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multidon
Sep-26-2017, 7:49am
I got to thinking again about this question now that IBMA is underway. All the big dogs in the mandolin business, makers and dealers, all want to be there. Elderly and The Mandolin Store, Northfield and Gibson are all there, and letting us know that they are there. Probably a lot more I don't know about. Is there any other event that brings together so many entities of the mandolin world? Probably not.

I think we all realize that Bluegrass players make up a significant portion of mandolin players. And what Bluegrass players want in an instrument and in their playing style is very specific, and at least somewhat drives the market. So much so that we have a plethora of variations on the sunburst F style theme. Also, books about how to build a "Bluegrass" mandolin, how play "Bluegrass" mandolin, even camps about how to play "Monroe" style mandolin. Apparently, for some, just saying "Bluegrass" isn't specific enough. In general I find that many here on the Cafe speak about "Bluegrass mandolin" as an instrument distinct from other mandolins. We all know when that term is used, we are speaking about an F style in sunburst just like Bill's. but ironically, that particular instrument was invented for classical music!

My question is, just how big is the Bluegrass segment of our community? Is it a majority? Or just a sizable minority? I wonder if the question is even answerable. I'm not talking about folks who dabble in BG or just try it out. I mean folks for whom this is their main thing, because I also get the impression that the Bluegrass players generally don't stray into other styles. If more than 50 percent of mandolin players are Bluegrassers, then the influence over instrument choices, teaching methods, camps and other things makes sense. It those players form only a large minority, it makes less sense to me.

If I am mistaken in any of my assumptions, I am prepared to be schooled!

JEStanek
Sep-26-2017, 7:53am
I enjoy bluegrass but don't play it. I like to play other things. This may be a skill issue but, bluegrass isn't something I'm particularly motivated to play (at the moment).

Jamie

Charlie Bernstein
Sep-26-2017, 7:59am
Short form: I have absolutely no idea.

Around here, the bluegrass die-hards are a minority - but a vocal one and active one. <Removed by Moderator. Posting Guideline violation>

multidon
Sep-26-2017, 8:11am
Yes, Jamie, I am in the same boat. I like listening to a good Bluegrass band but enjoy playing old time and Celtic. But often, when folks see me with my mandolin, they assume I play Bluegrass, the association is that strong. I would add that I live in an area where there is a strong Bluegrass presence, with many bands and more than a few festivals. So people in these parts think mandolin equals Bluegrass, period.

It's just strange to me, because there are so many styles of mandolin playing out there, but this one specific genre seems to drive the market exclusively. That's why I'd like to know if Bluegrass players represent a majority or a minority in the mandolin world. If a minority, why the overwhelming influence over instrument makers, dealers, music publishing, teaching,workshops, camps, and so on? Is it just a matter of visibility? Part of the reason people around here are so Bluegrass aware is the number of festivals with free admission (hard to beat that). I can't imagine getting two dozen Irish trad bands, or two dozen old time bands, or two dozen mandolin classical quartets, and having a weekend festival. But the Bluegrass folks seem to have no problem getting that number of bands. So people go to the festivals, because it's something free to take the kids to (always advertised as "family friendly") and people see and hear this type of music all weekend. So it creates the impression that mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and guitar equals Bluegrass.

My questions are difficult ones, I know. I'm struggling to figure out if this equivalency is perception, or reality.

ccravens
Sep-26-2017, 8:14am
Around here, the bluegrass die-hards are a minority - but a vocal one and active one. <removed by site owner. violates forum posting guidelines.>

Ironically, it seems you are part of the "vocal minority" that chooses to bring politics into a seemingly innocuous mandolin thread!!

;)

I go to the Cafe to escape the political madness and just read about and discuss mandolins. Arguments over things like "Is a Blue Chip pick worth the price?" is about as controversial as I'd like to get here.

Hope the cafe can remain a place like that..

George R. Lane
Sep-26-2017, 10:02am
I too don't play Bluegrass, but I enjoy the music. I don't have the dexterity to play the fast tunes. I prefer play waltzes and any other, what I call pretty music. We are lucky to have builders who can create any tone or sound someone hears in their head. Bruce Weber made my Yellowstone to have the tone I was looking for. Mine is definitely not a heavy Bluegrass sound.

An I agree, let's keep the politics out of our threads.

Loubrava
Sep-26-2017, 10:04am
Ok, here's my take I've only been playing for 2 years with background in sax & guitar now playing mando with 4-5 piece rock/country/Americana I recently came to the conclusion (maybe wrong one) that I need to learn BG to move my playing forward. It seems most teachers and books for mandolin are geared towards BG which is fine with me as long as keep improving. Will I ever be a good BG musician, no but the style and skill those guys have will no doubt transfer over.
Lou

Bill McCall
Sep-26-2017, 10:29am
When I took up the mandolin 5 years ago, I started with bluegrass because I was familiar with the genre, it was easily accessible and there were groups to join and play it. So I jam 3 days a week. But along the way, as my skill improved, I started playing swing because the harmonies are more fun, and I jam that 3 days a week as well. And I know folks who play both styles, but none of that old time, Celtic or ITM nonsense:disbelief:

So for an instrument(s) of course, I have a couple F styles, a couple A's and a two point. I manipulate the tone by string and pick choice. And I would never buy a mandolin because of the 'chop'.

But it's all a blast, just having fun making music with old and new friends.

Ron McMillan
Sep-26-2017, 10:37am
Like some others here, my interest in bluegrass is peripheral at best. Yes, it gets a little tiresome when commentators here assume that bluegrass is the centre of the musical universe, but at the same time, no single genre has done more to maintain a place for mandolins in the public eye. For that we ought to be thankful.

Folkmusician.com
Sep-26-2017, 10:45am
My take is that Bluegrass, in a broad sense is still the most popular mandolin genre, but the lines are blurred. Over here in the Western US, the music has heavy Bluegrass influence but is not not so much "traditional" bluegrass. Even if it is the single most popular genre, I am not sure that it maintains 50% interest. This is only based on my experiences in the west. :)

Billy Packard
Sep-26-2017, 10:54am
One very important perspective is Bluegrass is a unique United States creation. This could be an important element in the proliferation of BG groups.

There are Bluegrass bands all over the world made up of local folks that love the style. Whether it's the sound of BG or that it is uniquely American, I don't know-but probably both. The blues idiom, rock and roll, jazz and others started here and then spread out.

