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Bluegrass music

From Academic Kids

Template:Genrebox Bluegrass music is considered a form of American roots music with its own roots in the English, Irish and Scottish traditional music of immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia), as well as the music of rural African-Americans, jazz, and blues. Like jazz, bluegrass is played with each melody instrument switching off, playing the melody in turn while the others revert to backing; this is in contrast to old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together or one instrument carried the lead throughout while the others provide accompaniment.

Contents

Early History

Bluegrass as a style developed sometime during the late mid 1940s. Due to war-rationing, recording was limited during this time and the best we can say is that bluegrass was not played before World War II, and it was being played after. As with any musical genre, no one person can claim to have "invented" it. Rather, bluegrass is an amalgam of old-time music, blues, ragtime and jazz. Nevertheless, bluegrass's beginnings can be traced to one band. Today Bill Monroe is referred to as the "founding father" of bluegrass music; the bluegrass style was named for his band, the Blue Grass Boys, formed in 1939. The 1945 addition of banjo player Earl Scruggs, who played with a three-finger roll now known as "Scruggs style," is pointed to as the key moment in the development of this genre. Monroe's 1945-48 band, which featured banjo player Earl Scruggs, singer/guitarist Lester Flatt, fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Cedric Rainwater, created the definitive sound and instrumental configuration that remains a model to this day. Unlike mainstream country music, bluegrass relies mostly on acoustic stringed instruments: The fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar or folk guitar, mandolin, and upright bass are sometimes joined by the dobro (also known as a resophonic guitar or steel guitar), and a bass guitar is occasionally substituted for the upright bass. This instrumentation originated in rural black dance bands and was being abandonded by those groups (in favor of blues and jazz ensembles) when picked up by white musicians (van der Merwe 1989, p.62).

By some arguments, as long as the Blue Grass Boys were the only band playing this music, it was just their unique style; it could not be considered a musical genre until other bands began performing the same style. In 1947 the Stanley Brothers recorded the traditional song Molly and Tenbrooks in the Blue Grass Boys' style, and this could also be pointed to as the beginning of bluegrass as a genre.

It is important to note that bluegrass is not and never was folk music under a strict definition. From its earliest days to today, bluegrass has been recorded and performed by professional musicians. Although amateur bluegrass musicians and trends such as "parking lot picking" are too important to be ignored, it is professional musicians who have set the direction of the genre.

Instrumentation

Debate rages among bluegrass musicians, fans, and scholars, over what instrumentation constitutes a bluegrass band. Several general criteria have been put forward. One sugested definition is that a bluegrass band includes at least four musicians who play instruments including an upright bass, an acoustic guitar, and a banjo, though those instruments need not always be played. (Example: During gospel songs many banjo players switch to lead guitar, a tradition dating to Earl Scruggs.) Other common instruments include the fiddle, mandolin, and resophonic guitar. Bluegrass bands have included instruments as diverse as drums, electric guitar, accordion, harmonica, mouth harp, and piano, though these are not widely accepted within the bluegrass community.

As in jazz, bluegrass is played with each melody instrument switching off, playing the melody in turn while the others revert to backing; this is in contrast to Old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together or one instrument carried the lead throughout while the others provide accompaniment. Instrumental solos are improvised, and can frequently be technically demanding.

Vocals

Besides instrumentation, the distinguishing characteristics of bluegrass include vocal harmonies featuring two, three, or four parts, often featuring a dissonant or modal sound in the highest voice (see modal frame); an emphasis on traditional songs, often with sentimental or religious themes.

Notable artists

The core bluegrass sound

Notable outliers

Missing image
Bluegrass_group_jamming.jpg
Bluegrass artists use a variety of stringed instruments to create a unique sound.

The following are/were also notable bluegrass artists, despite being better known for their contributions to other musical genres:

Bluegrass in movies

Publications

  • Bluegrass Unlimited
  • Banjo Newsletter
  • Bluegrass Europe
  • Bluegrass Now
  • International Bluegrass
  • Moonshiner (Japanese)
  • Women in Bluegrass Newsletter

External Links


Reference

  • van der Merwe, Peter (1989). Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0193161214.
American roots music
Appalachian | Blues (Ragtime) | Cajun and Creole (Zydeco) | Country (Honky tonk and Bluegrass) | Jazz | Native American | Spirituals and Gospel | Tejano
Country music | Country genres
Bakersfield sound - Bluegrass - Close harmony - Country blues - Honky tonk - Jug band - Lubbock sound - Nashville sound - Outlaw country
Alternative country - Country rock - Psychobilly - Rockabilly
Styles of American folk music
Appalachian | Blues (Ragtime) | Cajun and Creole (Zydeco) | Country (Honky tonk and Bluegrass) | Jazz | Native American | Spirituals and Gospel | Tejano

de:Bluegrass fr:Bluegrass it:Bluegrass nl:Bluegrass ja:ブルーグラス

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