#1
Hey guys, I grew up with a LOT of 40's/50's/early 60's Cowboy/Texas Swing/Country/Rockabilly type music being played around me on radio (and later, TV) and so forth. Many of you know what I'm talking about; Johnny Horton, Hank Snow, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers (and Sons of the Pioneers), Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, and the like... I loved them as kid, then got into my teen years with Ricky Nelson, Beach Boys, finally the Beatles and so and began to think those 'old' fashioned songs were crappy...and how wrong I was. Now as an older dude I'm BACK to appreciating and liking those old tunes. (In fact most of song/chord tabs I've personally done here on UG are of those older artists...)

So I'm 'back in the saddle' again playing my acoustic, tabbing songs and working on learning how to 'make' that kind of older style music, and it's difficult as I have some health problems including that scourge of older humanity... arthritis in my fingers/hands and wrists. But I'm over-coming that, finding work-arounds and ways to KEEP playing.

My question here per my thread title though is... getting that 'distinctive' old-style sound into my playing. Hey, I can play (even with the arthritis) and okay so I'm no super pro but I can 'still' play those old songs and play them very well. However there's just a difference when 'I' play them, and when those 'old' style players play them. G'ah! You can instantly tell if it's ME or THEM, even if I can play the song perfectly and even get my old voice to 'sound' like them.

What gives? What were those old guys doing that is so different from just playing the songs in a normal way? In other words what was giving them that 'distinctive' sound of their timelines?

Now later C&W songs (or a lot of them) eventually seemed (to me anyway) to lose much of that 'old style' sound, replacing it with a distinctive sound of their own...i.e. mid-60's on to even present day. My playing (I guess) seems more like 'their' style/sound. And that's fine, but I'd really like to LOCK ON to those old time sounds...that's my goal. If I can figure out and manage it.

What's your thoughts on that? Suggestions?

Thanks ahead for any interest in this and of course, any help.

Beo
Last edited by Beowolff at Jun 26, 2014,
#2
Well, "Texas swing", is also called, "Country Cabin Jazz". AFAIK, you're going to run into more extended chords, and more elaborate progressions than the I, IV, V of country pop/rock.

Keep in mind those big ole pedal steels have a poop load of strings on multiple necks, and they're tuned to 6ths, 9ths, 7ths and what-nots.

IDK if that's what you mean, but it's the reason I prefer playing along to Carrie Underwood or Sugarland...
#3
I know what you mean with those big pedals, CC... but my basic playing just 'sounds' too modern when I compare my own to one of their old recordings. Even when just strumming...say when Gene Autry just (coincidentally of course, lol) finds a guitar lying nearby in one of his movies, picks it up and bursts into strummin' and singin'... ha! HIS strumming don't even sound like MY strumming. g'ah!

Same for Roy, Hank Williams, and so on... they pick up a guitar and start playing and though I know I'm playing the SAME chords as they are, mine seems to 'sound' different. Double so for any electrics coming into the background music.

d'oh!
#4
Maybe it sounds different because recording wasn't very life like in those days. Just a thought.
Last edited by NormH3 at Jun 26, 2014,
#5
Quote by NormH3
Maybe it sounds different because recording wasn't very life like. Just a thought.


That could and likely is part of it, Norm... I also thought that likely it's the instruments too and no doubt there's big differences in the makeup of the old guitars/instruments and the newer more modern ones.

But I don't know for sure... I've heard some of these old time guys play 'live' and even live they seem to make their music sound different from modern.

Now the background instruments, steel guitar, big and beefy electrics and such, were different likely because of the difference in old style amps over the modern ones, also, as the Captain there said, those old background guys had special tunings ALL OVER THE PLACE that meshed/harmonized with the singer/strummer. Fancy chord progressions everywhere too.

But the strummer was just strumming... same as me when I strum. (shrugs) It makes no sense to me that he'd sound a lot different than I do.

Strum/picking pattern maybe? Strings maybe? I just dunno'. Hmmmmm....
Last edited by Beowolff at Jun 26, 2014,
#6
I think I understand what you're saying. I'm no guitar expert and I haven't even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Perhaps it has something to do with the makeup of the strings as well. Not sure what they used in those days. Maybe you could try a few different types on your guitar. God knows there are only about a million different types and gauges.
#7
Quote by Beowolff
I know what you mean with those big pedals, CC... but my basic playing just 'sounds' too modern when I compare my own to one of their old recordings. Even when just strumming...say when Gene Autry just (coincidentally of course, lol) finds a guitar lying nearby in one of his movies, picks it up and bursts into strummin' and singin'... ha! HIS strumming don't even sound like MY strumming. g'ah!
....[ ]....
So we're talking tonality? First of all, those ancient studio recorders weren't anywhere near as good as a Nakamichi 3 head cassette deck. Not even close. Then there's the lack of Dolby noise reduction. (omitted rant on "psycho-acoustics").

Did you even wonder why when Gidget and Frankie burst into song in the middle of a wide open beach, there was enough reverb to make you believe you were sitting in Westminster Abbey?

First of all, most of that old "crap"(*), was mixed to sound good on an AM radio. Older recordings lack the dynamic range, the bandwidth, and the presence which is in abundance with modern digital recording techniques. Consequently, older recordings sound quite "distant", compared to today's "in your face", "you are the singer's microphone" vocal perspective.

Maybe you're not a rock person, but listen to, "Wish You Were Here", by Pink Floyd. He does a wonderful intro, toying with playing an acoustic along with an old time table radio. The difference in tonality is like night and day. Then the 12 string kicks in with a massive wash of glorious open chords. The radio is forgotten rather quickly...