I'd be curious also as to how many of us are exclusively BG. I love the mandolin and frequent the MC daily following various issues and I don't play BG at all. 'Not that there's anything wrong with it!.' My path started playing backup guitar for several Italian immigrants.

I do feel the need to specify I DON'T play BG when applying for jobs. Often I get a puzzled look that says, "What else is there on the mandolin?" To which I launch into the wonderful world of the 'what else'!

Billy

billypackardmandolin.com

DavidKOS
Sep-26-2017, 11:00am
Like some others here, my interest in bluegrass is peripheral at best. Yes, it gets a little tiresome when commentators here assume that bluegrass is the centre of the musical universe, but at the same time, no single genre has done more to maintain a place for mandolins in the public eye. For that we ought to be thankful.

I think it's a mixed blessing.

The good - the mandolin is popular again, lots of makers, etc.

The bad - people assume I'm going to play Bluegrass just because I have a mandolin.


My take is that Bluegrass, in a broad sense is still the most popular mandolin genre, but the lines are blurred. Over here in the Western US, the music has heavy Bluegrass influence but is not not so much "traditional" bluegrass. Even if it is the single most popular genre, I am not sure that it maintains 50% interest. This is only based on my experiences in the west. :)




I love the mandolin and frequent the MC daily following various issues and I don't play BG at all. 'Not that there's anything wrong with it!.' My path started playing backup guitar for several Italian immigrants.

I do feel the need to specify I DON'T play BG when applying for jobs. Often I get a puzzled look that says, "What else is there on the mandolin?" To which I launch into the wonderful world of the 'what else'!


What else indeed!

As a player of primarily jazz, classical, Italian, Klezmer, choro, Greek and even Afghan music, there's a LOT more than Bluegrass!

My sense is that the Bluegrass market does drive mandolin sales, as most of the cheaper mandolins are some sort of F model.

Hey, there are some of us that do NOT think a Loar style F mandolin is the best instrument.

colorado_al
Sep-26-2017, 11:01am
Ok, here's my take I've only been playing for 2 years with background in sax & guitar now playing mando with 4-5 piece rock/country/Americana I recently came to the conclusion (maybe wrong one) that I need to learn BG to move my playing forward. It seems most teachers and books for mandolin are geared towards BG which is fine with me as long as keep improving. Will I ever be a good BG musician, no but the style and skill those guys have will no doubt transfer over.
Lou

I think this is spot on. Most of the materials available for learning the mandolin are Bluegrass based. While I rarely play bluegrass, I've played fiddle tunes for 20 years and make them part of my daily practice routine. I've been able to expand my knowledge, building off of the bluegrass vocabulary.
I also benefit from a diverse music scene here in Colorado. Even the bluegrass jams are not all bluegrass. Lots of crossover into other genres.

Randi Gormley
Sep-26-2017, 11:02am
Around here, there are so many kinds of music at the local festivals that no one genre stands out; there's jazz and rockabilly and bluegrass and rock and roll and rap and even the occasional celtic-influenced music, polish and greek and big band and tribute and cover bands and the occasional classical quintet -- so I've never been assumed to be a bluegrass mandolinist. Frankly, most people who talk with me after a gig aren't exactly sure what instrument I'm playing. So maybe it's a geographic oddity. Maybe the bluegrass influence is partly because you normally don't have a bluegrass band without a mandolin -- so every band has one (sort of like every rock and roll band has a bass and a guitar and drums) and other genres aren't so specific in their instrument rollcall? At least if you're marketing to bluegrass bands, you know you'll always have customers.

As for the other, I know a handful of mandolinists, but they're all Irish musicians -- because I don't normally hang around with bluegrass musicians. I guess I self-select -- and nobody who plays around my circle of sessions would even think that the mandolinists are bluegrassers.

DavidKOS
Sep-26-2017, 11:03am
That's why I'd like to know if Bluegrass players represent a majority or a minority in the mandolin world. If a minority, why the overwhelming influence over instrument makers, dealers, music publishing, teaching,workshops, camps, and so on? Is it just a matter of visibility? .

Good questions! It has seem that the mandolin world is skewed towards the Bluegrass mandolinist ever since I began playing in the 1970s.

Mandolin Cafe
Sep-26-2017, 11:26am
Paradigm on display.

All the big dogs in the mandolin business are not at IBMA.

When you leave Collings and Weber out of the mix, when you leave Eastman and Kentucky out of the mix with their collective volume and compare that to Gibson's output you're talking apples and oranges. There are of course some fine builders represented.

Hate to break it to anyone, but lots of Eastman and Kentucky mandolins played in bluegrass bands when you throw the entire genre that includes newgrass, thrashgrass, punkgrass, NashGrass, etc. --insert your name here--into the mix. The largest segment of the mandolin business does not attend IBMA.

To my experience there's only once place all of those show up and it's an industry trade show: NAMM, and only the Anaheim show.

IBMA is a very small organization, well under 2,000 members last I heard. Big in name, big in attendance at this one show, but overall, an organization that's really not representing a lot of musicians when you put all of the numbers together.

Now we'll get out of the way so we can all define "what is bluegrass?" For the money from the guy that runs this site he says it's not a bluegrass mandolin web site, and the genre is not nearly as big as everyone thinks, but it has the easiest name that rolls off the tongue.

Ted Eschliman
Sep-26-2017, 11:37am
Always makes me chuckle when the perspective here in the US perpetually ignores three centuries of classical tradition on the continent across the Atlantic ocean. Must be the dubious work of those Bluegrass Record Label Executives again.

Hallmark498
Sep-26-2017, 11:58am
I'm grass so looking like 1 out of 18

CES
Sep-26-2017, 12:01pm
Lol, Ted, agree. But, I've lived in Western and Central NC for 14 years now. To many in these parts, there's only bluegrass music! I saw Thile and Fleck a couple of months ago in Charlotte. AWESOME show, broad range of musical styles on display, phenomenal musicianship, of course. The song that got the biggest ovation was the theme to "The Beverly Hillbillies." Just saying...

FWIW (not much, I know) I enjoy a broad range of musical styles, including, but certainly not limited to, bluegrass. If I could pick that dang fast cleanly I'd play it more (and I'm working on that), but it's tough. I've been playing a lot of Bach at home of late, though, and almost exclusively play contemporary Christian music when I play in public (with our youth praise band).

