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do you agree with Spbgma's policy concerning "electric" instruments?

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by Dan Eubanks, Feb 15, 2016.

  1. Dan Eubanks

    Dan Eubanks

    Jul 17, 2014
    Nashville TN
    Aguilar, Fishman
  2. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    I don't feel strongly one way or the other. A strict interpretation would mean no EU basses and no bass guitars. If you want to participate in a SPBGMA event, that is the price of entry. Up to each individual band. Starts to get sticky when you apply the standard to trying to ensure a band can be heard in an auditorium. Would the bassist be required to use a mic only, without a pickup, as the other instruments? Seems kind of petty to me, but I'm not a traditionalist.
    zontar likes this.
  3. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    I think that if a genre of music needs a society laying out "Definitions and By-Laws", then it's probably in trouble.

    Bluegrass is obviously not native to these shores, but we have the same sort of 'traditionalists' that plague the folk music scene. Quite a few years ago I was playing in a folky type band, mostly trad English, Irish and Scottish tunes with drums and electric bass in the lineup. At one club we played one of the 'folk police' said to the drummer, as he was loading in, "I hope you're not bringing those drums in here". "Oh, why's that?", my drummer asked. "Well, it's not very traditional is it" said the folky...To which my drummer replied "Listen, when the first cavemen had just killed a deer, cooked and eaten it then found that, when they were lounging around digesting a bellyful, they were sitting next to a hollow log with a couple of rib bones in their hands, what instrument do you think they invented, a f@@@@@@ concertina?"
    Radio, themarshall, ColdEye and 10 others like this.
  4. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    That link's not working for me.
  5. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Denver, Colorado
    I understand what they are going for here, and its their event to run. They also specifically carve out a place for acoustic bass guitar, which I think is very much in the spirit of accepting musicians from different backgrounds.

    That said, the sanctimonious language about the bluegrass tradition gives me a little chuckle. Bill and Earl actually hooked up a couple of years after Bird and Diz did. Even though bluegrass is partially rooted in old-time music, it's throughly a modern product and was comercial performance music from its advent. I don't see why modern musicial styles can't evolve with the times, which to me would include the tasteful use of electric/non-traditional instruments. Bands using BG as an aesthetic decision like Hot Rize get a more modern sound, but it's 100% bluegrass to my ears. For an old time festival/organization, which is a traditional dance/jam session music at its core, I'm more on board for the electric ban.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2016
    Oldschool94 and jthisdell like this.
  6. tsheldon


    Jun 20, 2005
    Western New York
    In general I'm averse to attempts to put any genre of music in a box and label it as if it's a museum piece to be kept under glass. I think there is a parallel to be drawn in jazz when Wynton Marsalis started making a series of declaratory statements about what is and what is not jazz.

    Popular music is an aural tradition and as such will naturally change and grow from one generation to the next. Similar to us not dressing the same as our parents generation we shouldn't try to play like that generation either. That isn't to say we can't learn and respect what came before, quite the contrary. It's just recognizing that art is a reflection of the time and place it was created.

    If somebody wants to have an acoustic music festival I see no reason to object. It's designating oneself he sole arbiter of what is permissible in an entire genre that rubs me the wrong way.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2016
    Jools4001, Oldschool94 and jthisdell like this.
  7. JamesAdams


    Aug 6, 2013
    Reardan, Washington, US
    Teacher : Barefoot Music Studio Budding Luthier
    The thing to remember is the stated purpose of SPBGMA is to "preserve traditional bluegrass music." Yes the bluegrass idiom is evolving and growing and IBMA embraces that growth. SPBGMA is specifically geared toward the old tradition. I've run into this with participants at Washinton Old Time Fiddler's events who want to play electric instruments and modern country. That's just not the point, nothing wrong with that but did you read the name of the group? It's kind of like trying to show a Chevy and a Ford Owner's club car show.
  8. jthisdell

    jthisdell Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    That's a great policy if you want every band to sound like every other band.
    bassfran and Atshen like this.
  9. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    I hope they'll be using steam-powered PA systems.
  10. jthisdell

    jthisdell Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    I don't know about where you all live, but here in Roanoke, Southwest Virginia it is hard to find a good mandolin player. Guitars, banjos, fiddles OK but not many mandolin players and the better bass players tend to not play upright.
    Oldschool94 and Remyd like this.
  11. jthisdell: You don't need to have an electric instrument in the band to sound different.
    IamGroot and Jake deVilliers like this.
  12. jthisdell

    jthisdell Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    No but if you are specifying what instruments every band has to have you are limiting yourself.
    Atshen likes this.

