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Bluegrass

Pene Azul 12 Jun 00 - 11:43 PM
Mark Clark 12 Jun 00 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,Joerg 12 Jun 00 - 11:00 PM
GUEST,Banjo Johnny 12 Jun 00 - 10:36 PM
Midchuck 12 Jun 00 - 08:32 PM
Mark Clark 12 Jun 00 - 08:28 PM
Barbara Shaw 12 Jun 00 - 08:21 PM
GUEST,Banjo Johnny 12 Jun 00 - 07:45 PM
kendall 12 Jun 00 - 07:19 PM
Gary T 12 Jun 00 - 06:28 PM
Midchuck 12 Jun 00 - 06:18 PM
GUEST,Banjo Johnny 12 Jun 00 - 05:50 PM
Mark Clark 12 Jun 00 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,Joerg 12 Jun 00 - 01:56 PM
GUEST,April790 12 Jun 00 - 02:45 AM
GUEST,April790 12 Jun 00 - 02:34 AM
catspaw49 11 Jun 00 - 11:55 PM
Mark Clark 11 Jun 00 - 11:53 PM
Mark Clark 11 Jun 00 - 11:44 PM
Midchuck 11 Jun 00 - 11:09 PM
mactheturk 11 Jun 00 - 09:55 PM
GUEST,Joerg 11 Jun 00 - 09:23 PM
Mooh 11 Jun 00 - 08:18 PM
catspaw49 11 Jun 00 - 07:15 PM
Mark Clark 11 Jun 00 - 07:02 PM
kendall 11 Jun 00 - 06:54 PM
GUEST,BANJO JOHNNY 11 Jun 00 - 06:20 PM
Gary T 11 Jun 00 - 03:18 PM
Mark Clark 11 Jun 00 - 03:12 PM
keltcgrasshoppper 11 Jun 00 - 12:03 PM
BanjoRay 11 Jun 00 - 11:34 AM
sledge 11 Jun 00 - 10:53 AM
Midchuck 11 Jun 00 - 10:32 AM
Pixie 11 Jun 00 - 10:30 AM
sledge 11 Jun 00 - 10:14 AM
Gern 11 Jun 00 - 09:56 AM
Barbara Shaw 11 Jun 00 - 08:48 AM
Barbara Shaw 11 Jun 00 - 08:36 AM
kendall 11 Jun 00 - 08:30 AM
catspaw49 11 Jun 00 - 02:56 AM
GUEST,Joerg 10 Jun 00 - 11:03 PM
Mark Clark 10 Jun 00 - 10:11 PM
GUEST,Banjo Johnny 10 Jun 00 - 09:58 PM
Mark Clark 10 Jun 00 - 09:56 PM
Mark Clark 10 Jun 00 - 09:40 PM
black walnut 10 Jun 00 - 08:53 PM
kendall 10 Jun 00 - 07:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Jun 00 - 07:52 PM
The Shambles 10 Jun 00 - 07:38 PM
Barry 18 Jan 98 - 12:06 AM
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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Pene Azul
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 11:43 PM

Looks like it's time to continue this one.
It's getting too long for some folks to load.

Please post to Bluegrass II (click).

---Please Do Not Post More Here---


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 11:23 PM

With me, it depends heavily on the situation. If it's a jam and the announced focus is bluegrass, then I am attending with that expectation. If there are serious musicians present, I'll expect a general unspoken agreement as to the boundary conditions. If it turns out to be a more eclectic group with interests and instrumentation beyond bluegrass, I'll usually stay and have a fine time playing what ever comes up. Of course not everyone feels that way. One time at a small public jam, I absent mindedly ran through some blues licks while waiting for someone to kick off a tune. One particpant let me know right then that none of that music would tolerated.

If my employer plays the sax and wants to sit in for one or two tunes, I can handle that as long as it's presented as a lark. We would always see to it that such an epmloyer got a big hand and felt proud. You can't let that go on very long because it drives off the people who thought they were coming to hear bluegrass.

Bluegrass festival jams are the hardest to control. If a harmonica player walks up there's not much you can do except move to another key and hope for the best. Usually the folks who began the jam suddenly remember there's someone on stage they want to see and walk off.

Around here you might have to drive fifty or a hundred miles one way to reach a private jam session so everyone is pretty good about telling all the guests in advance if there will be non-bluegrass elements represented. Rarely does anyone bow out for that reason but at least the expectations have been set.

