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If you play a Bill Monroe song with an electric bass, is it no longer Bluegrass?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, May 14, 2002.

  1. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Question that's been on my mind for some time now. Obviously, by playing a EB, you are not changing the structure, beat, or origin of the song, though some purist argue that playing an EB in Bluegrass is "wrong". For example, I remember that loser Ralph Emry (sp) looking down on the bassist of New Grass Revival (who's a killer bassist) simply for the fact he was an electric bassist. Still, in Rock n' Rolls early days, bass was done on DB until Leo Fender's design became more widley accepted. There weren't many people denying the new Rock n' Roll, just because it was played with an Electric Bass instead. I don't hear people denying Jazz, if it's played with an EB. (Though I'm sure there are a few Jazz purist walking around who won't expect EB in Jazz) I wasn't putting down EB or DB, just asking a question and putting forth some thoughts.

    What are your opinions, comments, stories ect.?
  2. neptoon

    neptoon Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2000
    Melbourne, FL
    i don't think you can take a bill monroe song and make it _not_ bluegrass...he is, like, the epitome of bluegrass.
  3. I don't think the genre changes.

    If you take a jazz piece originally for piano and play it on a guitar, is it no longer jazz?

    Of course it's still jazz, it's just played on a different instrument.

    Let's say, just for a moment, that DB and EB are two different instruments. When you think about it, while one is the offspring of the other and they fullfill the same role, they are in some aspects.

    If you take a Bill Monroe bluegrass song originally for DB and play it on an EB, is it still a bluegrass song?

    By the same principle, yes it is.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    As a serious bluegrass enthusiast and fairly new upright bass player, I would say that a bluegrass song including EBG is still a bluegrass song.

    However, bluegrass is steeped in tradition. There is a great appreciation for the acoustic nature of instruments.

    I have heard bluegrass played with electric bass and I personally think it sounds wrong. Just as if the guitar player was playing an electric guitar.

    Using a bass guitar doesn't change the nature of the music, but I can certainly understand why people, including myself, aren't willing to warm up to the idea.

    With jazz, there are so many different styles. Some are right at home with bass guitar. Others, IMO, sound really weird.

  5. I thought I was the only one. I like the jazz I hear on the radio, but I was watching a show about Miles Davis the other day, and I couldn't help but think that the guy just sounded like wank.
  6. It is still bluegrass with electric bass. But if your band plays the banjo part on a keyboard... now, you may have some problems at a bluegrass festival! It would be like riding a Honda Goldwing to Sturgess.

    I found a good way to get that upright sound out of an EB is to use a little piece of packing foam rubber under the back of the strings to deaden the tone a bit.

    You may have to tune it down a little if you do this though.

    Our band plays bluegrass, blues, country, rock, swing, rockabillie etc. And a lot of that requires this kind of upright sound. Never have had a problem being taken seriously with an EB.
  7. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I've been going to lots of bluegrass festivals in the past couple of years and I see EB often...probably 1 out of 10 big-name bluegrass bands might use EB nowadays. I think they're becoming more accepted. So, yes, it's still "bluegrass"...but you miss the traditional aspects that are a lot of the fun.

    But...I too think it sounds "wrong" for the music. EB is too intrusive into the mix with acoustic instruments. You're not really there to be "heard", you're there to propel and drive and provide a bottom for a cohesive ensemble sound. You're as much percussion as bass. A warm, woody thump works best. A modified EB can get close, but can't provide that "air" in the tone. The anti-EB prejudice is there for good reason.

    I've had to gig with an EB in my bluegrass band while my URB was getting some work done on it, and it even felt all wrong. Every note was too immediate in response. I couldn't dig in...it felt very, very wimpy. Bluegrass is a very physical music and you can't get that physical on an EB.

    This is all opinion, of course. Another charm of this genre is that they generally gladly accept anybody that wants to play...as long as the music is respected.

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