Guitar style, open tunings and stringband music in Papua New Guinea

Denis Crowdy

A form of popular music known as ‘stringband’ has developed since the Second World War in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Stringband ensembles are a combination of voices, guitars, ukuleles and sometimes a bass instrument. Stringband music usually consists of secular songs with local subject matter sung in the vernacular or one of PNG’s main linge franche. … The main aim of this thesis is to investigate the potential of guitar tunings and associated playing styles in contributing to the determination of stringband styles that are described regionally. This is achieved through analyses of guitar playing techniques and characteristic musical figures and phrases associated with a selection of different guitar tunings from different regions of the country. Selected guitar parts from stringbands in three main areas are analysed. While this is a somewhat narrow sample from which to test a thesis that actually covers quite significant stylistic diversity, a detailed study will, I would like to aver, provide a solid base for possible further work in this area, since detailed comparative studies of stringband guitar style have yet to be carried out. The analytical approach is essentially musicological, and involves the transcription of a number of musical examples. This, however, is only useful when linked to the social context in which it is embedded. The very notion of regional style invokes a series of questions as to why, how and where that situation has come into being. Before embarking on the analysis then, the second chapter is devoted to mapping the development of stringband music to explore answers to such questions.

Guitar style, open tunings and stringband music in Papua New Guinea

Thesis, part 1

Thesis, part 2

Thesis, part 3

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