CarlM
Sep-26-2017, 12:10pm
In my neck of the woods there are not a lot of people playing bluegrass. There do seem to be a few playing "That's not bluegrass" style though.

Drew Egerton
Sep-26-2017, 12:13pm
Up until about 9 months ago I was pretty strictly bluegrass only. Then I started digging further into Dawg music and Jazz/swing. While I am very much a newbie with jazz, I am enjoying trying to learn some of the standards and differences in the style. Of course I still have trouble refraining from throwing a big Monroe blues lick in the middle of Lady Be Good.

I'm fascinated with the Bach kind of stuff as well, but not as interested to learn to play it as to just observe the masters.

red7flag
Sep-26-2017, 12:20pm
I started grass, not only grass, but on the, cough cough, banjo (still love it). Funny to say this, but his forum and the move to mandolin has moved my center towards Irish, gypsy, waltzes (non-grass in origin). As I bought oval hole instruments, GOMs, mandolas, the movement from grass has accelerated. Still when I look on my iPod, the large majority of the music on it (70% or so) is grass, but I would guess that in a given week, I listen to considerably less than 50% grass, currently. The movement has been gradual, but steady. Much as a reaction to the influences in the Cafe.

OlDanTucker
Sep-26-2017, 12:43pm
Mandolin Player first. The wonderful thing about this instrument is how many different styles of music you can play with it. Lately really interested in swing and jazz. But like old time, celtic, and half a dozen other styles as well.

But I play a lot of bluegrass. Mainly because that is who is jamming on acoustic instruments with a pretty high level of ability around here. I tend to like the jams that range pretty far afield. But marketing decisions are made on the basis of averages that might not take this into account.

multidon
Sep-26-2017, 1:32pm
Really interesting discussion so far, and thanks to all who contributed so far, and yet to come.

Anectdotal evidence so far suggests that the Bluegrass genre exercises much more influence over the world of mandolins, at least in the US, than the actual number of participants would indicate. Which was my working hypothesis, and I've seen nothing to change my mind on that.

Glad we didn't beat the "what is Bluegrass?" dead horse. After all, it's hard to define, but we know it when we hear it.

Very glad that Scott pointed out the "Big Dogs" that DON'T go to IBMA.

As for myself, I am the master of the "Ain't No Part of Nuthin'" genre.

Charlie Bernstein
Sep-26-2017, 2:03pm
Ironically, it seems you are part of the "vocal minority" that chooses to bring politics into a seemingly innocuous mandolin thread!!

;)

I go to the Cafe to escape the political madness and just read about and discuss mandolins. Arguments over things like "Is a Blue Chip pick worth the price?" is about as controversial as I'd like to get here.

Hope the cafe can remain a place like that..

I thought it was an apt comparison!

DavidKOS
Sep-26-2017, 2:10pm
Hate to break it to anyone, but lots of Eastman and Kentucky mandolins played in bluegrass bands when you throw the entire genre that includes newgrass, thrashgrass, punkgrass, NashGrass, etc. --insert your name here--into the mix.

as in XXXXXgrass?


Up until about 9 months ago I was pretty strictly bluegrass only. Then I started digging further into Dawg music and Jazz/swing. While I am very much a newbie with jazz, I am enjoying trying to learn some of the standards and differences in the style. Of course I still have trouble refraining from throwing a big Monroe blues lick in the middle of Lady Be Good.

I'm fascinated with the Bach kind of stuff as well, but not as interested to learn to play it as to just observe the masters.

Last first...

Bach kind of stuff! love that expression!

' While I am very much a newbie with jazz, I am enjoying trying to learn some of the standards and differences in the style. "

As a native New Orleanian...as in "jazz is my folk music"! Style is EVERYTHING!

Notes, scales, chords, etc. know no genre. It's all up to the player.


Mandolin Player first. The wonderful thing about this instrument is how many different styles of music you can play with it. Lately really interested in swing and jazz. But like old time, celtic, and half a dozen other styles as well.

But I play a lot of bluegrass. [B]Mainly because that is who is jamming on acoustic instruments with a pretty high level of ability around here. I tend to like the jams that range pretty far afield. But marketing decisions are made on the basis of averages that might not take this into account.

It does seem to be the prevailing style!

JeffD
Sep-26-2017, 2:20pm
Hey, there are some of us that do NOT think a Loar style F mandolin is the best instrument.

:) Yes. They are not Kermans after all.

JeffD
Sep-26-2017, 2:36pm
I wonder about this question, and have tentatively come to some semi-conclusions.

I would think that bluegrass, in the US, is the largest single genre of mandolin playing. That said, I doubt if the number of bluegrassers is near half the mandolin players out there. In the world even much less than half. I mean, the number of players in other genres of mandolinning, combined, are greater than the number of bluegrass mandolinners, and world wide much greater.

I think there is also a selection bias. I have recently jumped into the world of classical mandolin. I have met and play with and take advice and lessons from more and more classical players,... and you know what, it feels like the mandolin world is mostly classical, and that most of the resources our there are for classical instruction and so forth. I know it isn't true, but full emersion and the bias that the world I see is the world sure make it seem that way.

And are there enough mandolin players, at all, to make these musings significant? I mean, we are a small/tiny minority within the world of musicians, which are in themselves a tiny minority of the population itself.

So, to all of you, the few proud mandolinners, of any genre, get out there and play the dern thing. And don't clump into groups. More than 10 or so in a room and the entire county could be wiped out of mandolinners with one disaster.

Willie Poole
Sep-26-2017, 3:10pm
For many years I played lead guitar in a country band...and then I heard Monroe playing his mandolin and I told my dad I just have to have one of those so he bought me one and for a while I played both country and bluegrass and then just moved on to bluegrass alone.....I don`t know the answer to the OP`s question but for me and in my opinion there is only one music for the mandolin and that is BLUEGRASS...

Other than that I don`t have any comments...