It isn't that other musical forms aren't as beautifully exciting as bluegrass, of course they are. But one doesn't bring a bowling ball to a basketball game.

Banjo Johnny spoke of competition. That's one thing I really don't understand. Why does there need to be a champion band of any variety and what does that even mean? Which professional bluegrass band is best? Which of the worlds great symphony orchestras is best? It depends on who's in the outfit "this week," what they're playing and mostly it depends on the tastes and sensibilities of the listener.

I know of a bluegrass music association that holds contests and made up rules governing what instruments could be allowed depending on the number of band members. According to their rules, Ralph Stanley's band would not have qualified, same for the Sullivan Family. Go figure.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Joerg
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 11:00 PM

Mark - Thank you, that was good information. Having tried the picking a little more I realized, that unlike everything I'm doing the 'beat' (the 1 and 3 strokes) are done with a melody string, not with a bass string and that is completely unfamiliar to me so I'll have to practice a little more to tell whether I can make something out of it or not.

When playing that only 'banjo' of my life (6-string, to be played as a guitar, therfore raped of course) I also noticed that this instrument didn't have something like a bass as I know it from the guitar. If you play the bass strings they somehow don't behave as an accompaniment of what you are doing with the melody strings but rather disturb it by behaving like a part of the 'melody' sometimes ok, sometimes kind of wrong. I learned that what you are doing with a guitar cannot be transferred to a banjo even if the fingerboard is the same. This may also limit the use of Scruggs style for guitars, but let's see...

I learned the expression 'attack' when trying a program named 'Mellosoftron'. Besides some 'attack slope' there is also a 'decay-', 'sustain-' and a 'release slope' and I know what these mean. So I think I can figure out what you mean with 'attack' regarding flatpicking but I'm not sure if we are talking of the same - anyway it's difficult to talk about things like these without hearing the music.

Johnny, Peter -

To me there's a main difference between folk and other kinds of music. When you're a musician doing e.g. Beethoven you better have learned the whole workmanship, thoroughly. That is because you will have to do everything that is on that paper as it is there. And every time you're doing it you'll do it as it is on that paper or else you might be fired. I do respect the skills of those people because I had to learn my own (different) skills for my job and I also can tell a professional from an amateur.

BUT:

The music they are doing is not a living thing. When I'm doing folk music I am EXPECTED to do it some way different from any way it was ever done before. And if I do it some way I like because somebody showed me that way (that happens, I'm not always really creative) I can only hope that there is nobody in the audience who knows what I am copying and also knows what folk music is AND then tells me "Well your version is very similar to ...".

Any other kind of music once set up some way will always be reproduced in a way as similar as possible. That's everyday music, that's professional, that's business, that's an object. Folk music is alive, as yoghurt should be, changing, mutating, always looking for new ways and finding them (well I hope my yoghurt isn't that alive).

Because of this I think that defining what's allowed or forbidden for any kind of folk music is at least at the very edge of what 'folk' tells me. But the next edge of 'nazi' is very far from that.

Joerg


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Banjo Johnny
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 10:36 PM

Of course Peter is 100% correct about the standard group. You wouldn't get far in competition with the wrong sub. In fact some of the hard core judges wouldn't even let you on stage. But what if you are jamming and let's say a 12-stringer wants to play? How about a steel player? What if the guy that owns the joint wants to play I'll Fly Away on tenor sax? -- OKC


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Midchuck
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 08:32 PM

I am not, with all respect, a bluegrass nazi. I'm not any kind of a nazi. I'm a rational anarchist when I'm in a good mood, and an just-plain anarchist when I'm not, if anyone cares.

I just wanted to state the bluegrass nazi position for the record. I'm on the bluegrass mailing list and get to hear it a lot.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 08:28 PM

Banjo Johnny, don't think of Peter as a Nazi, he's just listing the instruments that have defined the sound. He forgot to officially ban the harmonica but I ran into one situation where having a harmonica player included in a bluegrass show is a good idea... It's when the guy who owns the club where you're booked is a harmonica player and wants to join in on "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms." Entertaining the boss can have its merits as well.

It was mentioned earlier in the thread that bluegrass players don't take themselves too seriously but they do take the music seriously. Bluegrass isn't supposed to be loosey-goosey all-join-in good time music. It's supposed to be tightly arranged and precisely performed good time music. The performers work for many years to get their sound and timing just right. It's only naturally that they are disappointed when someone shows up with a twelve-string or an accordian because the clarity of the sound is lost.

