[Episode Summaries] [Oral Histories] [The Songs and the Artists] [Eternal Songs] [Instruments and Innovations] [Behind the Scenes] [Links] [Into the Classroom] [Credits] American Roots Music
B. B. King's famous guitar  
Instruments and Innovations  

The Guitar
The Fiddle
The Accordion
The Banjo
The Harmonica


Each segment of the American Roots Music series is built around important developments in American music forms. In actuality, innovations and modifications of the instruments themselves and how they have been played has often been what spurred these new forms.

Too often any detailed accounts of instruments have been relegated to footnotes in the history of American music and have taken a backseat to discussions of the musicians and the songs. Yet to the musicians themselves, a good instrument is all-important. Old-time fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who started the Grand Ole Opry, would reverently take his violin "Old Betsy" at the end of a performance and return it to its case, carefully covering it with a red satin cloth. Bluegrass star Bill Monroe engaged in a legendary quarrel with the Gibson Company because he felt they had not repaired his cherished mandolin properly. This page offers a succinct history of the major instruments of roots music, and the ways in which the great original makers of the music altered and improved them.

The Guitar, The Fiddle, The Accordion, The Banjo and The Harmonica


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