Willie

Mandoplumb
Sep-26-2017, 3:35pm
I play bluegrass only my dad played bluegrass banjo I was raised on bluegrass. I listen to a lot of different styles, from old time to rock but I can't feel them so I can't or at least don't play them. One thing I disagree with in a lot of posts in this thread, bluegrass is played on mandolins that are not Loar style F5's. Yes Bill Monroe played a F5 but Secular with Flatt and Scruggs played F2, as did Duffy withCountry Gentlemen. A lot of Jimmy Martin's mandolin players used his F4. Busby played an A50 I think and Rector played an oval hole A ( I think an A4). On another thread we have a video of Roland White playing an oval hole with The Country Boys before the Whites became the Kentucky Conorals. When builders started making long neck A5's a lot of semi-professionals starting using them. I own and play several A style mandolins that I play bluegrass on. It don't have to be what Monroe played to be bluegrass

allenhopkins
Sep-26-2017, 4:08pm
Look what the paradigm (great word choice, Scott!) for the mandolin is, though: factory after Asian factory cranking out arch-top, f-hole, sunburst A- and F-models, for sale in North America, Europe, Australia -- and to a lesser extent in Japan, I guess.

Not that all the people who buy these mandolins use them to play bluegrass, but the mandolin market is saturated with "bluegrass style" instruments. There are European manufacturers making "Portuguese style," flat-top, oval-hole instruments, which may have a substantial market there, but I'd venture to guess that the overall majority of mandolins being currently made, are "bluegrass mandolins," whatever that means -- not that you can't play any kind of music on an arch-top, f-hole mandolin, but that style has come close to chasing other styles (bowl-back, flat-top, etc.) out of the marketplace.

Which, in a way, is too bad. I play my little Martin Style A, or my Gibson A/N Special, or one of my bowl-backs or resonator mandolins, and I think we could use a few more "flavors" on the current mandolin menu. Not that there aren't some of them out there, new ones even; just that the new mandolin buyer is going to see mostly what could be termed "bluegrass mandolins."

Bob A
Sep-26-2017, 4:37pm
Bluegrass musicians probably make up the largest single group of mandolinists in the US, though I doubt that is the case overseas. That is the reason there are many bluegrass camps, festivals etc hereabouts. Pretty much the only music you could find being played on mandolins in the US was BG and old-timey sorts of music. Again, not true for the rest of the planet. Europe and Japan have strong Classical mando traditions. While they may make Gibson/BG instruments, I suspect they are primarily meant for the US market.

This site doesn't seem to have a polling function, but I'd be very interested in seeing the breakdown of strictly BG players, Old-Time, Irish, Classical, and various blends of the above, as represented by posters here. Since the mandolin is, and always will be, an instrument on the margins, this site probably attracts a goodly percentage of the world's mandolin players, so the whole gamut would be reasonably well represented.

jefflester
Sep-26-2017, 4:43pm
My question is, just how big is the Bluegrass segment of our community? Is it a majority? Or just a sizable minority?
I reckon bluegrass is the largest segment of mandolin players, but not a majority.

The exact numbers* are:
Bluegrass: 42.7%
Country: 18.7%
Irish/Celtic: 11.9%
Jazz: 10.2%
Classical: 8.5%
Rock: 4.8%
Other: 3.2%

*I read it on the internet so it must be true. ;)

sblock
Sep-26-2017, 5:00pm
When you think about some of the outstanding and successful mandolin players who get mentioned quite a lot on the MC, you tend to hear names like these (off the top of my head): Chris Thile, Sam Bush, Adam Steffey, David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Caterina Lichtenberg, Evan Marshall, Joe Walsh, Sarah Jarosz, Sierra Hull, Bill Monroe, Mike Compton, Doyle Lawson, Ricky Scaggs, Jethro Burns, Jacob do Bandolim, Dave Apollon, Carlo Aonzo, Joe Carr, Mark O'Connor, Jesse McReynolds, Darrol Anger, Todd Phillips, Tim O'Brien, Johnny Staats, Herschel Sizemore, Andy Statman, Frank Wakefield, Bobby Osborne, Roland White, Ronnie McCoury, Alan Bibey, Dave Harvey, Avi Avital, Jacob Reuvan, John McGann, John Duffey, John Reischman, Butch Baldassari, Tiny Moore, Peter Ostrouchko, Matt Flinner, Hamilton Holanda.

I am quite certain that I did not get them all, but I'd wager that I have listed a good many of the most-cited player names on the MC. Maybe my list is unbalanced and a trifle unrepresentative, but we can argue further about that. And apologies if I left out your favorite player! Don't like this list? OK: Make up your own list for "most-cited on the MC".

In looking over this (admittedly biased) list of recording artists and other mandolin heroes, I find that of the 43 names above, at least 30 or more are associated, in one way or another, with what one might call bluegrass/newgrass. Some of those 30 players got their start in bluegrass and later migrated off into more personal forms of new acoustic music, but they can still play bluegrass with the best of 'em. By this -- albeit crude -- metric, something like 75% of the top players come out of a bluegrass tradition.

You can chalk some of this up to observer bias, but I'd be willing to wager that the mandolin world is still driven by a VERY significant bluegrass component, particularly if you're willing to broaden the definition of 'bluegrass' to include players who were originally instilled with this medium, but later took off in their own unique directions (like Grisman, Statman, O'Brien, etc.).

So YES, I'd say that bluegrass -- or something like it -- stills holds a large sway over the mandolin market. But this goes WAAAY beyond the relatively narrow, trad-grass constituency of the IBMA!! The influence is both much more subtle, but also far-ranging, than that.

Folks who are just learning or picking up the mandolin tend to look to these sorts of players for inspiration. Certainly, they do set various trends. [Tim O'Brien did a LOT to resurrect the reputation of the A5-model, for example!] And, of course, the influence of Bill Monroe on Gibson F5 mandolin sales is legendary. He is almost single-handedly responsible for the obsession with Loar-signed F5s, on top of that.

The larger makers of mandolins naturally tend to cater to the largest demographic segments of the market, for good business reasons. Yes, there is a REASON why you don't see more bowl-backs (no offense to bowl-back players intended). The same goes for flat-tops, two-points, and many other "niche" designs. The market is mostly A5s and F5s, and you can probably blame the bluegrass community for that, if you like. But these are also very good mandolin designs! You can thanks folks like Orville Gibson and Lloyd Loar for that. And neither one of them played bluegrass.

JeffD
Sep-26-2017, 5:37pm
In looking over this (admittedly biased) list of recording artists and other mandolin heroes, I find that of the 43 names above, at least 30 or more are associated, in one way or another, with what one might call bluegrass/newgrass. Some of those 30 players got their start in bluegrass and later migrated off into more personal forms of new acoustic music, but they can still play bluegrass with the best of 'em. By this -- albeit crude -- metric, something like 75% of the top players come out of a bluegrass tradition.

You can chalk some of this up to observer bias, ...

