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Bluegrass hints

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Wes Whitmore, Mar 8, 2006.


  1. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    I have the opertunity to bring in the bottom octave for a bluegrass band. I play electric bass, but have never played this kind of music before, but I like it. I'm looking for tips from people who have played the genre. Anything special I should know besides staying out of the way of the rotating solos? These seem like some very down to earth people, so I am hoping all goes well. I have been listening to bluegrass for the past 6 months, and have checked out some local bands. It seems like you really need to know the songs and keep your eyes on each other for changes.
    Thanks,
    Wes
     
  2. WillBuckingham

    WillBuckingham

    Mar 30, 2005
    Don't stress man. At most there'll be 3 chords, and probably only two in each song, and everything'll probably be some combination of I, IV, and V. Just relax and you'll kick butt.
     
  3. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    Thanks for the breakdown. I guess the reason I am stressing is that is sounds very easy to play (slow, nothing over technical), but you never know what the "filler" stuff is. Sometimes it's a simple octave, somtimes a fifth. It all fits, but do they want it replicated as the original song was? It should be fun though, and actually nice to play with such veteran musicians and learn some of what they know.
    Thanks,
    Wes
     
  4. WillBuckingham

    WillBuckingham

    Mar 30, 2005
    I wouldn't worry about playing it like the record at all. That's coming from a jazz player, but I think that's the approach bluegrass musicians take. Just keep it simple and solid and I'm sure they'll love you.

    I played with some bluegrass players once and just played 1 and 5 the whole time in 2. It was actually a lot of fun. Upright helps a lot because you can slap the fingerboard on the offbeats.
     
  5. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    That seems simple enough. Maybe I can do some loose fretting hand muting to simulate your slap!
    Thanks,
    Wes
     
  6. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    I do have a 4 string accoustic bass that I could bring into the equation. Does anyone play bluegrass with an accoustic bass though? It might meet somewhere in the middle of an upright and an electric. I would amplify it.
    Wes
     
  7. 7flat5

    7flat5

    Nov 28, 2003
    Upstate NY
    All bluegrass is on bass fiddle. Purists absolutely won't allow an electric.

    I have a good friend who plays bass for a well-known bluegrass band along the east coast. He gets in trouble for "playing jazz" if he does "fills." 1-5 in 2 is pretty much it, occasionally walk a major scale from 5 up to 1.
     
  8. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    Well if 1-5 in 2 (root then octave of root) is what I think it is, then I am probably ready. It's easy, but a whole lot of fun. If bass fiddle is upright bass, I cant do much about that either. These guys said they have had both, and didn't seem particular. The accoustic bass guitar wont get loud enough without the amp, but it's a more accoustic tone than the electric bass.
    Wes
     
  9. 1-5 in C would be C-G, as in A string 3rd fret, D string 5th fret.

    I bought a five-string electric/acoustic Ibanez for just this kind of gig. I strung it with TI Jazz Flats. The bluegrassers would rather have me on upright bass but for a variety of reasons, that isn't going to happen. They're just happy that I'm not playing my honeyburst Spector anymore.

    And, yes, if you're playing with more than one other instrument, you are going to want to amplify. I use wireless on my bass, so there is no cord and try to keep the amp out of the way. That adds to the effect of me playing an instrument that (to the casual observer, anyway) looks like just another guitar.

    The way they've described the role of bass in bluegrass is, that since there usually isn't any percussion, the bass takes the place of the bass drum, playing a "two-feel" on the two and the four. The mandolin plays the part of the snare drum.
     
  10. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    Maybe these guys are more tolorant because they play other kinds of music too (progressive country, country blues, bluegrass, and some other stuff. I get the CD tonight.
    Wes
     
  11. CamMcIntyre

    CamMcIntyre

    Jun 6, 2000
    USA

    I agree with all of your post except that last part. It might just be a communication error, but bass in blue grass is 1 and 3. E.g. if we're counting it in 4/4 it'd be ||: C [rest] G [rest] :|| If we're counting in two it'd be 1 2 or ||: C G :|| [both down beats].

    If the bass was on 2 & 4 it'd be playing a back beat. E.g. think of where the snare hits in rock music. Bass drum is on 1 & 3 [or a variant of that] and snare is on 2 & 4.

    Take it easy.
     
  12. Yep, you're right. I posted what the geetar player told me without thinking about it. I'm sure he wasn't thinking about what he was saying or I may have just heard him wrong.
     
  13. orlfl

    orlfl

    Jul 22, 2005
    Orlando
    Number one advice (actually contrary to what some others have said) is stay off of the offbeats at least initially. That is traditionally the mandolin's area... playing the chicks on the offbeats, and if you start doing muted stuff there you may piss off the mandolin player. You may ease into getting a little fancier if that is not the case in your particular group, but be aware of it.
     
  14. Yes, I, IV, V is the most common but you can see a II, or a VI, maybe possibly a III. Just listen and you'll get the hang of it.
    I play a Tacoma 5 string acoustic and it does about the best job of replicating the upright. Make sure you use an acoustic amp or you'll lose some of the acoustic quality. I use a SWR California Blonde that sounds great.
    The bass also sometimes plays a VII with the guitar playing a V. Makes a nice change of sound.
    I'm sure the other guys will work with you so just relax and enjoy.
     
  15. tkozal

    tkozal Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    I found that PRECISION is key, few notes, but make them strong and on time. Precise and firm. That was the key to Bluegrass for me.

    I had to put my Edgar Meyer dreams aside, alas....:)
     
  16. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    I got the CD from the band yesterday, and a set list of one of their shows last year. It's a recording of them. Fidelity isn't great, and it's kinda hard to hear the bass. It kinda sounds like one condensor mic in the middle of a room. Some are covers, so I can find the originals elsewhere, but some are originals. I wanted to have some homework done before the audition, and I will still do what I can with what I have to work with. It is going to be a new experience. It's kinda more folk music than bluegrass, but they do play Man of Constant Sorrow to please the fans. None of the bass sounds difficult at all, like you guys where saying. This band reminds my of CSN&Y. Everyone who plays an instrument also sings, so that is much different than I am used to. I'm excited.

    They guy I have been talking with said that he spread the work to the rest of the band, and they are excited to get a bass player back in there. They even emailed me some helpful chord info on some of the songs, which should help. I haven't looked at it yet.

    I can see where having a 5 sting would be nice. I would like to be able to hit the low D instead of the higher one one the 4 string. Other than that, it's fine. I have a spector neck-through 4 spring, and my accoustic is a Takimine 4. The only bass amps I have are a GK1001RB/210, and a little 15 watt practice fender with an 8 in it. Nothing accoustic really.