It isn't that bluegrassers don't like the other instruments, they do. They enjoy lots of different instruments and kinds of music, they just don't want folks mucking about with their bluegrass.

Peter and I may not agree on the relative importance of each particular instrument but that is the sort of pseudo religious debate that has no conclusion. The point is that, up against the pressures of popular culture, bluegrass is a genre that often has to fight for it's identity.

What would people think at an Irish jam if someone showed up with highland pipes? Or a fuzz-tone electric guitar? My guess is that many participants would politely make excuses and find somewhere else to go. I know I would.

Hope you understand,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 08:21 PM

There are some pretty great Dobro (resonator guitar) players in bands like Blue Highway and Seldom Scene. Very bluegrass.

My husband plays a Gibson mastertone, but he also plays a Stelling which puts it to shame. And you should see all the banjo-breaths hover around it, with their Gibsons lying there neglected under the drool.

We've had some great jams when the lonely harmonica or accordion showed up and added a delightful touch to the breaks.

I personally detest the sound of electric bass in a bluegrass band, even T. Michael Coleman. The bass player in IIIrd Tyme Out (Ray Deaton) finally switched from electric to acoustic. Folks in our house can play both (except me, only acoustic) and agree that the sustain is too much for bluegrass on the electric and the sound guys don't seem to turn it down enough.

However, the 5 standard instruments work so well together that they have a magic that is enchanting. Monroe experimented with other instrumentation and settled on this mix, and I'm glad.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Banjo Johnny
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 07:45 PM

... and then there are the Bluegrass Nazis, who are LOTS of fun to play with.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: kendall
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 07:19 PM

Actually, there are more and more Taylor guitars appearing in Bluegrass.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Gary T
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 06:28 PM

TIFKAD?


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Midchuck
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 06:18 PM

Piano is not O. K.

Accordion is not O. K.

Drums are not O. K.

12-string guitar is not O. K.

Bluegrass is played on:

mandatory:

banjo (Gibson resonator banjo or clone) mandolin (Gibson F-model or clone) 6-string guitar (Martin Dreadnought or clone)

optional:

upright bass (electric bass is accepted if you are T. Michael Coleman, but not otherwise) fiddle TIFKAD

There are no other bluegrass instruments.

The matter permits of no discussion.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Banjo Johnny
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 05:50 PM

Mandolin, by all means! It has a bright sound, but has to be miked. Worked out fine for Bill Monroe. Same for harmonica. My opinion on OTHER INSTRUMENTS for bluegrass. Guitar, goes without saying. 12-string sounds great too, and lots of power. Same for dobro on melody. Bullfiddle is always the preferred bass. Electric bass is okay but mute the strings so they don't sustain so much. Acoustic bass guitars just don't have enough power for the stage. I'd like someone to try the Mexican bass (guitarron) - seems like it might work out soundwise but look funny. Oh well it's all for fun anyway, right? Piano is okay, especially for Jesus tunes. Accordion right hand is a fair sub for violin, but still would rather hear the fiddle. Drums - a small trap set --no cymbals please-- with a foot thumper are okay, if it's done right (like Woody Allen said). I still haven't formed an opinion on pedal steel for blue grass. Is it too far outside the style? == Johnny in Oklahoma City.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 03:36 PM

Joerg, the reason a flatpick is traditionally used is to get the "attack" that only a flatpick can provide. It's very difficult to get it to sound even when fingerpicking because the fingers and thumb have different attacks. Still, you can find examples of bluegrass guitar played with a thumbpick and two finger picks. Listen to some of the old Flatt and Scruggs recordings. I'm specifically thinking of a tune called "Preachin', Prayin', Singin'" where Earl takes short guitar breaks. There are other examples of his playing this way, I just can't think of any right now.

As for the banjo, there are more knowledgeable folks here than me but my understanding is that the fifth string was always part of the banjo until the advent of the jazz age spawned the creation of the tenor or four stringed banjo. The Gibson Company always designated their five stringed models "RB" for regular banjo to differentiate them from the tenor banjos which were a foreign instrument in the hands of a five-string player. The fifth string (or thumb string) only reaches part way up the neck because it wasn't desinged to be noted. It's just a drone string serving a purpose similar to the drone pipes of a bagpipe or the drone strings of a mountain dulcimer or a hardanger (sp?) fiddle. It's the fifth string that gives the banjo it's characteristic feel and cadence. In Scruggs style playing, the fifth string is normally integrated into the arpeggio of the roll and doesn't often play a melody note. In the chromatic styles of Bobby Thompson and Bill Keith, it is used as a melody note just as any other string. If you're unfamiliar with the five-stringed banjo, you should know that it is typically only played in the single key to which it has been tuned. If you want to play in a different key, you must change your tuning.

