From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The cowbell is a percussion instrument.
While the cowbell is commonly found in musical contexts, its origin can be traced to freely roaming animals. In order to help identify the herd to which these animals belonged herdsmen placed these bells around the animal's necks. As the animals moved about the bell would ring, thus making it easier to know of the animal's whereabouts. While bells were used on various types of animals, they are typically referred to as "cowbells" due to their extensive use with cattle. Cowbells are commonly trapezoid, cylindrical or cup-shaped.
As a musical instrument
Greek herdsmen often use several bells attached to principal animals which produce a distinctive chord. The scale on which this chord is based is then reproduced in the herdsman's pipe - so he can play along with the herd. Similar bells have been used in Western European classical music to evoke a pastoral mood.
Almglocken typically refer to bulbuous brass bells that are used to play music as a novelty act or tourist attraction in the northern Alps. Since they are tuned differently to distinguish individual animals, they can be collected "from the pasture" in random tunings, but commercial sets in equal temperament are also available. The metal clapper is retained, and they sound much more noisy than handbells, which are otherwise used similarly in ensembles. Compsers who included almglocken among their musical palette include Gustav Mahler and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Clapperless cowbells made of metal are an important element in Latin-American and go go music. These cowbells are struck with a stick - the tone being modulated by striking different parts of the bell and by damping with the hand holding the bell.
In several parts of the world (notably in West Africa) pairs or trios of clapperless bells are joined in such a way that they can be struck separately or clashed together. The Brazilian name for these is "agogo" bells. Cylindrical wood blocks played in the same way are also called "agogo". In Cuban music the cowbell is called cencerro and often played by the same player as the bongos.
- The cowbell gained popular attention as the subject of a famous Saturday Night Live skit popularly known as "More Cowbell." That skit parodied Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", one of the more successful pieces of popular music to feature the cowbell.
- The Roland TR-808 drum machine was noted for its distinctive cowbell sound, which sounded almost nothing like an actual cowbell; the sound was highly electronic with a sharp, short decay. Regardless of its lack of realism, the TR-808 cowbell became a popular sound in 1980s R&B and hip hop music, popularized by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis-produced artists such as The SOS Band and Janet Jackson. Its distinctive and notorious timbre has enjoyed continued use by hip hop and R&B artists well into the 1990s and 2000s, as well as by bands in other genres such as the Super Furry Animals ("Juxtaposed With U") and the Dismemberment Plan ("You Are Invited"). DFA Records are noted for using a lot of cowbell in their remixes.
Songs Featuring the Cowbell
- "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult
- "Ain't That America" by John Cougar Mellencamp
- "Low Rider" by War
- "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain
- "Around The Block" by Alien Ant Farm
- "Were Not Going To Take It" by Twisted Sister
- "Nightrain" by Guns_'N_Roses
- "Pay To Cum" by Bad Brains
- "Feeling This" by Blink-182
Cowbells are sometimes popular noisemakers at sporting events, despite attempts to suppress them. In the United States, they are most closely identified with Mississippi State University, whose football fans smuggle in cowbells by the thousands despite a ban on artificial noisemakers by its conference, the Southeastern Conference. Worldwide, in Cross-Country Skiing, cowbells are often rung vigorously at the start and finishes of races. Cornell ice hockey fans who are also known for their zealous support of their team have cheers that feature use of a cowbell while in Lynah Rink. The San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League are also (in)famous for their fans' use of cowbells. In New Zealand, supporters of the Waikato Rugby Union invariably use cowbells at home matches; this has been carried over to home matches of the Chiefs, the Super 14 franchise centered on the Waikato region. A small, intrepid band of Toronto Blue Jays fans at Rogers Centre frequently bring cowbells to Blue Jays home games. They're common enough at Tampa Bay Devil Rays home games that the stadium scoreboard graphics crew have a pre-built graphic that says "More Cowbell!!" They are also rung vigorously during cyclo-cross races.
- ^ SEC votes for football yardage penalties for cowbell use. Mississippi State University (2002-06-10). Retrieved on 2006-12-14.
- Making music with pitched cowbells