A list with less bias:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mandolinists_(sorted)#Mainly_classical

Steve VandeWater
Sep-26-2017, 6:01pm
I reckon bluegrass is the largest segment of mandolin players, but not a majority.

The exact numbers* are:
Bluegrass: 42.7%
Country: 18.7%
Irish/Celtic: 11.9%
Jazz: 10.2%
Classical: 8.5%
Rock: 4.8%
Other: 3.2%

*I read it on the internet so it must be true. ;)

I hear that 86.4% of statistics are made up right there on the spot!

sblock
Sep-26-2017, 6:20pm
A list with less bias:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mandolinists_(sorted)#Mainly_classical

With all respect, Jeff, that is not a list of the player names most frequently mentioned on the MC. So you're comparing apples with oranges. Also, I don't understand what you mean by "less bias." Less biased in what specific way? For example, a list of fairly obscure players, say, collected from one fairly unpopular genre, compared against a list of the same length of major recording artists culled from another, comparatively more popular genre would not be considered an "unbiased" comparison. On the contrary, it would be heavily biased in favor of the more obscure genre, by equating a series of relatively unknown names against a series of much more famous/popular/successful ones. This is generically true; it has nothing to do with bluegrass compared with, say, classical or Celtic music on mandolin! It would be equally true if we put the giants of bluegrass up against the giants of today's pop music -- they wouldn't stand a chance!

Hey, I LOVE classical music. And I really like the blues. And I play ITM. And folk. And yes, I play bluegrass, too.

But it's still true that bluegrass, and bluegrass sensibilities, dominate the current mandolin instrument market. These are the economic realities.

Charlieshafer
Sep-26-2017, 6:22pm
My take is that while bluegrass still holds some sway, the majority now play a mixed-genre thing, with no real name. Maybe alt-string band. That part os irrelevant, but what I do see is outside of bluegrass-centric festivals or venues, the world is shifting away. In talking to musicians, it's mostly because of the tight confines of the music. It's also why many classical players also play jazz, old-time, etc. When I look at some fellow presenters, who do mostly bluegrass, audiences are looking a little grey. When one specific presenter, who also happens to currently run the Connecticut Bluegrass Association took some of the younger, not-quite bluegrass bands out of Berklee and environs, he immediately saw an attendance bump and a much younger audience at the same time. If you want to keep a venue going, the key is getting young and achieving some sort of sustainability.

So, while bluegrass might possibly be the largest single genre of mandolin players, I'm thinking this is temporary at best, and soon it will be all the bands like Mr. Sun, with Joe K. Walsh, or Punch Brothers, Or Brittany Haas's new iteration of Haas/Kowert/Tice, called Hawktail, as Dominick Leslie has joined. A bunch live in Nashville, so even many of those venues are going younger also..

DataNick
Sep-26-2017, 6:41pm
The answers to the OP's question at times tend to the "what I like to listen to or play" responses rather than his question as to what % of the mandolin market is bluegrass.

I have found, at least in SoCal, that a lot of mandolin players come to the mandolin thru bluegrass, but that folks (older) come to bluegrass as non-musicians who are hobby learning. Most musicians (classical, jazz, swing, rock, country, etc.) appreciate and even dabble in other genres, so using myself as an example, while I love bluegrass mandolin, I play many styles and can function in many settings musically. I look at the mandolin as a musical instrument, not specifically a bluegrass instrument, but a musical instrument. I can be anal about bluegrass, and yet still jam out to Motown, AC-DC, Santana, Allman Bros., Eagles, George Benson, etc

I have no idea about the % of the mandolin market, but I suspect that based on the instrument makers referred to earlier, that a certain "folk music" element is taken into consideration in a majority of them...YMMV

DavidKOS
Sep-26-2017, 7:20pm
for me and in my opinion there is only one music for the mandolin and that is BLUEGRASS...


Willie

Well I respect your honesty!

But as an Italian-American kid raised in New Orleans, that sure ain't where me and my mandolin are comin' from!

and Italians were playing mandolin long before the great Bill Monroe was any part of anything.


Look what the paradigm (great word choice, Scott!) for the mandolin is, though: factory after Asian factory cranking out arch-top, f-hole, sunburst A- and F-models, for sale in North America, Europe, Australia -- and to a lesser extent in Japan, I guess.

Not that all the people who buy these mandolins use them to play bluegrass, but the mandolin market is saturated with "bluegrass style" instruments. There are European manufacturers making "Portuguese style," flat-top, oval-hole instruments, which may have a substantial market there, but I'd venture to guess that the overall majority of mandolins being currently made, are "bluegrass mandolins,"
"

I've been to NAMM as a buyer and believe me, there are fewer makers (or is it jobbers?) of non-A and F mandolins overall.

But, it is true there are still a lot of makers of traditional non-Gibson style mandolins, thankfully for variety.

P.S. I guess I still don't understand how you can play mandolino and not play a little Italian music.:cool:

foldedpath
Sep-26-2017, 8:26pm
A list with less bias:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mandolinists_(sorted)#Mainly_classical

There is a heavy bias on published recordings and Wiki links in that list. It's hardly unbiased. If anyone thinks that the list of people playing mandolins in Irish/Scottish and related music is defined by the seven artists listed there, then they have another think coming.... as my dear departed Ma would say.
;)

There are genres like Irish/Scottish trad where the vast majority of players aren't headlining concerts and pumping out CD's. It's a peripheral instrument in that genre compared to fiddles, flutes, whistle and pipes, but there are thousands of amateur players using mandolins to play this music. They don't get counted in a survey like this, but they're still out there. Same thing with OldTime... how many OldTime mandolin players front a band? Or Blues, or Classical, or Jazz?

I think the point has been made that we're not all Bluegrass mandolin players here (I'm not). But we'll never pin down the ratios. Too much amateur playing goes under the radar.

pops1
Sep-26-2017, 9:42pm
Where I am it's old time music and celtic. One, kind of bluegrass band, many old time bands and dances. Since Bluegrass came from old time music and was changed in the beginning by eliminating the fiddle, changing the harmony, and taking breaks, then changing the banjo style from frailing to Scruggs style. This was of course all in Bill's band since there was no bluegrass before that, but major interest in mandolins and mandolin development, I wonder should we not be talking about old time influences too. Of course the Loar era F5's were designed for classical music and was simply that Bill played one, not early, but in the end that it became "the" instrument for bluegrass. In some parts of California old time musicians play breaks, others specify "we don't play breaks" so there is that overlap. I believe this could actually be a thesis for someone younger than I going to college and would make a good book, which I would buy and read.

fatt-dad
Sep-26-2017, 9:51pm
it's a fun portable instrument that's easy for playing melody.

that's what makes me stick with it and my desire to solve problems. . .

i don't play bluegrass.