Hope this helps,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Joerg
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 01:56 PM

Thank you, Mark - you know I'm carrying a flatpick in my purse but I haven't used it for years since I'm a real fingerpicking fetishist, also when listening. So I can't do that picking with a flatpick, but I can with fingerpicks. Having tried it: I am using similar pickings myself, the main difference is that I do the last stroke with one of the high strings (i.e. mostly with my index finger rather than with my thumb) not with a bass string - that's new to me. But still (at least at the moment) it seems to me that it's not quite the same as Scruggs style. Maybe it's for the fact that I can only do strokes in one direction, but I'd rather suppose it's for that fifth banjo string. What's its purpose, how is it used?

Joerg


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,April790
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 02:45 AM

Aw, shucks, I forgot to mention on of the most important aspects of bluegrass. The tight 3-4 part harmony and laid-back singing style lacking vibrato, requiring a good ear and breath control and no part or voice standing out or dominating the harmony. No one wants to call attention to themselves in bluegrass (except the one singing the melody or a solo part), so that the result is harmonic and fluid. When a group is singing it right, you can't sort out who's singing lead, who's singing bass or tenor. And you know it's good when you break out in goosebumps! Now, that's bluegrass!


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,April790
Date: 12 Jun 00 - 02:34 AM

This is what Bluegrass means to me: Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Jim & Jesse, the late Chubby Wise, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, etc., weekends listening to professional and semi-professional bands on stage beneath a canopy of trees and dinner on the ground, or on stage in a hotel ballroom; jammin' with other bluegrassers who do take their music and techniques serious, but can laugh at themselves when they don't get it right; a basic band has a BANJO (gotta have a banjo if you're gonna call it Bluegrass), GUITAR (and I've always thought a flatpick was just a guitar and a flatpicker and guitar player), FIDDLE (a player who knows how to improvise and rock his bow); a MANDOLIN (this adds life and interest to the band), and an UPRIGHT BASS. All of these instruments are acoustic, including the bass. Too many bands use electrified bass even when all the other instruments are acoustic. For many years the Kansas Bluegrass Assoc. would not allow an electrified bass on stage, but some of the professionals use it because it's easier to travel with.

But most of all, which I haven't seen mentioned here is the gospel part of bluegrass. Bill Monroe, the "father of bluegrass" started singing in the church choir, then progressed to forming a band, and gospel remained a large part of his repetoire during his lifetime. Doyle Lawson also grew up with gospel and it is still very much a part of his programming--and I've never heard anyone perform gospel like Lawson does. For me, bluegrass isn't real unless it includes gospel. That's why there are so many nice folks in bluegrass, ya know. They know gospel and live it. I hope that part of bluegrass is never, ever lost.

Many of the people I know that play bluegrass can't read a note of music and play everything by ear which encouraged improvisation. But there are also many who have been trained classically, and sometimes you can't tell the difference. It's all in how hard the person works at it and rather or not they get over their shyness to risks of improvisation. And I know some kids who pick it up and are playing practically all the instruments in a few years time. Another thing I love about bluegrass is the informality that goes along with performing and jamming. Slapstick and comedy can be a part of it, and I'm talking clean comedy. It's all very entertaining and relaxing. As you can see I love it.

I play bass and I think it's the easiest instrument to play. Plus, it being so easy, I can play and enjoy the talents of the other pickers or let my mind drift to watching people or kids or nature. Ahhhhh, heaven!


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: catspaw49
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 11:55 PM

Well Mark, if its not, it should be.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 11:53 PM

Peter, I think I was composing while you were posting. I didn't figure I'd confuse Joerg with all the philosophical stuff. Most players eventually conclude that whatever works for them is the best way to do something.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 11:44 PM

Joerg, I've never tried to explain cross picking before but I'll try. Perhaps others will improve on my simple explanation. First of all, we use the term flatpick to refer to a standard guitar plectrum. Here there are brands like Fender and Dunlop; just a small triangular piece of celluloid often made to look like tortise shell. We call them flatpicks to differentiate them from thumb picks and finger picks which are specially molded to fit the finger. Another term that's often used is straight pick. For cross picking, I'd recommend a fairly stiff one, I think you'll get better control.

