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Country and Western Acoustic Guitar

Guitar: The Instrument That Shaped Country Music

The very root and soul of country music is the acoustic guitar. From its humble beginnings to its current popularity (the number one music genre in many parts of the US), Country music has had the acoustic guitar at the forefront. Most country songs are composed with an acoustic guitar, and it is still used very frequently in recording and performance. In this article, we will talk about the origins and evolution of country music, and the acoustic guitar’s role.

The Beginnings

Country music had its roots in the Appalachian region, where immigrants brought European musical instruments with them. The music, first called “hillbilly music” made its way to Atlanta in the 1920s and 1930s, where local radio stations and record companies made the early country songs available to the public. As time went on, “barn dances” became popular in the South, and reached north to Chicago, and from there to the Southwest.

Country music was one of the early forms of American music (along with folk) to use the modern 6-string acoustic steel string guitar. These guitars have a louder, brighter sound than their nylon-stringed counterparts, perfect for the twangy, robust sound of country. The vast majority of acoustics used in country are flat-topped designs, although some archtop and other types are occasionally used. Even today, while country players use electrics as much as acoustics in their work, the acoustic guitar has held its place. Typically, electric pickups and amps are used rather than having the instrument miked.

Acoustic Country Guitarists

Many of the most celebrated country artists are known for their acoustic guitar work. Willie Nelson’s beloved guitar “Trigger” is a Martin N-20 guitar that he purchased in 1969. He uses a Baldwin electric pickup that he purchased along with the guitar, creating his unique sound. He has played it so many times, and for so long that he has worn a large hole in the top of it. He refuses to repair it, likening it to fixing the crack in the Liberty Bell. During negotiations with the IRS, Willie hid the guitar at his manger’s house to prevent it from being taken away.

Despite her long fingernails, which she refuses to part with, Dolly Parton manages to play really well on her acoustics. Her secret? She plays in open tuning, and barres her chords.
Garth Brooks is one of the most successful artists in music history. After briefly retiring from performance, he had a long-running, sold-out residency in Las Vegas where he did nothing more than play his signature Takamine GB7C acoustic, sing, and tell stories of his great career. This has led to him going back on tour.  

Country/pop sensation Taylor Swift has made quite a name for herself ever since her 2006 debut. Among the many guitars she uses, both in the studio and on the road, is her own signature acoustic guitar, ironically manufactured by Taylor Guitars.


As long as there is country music, there will be acoustic guitars.

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