I love the therapy.

f-d

JeffD
Sep-26-2017, 10:10pm
I meant less biased specifically in that there was no conscious or unconscious bias by Wiki to get more or fewer mandolinners from a each genre. They weren't in our discussion and don't have our biases. That's what I meant.

And the number of mandolinners that post to this site is a only a fraction of the mandolinners out there, and I am guessing a small fraction. I know many mandolin players, I only know one or two others to be a member of the café. So I am not sure what difference it makes overall what we think or we know or what we pay attention to.

I know I do most of my "shopping" here in the classifieds, and most of my thinking about shopping here on the site, so sure it feels like bluegrass dominates the market. But I am continuously surprised how many folks that come to me (in the real world) looking for advice about purchasing a mandolin, who never heard of the café or the café classifieds, when I recommend them.

f5loar
Sep-26-2017, 11:04pm
I just find it hard to understand with the total mandolin production per year, where are all those mandolins going to? Do most mandolin pickers (like myself) suffer from M.A.S. and need more than one mandolin to pick? Bluegrass is popular around the world or that part of the world that has a modern society. A mandolin is not always part of bluegrass music. What's that saying if it ain't got a banjo in it, it ain't bluegrass. You don't hear that about a mandolin. So yeah, I'll go with bluegrass and those music styles derived from it, are in the majority but hard to put an exact % on it. I'll guess at least 30% and no more than 50%. IBMA is the biggy to cater to that bluegrass market. The banjo and mandolin builders seem to be well represented each year.

Billy Packard
Sep-27-2017, 12:38am
Is this a little bit...vain?

Like.. what IS going on with my belly button?? It never looked like that before!..

Charlieshafer
Sep-27-2017, 6:08am
f5Loar's post got me thinking about the difficulty in answering this question, even if we did have hard numbers on all players, pros and amateurs, and what style they played. The issue is all the newer music out there. What percentage is bluegrass-derived? What percentage is a given tune, like Mr. Sun's The People Need Light? It's got bluegrass-sounding instruments and occasional spaces, but there's a heavy jazz and blues influence, probably more than bluegrass. Other tunes, perhaps the mix is different. I have no idea how to answer this, and it's a constant issue when presenting these musicians. But I do think the tide is turning not so much away from bluegrass, in terms of some sort of rebellion, I just think that more artists are exploring more musical freedom. There's no fear anymore about being not being placed in a genre box, which for record companies and promoters, was critical.

I think you probably have to go at this question in a backwards fashion. List (which is an exercise in futility) all mandolin/CBOM players currently touring, and over the entire world, and hope you can place them in an appropriate slot. Classical, Jazz, Bluegrass, ITM, the works, and hope there's some sort of correlation percentage-wise when you extrapolate this to encompass amateur players. You could easily spend a couple of years tracking down every performance with a mandolin in it, getting audience size data (gotta see how popular the music is in each geographical region) and go from there. Yuck.

Frankdolin
Sep-27-2017, 7:09am
As a life long mandolin player I seldom if ever play BG. Not because I don't enjoy it, I do. On my list of genres I want to study and dedicate the time to learn BG is about #7.Popularity,unfortunately, has always been a turn-off for me and it's a ridiculous prejudice but it's there just the same...:mandosmiley:

Mandolin Cafe
Sep-27-2017, 7:58am
When you think about some of the outstanding and successful mandolin players who get mentioned quite a lot on the MC, you tend to hear names like these (off the top of my head): Chris Thile, Sam Bush, Adam Steffey, David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Caterina Lichtenberg, Evan Marshall, Joe Walsh, Sarah Jarosz, Sierra Hull, Bill Monroe, Mike Compton, Doyle Lawson, Ricky Scaggs, Jethro Burns, Jacob do Bandolim, Dave Apollon, Carlo Aonzo, Joe Carr, Mark O'Connor, Jesse McReynolds, Darrol Anger, Todd Phillips, Tim O'Brien, Johnny Staats, Herschel Sizemore, Andy Statman, Frank Wakefield, Bobby Osborne, Roland White, Ronnie McCoury, Alan Bibey, Dave Harvey, Avi Avital, Jacob Reuvan, John McGann, John Duffey, John Reischman, Butch Baldassari, Tiny Moore, Peter Ostrouchko, Matt Flinner, Hamilton Holanda.

Perfectly illustrates an uncomfortable truth for the hard core bluegrass truthers: how many of people in that list know how to play bluegrass? How many of them actually play it on a consistent basis? Very, very few. Thile, Bush, Marshall, Hull, etc. certainly may know how, but rarely do. They need to make a living. Bluegrass is in serious decline and has been for a long time. Look at the ages of the people in this list--if they're alive--and check how many are over 60. Compare that to the 30 and under crowd and how many are playing the music. I love bluegrass. I play it, but to bang a drum saying it's the dominant force in acoustic music? Nope.


I just find it hard to understand with the total mandolin production per year, where are all those mandolins going to? Do most mandolin pickers (like myself) suffer from M.A.S. and need more than one mandolin to pick? Bluegrass is popular around the world or that part of the world that has a modern society. A mandolin is not always part of bluegrass music. What's that saying if it ain't got a banjo in it, it ain't bluegrass. You don't hear that about a mandolin. So yeah, I'll go with bluegrass and those music styles derived from it, are in the majority but hard to put an exact % on it. I'll guess at least 30% and no more than 50%. IBMA is the biggy to cater to that bluegrass market. The banjo and mandolin builders seem to be well represented each year.

Thank you for stating the truth about banjos. Bluegrass is banjo music, not mandolin music. Open back banjos have been outselling resonator banjos (the choice of bluegrass) by 5-1 and more for close to 10 years, a sharp reversal from 20-30 years ago. More proof of a dramatic decline of the music by most definitions.

YMMV.

Folkmusician.com
Sep-27-2017, 9:37am
I was thinking about this from a different point. The Bluegrass mandolin does in fact rule with a huge market share. The catch is, the people purchasing these are not predominately playing Bluegrass.