To see how cross picking works at it's simplest level, pick up a flatpick and hold it between your thumb and the side of your index finger so that only a small portion of the pick protudes far enough to engage the strings. Pick up your guitar and hold a first position C chord. Now the picking uses both down and up strokes as follows: pick down on the 4th (D) string, then pick down on the 3rd (G) string, then pick up on the 2nd (B) string. Now repeat those three strokes just as before. Finally, pick down on the 4th (D) string and up on the 2nd (B) string.

Like Scruggs style banjo, this pattern tends toward a rhumba rhythm so you have to really work to make it sound even and fast. Once you have mastered the basic technique you'll realize that you can easily vary the choices of string and fingering to play almost anything you want. Since you don't often need a full chord, you have some of a banjo player's freedom to move and slide your noting hand while keeping the "roll" going.

Good luck, Joerg.

Spaw, I just figured everyone knew there was no point in a bluegrass band without a mandolin. Isn't that in the constitution somewhere?

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Midchuck
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 11:09 PM

I can refer you to a list where people have bitter and caustic arguments over whether crosspicking can properly be done down-up-down-up-down-up or (as the purists say) must be done down-down-up-down-down-up-down-up, to emulate the scruggs roll properly.....

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: mactheturk
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 09:55 PM

If we were to build a "Bluegrass Mount Rushmore" the carvings would probably include; Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Flatt and Scruggs and Ralph Stanley.

What do you think? Who did we miss?

Mac


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Joerg
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 09:23 PM

Johnny - do you mean that Scruggs style requires a five string banjo to do it? If so, why exactly? Remember that a guitar has six strings and nobody MUST play them all at once.

Mark - is what you call a 'flat pick' really that single piece of a credit card I think I understand it to be? If so: Can you tell me more about it? If not: What is a flet pick? (I simply can't imagine how to do anything like Scruggs style with a single pick.)

To you all - please try to understand that certain things that seem obvious to you are unknown to me. That's why I had to ask Spaw in 'fret fret fret' what Lysol is. I am also a guitar player knowing few about banjos although I am doing nothing but fingerpicking and also once tried that with a six string banjo (wholesome experience).

Moreover I am living in a region where people slowly begin to accept country music - provided it's performed in german by some tired-looking guy singing lower than his voice really is (arghh!). Do not think that I can get any support for things as specific as 'bluegrass' here. This has become better during the last decades but still there are hardly any more serious resources for me than YOU.

I still think that there should be a way to do something like Scruggs style on the guitar but I never found out how the right hand works. I can't hear it because I am a really bad listener (to musical details!) and it simply goes too fast. But maybe it's only for the fifth string. Is the left hand involved? I don't know, but I am VERY interested. It IS possible to work melodies into arpeggios - I am doing it but not that way.

Joerg


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mooh
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 08:18 PM

To start, I digress...Acoustic Guitar Magazine this month actually described bluegrass as a "cult" music. I just about choked on my own laughter...

I like to think that bluegrass could exist as merely a breath or as a full-tilt ensemble of guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, double bass, pretty much in that order. I love it when I hear country/western, celtoids, folkies and others break into bluegrass for kicks. Some cult. The bluegrass appeal is much more universal than other forms, it boggles that it hasn't sold better.

Peace and flatpicks, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: catspaw49
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 07:15 PM

ohmygawd.........mandolin got a mention!!!........I'm in shock! bluegrass may have become focused on banjo and, to a lesser extent, fiddle, but Bluegrass without mandolin is like Gerlemane without a temptress.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 07:02 PM

Actually, Scruggs style for guitar has already been worked out, it's called cross picking and is done with a flatpick. Same sort of roll-based arpegio, with a syncopated melody worked in. Same for mandolin, listen to Jesse McReynolds sometime.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: kendall
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 06:54 PM

Lenny Breau used to play a 7 string guitar.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,BANJO JOHNNY
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 06:20 PM

For JOERG - That's a thought, Scruggs style for guitar. Don't know if it's ever been done. The problem is that you don't have the drone string on guitar. This is the banjo's fifth (or short) string, that your thumb keeps dinging away on a high note, usually sol or do of the scale, and usually off the beat. Not to say you couldn't add this to a guitar with a lot of engineering. Would that be a "seventh" string ? :-> Johnny in Oklahoma City.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Gary T
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 03:18 PM

Mark, I would venture that some of them--and their kids!--show up in Winfield for the Walnut Valley Festival. This year they'll have a Swiss act, the Kreuger (sp?) Brothers, who are of the "knock your socks off" caliber. I personally am not a Banjo aficionado, but the Kreuger banjoist is rather amazing.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 03:12 PM

Barbara, thanks for your comments. I was afraid I was putting everyone to sleep. I'm glad to hear all the headliners are again booked at the same show. In the 80's festivals got to be so numerous that they would only book one or two top-tier bands, two or three middle-tier, a couple of "bluegrass related" acts and then fill out the program with local or amature talent. It was good from the perspective of bringing new bands along but it wasn't the same level of show. We really got spoiled in the early days of the festivals.

