MUSICOL 306 - Special Course
Winter 2020, Section 001 - The Amplified Guitar
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Music History and Musicology (MUSICOL)
Department: Music School
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Advisory Prerequisites:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


In the first half of the term we will concentrate on historical and technical developments, including attempts to increase the guitar's volume through innovative design, the invention and commercial production of electromagnetic pickups and amplifiers, up to the current moment. Both analog and digital sound processing will be examined - that is, the myriad ways electric guitar signals has been, and continues to be, enhanced and reshaped, with considerations of different musical styles, recordings, recordists, and approaches to playing. We will survey such topics as guitar design, manufacture, marketing, and sales, with special attention give to Michigan manufacturers including the Gibson Guitar Corp., formerly based Kalamazoo. (A tour of the former GIbson factory, 225 Parsons St., now operated by Heritage Guitar Inc., is in the works. I also hope to arrange in-class visits of amp and pedal makers, manufacturers' representatives, and dealers.) The second half of the term will consider the cultural impact of the electric guitar, its players and their music, including (for instance) how players present themselves and their music in film, on television and the Internet; the amplified guitar in global contexts; the economics of vintage guitar collecting; the future of manufacturing processes involving sometimes exotic and increasingly scarce materials. Throughout the term, students who are guitarists will be encouraged to explore and illustrate ideas on a limited range of instruments provided for in-class use, as well as small tube and solid-state amplifiers and effects pedals. They are also free to demonstrate using their own instruments and gear, and discuss their approaches and aesthetics.

Course Requirements:

In consultation with the instructor in individual meetings, students will develop two different topics of individual interest, to be explored in two papers of moderate length (12-15 pp. + bibliography) due before midterms and finals. Original, interdisciplinary research will be encouraged. There will also be midterm and (cumulative) final essay exams, plus two short, non-cumulative listening quizzes (five excerpts each), in which students will identify and comment upon significant features of assigned excerpts. Students will be expected to make regular and useful contributions to in-class discussions - attendance is a must. Discussions will tackle ideas presented in lectures, assigned readings, music-listening and viewing assignments.

Intended Audience:

Music undergraduates and non-music majors are equally welcome to elect this course on the most important instrument of the 20th century, the amplified guitar.


MUSICOL 306 - Special Course
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
1/8/20 - 4/21/20

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