  13. jthisdell: Well .....the organization is named "The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America". Their list of instruments pretty well covers what they are trying to preserve. Limiting themselves is what they are all about. If you don't agree with that, SPGMA events are not for you.
    I used to attend SPBGMA many years ago and enjoyed it very much. I also like the wider range of bluegrass music that you get at IBMA.
    Jake deVilliers likes this.
  14. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Another example of the bluegrass police showing their true colors......
  15. Dan Eubanks

    Dan Eubanks

    Jul 17, 2014
    Nashville TN
    Aguilar, Fishman
    Here's my deal, they allow "acoustic bass guitars" and there are folks that play what look to be semi hollows with f holes that I suppose they are classifying as the same, but they all use a pickup through an amp or pa, as do many upright double bassists on their events, so what is the difference between that and an electric upright bass, other than visual, which we know is the real issue. There were no acoustic bass guitars when the music started, so if you're going to make a rule, stick with it or get rid of it, just be consistent. Anyway, this post was intended for other bassists that have to function under their rules from time to time as I do, however I appreciate everyone's input. I personally prefer to play DB in most situations but I have an EUB for fly dates, I don't really have an issue with it other than what I see as an inconsistency which puts EUB players in an unfair position if they have no access to another instrument while traveling. If the rule were just "no solid body electric instruments" it would probably take care of it.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2016
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Nothing new here. From 1977 to 1980 I worked on staff for a bluegrass promoter who refused to book JD Crowe because he had a drummer in his band at the time. She never booked New Grass Revival either.

    She did grudgingly allow electric bass sometimes, but I remember seeing only two bands that used one...the Osborne Brothers always brought a guy playing a lefty Rickenbacker and once and only once Peter Rowan's bassist Roger Mason brought an old P-bass instead of his upright.
  17. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I don't have any issues with them setting policy for their own events. In similar threads I've always made the argument that I think there is nothing wrong with any group that wants to keep a specific tradition going. There are a million other new-grass, jam band type of groups/genres out there that have evolved from trad BG that one can get into if they dig the traditional music but want to integrate other forms into it.

    It's no different than all of the sub-genres of jazz (or blues, or country, or.....) out there. You see a particular genre advertised, and you have a certain expectation of what the instrumentation/sound is going to involve. Some folks want to hear trumpet played like Louis Armstrong, and others Miles Davis. You can like them both for different reasons. Jazz has most certainly evolved into a ton of different sub-genres, while plenty of artists still play very traditional forms. This is why we categorize genres and sub-genres - to give the customer or concert goer an idea of what they are about to spend their time or money on. Bluegrass isn't any different in that respect.

    Most of the backlash I hear here comes from bass guitarists that want to dabble in traditional BG, but don't want to follow the tradition part. So go find a new grass or jam band that plays in that style - problem solved.
    neddyrow, martinc and Jake deVilliers like this.
  18. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Bill Monroe's first version of the Blue Grass Boys included an accordion player, "Sally Ann" Forrester. Is Monroe's first bluegrass band under his name, the one that established the name "bluegrass" as a description of the genre, not adequately traditional?

    As an acoustic-only player (I mean, I use a pickup when required, but I don't even own an electric bass guitar) I prefer upright in this genre, but I think when playing traditional BG the guiding principle should be respect for the musical style, not the details of the means of achieving that.

    I can guarantee you that - at least in the early days before he became the object of veneration - if Monroe's bass player's instrument had fallen off the car and been destroyed, and the only bass instrument they could find was a Fender bass, they would have done the gig with the Fender. Actual professional musicians, faced with doing the gig with unfamiliar instruments vs. cancelling it, do their best to satisfy the audience.
    james condino likes this.

  19. James: In your quick rush to judgement...you must have missed my last sentence. ;)
  20. jasonrp


    Feb 19, 2015
    I can't say I have a problem with it. I'm sure if you had no other choice due to an unfortunate circumstance and showed up with a P bass, they would be understanding about it. If you can show that you've tried to follow the policy and just had everything go against you in a stroke of bad luck, most reasonable people would understand. If they were stubborn enough to say no after all the crap you just dealt with, I know what I would say to them as I was walking out the door.

    That said, I also think that anyone who brings an electric bass to something like that is just looking for problems anyway

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