(*) Referring to recording quality, not material content...
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jun 26, 2014,
#8
Quote by Captaincranky
So we're talking tonality?


Yes, quite right, tonality is part of it surely...recording wise anyway. But there's more to it (I'm guessing here) as again I've heard some of these old players play LIVE and it's somehow STILL just different from how we sound today. So though no doubt when comparing our playing live or recordings certainly their's (with much cruder recording equipment) sounds different, but LIVE TO LIVE it shouldn't make a difference.

Yeah, I'm guessing it's partly the instruments maybe (and with electrics, the amps) and so on, but there seems 'more' to that (or at least to me.)

For instance, there's an old musician that owns (or used to, he's passed away now) a music store near where I live. I would go by there and jam with him on occasion and even with stock guitars from his retail racks...his playing just 'sounded' different from mine when we'd sit there on the stools and jump into, Wild Wood Flower, or Lonely Street, or whatever. I would do my best to match him chord for chord and string for string and yet always his 'playing' sounds seemed a world away from 'my' playing sounds... more 'twang' maybe, more 'mellow' or 'soulful' if you will... a distinct difference that my ear could distinguish.

Maybe it was somehow his 'style', and I know everybody's style is different...but then again it seems to me that 'if they could do it' then so could I. And yet I can't seem to.

I think my playing sounds okay, considering my health and arthritis, but then again 'my' playing seems like most 'other' modern day players. His just seemed different somehow, as did others of that old breed of player.

But maybe it's just my imagination.

Oh hell I may just be sounding dense and not getting my meaning clear on this. LOL!

#9
Quote by Beowolff
Yes, quite right, tonality is part of it surely...recording wise anyway. But there's more to it (I'm guessing here) as again I've heard some of these old players play LIVE and it's somehow STILL just different from how we sound today. So though no doubt when comparing our playing live or recordings certainly their's (with much cruder recording equipment) sounds different, but LIVE TO LIVE it shouldn't make a difference.
OK, 3 decades ago I went to see Rodney Crowell in a small club in Center City Philly, "Stars", I think it was. So, the place probably wouldn't hold more than 500 people, if that. His Steel player was jacked into a stack of FOUR Twin Reverbs. A couple of times during the show, I thought he was going to cut my f***ing head off with the rig. Suffice it to say,you can't do that in a row house. (A silver face Twin Reverb will put out > 120DB SPL, Picture 4 of them, if you will. Plus they used to stuff them with JBL D131F (?) each of which will produce more than 100DB @ 1 watt @ 1 meter

Quote by Beowolff
Yeah, I'm guessing it's partly the instruments maybe (and with electrics, the amps) and so on, but there seems 'more' to that (or at least to me.)
When you delve into electrics, there's an enormous amount of nostalgia, and demand, for anything old, repro, tube, or analog, as the more harmonic distortion equipment has, the more players want it

Quote by Beowolff
For instance, there's an old musician that owns (or used to, he's passed away now) a music store near where I live. I would go by there and jam with him on occasion and even with stock guitars from his retail racks...his playing just 'sounded' different from mine when we'd sit there on the stools and jump into, Wild Wood Flower, or Lonely Street, or whatever. I would do my best to match him chord for chord and string for string and yet always his 'playing' sounds seemed a world away from 'my' playing sounds... more 'twang' maybe, more 'mellow' or 'soulful' if you will... a distinct difference that my ear could distinguish.
Well, they say, "the tone is in the fingers".

Quote by Beowolff
Maybe it was somehow his 'style', and I know everybody's style is different...but then again it seems to me that 'if they could do it' then so could I. And yet I can't seem to.
Musician's of that time period, "traded licks", (In other words, "stole them from one another). Players these days do the very same thing, but they are different licks, that's for sure

Quote by Beowolff
I think my playing sounds okay, considering my health and arthritis, but then again 'my' playing seems like most 'other' modern day players. His just seemed different somehow, as did others of that old breed of player.
Gosh, I suck at rock lead, I just don't have the mentality for it. If anything, I push out enough triplets, to almost qualify as "baroque". But, I do have decent feel for early rock rhythm work and folk. So, if I sound like and emulate guitarists of that period, ostensibly other players in other genres do as well. Listen to , "Golden Oldies" sometime. Almost all of the rhythms ooze Latin influence.

Quote by Beowolff
But maybe it's just my imagination.

Oh hell I may just be sounding dense and not getting my meaning clear on this. LOL!

Well not "dense", such as it is. But, I do get the feeling you're looking for a simplistic one sentence explanation, which isn't going to happen.

I don't follow early country, certainly not to the extent that you do. It occurs to me though, that many of the the male singers were true baritones, without the emphasis on lyric baritones and tenors that exists today. As examples, I'll cite Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and even Clint Black, who came right out and said he tunes his guitar to D-d, "because I have a deep voice". And wasn't "The King" himself, a baritone? Frankie Vallie was the only singer of the period who springs to mind that squawked like Robert Plant and later Geddy Lee. (Well maybe Roy Orbison, but he had something like a 6 octave range. Not really a raspy falsetto though, Roy was really smooth up high).
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jun 27, 2014,
#10
Good explanations and info for sure ^^^ and thanks for it. But nah, I'm not exactly looking for a simple explanation, just musing about and trying to figure out 'what' I'm trying to figure out. lol...

It's one of those sort of irksome, 'I know there's a question in there' deals... just not sure what the question is exactly so how can I answer it.

I feel if i keep picking at it, I might discover 'what I'm trying to even ask'... and if I could get the question right, then the answer might be just around the corner. (that sort of deal. ---a real elusive bugger for sure.)

anyway, thanks for the good info you've given me.

S!

Beo