Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll


Whereas the invention of the microphone in the 1920s revolutionized recording technology, three technological developments in the late 1940s continued the modernization. The perfection of magnetic tape as a recording medium replaced the “direct-to-disk” process and allowed for multiple takes and eventually multi-tracking in the studio. The concept of magnetic recording dated back to the late 1800s, but was perfected by Hitler’s Nazi scientists in WWII. The technique was made commercially useful in the United States in the late ‘40s by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, otherwise known as 3M.

In 1948, the development of the transistor opened the door for miniaturization of many electronic devices, particularly the radio. By the mid-1950s, most teenagers could afford a small transistor radio, from which they could hear their local deejay spin their favorite rock ‘n’ roll songs.

The same year as the development of the transistor, scientists working for CBS, a dominant part of American entertainment, overseeing a nationwide radio broadcast system, a major recording label (Columbia) and a fledgling television company, developed a replacement for the 78 r.p.m. (revolutions per minute) record. The new 33 and 1/3 r.p.m. record had 300 grooves per inch instead of the 85 on an old 78, thereby expanding the recording time from under 10 minutes to well over 25. The LP or long play record was born and for the first time providing multiple songs to each side of a record. In addition to the added length, the technology also significantly increased the quality of the final product. The high-fidelity LP was the new standard for album production in the recording industry.

Conductor Arthur Fiedler demonstrates an RCA 45 r.p.m. record and record player, 1949

Not to be outdone by its competitor, RCA, one of the other giants in the entertainment industry, developed a smaller, more portable record that attained the same musical quality as the LP but with only one song per side. RCA’s 45 rpm became the new standard for the release of singles and replaced old 78s in jukeboxes across the country. This smaller, more durable record was cheaper to produce thereby allowing record companies to sell them less expensively and still maintain a respectable profit margin. Like the inexpensive transistor radio, the inexpensive 45 single and its portable record player put new music into the hands of millions of teens.

The growth of the independent radio station created further upheaval in the broadcasting industry. Prior to 1948, most of the radio stations in America were members of one of four major national broadcast networks. The vast majority of their programming hours were determined, prepared, recorded and dispersed from a corporate headquarters in New York or Los Angeles. In the early 1950s, entrepreneurs, wishing to carve their own independent path, bought broadcast licenses and built stations that were designed to appeal to a more select demographic group. Instead of ‘broadcasting’ a series of homogenized programs, hoping to appeal to everyone across the country, they chose their target audience carefully and selected music and programming to suit. Upstart radio stations in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Houston and St. Louis began playing rhythm and blues records from independent labels. At first, the music appeared only after midnight; then after 9 p.m., soon rhythm and blues music programs were appearing during the daytime on weekends and eventually, at any time during the day.

By the late ‘50s, the major radio and record corporations were starting to become concerned. Independent labels like Chess, Atlantic, Sun, King and Savoy were gaining a ever-increasing share of the market through their releases by Presley, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Fats Domino and dozens more. Independent record labels were gaining airtime on the local radio stations by “tipping” the local deejay a few dollars to get extra radio play. Companies like Columbia and RCA, who had at first shunned the new artists, were feeling the financial pinch.

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

Study Units also have “Playdecks” – containing hundreds of chronologically organized audio examples of music in the study units, and “Study Qs” for unit chapters.

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