It's sure great to hear that bluegrass festivals are being held all over the world. Maybe someday I'll get to see some of them. I remember how bluegrass bands from Japan, France, ... all over, would be turing the U.S. during the summer and pick up bookings at the larger festivals. They were always fantastic. Even the Japanese who spoke no english had the singing down including a pretty decent southern drawl.

Those early festivals were astonishing on many levels. Of course there was the music and the fellowship but it was also the meeting ground for all kinds of people who might otherwise have been antagonists. Right wing, left wing, farmers, urban executives, student radicals, southern rednecks, hippies, Deadhead spinners, minorities, foreign citizens, you name it. There were no bariers and no one cared what you thought about anything but the music. I sometimes wonder what ever happend to all those people.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: keltcgrasshoppper
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 12:03 PM

For any travelers to the Canadian Maritimes or better yet if you live there.."The PEI Old Time Music and Blue Grass Festival" will be held at the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival Grounds from July 6-9th..camping available on site.. call Glenda Jackson 1-902-569-4501.. This is usually a great time for Blue Grass lovers.. check it out if you can... KGH


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: BanjoRay
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 11:34 AM

UK bluegrass festivals this summer (They are all weekends. The date is an approximation, because I can't get at my calendar!):
July 1 :A1 festival - Sacrewell Farm, Peterborough, half a mile off the A1 - good camping, concerts, workshops, sessions

July 8 :Conwy Bluegrass fesival, near Conwy town centre. Excellent concerts, workshops, sessions (BG & OT) and camping

July 22 : Yorkshire Dales BG festival nr Silsden (nr Skipton) North Yorkshire. Excellent concerts, workshops, sessions (mainly BG), camping

For those who prefer their old time unadulterated, there's a great OT camp for a week(including both weekends) from 11th Aug at the same site as the A1 festival (see above)only £2 pd camp fee, good facilities. Lots of sessions - indoors if wet.

You can just turn up at any of these, and pay at the gate!
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: sledge
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 10:53 AM

Peter

Thanks for the tip

Stu


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Midchuck
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 10:32 AM

Sampler CD: Rounder (or, as Ron Thomason has doomed them to forever be called, "The Rounderflatterblacker Record Company") has a very nice 2-CD set called "Hand-Picked: 25 years of Bluegrass on Rounder Records" with 49 cuts on the 2 CDs. It came out in '95 and was sold very cheap - I think I paid something like US$6.99 for the whole thing, in a retail store. Their stock # is AN22/23. Of course I have no idea as to present availability in this country, much less in the UK. You might check the various internet CD sales operations.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Pixie
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 10:30 AM

This is a great thread! I don't have a large collection of bluegrass music, but love the festival we go to in Nova Scotia every summer (formerly in Beechbrook campground in Ardoise, now at Mt. Denson outside of Windsor, Nova Scotia). I don't sleep for two-three days other than cat naps. Too busy listening to the jams sessions and joining in. I play very basic guitar, but playing along at the festival with others has helped me tremendously. I love the harmonies in the songs, the gospel, and the instrumentals. Bluegrass people are very easy-going, love to teach you a lick, and encourage you to work on developing skills....they are also very patient and are definitely there for the music!

Note to Heather Ferris....I am originally from B.C.; where are you writing from?


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: sledge
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 10:14 AM

Blue grass curious, I have not knowingly heard any but would like to. Anyone with suggestions on south coast UK venues/festivals that might fit the bill or alternativley a good sampler CD.

cheers


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Gern
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 09:56 AM

The previous comments from Bill from Alabama should be heeded, because he is an authority on the subject. I enjoyed his performance with his wife at Norris last fall, and I concur that the Tennessee Fall Homecoming is one of the best festivals I have attended. Topnotch entertainment, a genuine effort to include local and lesser known talent, a commitment to mountain roots and a vast array of artists and crafstmen to demonstrate various cultural skills. Go to Norris this October! Meanwhile I hope to find a few mudcatters at Bean Blossom Indiana this week.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 08:48 AM

Hi Kendall! (Met him at Thomas Point Beach Festival. You should hear him. . .)


