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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Vocal Music - Disco & Folk

Continuing our alphabetical look at vocal music. Today we look at disco and folk (not everyday those two are talked about side by side!).


The 1970s where famous (notorious) for, the first female prime minister in Great Britain, civil wars, coups, flared trousers, clackers (a toy), The Brady Bunch, Frozen Meals, The Pet Rock(!), and Saturday Night Fever. The last in this list is marked as the film that defines the decade. Filled with disco tunes by The Bee Gees, and a score that sets the scene perfectly.

Disco originated in the USA in the 1970s. It was popular in African American, Hispanic, an LGBT communities. The music is characterised by several distinctive features that contribute to its unique sound (and appeal). Here are some of the key features of disco:

Danceable Rhythms: Disco music is designed for dancing. It typically features a steady and consistent beat that encourages listeners to move and groove on the dance floor. The rhythmic patterns are often created using drum machines, electronic drums, or live drummers playing a four-on-the-floor beat.

Prominent Bass-lines: Disco songs usually have a strong and driving bass-line that provides a solid foundation for the music. The bass-lines in disco tracks are often groovy and repetitive, adding a rhythmic and melodic element to the overall sound.

Orchestration and Arrangements: Disco music often incorporates orchestral elements, such as string sections and brass instruments. These elements contribute to the rich and full sound of disco tracks, giving them a grand and energetic feel.

Soulful Vocals: Many disco songs feature powerful and soulful vocal performances. The singers often deliver catchy and melodic hooks with a sense of passion and emotion. The lyrics in disco songs typically revolve around themes of love, romance, and the joy of dancing. The vocal line would often be in a higher register soaring over the music.

Use of Horns and Strings: Disco music frequently includes horn sections, such as trumpets and saxophones, which add a punchy and vibrant element to the sound. String arrangements are also common, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to the music.

Syncopation and Offbeat Accents: Disco often incorporates syncopated rhythms and offbeat accents, which create a sense of groove and excitement. These rhythmic variations give disco tracks their infectious and irresistible quality, making them perfect for dancing.

Studio Techniques and Production: Disco music emerged during a time of technological advancements in recording and production. Producers utilised techniques such as multi-track recording, overdubbing, and the use of effects to create a polished and sonically rich sound.

Use of Electronic Instruments: Disco embraced the emerging electronic music technology of the time. Synthesisers, electronic keyboards, and drum machines were commonly used to create futuristic and dance-oriented sounds.


Folk songs are songs “written” “by the people”. A traditional folk song will be passed down orally or through informal transmission within the community. A folk song will be rooted in the cultural heritage of a particular region, ethnic group, or community. It will reflect on the social and historical experiences of the people. A folk song (or indeed tune but this is a vocal series) will be fairly simple and will nearly always tell a story.

Various musicians and composers spent a long time researching and collecting folk songs to incorporate them into their music. There are now books available full of folk songs, but they likely are only the very tip of the iceberg. These musicians and composers would also notate the songs they collected (which helps with the books) as generally speaking the songs had no written music.

Part of the charm of the folk song and the traditional way it is passed to a person is that as time goes on words change and melodies change and vary. Each new recipient of the for song would add their own variation to suit their story or community. Folk songs would either be sung unaccompanied or with acoustic instruments such as guitar or fiddle.

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