Acoustic music is music that solely or primarily uses instruments that produce sound through acoustic means, as opposed to electric or electronic means; typically the phrase refers to that made by acoustic string instruments. While all music was once acoustic, the retronym "acoustic music" appeared after the advent of electric instruments, such as the electric guitar, electric violin, electric organ and synthesizer.[1] Acoustic string instrumentations had long been a subset of popular music, particularly in folk. It stood in contrast to various other types of music in various eras, including big band music in the pre-rock era, and electric music in the rock era.

Writing for Splendid, music reviewer Craig Conley suggests, "When music is labeled acoustic, unplugged, or unwired, the assumption seems to be that other types of music are cluttered by technology and overproduction and therefore aren't as pure".[2]

Types of Acoustic Instruments

Acoustic instruments can be split further into three groups: string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion. [3] String instruments have a tightly stretched string, that, when set in motion creates energy at (almost) harmonically related frequencies. Wind instruments are in the shape of a pipe and energy is supplied as a stream into the pipe. Percussion instruments are anything you can hit; impulse energy is applied to the resonator, which responds with vibrations. [4]

Acoustic Music - Additional Information to add

A term, meaning ‘not electric’, used in this special sense to designate a recording cut with a stylus activated directly (through a diaphragm) by sound waves rather than by electronic impulses, or, as in ‘acoustic guitar’, an instrument not amplified electronically. It was first applied to recordings in the early 1930s (electric recordings were first made in 1925), and to instruments in the mid-1960s, in response to the widespread use in commercial folk and pop music of electric guitars and other electronically amplified instruments. Used of a room, it indicates that room’s acoustical characteristics. [5]

History of Acoustic Instruments

The first noted acoustic instrument is believed to be the lute, with the oldest known pictorial representation of this instrument dating back to 300 B.C. The lute is believed to have originated in Egypt, and the concept of the stringed instrument was passed to the Greeks and eventually the Romans. Similarly, the Moors brought the oud into Europe during the Moorish invasion of Spain, and with these two instruments rapid developments in the acoustic instrument realm occurred throughout the Renaissance in Europe. By 1800, the most popular acoustic instruments resembled closely the modern day guitar, but with a smaller body. As the century continued, a luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado from Spain took these smaller instruments and adjusted the bodies to make them into what the guitar is today. The guitars use and popularity throughout the 19th century also led to more acoustic instruments being established, such as the acoustic bass guitar. As the rise of electric instruments took hold during the 20th century, many stringed instruments became redefined as acoustic. Instruments which utilize the strings being struck or vibrated, such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, fall under the acoustic category. The violin became a popular instrument during the 16th and 17th centuries, due in large part to the technological advancements in building the, brought on by luthiers such as Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Amati. The modern version of the instrument developed gradually from older European acoustic stringed instruments such as the lira.[6]


  1. ^ Safire 2007.
  2. ^ Conley, Craig (August 16, 1999). "Review: Unwired: Acoustic Music from around the World". Splendid. Archived from the original on December 25, 2008. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
  3. ^ "Instrument List".
  4. ^ "Acoustic Instruments".
  5. ^ Carr, Bruce (20 January 2001). "Acoustic (term)".
  6. ^ Rosenberg, E. S. (2006-09-01). "National Geographic: Remembering Pearl Harbor, Created by Nationalgeographic .com, Washington, D.C., and Second Story Interactive Studios, Portland, Ore. Maintained by Reviewed March 1-7, 2006". Journal of American History. 93 (2): 626–627. doi:10.2307/4486400. ISSN 0021-8723. External link in |title= (help)


  • Randel, Don Michael (2003). The Harvard Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01163-2.
  • Safire, William (2007). "On Language: Retronym". New York Times Magazine (January 7): 18.

External links

  • International Acoustic Music Awards