Tag: history

mandolin history

The History of the American Guitar – Great Resource…

The American acoustic guitar is certainly the most important instruments in Folk, Country, Bluegrass and Americana music. Although the mandolin and the banjo were very popular for some time in history the guitar has made the race.

If you are interested how the American guitar became what it is today and who were the builders and players of the early American guitar you should visit the website

The Unstrung History of the American Guitar: The Guitar and 19th Century American Music

(website not available – Sept. 2017)

Welcome to The Unstrung History of the American Guitar!

The guitar is the voice of American popular music. How it got to be that way has a lot to do with Alpine yodelers, blackface minstrels and your great great grandmother. The blues and “hillbilly” string band music are the immediate ancestors of country music, R&B and rock & roll, but the guitar juggernaut that streaked through the twentieth century, and still is going strong in the twenty-first, was launched before the Civil War in urban parlors and on New York stages.

Join us for an excursion through the neglected nineteenth century, when “guitar fever” first seized America.

Mandoline aus einem alten Katalog

The first part deals with the guitar and the American music. Influences from Mexican music, the role of the banjo and the mandolin, the guitar in Ragtime, Jazz and Hillbilly music are discussed. Very interesting is also that for some time the Yodel music from the Swiss Alps which was usually also accompanied by guitars was very popular in the USA.

The Guitar and American Music

  • The Guitar and the Birth of American Music
  • A Rage For the Guitar
  • Professional Guitarists in Antebellum America
  • Mexico and the American West
  • Banjos, Mandolins, Minstrels and Medicine Shows
  • Ragtime, Jazz, Hillbilly and the Blues
Monarch Guitar aus einem alten Katalog
Monarch Guitar aus einem alten Katalog

The second chapter informs about the builders and developers of the guitar. You can read about C. F. Martin and other makers of his time – Lyon & Healy, Oscar Schmidt, Harmony and Orville Gibson. The following topics are the changes in the design of the guitar, the first steel strings and the harp-guitars. A guitar gallery shows some interesting instruments from the 19th century.

Guitars and Guitar Makers of the 19th Century

  • C.F. Martin and His Contemporaries ( 7 Articles )
  • The Gilded Age ( 9 Articles )
  • Guitar Design and Technology ( 3 Articles )
  • Guitar Gallery ( 11 Articles )
Banjo aus einem alten Instrumentenkatalog

The next chapter presents ca. 40 guitarists of the 19th century – concert guitarists, guitarists in vaudeville and minstrel shows, singers and jazz guitarists.

19th Century American Guitarists

  • Concert Guitarists and Teachers ( 23 Articles )
  • Minstrel Theatre, Medicine Shows and Vaudeville ( 12 Articles )
  • Songsters and Jazzmen ( 5 Articles )

A link collection is helpful if you are looking for more information about the American guitar and guitarists in the USA.

I have found the following video in which a guitar made around 1850 is beeing played:

Jake Wildwood – Improvisation on 19th Century Guitar

Here’s a c.1850s parlor guitar (would have been called ‘concert’ back then) that’s most likely either American built trying to copy Martin’s early guitars (body shape, body shape!) or European built trying to copy an early Martin. Either way, it’s a truly beautiful guitar with an excellent spruce top, flamed maple back and sides (all solid, of course) and interesting features like a thick brass saddle, single pearl dot on the 5th fret, lovely soundhole rosette, and impeccable, balanced tone.

My recommendation – A great book about the American Guitar:

Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre-Civil War Innovations of C.F. Martin and His Contemporaries (Amazon partnerlink)

digital libraries

CHASE – Collection of Historical Annotated String Editions –…

Yesterday I have discovered the website of the CHASE project.


Collection of Historical Annotated String Editions

19th- and Early 20th-Century Annotated Editions of String Music:
Bibliographical Problems, Editorial Content and Implications for Performance Practice

This website is a great resource about the violin and other stringed instruments. You can find many detailed articles about the development of the instrumental technique for those instruments based on annotated editions of string music. If you are interested in the history of the violin or cello playing techniques and the way those instruments were taught, and also how the music has been played by some of the greatest violin players you should check the articles on this site.

You can find a big collection of scans of editions of violin music from the 19th and early 20th century including works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and many other composers. This includes also some violin methods and collections of studies.

List of works on the CHASE website – most of those works are available for free download: http://chase.leeds.ac.uk/browse/work/

One of the works that I have found is the Chaconne by Vitali

Here is a great performance of this piece by Sarah Chang:

Vitali Chaconne – Sarah Chang

Another interesting composer is Emanuele Barbella who is known as a composer for some pieces for the mandolin. You can find two pieces by Barbella: Violin Sonata in E flat major and Tinna nonna (Lullaby)


Most of the pieces available on this site will probably be found also on the IMSLP site, but maybe the selection serves as a better way to find some interesting compositions.

aaa to be reviewed

My tumblr Archive for September 2012 – Mandolins, Mandolin…

Tumblr is a great way to collect and present pictures and links to interesting videos and other sites. Here is my tumblr archive for September 2012 – click to pictures to open the complete post in a seperate window:


My tumblr site – just scroll down to view:


One topic for me was to extract pictures of mandolin clubs from the yearbooks of the Colorado College in Colorado Springs – I have found many interesting pictures and some programs that have been played by the mandolin clubs.

I have also started to post some pictures from ensembles with mandolin from the Iowa Digital Library Traveling Culture – Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century:



Download my sheet music at MusicaNeo

historical recordings

The Virtual Gramophone – Historical Recordings from Canada

The Virtual Gramophone is a site where thousands of recordings from the early 20th century from Canada can be found as podcasts or for immediate download.

Welcome to the Library and Archives of Canada’s Virtual Gramophone, a multimedia website devoted to the early days of Canadian recorded sound, providing an overview of the 78-rpm era in Canada.

Edison Opera phonograph with blue amberol cylinder (taken from the virtual gramophone)

I have also found some recordings with a mandolin on this site. If you search for “mandolin” you can find more examples, but the following audio files are available for download:

Lefman; Rosemarin El choclo : tango argentin Details Listen [MP3 1,492 KB]
Lefman; Rosemarin Les flots du Danube = Waves of the Danube Details Listen [MP3 1,510 KB]
Lefman; Rosemarin La spagnola : valse = [The spanish dancer] Details Listen [MP3 1,468 KB]
Trio Napolitain La belle Italie = Beautiful Italy : polka Details Listen [MP3 2,543 KB]
Trio Napolitain Belle Napolitaine = Beautiful Napolitan : valse Details Listen [MP3 2,651 KB]

You can use the Index Sorted by Performer to locate and download those files:


You can also subscribe to several podcasts which collect certain audios to get audio file downloaded automatically to itunes:


The following version of the Maple Leaf Rag can also be found in the Virtual Gramophone:

Vera Guilaroff improvises Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag 1926

The Virtual Gramophone site has a lot of interesting information about the history of recorded music in Canada. You can find background articles, biographies of many artists, some videos of the gramophones playing the old records and much mor – a great  site if you are interested in historical recordings made on 78 records or even Edison cylinders.


Sheet music

Another site dedicated to the history of music in Canada is the siet Sheet Music From Canada’s Past:


There you can find some nice galleries of title pages of old sheet music, several background articles and much more.

Additional information

Link collection for other great sites with historical recordings of shellac records: http://pinboard.in/u:mandoisland/t:gramophone/