Country music (or country and western) refers to a broad genre with notable origins in blues, cowboy Western and American folk music styles. Additional influences of country stemmed from folk music, ballads and songs from the English, Irish and Scottish settlers in the south of America.
The Appalachian and southern mountainous areas were known for traditional fiddle and string band music, which evolved into what we now call country music. This first became popular in the early 1920s, thanks to acts like Filddlin’ John Carson and Eck Robertson releasing the first commercially successful recordings. However, it wasn’t until 1927 that Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family had the first million-selling single ‘Blue Yodel #1’ in 1927, which led him to be known as the “Father of Country Music”.
The growth of radio in the 1920s had a huge influence on the popularity of country and western music, with large venue broadcast shows like the “National Barn Dance” and the “Grand Ole Opry” being a catalyst in the rise of listeners.
Early country music groups had the fiddle and guitar carrying the melody with another guitar or banjo taking the rhythm, as well as occasional additions of a dulcimer, harmonica and mandolin, while vocals were performed by a soloist or with another in high close harmony.
Later in the 1930s, country music had offshoots into the “singing cowboy” films, and further sub genres such as the “Western swing” style (influenced by swing jazz), and honky-tonk in the 1940s popularised by artists such as Hank Williams. Honky-tonk used a fiddle and steel guitar, and artists like Bill Monroe and his band developed bluegrass and pushed the virtuosity of fingerpicking banjo techniques.
In the post-war era, the 1950s and 60s brought the rougher, big band jazz style dubbed the “Nashville sound” and the gritty rock ‘n’ roll “Bakersfield sound”. This period also propelled many country artists into the popular mainstream across the world, such as Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard. Through the 1970s and 80s “Outlaw country” became another prominent subgenre that many of these artists were associated with.
Country music expanded the instrumental ensemble to even include orchestral instruments, as well the blending of country with pop music styles from artists like Dolly Parton in the 1970s and beyond. Moving into the 21st Century, country music has continued to evolve with the liberal use of electric guitars, orchestral instruments and digital production techniques. Modern day country artists continue to keep up with current trends while retaining a distinctive sound, such as Miley Cyrus who blends country with modern pop.
If you are looking for country sheet music online, there are several good places to start. The free ‘country music fake book’ is a large PDF file of various artists and well-known songs.
Music Notes is a great site to purchase sheet music and has a huge selection within the country genre to choose from.
If you’re looking for the latest releases and chart-toppers, then head over to J W Pepper and browse their collection of modern country music available to purchase
Whether you’re playing country music old or new, PlayScore 2 makes working with your sheet music easier than ever before. The app will let you interactively playback your scores, enabling you to learn and practice songs the way you want. You can digitise and share scores with your band, and convert to other formats quickly using your phone or tablet. The PlayScore 2 app takes care of it all, so that you can concentrate on the music.