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Bluegrass Bass

PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 3:17 am
by lorilu
Yes, bluegrass bass. When I went to the hardware store today I saw these guys sitting in front of a trailer playing guitars and went over where we met and I got to sit and listen and talk for awhile. They were really good! They're from up here and I asked them if I could play bass for them. Now, I need to figure all this out. One guy gave me a cd with popular bluegrass tunes and I liked it but was kinda embarassed to be blasting it in my truck. They said it's really simple, simpler than blues, and it's 1 4 5 progressions. So anyone got any advice or what I should work on to practice. Thanks ever so much!

RE: Bluegrass Bass

PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 12:10 pm
by david
Come to Kentucky. The place is thick with bluegrass musicians of all sorts--and the bluegrass museum/hall of fame is just up the road an hour or so.

I don't know much about the mechanics of it, except that while not technically challenging, bluegrass manages to put a lot into a very simple structure.

My impression on the bass lines is that you only need to know a few notes, but you have to be able to rearrange them on the fly.

RE: Bluegrass Bass

PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 3:00 pm
by telemonkey
[updated:LAST EDITED ON May-11-06 AT 11:04 AM (EST)]play only on the 1rst and 3rd beat of the measure only (at first, and still, 90% of the time) for 4/4 time. For 3/4 time play the first beat only, mostly, sometimes depending on tempo the bassist does all three beats.
Always play the root note, almost allways dead on the first beat of each measure.
For 4/4 play the root on beat 1 and the 5th on beat 3.
Example for a measure in C maj. (ask the guitarist what chord he's playing). beat 1= low C, beat 2= rest, beat three= low G, beat four rest. repeat for each measure of c.
Try counting it (1,2,3,4...)and playing the A-string 3rd fret on beat one, E-string 3rd fret beat 3. There, instant bluergrass.
The main thing with good, tastefull bluegrass bass is keep it simple, keep to the lowest positioned notes, play the root notes, sometimes hit the root then the octave on beat 3 for variety.
Keep it simple and STEADY, STEADY, STEADY.
Avoid the temptation (at first) of trying walking patterns, etc. in bluegrass.
Find beauty in the simple, steady, pulse of bluegrass bass.

RE: Bluegrass Bass

PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 5:19 pm
by lorilu
David, thanks for the Kentucky bluegrass invite to move but I just want this to be ONE of the ways of playing music not the ONLY. I thought it would be fun.

Telemonkey, Thanks!!! I'm a drummer so it might be challenging for learning the notes, can this be done by ear? I can learn, though. The simplicity sounds beautiful. I can do that. I think this will be really fun.

RE: Bluegrass Bass

PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 11:37 am
by tim3finger

Just to add to what telemonkey said. Get real familiar with the major pentatonic scale, especially in the key of G. You don't have to remember any note by name, just the 1-4-5 positions.

In bluegrass bass playing, less is more, and timing is everything!! Lots of fun, but after a while, it gets a little boring, for me at least. Great training for timing and tempo!


"along the road, take time to smell the flowers"

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 1:28 am
by oleman
LL, Bluegrass bass would be right up your alley. Being as how there are no drums in bluegrass, the bass is truely the rhythm section; sometimes along with the mandolin.

Get a bass fiddle if you can. The transistion from bass guitar to upright is worth the effort.

As tele and tim have said it can be a bit boring but just put yourself in a bluegrass frame of mind and thump along. It's easy and fun!!

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 3:16 pm
by tim3finger

I mentioned in my previous post " get familiar with the major pentatonic scale". Well, the reason for that is, I play a lot of walking bass lines when our band does Bluegrass.. and Bluegrassy Gospel tunes. It is also a very useful scale for a lot of different musical styles. Learning it is worth the time spent!! 8) Have fun!!


PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 3:50 pm
by lpdeluxe
I posted this on the old forum, and it may have been missed.

Bluegrass bass is essentially 1-3 (the mando chops fall on the 2/4) with a two-step feel. Walkups connect the chords, and usually the songs are in G to accommodate the banjo's tuning and to allow the guitarist to do the Flatt Run.

You'll find exceptions, but this will get you started.

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 11:13 pm
by stratman_27
The bass player in my band is an avid bluegrasser and says he's had a little trouble transitioning into blues and rock but I myself have been really impressed with his licks and timing. He's always locked in with the drummer and that makes it so much easier for us guitar players. If you listen to enough bluegrass you'll come to realize that its not that much different from country blues just has a little more twang to it.

PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 12:24 pm
by david
If you're not real familiar with bluegrass tunes, pick up a Flatt and Scruggs CD. That's about as mainstream as it gets.

I would recommend the "Complete Mercury Recordings" if you can find it. It has some of the most basic songs on it and it won't take long to get the feel for what they are doing.

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 11:39 pm
by lorilu
Thanks again, everyone. I have to admit to not listening to the cd except for a couple of songs and ended up putting Janiva Magness back in the cd player. I just love the blues and r&r. I saw one of the guitar players today and confessed with the cd in my hand and he said hang on to it and try it anyway, lots of players have other musical preferences. So we're good. I have a hard time listening for too long. He told me just get a feel for it. When they're live it's more interesting. They know a guy with an upright bass and you never know, although I love electric bass. I'm kind of afraid of looking silly playing that big ol upright. I don't know why. I used to play violin so maybe that will all come back. I just love rhythm so I think I'll like it as long as I learn what you suggested.

PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 2:52 am
by ricochet
I can't listen repeatedly to bluegrass recordings, but it can be really fun live.

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 3:34 pm
by oleman
LL, I hope you get to try the upright bass. It truly is an unique musical experience. Very awkward at first but when you can get into a little slappin rockabilly style a whole new world opens up. With your percussion background, I can't encourage you enough to try this. This is so much fun it should be illegal. Check out A little crude but filled with great info for the bass fiddle players.

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 6:10 pm
by lorilu
That's a thought. Thank you, Oleman, you definitely got me thinking about it. Swing music would be more my style, I think, in using the upright. I have a friend that is always coming across used instruments so I'll let him know I'm looking if it's not too expensive. I'll tell you, my hands are pretty strong and calloused like a farmer's.