Bluegrass help

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Perfect-Tommy, Apr 14, 2004.

  1. Perfect-Tommy


    Mar 28, 2004
    Being short on money and always looking to grow in my musical ability, I called about an ad I saw in the local paper. Tomorrow I go play with a local bluegrass band and see what's shaking.

    Now I have no experience in bluegrass. The only bluegrass I do know is heavy fusion, which most don't think of as bluegrass at all. So going in their tomorrow, I'm going to be 100% at their mercy to tell me what they want. I haven't any problem with that since I like to pride my playing as being flexible.

    So in short, I want to ask you players out there that have experience in this genre, what should I be prepared for? What type of rythyms, intervals and such should I be thinking about as I get ready for this? Any little thing could be helpful, so I thank you in advance on any help you can roll my way :)
  2. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Be prepared to play a lot of root/5 stuff. Some bluegrass is wicked fast so you may have to stretch out on a few tunes. Most everything is in 4/4 or 3/4 timing. Pay close attention to the rhythm guitarists left hand. He is the equivelant of the drummer to the bassist.

    If you err on the volume level, err to the low side. Grassers usually aren't real crazy about electric basses and one that is too loud wont be invited back. In fact, specifically ask for opinions on the volume of your amp.

    Be prepared to meet some of the nicest, most helpful musicians you'll ever meet. Grassers are almost always great folks to be around.

    Most important of all: Have a blast, bluegrass is pure fun.

    Harrell S
  3. Perfect-Tommy


    Mar 28, 2004
    Thank you very much. That was pretty much what I was thinking. I'm feeling more secure about it now :) Thank you again for the input.

    I'll let you know how it goes :)
  4. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I got my start on bass playin' bluegrass! :) I played the washtub for about 6 hours and I was hooked. Bought my first bass the next week. :)

    pkr2 is correct, my pickin' friends don't like my electric at all. I usually end up playing the washtub.
  5. Bluegrass tunes are usually really simple harmonically. Often there are just three chords, (I IV V). The hard part is the feel. You have to stay right on top of the beat. Since there isn't a drummer, the bass is responsible for driving the band more than usuall. I agree that the lines should be mostly simple root five type things, but don't be afraid to play quarter note and eighth note walk ups, as well as use some other notes like the six. I don't think the guitar is really the thing to be paying the closest attention to in terms of rhythm. It's really the mandolin. The mandolin is like the bluegrass bass player's other half. You play on the down beats (boom), and they play on the off beats (chic). So it's really the relationship between these two instruments that substitutes for a drummer. If the mandolin is taking a solo, or playing the melody, the fiddle will probobly take over playing the off beats. There's a lot of switching of roles throughout a bluegrass tune, (except for the bass).
  6. Perfect-Tommy


    Mar 28, 2004
    Thank you all for the great feedback, all of it came in handy. I made the cut and I was asked back. So I'm now pluckin' bluegrass to make my living untill I can get my little band off the ground.

    I made a mistake and questioned my judgement. I took my electric bass. I was lucky that one of them had an accoustic/electric that I ended up using for the night. It's just that my accoustic can have a bug up it's butt and takes a lot of work and fiddling about with the amp to get it sounding good. So I didn't want to look like a jackass and play around with my bass for an hour just to get the tone I wanted. Also, I was unsure if they were nu-grass or traditional bluegrass, as it turns out they are traditional.

    Well, thanks again for all the help.