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 08:36 AM

Mark Clark, I'm really enjoying all you have to say, so don't stop writing down those great memories! My husband and I go to 7 or 8 bluegrass festivals every summer, all over the northeast, and we're bit bad, real bad.

It's still like that, with all the headliners at the same festivals, all the busses lined up, really nice people accessible to the fans, and jams all night long. Check out the lineup at Grey Fox Festival (formerly Winterhawk) and Thomas Point Beach Festival, even smaller ones like Noppet Hill and Pemi Valley.

And the bluegrass lifestyle is another whole book, the people we've met at festivals and hook up with again every summer, people from every New England state, Canada, New York, Virginia, etc.

We met Carlton Haney a few years ago when we went to his festival at Berryville, VA. What a cantankerous old curmudgeon he was! Got up on the stage during one of the sound checks and called out specific settings to the sound engineer for several minutes. Bill Monroe was supposed to be there but was having health problems, but we saw Dan Crary, Rose Maddox (accompanied by a last minute pickup of Skip Gorman, who was camped right next to us), Chubby Wise, and many others. Never to be forgotton.

In our own little amateur way, we're carrying on the tradition locally with our own bluegrass band (called ShoreGrass) in a town that never heard bluegrass before, probably. We have guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and bass. Of course.

Thanks for your stories, Mark. Keep 'em coming.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: kendall
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 08:30 AM

Joerg, I recommend you pick up a copy of Pete Seegers How to play the banjo. It covers all styles. For listening, I recommed a tape titled, On A Day Like Today, by Cathy Barton and Dave Para. What she does with that banjo is just great. Howie Burson also has an outstanding tape/CD. These are both on Folk Legacy Records. Go to their web site and check them out. If you buy, be sure to mention Mudcat. I also recommend any tape or CD by Ralph Stanley. He can switch from Bluegrass style to clawhammer with ease. I like his rendition of "Bound to ride".


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: catspaw49
Date: 11 Jun 00 - 02:56 AM

Lots of intersting things here in this old/new thread. It is interesting to me that mandolin is barely mentioned and yet has been an integral part of the tradition, although one I see as becoming overshadowed by banjo and fiddle.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Joerg
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 11:03 PM

Kendall - can you tell me more about the banjo styles you mentioned or direct me to where I can find out more on the net? I never found out how the three fingers style works but I think that for some purposes it might be great on the guitar (slower, of course) and what about the other ones? BTW I once was told that Earl Scruggs learned that style from a banjo player named - uh - was it 'Snuffy Jenkins'?

Joerg


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 10:11 PM

B.J., you're right on about the fiddle. A bluegrass band really needs a fiddle. Unless there's a dobro, the fiddle is the only instrument with enough sustain to smooth out the choppy rhythms of the other players.

I also agree with using the banjo as accompanimant for a solo act. Scruggs style just wouldn't work. Bluegrass is ensemble music and without the proper instrumentation, one is much better off performing the songs in a folk or perhaps a Merle Travis style. A single person simply can't perform true bluegrass.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: GUEST,Banjo Johnny
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 09:58 PM

The banjo techniques have been covered pretty well, so I'll just add this. Interesting the way, the minute Bluegrass was mentioned, the attention zeroed in on banjo. Does it still sound like Bluegrass without the banjo? The three-fingered, syncopated Scruggs style has certainly become part of the sound. But just as important is the FIDDLE, and the basic bowing is an alternating down--updown, up--downup. It's all in the wrist. Without the fiddle, you have nothing! As far as banjo, I combine frailing with melody picking. This divides the work equally between both hands. Your left does a lot of hammering and drawing off. This also makes the banjo a good accompaniment for singing. The drawback of the Scruggs style is that you just about need a band behind you. Otherwise it's hard for the average listener (non-musician) to hear the progression. It sure sparkles, tho. You can spend a lot of time mastering that, or you can spend time learning lots of songs in a simpler style. I'm basically a singer with a banjo, so that's what I do. Good luck with your banjo! -- Johnny in Oklahoma City


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 09:56 PM

Black Walnut, I agree with Joe that they tend not to take themselves too seriously. They do take the music seriously but not themselves. Costumes, when used, are just part of the country music tradidion; remember, it's supposed to be a sub-category of commercial country music. The folk roots may be clearer and stronger but a bluegrass show is supposed to look like it was staged, not like a university lecture.

