Bluegrass Beginner Needs Advice

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by iPlay15151515, Feb 7, 2005.

  1. My ambition is primarily playing bluegrass/old time double bass.

    I've been practicing on an electric bass (guitar) for about 3 months.

    I would appreciate some advice on the following:

    1. Recommendations on purchasing a student level double bass (used, ebay, websites, etc).

    2. Web sites/forums where the primary focus is bass for bluegrass or just bluegrass.

    3. Instructional material on walking base lines for beginners.

    4. Instructional material on music theory for bass players.

    5. Any additional advice you may have for a beginner in the bluegrass genre.

  2. Perfect-Tommy


    Mar 28, 2004
    Well, I actually got into bluegrass the middle of last year. It's a hoot. I can tell you a few things though...

    Firstly, though it's not common practice, more and more bass players are using electrics in bluegrass. So don't get too hung up on having an upright.

    As for the focus, it's very simple but hard to apply. Typically, you play half notes going from I(1) to V(5) that's the umpah - umpah that you hear in from the Tuba in polka.

    To use terms that are easy to understand you(the bass) and the mandolin tend to emulate what a drummer would do. You hit the down beats simulating the kick drum of a drum kit and the mandolin hits the up beats acting as the accent note of the snare or high hat.

    To function as a bass player in bluegrass that's all you need to know. Knowing more, like the walking basslines, is a plus though. I'm self taught, so I cna't really help you much on where to get such materials... I would maybe recomend checking out this website though . My bandmates pretty much swear by it and they have a heavy focus on bluegrass and country.

    As for buying a bass, check that website above. Also go to festivals! You can meet people that make them, some are very affordable compaired to buying from a store. You'll also always find people selling instruments. I have seen some basses go pretty cheap at festivals before.

    If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me. I love to help :)
  3. dedmyers


    Dec 23, 2003
    If you want to learn how to play "old timey" bluegrass, the best thing to do is just get a bunch of cd's that you enjoy and play along. My experience is that as you play more and more of that type of music you begin to "feel" the root chord changes coming beforehand. The premise of most older bluegrass tunes doesn't really change a lot from song to song - at least for the bass. (Some of the newer "newgrass" this probably don't apply as well to.)

    Now don't get me wrong, you can make a simple I,IV,I,V as technical sounding as you want. But you can also jam with a group pretty easy just playing the roots and still sound good.

    Go find some bluegrass guys and just jam a little. You will find that most of them are as down to earth and easy to get along with as possible. My experiece is that most of them will help you out all they can, if nothing else, just to have another person to play music with.
  4. Thanks for the tips.

    Playing along with the old time Cd's does help. Most of my musical background is from single note woodwinds, so the string instruments, chords, Nashville numbers are new and an extension to my previous experience.

    I'm finally able to hear, anticipate, and predict the I IV V and some II III VI changes, and listening and playing with the Cd's has been a big help in this area.

    Playing the simple 2 beat root-five patterns is starting to sound really plain, and I would like to better understand the correct method of determining the notes that should be used to walk/run from one chord to another.

    The key of G (GCD) would be a good place to start with an example.
  5. I'd recommend getting a book or find an online site aimed at jazz bassists. The same idea behind walking a jazz line also applies to bluegrass.

    The first thing to figure out in your chord progression is what notes make up each chord. The chords used in bluegrass are usually very simple so this helps a lot.

    G = G B D
    C = C E G
    D = D F# A

    So now that you're on the G chord we'll say you have 4 beats to get to the C and you want to do a 4 note run. One of the little 'quirks' of bluegrass is playing a passing tone between the second and third of a major scale, this would be a great way of linking the G with the C. You could play G A Bb B on their respective beats and then land on C for the first beat of the next bar. The B on beat 4 would help lead the ear to the C chord.

    There's really a million options, it's just a matter of getting as many under your fingers as possible and knowing how each will sound before you play it. I hope this helps.
    GlenParks likes this.
  6. chardin


    Sep 18, 2000
    This may not apply any more, but when I was exploring country music I was told:
    Your mileage may vary.

  7. Check out for a set of backing tracks to play along with. The site gives you the chords and allows adjustment of tempo.
    leftiebass likes this.
  8. Check out for bluegrass backing tracks. It gives you the chords and allows some adjustment of the tempo.
  9. dc-upright


    Mar 31, 2013
    Less is usually more. Don't get hung up in trying to play lots of notes. Listen to the greats, my personal favorite when I started was Ray Deaton with 3rd Tyme Out. He played electric but later switched to upright. Get the sound in your head.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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