.

Tunings are those that are practiced for the acoustic guitar.



Guitare electro acoustique usa

The Acoustic-electric guitar is an acoustic guitar to which one or more microphones have been installed, in order to be able to amplify or record it in the best conditions.

Its sound is subject to the same parameters as a purely acoustic guitar (wood used, length and quality of strings, precision of assemblies and parts, resonance of the body, hardness of the varnish) but also to factors related to amplification (sensor type, signal changes, speaker system).

Some have metal strings, others have nylon strings.

The main goal is to avoid the Larsen effect that occurs when you use a vocal microphone to amplify an acoustic guitar.



Marxophone usa

The Marxophone is a fretless zither invented by Henry Charles Marx (1875-1947) and marketed in the early 20th century in Michigan, in the United States.



Bajo quintos mexique

The Bajo quinto is a Mexican musical instrument that looks like a big bass guitar. He came from Spain with the conquistadors.

It is often confused with the guitarron however larger and which is of artisanal manufacture and constitutes the typical instrument of the conjunto.

The bajo quinto, tuned: A - D - G - C - F.

The strings are slammed like a percussion.

It is used as bass in Mexican and Texas music: norteño music, Tex-Mex, conjunto or música mexicana-tejana.



Jarana mexique

The Jarana is a family of Mexican plucked musical instruments, which has its roots in the South of the State of Veracruz, on the Atlantic coast of the country.

The origins of the jarana are undoubtedly the vihuela, the guitarron and the baroque guitar.

The jarana is also a music and a Yucatan dance.

The size and register of jaranas vary widely, which enriches the timbre of the group.

Depending on their size, there are jarana tercera (80 to 100 cm), secunda (70-80 cm), primera ((55-70 cm), mosquito (less than 50 cm), and chaquiste (the smallest: 30- 40 cm, often mistaken for a ukulele).

The jarana traditionally has 5 choirs which allow you to play in 5 different tones - the 3 central strings are double and the two outer strings are simple, however there are jaranas with seven strings instead of eight, this instrument having known different versions.

The strings of the jarana are today mainly made of nylon, but we still find traditional strings in animal casings (cows, cats ...)

The jarana body is traditionally built from a piece of excavated red cedar, on which the other elements of the soundboard are then adapted.

The jarana was recently used by Mexican groups of modern music (rock, punk…), like Café Tacvba or Caifanes



Vihuela mexique 001

The Vihuela is an ancient instrument of Aragonese origin, cousin of the renaissance lute from which he takes up the fourth chord, and not an ancestor of the guitar which coexisted at the same time.

The vihuela subsequently spreads to Castile, in Portugal, where it is called viola de mão, in the south of Italy because of the economic exchanges between Spain and Italy, as well as in Latin America following the arrival of the Spaniards on this continent.

It is the size of a small guitar (3/4), but with a curved back like a shell. On the sides, all along, large bands of marquetry are affixed.
The neck melts into the sound box, and has only four nylon frets.

It is mounted with five nylon strings tuned: A - D - G - B - E.

The is currently employed as accompaniment in orchestras playing mariachi music.


Central America



Armonico cuba

The Armónico is a musical instrument invented by the Cuban musician Compay Segundo in 1924.
His idea was to combine the qualities of the guitar and the very by adding a seventh string.



Tres cuba

The Tres is a stringed musical instrument.

It is a small rudimentary guitar made from the 17th century in Cuba.

It then spread to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, in Latin music.

First carved in the thick wood of a cod crate and stretched with three pairs (originally three groups of three) of aguti gut strings (tres means three in Spanish), the tres is mounted today of six metal strings, similar to those of the folk guitar, each pair of strings comprising a smooth string and a thread.

The body is made of soft wood and the handle is made of hard wood.

It is played with a plectrum, either seated or standing, using a strap.

The original tres tuning was in D minor (D, F, A), but it was changed to C major (G, C, E) by blind virtuoso Arsenio Rodriguez.

The strings in G and E are tuned to the octave while those in C are tuned in unison.

This tuning has a double role, that of playing both a rhythmic base (the guajeo) and melodic improvisations.

