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What makes a country song a COUNTRY song?

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  • What makes a country song a COUNTRY song?

    Any specific characteristics? Motifs, composition, structure, etc?



    I have a few old songs that kinda border along the lines of country. And I have no intention on singing these songs anymore. I was thinking about pitching them to other artists to use.



    On a sideline, anyone know anything about country singing? What makes it country sounding? lol
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  • #2
    Hmm...most country artists seem to put on a bit more twang in their voices and use the kind of generic Southern US accent...some more than others, but there's this Australian woman singer called Casey Chambers (who I don't care for personally), and she sings in that over-the-top "country" American accent...and on some Rolling Stones songs, the ones that sound more "country" (to me anyway, but I'm like you, I don't really know what country actually IS), they put on more of an extreme accent like that too.



    The instrumentation...I don't know...it's all twangy to me...the guitars...the songs are generally about love or failed love...



    Dammit. I don't know!! lol
    All things must pass...

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    • #3
      Gracie.. Isn't Keith Urban (a country singer), an Aussie as well?
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      • #4
        Yep, he is. He sounds twangy and accented to me too. I don't care for him either. lol
        All things must pass...

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        • #5
          Also, I just put a few country-esque songs in my head in a row, briefly...some Dolly Parton ones...Billy Ray Cyrus (ugh, lol)...they all seem to be of a similar tone, similar range, similar beat...hmm.
          All things must pass...

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          • #6
            And I'm trying to differentiate between kd Lang's early country stuff and her later pop stuff...obviously it's different...Big Boned Gal From Southern Alberta and Constant Craving bare no resemblance to each other apart from the voice, but...I don't know how to EXPLAIN the difference really, you know?
            All things must pass...

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            • #7
              Then there
              All things must pass...

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              • #8
                It's the ribbon and bow on the package that makes it country. Country, (Nashville country), is very direct and easy to understand. It fully explains itself in one listening. Like a good TV commercial, it's geared to a lowest-common-denominator of understanding. The good stuff is like an arrow piercing the heart. The mediocre stuff is like going for the same target with a dull rusty butter knife. . . . , with your eyes closed.



                But what do I know ?
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGxDwt26FZc
                http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/marshallsongs
                http://www.reverbnation.com/#!/marshallsongs

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                • #9
                  Jane Siberry? I just listened to a few songs. Is she one of your influences? She sounds a lot like you (somewhat your songs, somewhat your voice). lol.
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                  • #10






                    Quote Originally Posted by Marshal
                    View Post

                    It's the ribbon and bow on the package that makes it country. Country, (Nashville country), is very direct and easy to understand. It fully explains itself in one listening. Like a good TV commercial, it's geared to a lowest-common-denominator of understanding. The good stuff is like an arrow piercing the heart. The mediocre stuff is like going for the same target with a dull rusty butter knife. . . . , with your eyes closed.



                    But what do I know ?




                    Yeah I get what you mean. I think that mainly applies to the modern/mainstream/pop country nowadays. But it seems like all genres are kinda diverging that way. One thing I noticed when people talk about country songs, is that its heavily story-based.
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                    • #11






                      Quote Originally Posted by davie
                      View Post

                      Any specific characteristics? Motifs, composition, structure, etc?

                      On a sideline, anyone know anything about country singing? What makes it country sounding? lol




                      I'm still learning about it and have only been writing country for about a year now....



                      ~it's conversational

                      ~it's lyric is literal and direct and very very light on anything poetic

                      ~it celebrates being rural

                      ~they sometimes invent words

                      ~sometimes the lyric, line, or phrase is ridiculous (yeah I know this is subjective)

                      ~the subject matter is always universal

                      ~if your song title sounds like a bumper sticker you're on the right track

                      ~it's not exclusive to being southern

                      ~although it seems to be exclusive to being American (not sure how much Keith Urban

                      is selling elsewhere.... Pollstar says there are a handful of Canadian and Australian

                      dates but everything else is in the United States)

                      ~musically it's either a "white man's blues" or a muscle shoals soul (yes, the Ray

                      Charles album counts)

                      ~ it's not smart but can be clever

                      ~it's house is divided : Texas, Muscle Shoals, and California all have their own varieties

                      of country and are suspicious of Nashville (and vice versa)...still not sure of the

                      difference. TIMKEYS might know but he doesn't hang out in this forum.



                      ***there is a western swing ragtime type variety not currently on the radio that is

                      harmonically and modally as advanced as bebop .



                      That's the basics and is all I can think of right now (been driving for 14 hours)...there might be some more basic stuff I'm too tired to mention and are surely a few I haven't learned yet. AND there are a crapload of other rules and guidlines but are mostly Nashville criteria and have little to do with actually making good music or writing a good song, which literally makes it a Crap-Load



                      NOTE : not sure how Lady A or some of the crossover types figure as "country".... sounds like singer/songwriter pop to me.
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                      • #12
                        After seeing the film, 'Crazy Heart' 18 months ago, I started asking some questions to some of the folk on a musicians forum. This is what I gleaned which may be of interest:



                        There are a number of sub-genres of Country music in the US.

                        Most musicians on the forum loathed the modern Nashville sound. Apparently it was once good, but now its all 'wrong'.



                        What I preferred is apparently what is termed, 'Outlaw Country' and 'The Bakersfield Sound', and includes artists like, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Townes van Zandt.



                        But what chance has a Pom in Oz of understanding American Country music?
                        'Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn'.
                        CHARLIE PARKER

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                        • #13






                          Quote Originally Posted by J.Paul
                          View Post

                          I'm still learning about it and have only been writing country for about a year now....




                          Hmmmmm....that last tune you posted sounded perty cunchy to me.



                          Liked it......



                          I am afforded the opportunity of listening to Modern American Radio Friendly Country Music quite often these days. Some of it is very infectious......those guys really know how to take advantage of a good hook.....over and over sometimes. They also really know how to engineer and produce these tunes. You could learn something from analyzing their mix decisions.



                          These days one of the hallmarks of country is a solid and punchy electric guitar tone. Back in my day it used to a well strummed Martin acoustic.
                          Leonard Scaper

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                          • #14
                            I would not waste my time pitching to any Nashville aritists -- that is one tight town. It's not a closed shop, but you have to pretty much be there and work your way into the scene -- and that is not an overnight process.



                            But you might well give a shot to pitching to local (or even regional) country, roots, and new country/alt-counry artists.





                            Here's a thread from this forum from some time ago on the realities of the Nashville market. If it sounds pessimistic and somewhat cynical, that may well fall into the kinder-to-be-cruel category of unpleasant but foolish-to-ignore truths...



                            http://acapella.harmony-central.com/...8#post37920958

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                            • #15
                              a cowboy hat and a pickup truck

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