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  1. #1

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    For some bizarre reason, Bluegrass is pretty popular in my part of New Jersey. I've dabbled in acoustic music, mostly teaching myself Travis-style picking and rags, but Bluegrass and flatpicking is not something I've pursued. Mandolin, fiddle, and slide guitar all grate on my ears!

    But, there's a monthly jam session in my town, so every once in a while I go. It's friendly, no attitude, and the songs are easy. Everything is 3-4 simple chords, key changes are with a capo. I don't even know any of the songs, I just watch somebody's fingers! For me, the tricky part for soloing is, everything is running 1/8th notes, and not too many note choices. The guys who know the style have licks and picking techniques they use to make it interesting. It's kind of fun, for social reasons if nothing else, but I usually come away thinking it's a distraction from my jazz playing, and I should "stay in my lane"

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I sometimes sub with a bluegrass band. Once in a while it can be fun. I don't own a capo so key changes keep me on my toes.

    Bluegrass jam sessions around here are few and far between. The last one I went to was about 40 years ago.
    With all those guitars ( about 8 ) thumping out first position chords I had the nerve to play the right chords but up the neck just to add a little different sound. The leader ( a old man about 75 ) stopped the song, points at me and says "boy around here we play out G chords like this". He proceeds to show me the "right" open chord. I left and never went back. I went to a jam in the park in the same town a couple of years ago. I told that story a couple of people knew who I was talking about.

    That's my bluegrass story.

  4. #3

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    I’ve done some bluegrass jams. It’s kind of fun to attend the annual Wintergrass festival in Bellevue WA, wander around to sample the many hallway jams and sit in on a few that sound interesting. They range from barely listenable to great players who were booked for performances. If they seem open to another guitar I’ll ask if I can sit in, but I try not to overstay my welcome.

    There are usually at least one or two swing or jazz manouche jams somewhere in the hotel, and sometimes a choro jam. I enjoy those more than the straight bluegrass jams. They are mostly string instruments, but sometimes you’ll have accordion, clarinet, or euphonium.

    There are a number of regular jams in all those styles around the Seattle area. Some are listed in the meetup app, but some by word of mouth. Probably the best way to find out about good acoustic jams is to make a point of meeting good acoustic players wherever you can find them. That’s probably true in any city.

  5. #4

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    i have to admit to not caring for bluegrass. It seems to be one of those genres that is deliberately limited in the musical resources they are allowed to use. I went to a couple of bluegrass festivals a few years back, and virtually all the guitarists played everything with the chords of the key of G, and used a capo to get to other keys while still using just the G chords! The only way you could prove advanced skills was by playing faster than everyone else!

  6. #5

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    I don’t enjoy playing very many traditional (Bill Monrow) bluegrass tunes in a row, but I like lot of progressive bluegrass (starting with David Grisman, Tony Rice, etc.) Unfortunately, you won’t find much of that in most bluegrass jams. It tends to be highly arranged and sticks close to the melody so not a lot of room for improvisation.
    Here’s a Scott Nygaard album I’ve had for a few years.

  7. #6

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    Bluegrass bands are everywhere these days. Brooklyn's hipsters most popular genre. All these bearded dudes singing 'yeeehooo' seem kinda pretentious for some reason. Sometimes you can see the same musicians playing trad or Gypsy jazz, so there is a connection.

  8. #7

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    The skill required in bluegrass is highly underestimated. The capo is used, not because everything's in G, C or D, but because a lot of the licks and runs require open strings and sound better that way.

    A lot of traditional bluegrass can be, frankly, rather loud and hokey. Melodious bluegrass singers aren't common but when you get a good one they're terrific.

    Back in the day guitars weren't lead instruments, they were used for rhythm. Then came the likes of Doc Watson and Clarence White who turned it into an art form. Tony Rice polished it and began using jazz-type substitutions and now everyone's at it. Now they can all flatpick like crazy. The fiddle player Mark O'Connor started out as a guitarist before becoming better known for his fiddle playing.

    This is Beaumont Rag played in C, capo 4 (i.e. E). Couldn't play it like this without the capo :-)


  9. #8

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    O'Connor actually started out as a fiddle player, while still a child. He won a number of competitions while still very young. He played guitar with Grisman for awhile, but was still fiddling to some extent, and played fiddle with Stephane Grapelli at at least one Grisman concert. He can play guitar, but only did it because that was the instrument open with Grisman.

    At least some bluegrass musicians are becoming more progressive, such as Chris Thille and his band Punch Brothers. But like jazz guitarists, most are traditional and conservative.

  10. #9

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    Jerry Douglas is the premier bluegrass dobro player. It's all about the mix of traditional and progressive in this 21st century.



    Also, don't forget that bassist Victor Wooten is a FleckTone....the rhythm section for some crazed banjo picker...


    l

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    most are traditional and conservative.
    And WHITE!

    whoops

  12. #11

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    Also, don't forget that bassist Victor Wooten is a FleckTone....the rhythm section for some crazed banjo picker...
    I'm not sure what Victor has to do with Gene. AFAIK they weren't related, and didn't play the same instrument. Gene, the one on the recording, played dobro, which is the point of the recording. But maybe I'm missing a connection somewhere...

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    I'm not sure what Victor has to do with Gene. AFAIK they weren't related, and didn't play the same instrument. Gene, the one on the recording, played dobro, which is the point of the recording. But maybe I'm missing a connection somewhere...
    The comment about Victor Wooten wasn't related to the video at all, sorry you were confused.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Bluegrass bands are everywhere these days. Brooklyn's hipsters most popular genre. All these bearded dudes singing 'yeeehooo' seem kinda pretentious for some reason. Sometimes you can see the same musicians playing trad or Gypsy jazz, so there is a connection.
    I saw Tony Trischka (banjo) last year, he joked that there were more Bluegrass players in Brooklyn than Nashville! Yeah, pretentious is about right, not just the beards, but the vest, driving cap, maybe a pocket watch..