Over the years I've found that there are may things in the world that can be more easily appreciated if I let go of my own notions about what they should be and just accept them as I find them. Most of the fine arts and liberal arts seem to be like that. Come to think of it, people are mostly that way too.

Cheers,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Mark Clark
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 09:40 PM

One thing to keep in mind about bluegrass music is that it was designed from the beginning to be commercial counrty music. I wasn't really meant to be back porch music. When country music fans first heard Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys over WSM's Grand Ole Opry with Earl, Cedric, Chubby and Lester, they went generally bonkers. Suddenly the Gibson Co. was back in the banjo business and, I think, had to dig out their patterns for five-string banjos. People hadn't wanted many of them for a long time.

Note that Monroe didn't originally refer to his music as "bluegrass." Other people eventually gave it than name because Bill had named his band The Blue Grass Boys after his home state. Bill has been quoted many times as saying he was just playing country music and trying to get a sound that was unique and easily identifiable. I believe he actually experimented with electric instruments, piano and accordian at different times before settling on the 1945 configuration.

The reason bluegrass jams may seem strange to many players unfamiliar with the idiom is that it is really intended as commercial entertainment. It tends to be highly arranged and often, several arrangements of a tune must be committed to memory before a player joining a jam will know when to play lead, when to play backup and when to just lay out.

Downeast Bob was correct in saying bluegrass grew pretty steadily in popularity since it's inception. The advent of R&R made it hard on most country musicians and I've read that in 1963, when Brad (AKA Bill) Kieth was a Blue Grass Boy, they would all climb into a station wagon with the bass tied up on top and drive from Nashville to California for a one night stand. Now that's dedication.

Bluegrass started to really grow in popularity when Carlton Haneys (sp?) produced the very first bluegrass festival at Watermellon Park near Berryville, Virginia. It seems to me the year was 1965. This event was so successful, it was only a short time before Monroe and others began producing their own festivals. And what festivals they were. Jan and I happened to be in southern Indiana not long ago and stopped by the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Bean Blossom. As I looked around the room I realized that, with the exception of Carter Stanley who died before the festivals took off, every single current hall of Fame member would be booked on the same show at the same festival. You'd pull up to a festival site and there along the front fence would be a long row of giant tour busses facing the road with names like Ralph Stanley, Jim and Jesse, The Country Gentlemen, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Martin... every big name in bluegrass would be there. What's more, they were nice people. Many of them would perform all day and then stay up all night just to jam with the fans.

Sorry to go on and on. I didn't realize when I began this post what a grip those memories still have on me. All I can say is, you shoulda been there.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: black walnut
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 08:53 PM

I like to listen to bluegrass, especially women singers like Jenny Lester and Alison Krauss, and bands like Heartbreak Hill. I went to the Tottenham Bluegrass Festival last summer, and had to laugh at the number of groups that got up there on the hottest drippingest day of the summer, in their matching fancy long-sleeved, long-pants outfits. And you say they don't take themselves as seriously, Joe? I'm not so sure about that.....

~black walnut (who, to answer your second question, Someone, plays dulcimer, celtic harp, piano, guitar, whistle....)


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: kendall
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 07:56 PM

Generally, Old time banjo is called, clawhammer, frailing, drop thumb or rapping. Bluegrass banjo is picked with three fingers Earl Scruggs style. There are many outstanding clawhammer players, Cathy Barton, Howie Burson, Kathy Fink, Sara Grey and Reid Martin, to name a few. I have a strong preference for clawhammer, and, wide open full speed bluegrass banjo sounds like a popsicle stick in a bicycle wheel (to quote an old friend whom I wont embarrass)


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 07:52 PM

And it would be helpful if peope chipping in here could say where they are geographically.

I suspect that the rules and customs might vary for different parts of the globe, and this is a great place to find out that kind of stuff.


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: The Shambles
Date: 10 Jun 00 - 07:38 PM

I have played at Old Time sessions but I think I would be quite daunted by the prospect of playing at a Bluegrass one. Could someone explain the rules and when exactly Old Time banjo, for example becomes Bluegrass banjo?


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Subject: RE: Bluegrass
From: Barry
Date: 18 Jan 98 - 12:06 AM

Heather, in the late 70's, while I was livin in Hawaii, I met a bluegraser from out your way, played with some of the bands but can't recall who they were., any way his name is Warren Argo, know him, or his whereabouts, greatful for any info. Barry


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