Bluegrass vs. other genres — what makes it bluegrass?

Hi friends! In this video, I talk about what distinguishes bluegrass music from folk-influenced rock/pop, as well as what distinguishes it from old-time music.

Click here to register for the Rippin’ Bluegrass Fiddle Soloing Course

 

And here’s the listening list I promised:

 

Classics and Modern Classics

Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys – Little Maggie

Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys – Uncle Pen

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard – The One I Love Is Gone

Del McCoury Band – Nashville Cats

Dolly Parton – Travelin’ Prayer (This video is hilarious! Great performance. And yes, to the haters: I know this is a Billy Joel song. But Dolly’s version is straight-up bluegrass.)

 

Progressive

New Grass Revival – Can’t Stop Now

Alison Krauss & Union Station – Oh Atlanta

Here’s what it sounds like when rock and pop influences are conscientiously introduced into bluegrass by pickers who are deeply rooted in the bluegrass tradition. Hear how it’s radically different from the classic stuff, but the instrumental playing is still very much based on how the more traditional bands play?

Compare this to jam bands that may casually be called “bluegrass” but might really be incorporating folk influences into rock and pop music, rather than the other way around. (It’s worth noting that the musicians above don’t necessarily market these recordings as “bluegrass,” either.)

 

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Wanna learn a pretty waltz I wrote?

As some of you may know, I do the booking for a wonderful little music venue here in Bellingham called the Honey Moon. In June, the Honey Moon celebrated their 10th birthday. Ten years of supporting local artists, as well as handcrafting meads, ciders and wines–it’s no small feat! So of course we had a birthday party to celebrate, featuring scads of local musicians that have been a big part of the Honey Moon’s community over the years.

For the occasion, I wrote a fiddle tune. “Of course!,” you might say, but actually I can’t remember the last time I wrote a fiddle tune. I’ve focused my composing energy on indie/folk singer/songwriter stuff since I was in high school. But after a conversation with the Honey Moon’s owners about how difficult it is to find words to describe flavor–without sounding like one of those pretentious wine people (hey, we’re all pretentious sometimes)–I thought a wordless tune would be the perfect way to commemorate what the Honey Moon does with its mead.

Thus, the Blueberry Mead Waltz was born. Here’s my attempt to capture what Honey Moon’s blueberry mead tastes like to me. I’m proud of how it turned out. Maybe you’ll enjoy playing it, too! You can listen, and download sheet music, below.

 

Blueberry Mead Waltz: the version I played (PDF)

Full of challenging double stops, because I rarely let myself take it easy.

Blueberry Mead Waltz: a more intermediate version (PDF)

No double stops, but still some tricks with the key (Bb), accidentals, and bowing.

Bonus: Cider Polka (PDF)

I didn’t write this. (Andy de Jarlis did). I did play it for the Honey Moon party, though, because of course! They make delicious cider too.

 

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You might also like:

Megan Lynch Chowning on Texas style vs. Bluegrass.

Salt Creek: 1, Kat: 0, and what you can learn from my epic fail.

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Read More