MUS 507A

Rock & Roll Instrumentation

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1950s

Generally, 4-6 players:

  • drums

  • bass (acoustic)

  • 2 electric guitars (lead, rhythm)

  • piano (acoustic)

  • saxophone (alto or tenor)

Variations:

  • Bill Haley's Comets:  steel guitar instead of piano (C&W roots)

  • Buddy Holly's Crickets:  drums, acoustic bass, 2 guitars

  • early Elvis:  2 guitars, bass (drums traditionally avoided in C&W)

  • early Jerry Lee Lewis:  piano, guitar, drums

  • Little Richard:  piano, bass, drums, guitar, several saxophones

1960s

Beatles instrumentation imitated widely:

  • 3 electric guitars (lead, rhythm, bass)

  • drums

  • piano (+ electronic spin-offs) sometimes added

Folk movement:

  • acoustic guitar

  • harmonica

  • banjo

  • acoustic bass

  • (bongo drums)

Motown:

  • vocal group

  • full orchestral instrumentation

Jazz Rock:

  • added a "horn" line:  trumpet(s), woodwinds (sax/flute), trombone

1970s, 1980s and beyond

  • expansion of electronic instruments

  • piano player became "keyboard" player (synthesizer, string synthesizer, electric piano, organ, clavinet, acoustic piano)

  • hard rock / heavy metal:  3-4 guitars, drums

  • black groups:  continued use of horns

  • disco:  full orchestral instrumentation

  • later styles:  continued electronic explosion, computer-interfaced keyboards

 

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