The very is played in trova, punto and Cuban peasant music known as Cuban sound.

It is the instrument of the beginnings of Compay Segundo.

It is still used by almost all the typical orchestras of Santiago de Cuba because there are no, or few, pianos in this region where the Cuban sound was born.



Ukulele hawai

The Ukulélé is a traditional Hawaiian plucked string instrument, close to the cavaquinho, popular instrument of Portugal of which it is an adaptation.

Very fashionable in the first half of the 20th century, this small, versatile instrument, an essential component of a Hawaiian orchestra, was quickly adopted by various musical currents - from popular songs to jazz - sometimes because it brought a humorous or exotic dimension to a set.

The ukulele is an adaptation of the braguinha or machete of the island of Madeira which is one of the forms of Portuguese cavaquinho.

The ukulele has four strings originally made of sheep casings (so-called cat casings) today almost always replaced by nylon strings (sometimes spun with metal for the most serious, from the C and below according to the tunings ) - nylon (or different nylon-based composite materials) makes it possible to have strings that are much more stable and resistant, less affected by variations in temperature and humidity than organic materials.


South America



Charango perou

The Charango is a plucked string musical instrument inspired by the little guitar from Peru, from the city of Ayacucho, in the 17th century.

Following the arrival of the Spanish in America, the natives were inspired by the guitarrilla or the timple (or tiple) to create this small instrument which has spread in all the Andean countries (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia Ecuador).

The very first charangos would have been built using a small armadillo shell, called in Indian kirkincho, as a sounding board.

This practice continues today, although some species of armadillos are protected.

However, the use of wood for the sound box is more and more frequent, the best charangos being designed in one piece.

It is made up of ten strings grouped into 5 choirs (pair of strings playing the same note, as on a lute).

The strings are made of nylon (even gut or metal), most often tuned in G, C-D, E-MI, A-L, E-M, from the 5th string to the 1st first string (each choir being tuned in unison, except for the middle of the 3rd strings which have an octave of difference).

The order of the strings is atypical: the lowest string is the MI (string 3a), then G (5th string), the (2nd string), C (4th string) and E (1st string and string 3b).

The dowel can be either old-fashioned (with friction dowels) or modern (with a wheel and worm-type mechanism). The neck is fretted.

The playing of the right hand is done with the finger but also exceptionally with a plectrum (pick) in certain regions.

The typical playing of the right hand is allowed by the specific tuning above and is done by alternating thumb finger thumb finger.

The charango by its conformation allows the characteristic repetition (rubbed very fast) which gives a particular cachet to the music of the Andes.

Charangos are made from Peru to Argentina, the best luthiers having settled in tourist areas such as the historic city of Potosí, or in La Paz in the tourist district of the Cathedral of San Francisco.

Porto Rico


Bordonua portorico

The Bordonua is a Puerto Rican plucked string instrument.

It is a small guitar derived from the baroque guitar. He looks a lot like the Tipleportorican, and bigger.

It is cut from three pieces of wood (dowel, handle, sound box).

The soundboard is nailed. The very deep sound box, shaped like a keyhole, is tightened near the handle.

This extends on the soundboard to the small hole in the middle.

It has five double metal strings tuned (like a guitar: the - D - G - B - E) to the octave and very wide frets.

It is found in the jíbaro orchestras where he originally played a bass line.

A melodic style developed in the hands of "bordonistas" like Candelario Vásquez who invented a way to play the tremolos, by pulling the string along a fret, called gemido ("complaint") or lloriqueo (" crying ").



Cuatro venezuela

The Cuatro is a small four-string musical instrument used in Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

It is a small guitar similar to the ukulele which offers many possibilities of rhythmic play and which derives from the Spanish baroque guitar.

It is generally tuned in if - f # - d - a, from treble to bass but the logical sound decrease of the strings from bass to treble is not respected and we find more bass strings where we should find mediums (the strings of "a" and "b" being the lowest).

It is a key instrument in the folk tradition of the Llanos of Venezuela and Colombia.

He often accompanies the harp with maracas in the llanero style, in particular for the joropo (dance of Venezuelan national couple but also sometimes for tonada (soft songs of shepherds).