It is arguable that the most popular mandolin players are those in popular music. Ray Jackson, John Paul Jones/Jimmy Page, Peter Buck, etc.. David Grisman and Mike Compton come to mind as two we might refer to as "mandolin players" that went mainstream. Though few are aware of who they are.

Average people I talk to can't name a single mandolin player, but if there were one that stood out as far as mainstream name recognition, it might be David Grisman. I have met a few that knew who he was through the Dead. Outside of my work and the music scene, I don't recall a single person knowing who Bill Monroe was. Again, Bluegrass doesn't have a hold in my region, but that can be said for most of the more populous states.

I think it is also important to remember that some of the largest mandolin dealers are not mandolin dealers at all (Amazon). We often dismiss all the random off brands and bottom of the barrel instruments, but together, these represent a big chunk of the market (maybe the majority). Factories are churning these out by the tens of thousands and the US is the main consumer. People are buying them.

The Cafe collective is highly educated in mandolins. Ambassadors so to speak. We are not representative of the average person. Even I forget this. Reading the Cafe nearly everyday for over a decade has changed my perspective of things as well. When I do try to step back, it is almost in disbelief that I again realize the mandolin is such a niche instrument and we (at the cafe) are a niche among the niche. :)

OldSausage
Sep-27-2017, 9:58am
FWIW here's some data on the popularity of these search terms on Google over the last year.

161098

Capt. E
Sep-27-2017, 10:19am
The organization I play with the most (when I get out of the house to do it) is the Austin Friends of Traditional Music. The name says it all. Bluegrass is only part of it. These days they even have one evening a month playing Norwegian music. Personally, on mandolin, I play old time, americana and irish mostly. Bluegrass, of course, originates out of old time with jazz influences etc.
Check out the String Band Festival coming next month: www.aftm.us
Here is a partial list of the lineup:
Performers
Molsky’s Mountain Drifters
Spencer and Rains Trio
Rodney Sutton
Rabbit Sanchez and Lorenzo Martinez
The Barn Owls with Sharon Isaac calling
Missy Beth and The Morning Afters
Jesse Lége, Peter Schwarz and the Cajun Ramble
Jake Penrod
Catching Up the Slack
The Mar-A-Lago Strugglers
Up Around the Sun
And more ...

Bob A
Sep-27-2017, 10:20am
Using the Wiki link above, and counting only the individual players listed I come up with the following:

Genre Live %Living Deceased %Deceased
Classical 96 37 13 25
Blues 22 8 19 37
Bluegrass 53 20 12 23
Choro 8 3 1 2
Country 26 10 3 6
Mixed 6 2 0 0
Irish 7 3 0 0
Brit Folk 5 2 0 0
Rock 18 7 1 2
Japan Pop 6 2 0 0
Jazz 12 4 2 4
Klezmer 1 <1 0 0

All Dead, with no modern living players: Gospel 1; Old Timey 2; Ragtime 1; Carnatic 1

While I don't stand behind, or even agree, with the Wiki numbers, and recognise that the figures are just this side of absurd, some trends seem interesting:

Percentage of living Classical is greater than deceased, seems to indicate viability of genre. Also true of Country and Rock.

Blues heavily favors the dead. Bluegrass also slants toward the grave.

Gospel, Old Timey, Ragtime and Carnatic are only represented by the dead.

Again, only using Wiki info, which I don't necessarily agree with. Of course my assumptions regarding viability are strictly fantasy. Make of it what you will.

(Sorry, all my careful columns were whacked by the board's software).

allenhopkins
Sep-27-2017, 10:42am
...where are all those mandolins going to? Do most mandolin pickers (like myself) suffer from M.A.S. and need more than one mandolin to pick?...

I think I have most of them; I stopped counting mandolin-family instruments when I went past 15.

Of course, I'm never going to buy another one. And, in line with the topic, I only have, really, one mandolin that's a "classic bluegrass" instrument, my 1954 Gibson F-5. I have other F-models -- a three-point F-2, an Eastman mandola, the Weber "sopranolin," and an Eastman DGM-1, that's the Giacomel "take" on a scroll-and-points. The others are all over the map: two resonator instruments, three mandocelli, two OM's, two bowl-back mandolins and a bowl-back mandola, a Gibson Army/Navy reissue, a Martin Style A, and some miscellaneous others, including my luthier-made fan-fret ten-string.

I played bluegrass for six or seven years, but that was 40 years ago; since then, it's been all kinda other stuff: Celtic, klezmer, generic "folk," the occasional BG jam. The skills I learned playing bluegrass have helped me play other kinds of music, though I'm no longer able to keep up with the fastest tunes.

I stand by my observation about the overall mandolin market, however; the three most cited and respected Asian manufacturers, Saga/Kentucky, Loar, and Eastman, are basically making "bluegrass mandolins." Saga's Trinity College line does provide flat-tops targeted at Celtic players, and Gold Tone has followed them into that market. The three most cited and respected US manufacturers, Gibson, Collings and Weber, are likewise making "bluegrass mandolins"; Weber has apparently decided to stop making flat-tops.

This structuring of the market wouldn't occur if manufacturers didn't believe that the most popular and salable mandolin style, was an arch-top, f-hole, raised fingerboard, longer-scale instrument, either with or without a scroll and body points. Or, a "bluegrass mandolin." When one of these major manufacturers decides to issue a line of bowl-backs, flat-tops or canted-tops, with oval soundless, flush fingerboards and a shorter scale, I'll know that the decline of bluegrass cited by Scott above, has led to changes in the demand for different styles of mandolin.

Interesting that the key role of banjo in bluegrass has been noted; 75 years ago, the five-string banjo was nearly completely de-emphasized by manufacturers, in favor of tenor and plectrum styles. Now the shoe has migrated completely to the other foot, and I'd venture to guess that 90% of banjos being manufactured are five-strings -- "bluegrass banjos," though also "folk" and "old-time."

JeffD
Sep-27-2017, 10:42am
For perspective: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=mandolin,guitar

What I mean is there are so few mandolinners it boggles my mind. When you interview three people, who cares what two out of three of them said.

JeffD
Sep-27-2017, 10:46am
Bluegrass is banjo music, .

