Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Kevin Gordon, Aug 7, 2003.

  1. On friday night I will be going to a party and playing bluegrass with a mandolin player and guitarist. I have never played bluegrass before and I was wondering if anyone could give me some tips on the general idea of bluegrass bass. This is not important because this is not a paying gig or anything, but it would be nice to get a little advice.
  2. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur In Memoriam

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    Keep it simple, roots and fifths, you are the rhythm section. Listen for the changes the first time around, because the note you expect next may not be correct-- many tunes are those written by folks who don't play by the usual musical "rules". Changes can be completely out of left field and in the middle of a measure. Fun stuff- have a good time!
  3. What Bob said. Don't get too fancy and be prepared to play in the key of G a LOT. Also, if you are in an all acoustical environment, watch your volume on the breaks. Some pickers can get pretty picky when they throw in a lightning break on "Rawhide" and are drowned out by the bass player.
  4. thank you for your replies. It will be interesting because i've never played without a drummer (except classical), but it'll be a good experience.
  5. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    One more tip: if you're playing acoustically, you may find that your lower notes don't have the volume needed to compete with a full complement of bluegrass instrumentation. Use the higher octaves...i.e. open G string instead of third position on E string, etc.
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    . . . and ya never know who's gonna show up at that party. If you're lucky, there will be a burning rhythmguitar player. The name of the game is to watch his or her left hand and have the two of you play the same line. Sometimes they even listen to you, too.

    Have fun.
  7. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    You ARE the drummer! Your role is "kick drum", and the mandolin chops are "snare drum". The banjo player is "the ungodly loud guitarist with the Marshall".
  8. Touch


    Aug 7, 2002
    Boulder, CO
    As a touring bluegrass bass player (am I the only one on this board?), I have to agree with all the posts.

    Nearly all bluegrass is in 4/4 time. You should be playing half notes most of the time. Root on beat 1 and 5 on beat 3. The mando will chop on beats 2 and 4. That is probably the essence of bluegrass bass.

    If you listen to "old-school" bluegrass (Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, etc..) very often the bass will switch to quarter note walking (ala Jazz). However, try not to overdo it... you may get a banjo in your head.

    Have fun!

  9. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    When things get loud, slap that thing.
  10. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    Once you master bluegrass bass, you are equally qualified to play polkas. "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" = "Beer Barrel Polka". For that matter, a lot of folk/ethnic music is in 2/4 time anyway. Take it from an ol' banjo-ist. Obligatory banjo content: J. D. Crowe rules.
  11. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    Coincidentally, I attended a bluegrass festival this weekend - my first with any sort of instument - and found the advice in this thread to be right on the money. The whole experience was incredible.

    I owe a huge THANK YOU to the folks on TB that take the time to share their expertise with us rookies. The base of knowledge (no pun intended) is huge. I don't post much, but I do read (all right - lurk) a lot, and I've used the things I've learned on this forum to make a URB buying decision, (Thanks, Bob - All hail!) to strings, to techique, to jam "rules", and so on.

    URBs at the festival ranged from the prototypical "ebass" to "old German, don't know what kind," to a fiberglass beauty with a plastic fingerboard the owner told me he bought at a flea market for $200. It actually sounded pretty good! I received lots of comments on my new ES-1, both for its looks and its tone, and I was able to hear it from some distance away when a more experienced player asked to try the Obligatos. As for playing, between practice and what I've learned from TB, people were surprised when I told them it was the first time I'd ever played with someone, besides the cat, listening. I learned a ton, had a great time, and made new friends who invited me to more jams and festivals. A couple of notes:

    Thanks, Chris. Awesome website. "To me, music is about the sound, the whole sound, and nothing but the sound." Helped me understand the pursuit of theory should enhance the musical experience, not surpress it.

    Samuel, "If you're lucky, there will be a burning rhythmguitar player. The name of the game is to watch his or her left hand ..." Great advice, but you didn't mention those darned capos!;)

    Mike, I watched every other player I could and you're right, they nearly always played the A-B-C chords on the G & D strings. I'd been practicing on the A & E.

    Overall, a great weekend. Found out what I've been missing all these (46) years! To misquote Neil Armstrong; "That's a real small step for mankind, but a giant leap for me!"

    Thanks, everyone!:D