The Instruments Used in Country Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


In this blog post, we’ll be taking a look at the instruments used in country music. From guitars and banjos to fiddles and steel guitars, we’ll explore the unique sounds that make country music so special.


There are a few different types of guitars that are commonly used in country music. The most popular type of guitar is the acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar can be played unplugged or plugged into an amplifier. The other type of guitar that is popular in country music is the electric guitar. The electric guitar is plugged into an amplifier and has a more twangy sound.

Acoustic guitars

Acoustic guitars are a staple in country music. They are typically used to provide rhythm behind the lead guitar and vocals. There are many different types of acoustic guitars, but the most common in country music is the steel-string acoustic guitar. This type of guitar produces a bright, twangy sound that is perfect for country music.

Acoustic guitars can be played with or without a pick. When using a pick, players will usually hold it between their thumb and first two fingers. This allows them to pluck the strings with the pick while simultaneously strumming with their other hand. Many players also use their fingers to pluck the strings without a pick. This gives the guitar a softer sound.

Acoustic guitars can be played solo or in accompaniment with other instruments. When playing solo, players will often use a fingerpicking style. This involves using your fingers to pluck individual strings in a pattern. This style is often used for slower, more mellow songs. When playing with other instruments, acoustic guitars usually provide the rhythm behind the lead instruments and vocals.

Electric guitars

Electric guitars are generally the most popular choice for country music, particularly for the more modern styles. They offer a lot of versatility in terms of sound, and can be played relatively quietly or turned up to create a more dynamic sound. Many electric guitars also have built-in effects that can further shape your sound.

Bass guitars

Bass guitars form the low-end backbone of many country songs. There are several different types of bass guitars, each with their own distinct sound.

Acoustic bass guitars have a full, rich sound that is well suited for country music. They are often used in live performances, as they can be heard without amplification.

Electric bass guitars have a more powerful sound than acoustic basses, and are often used in recording studios. They can be heard without amplification, but are usually played through an amplifier for a fuller sound.

pedal steel guitars are a type of electric guitar that is often used in country music. They have a unique sound that is created by using foot pedals to change the tension on the strings.

String Instruments


Though fiddles and violins are technically the same instrument, in the country music world, the word “fiddle” generally refers to the acoustic, folk or bluegrass version of the instrument, while “violin” is used for the classical version. Country fiddles are generally played with a bow, while violins can be played with a bow or pizzicato (plucked). The sound of the fiddle is an integral part of bluegrass and traditional country music.


The mandolin is a small, stringed instrument that is played with a pick. It has a body with a teardrop-shaped soundboard, and four double courses of strings. Mandolins are usually played in country and bluegrass music, and were traditionally used for accompaniment.

There are two main types of mandolins – the Plectrum Mandolin and the Flatback Mandolin. The Plectrum Mandolin has a longer neck and scale length than the Flatback, and is tuned in fifths like a mandola or a tenor banjo. The Flatback Mandolin is tuned in fourths like a violin, and has a shorter neck and scale length.

Mandolins were first brought to America by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, and the instruments soon became popular in bluegrass and country music. Many famous musicians have played the mandolin, including Bill Monroe, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, and Sam Bush.


Banjos come in several varieties, but all have a similar construction. The body of the instrument is usually a hollow gourd or open-backed wooden bowl. The neck is attached to the bowl, and there are typically four or five strings stretched across the neck. The strings are plucked with the fingers or with a pick worn on the player’s right hand.

Banjos are often used in country and bluegrass music, and they have a distinctive twangy sound. They can be played solo or in a band setting. Banjo players often use a variety of techniques, including strumming, picking, and rolls, to create their unique sound.

Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments are commonly used in country music. This is because they provide a rhythm that can be used to keep the beat of the music. Some of the most common percussion instruments used in country music include the drums, cymbals, and tambourines.


Drums are perhaps the most essential element of country music. Without drums, country music would lose its signature rhythmic sound. Drums can be played with a variety of different percussion instruments to create different sounds. The most common percussion instrument used in country music is the snare drum. The snare drum is a cylindrical drum that produces a sharp, distinctive sound when it is struck. Other common drums used in country music include the bass drum, tom-tom drums, and cymbals.


Tambourines come in various sizes and shapes, but they all have pairs of small metal jingles called “zils” (pronounced “zills”) mounted in the frame. The instrument is held in the hand and played by shaking it so the zils strike together, or by striking it against the palm of the hand. Players often wear the tambourine on a strap around their neck so they can play it with both hands.

Tambourines are used as solo instruments, or they may be played in groups of two or more, called “orchestras.” They are often used to keep time, or to add interest to a melody by adding rhythms. Tambourines are also used in many genres of dance music, such as Latin, Arabic, and African music.


Cowbells are often used in country music to add a special flavor to the sound. They can be played by themselves or in groups, and are often used as part of a percussion section in a band. Cowbells come in a variety of sizes and styles, and can be made from different materials such as metal, plastic, or wood.

Wind Instruments

The fiddle, the Dobro guitar, and the steel guitar are all wind instruments commonly used in country music. The fiddle is a stringed instrument that is played with a bow. The Dobro guitar is a resonator guitar that has a metal plate in the body. The steel guitar is a type of slide guitar.


Harmonicas are small, handheld instruments consisting of a metal or plastic comb with reeds of graduated lengths attached. The player blows air into or draws air out of the instrument to create sound.

The pitch of the harmonicas note is determined by the length of the reed. Longer reeds create lower notes and shorter reeds create higher notes. There are two main types of harmonicas which produce different sounds: diatonic and chromatic.

Diatonic harmonicas are tuned to one key and are the type most often used in country music. Chromatic harmonicas have all 12 notes of the chromatic scale and can be played in any key. Harmonicas are used as either solo or accompaniment instruments.


The accordion is a portable, freely vibrating reed instrument. It consists of a keyboard and bass casing that are attached by hinges. Inside the instrument,bellows are used to force air through metal reeds, which vibrate to produce sound. There are many types and sizes ofaccordions, but they all have the same basic structure.

The accordion was first developed in the early nineteenth century in Europe, and quickly became popular in folk music traditions. Today, it is a staplein many genres of music, including country. It is often used as a solo instrument or as part of an ensemble.


The fiddle is a 2000 year-old instrument that was brought to America by Scottish and Irish immigrants. It is the most popular instrument in country music, and you will often find fiddles being played in bluegrass, folk, and Celtic bands as well.

Fiddles are played with a bow, and the player must hold the instrument under their chin. The strings are usually tuned to GDAE, which is the same tuning as a viola. Fiddles can be made from many different materials, but most are made from wood.

There are many different techniques that fiddlers use to create their sound. Some of these include bowing, double-stopping, pizzicato, staccato, and vibrato. Fiddlers can also create special effects by using their feet or body to stomp or clap along with the music.

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