Ain't that the truth. To the general public just about anything with a banjo must be bluegrass.

multidon
Sep-27-2017, 10:59am
Really nice to heave David Mold check in on this topic! And what a revealing graph! If we take the Google inquires as indicative somehow of actual interest, it would see, Bluegrass is the number one genre, but Irish is on its heels. And if we add together all the styles that are not bluegrass, it becomes clear that bluegrass is in the minority, although a large minority and the largest sub-segment. I guess we should take this on its face, although some would start up the arguement about what's bluegrass, and maybe people are searching for that without knowing what it is. And David did not include old time. Maybe people search for bluegrass when they really mean "old time" or "string band music". And admittedly, there is much confusion in the general public. Not splitting hairs like we do here, but I mean way off. I play in a string band with dulcimers, guitar, and bass. We play exclusively music that is at least 125 years old, sometimes even older ( think Civil War Era) and I get asked constantly if we're bluegrass! So there's that general ignorance figured into any statistic like that.

I also liked JeffD's graph showing what a niche we really are.

So the answer to my question becomes clearer now. As the perceived largest segment of the market, the industry believes it is giving the people what they want, what we think of as a Bluegrass Mandolin, F5 or A5 copies in sunburst.

Caleb
Sep-27-2017, 11:50am
Very interesting and entertaining thread.

I told a fellow (not a musician himself) I work with once that I play mandolin. He mentioned Bluegrass and I told him I don't play that. He said he didn't know it was possible to play anything but Bluegrass on the mandolin.

It seems like acoustic music was given a boost about 15 years ago with the O Brother film. That's about the time I caught on to it all myself. Surely this caused a boost in mandolin sales? It seems like it was all Bluegrass, Americana, and the like all jumbled up for a long time.

Now when I see a mandolin, it's mostly in the hands of a younger player, usually bearded with a 40s style hat and a plaid shirt. The kind of music these folks play is hard to categorize: not Bluegrass, not Country, or even quite Americana. I guess it is the children of the O Brother movement changing things yet again.

Mandolin Cafe
Sep-27-2017, 11:51am
So, searching for something equals numbers of people playing what they're searching for? Wanting to play what they're searching for? Wanting to listen to what they're searching for? How many searching for it would be able to give a definition of it that would be agreed upon by any kind of majority? Or is bluegrass just a convenient term a lot of people have heard and don't want to see something that slices vegetables?

Just asking because I have no idea what those numbers mean other than more people entered a certain string. But how does that translate into something we know that is measurable outside of the number itself?

catmandu2
Sep-27-2017, 12:29pm
Yes if you guys want valid "conclusions" you'd better assess your variables (consider what such graphs and data are expressing/representing, etc)

Caleb, as it is in college towns - lots of mandos, young folks, "mountain-jazz" I'll call it for purposes of this thread. Bela playing "Beverly.." is like Segovia playing his childhood folk melodies/influences. It's a different world and "jazz" will be involved by players at levels you're talking about. Wrt the above, consider the mechanisms/factors/variables at play in the myriad ways: net searches are conducted/(what conducts net searches, etc); populations are invested of information; media/advert; and on and on..

Br1ck
Sep-27-2017, 12:34pm
I think it is telling that very few mandolin builders market their instruments as bluegrass mandolins. I'm sure they don't want to give someone the idea they wouldn't pick up an instrument because they play another style. Yes, there is the Northfield Big Mon model, but I could play most anything on that mandolin. I think Phoenix also has one.

I think perhaps this instrument is one of the most genre bending instruments out there. Builders are better off calling their instruments the XY 1400.

sblock
Sep-27-2017, 1:14pm
I think it is telling that very few mandolin builders market their instruments as bluegrass mandolins. I'm sure they don't want to give someone the idea they wouldn't pick up an instrument because they play another style. Yes, there is the Northfield Big Mon model, but I could play most anything on that mandolin. I think Phoenix also has one.

I think perhaps this instrument is one of the most genre bending instruments out there. Builders are better off calling their instruments the XY 1400.

Interesting comment, and food for thought! Of course, if I were in the business of manufacturing mandolins (as opposed to being a specialist luthier), I would try to attract as large a segment of the market as possible, in order to be as profitable as possible. And that would lead to precisely these sorts of business behaviors:

1) I would make models of instruments aimed at the majority of mandolin players, that is, I would aim for the largest market segment. Based on the current demographics, that majority is still into something close to bluegrass (i.e., bluegrass, newgrass, dawggrass, bluegrass-associated, new acoustic music derived from bluegrass and jazz roots, etc.). This is currently true, despite anything the naysayers with other personal musical interests might argue! Maybe it's slowly changing, as the saying goes, "one funeral at a time," but bluegrass is still the dominant mode.

2) Furthermore, the models I'd produce would have to be capable of making music in a variety of musical genres.

3) In my general advertising, I would never try make any claims to be associated with any particular genre! This instrument would not be sold as some kind of a "bluegrass" mandolin, nor would it be an "Irish mandolin," nor a "classical mandolin," either! It would just be a fine mandolin!! Why close doors on wider sales opportunities? That would be downright silly. Remember that the Gibson F5 model was not developed for bluegrass, because it pre-dated bluegrass. It was not developed for any kind of folk music, either! It was developed for classical and semi-classical/popular (tin pan alley; ragtime) music of the 1920s.

4) Only in specialist advertising would I stress that my models have great properties that make them especially well-suited for playing certain genres. In a bluegrass magazine, I might point out it's got a great "chop" on chords, with a woody bass. In a classical magazine, I might point out its clear, bell-like high tones up the neck. In an ITM magazine, I might point out its ringing sustain and parking midrange. And so on. So, all things to all people, and all that!

5) To seek out sales and higher visibility in specialist markets, I would also look to get endorsements by some well-known players and recording artists in different genres. After all, people do tend to buy what their heroes play. Folks like Adam Steffey, Emory Lester, and Mike Marshall are doing great things for Northfield, for example. And consider what Bill Monroe has done for Gibson, from 1945 to the present day (as a paid endorser or not)!!

6) I would also recognize that the music-making community happens to be fairly conservative when it comes to choosing their instruments (same goes for new styles, genres, etc.). It is fairly difficult (but not impossible) to introduce new styles, especially those with radical departures from the current norm. Most musicians already have certain types of sounds, and also certain types of shapes/forms, "in their head." These sorts of changes are best introduced by more boutique outfits, like small maker shops, individual luthiers, and so on. If something starts to catch on, a larger manufacturer might well "jump on the wave", so to speak. But only rarely does a large instrument manufacturer get involved with serious innovations on their own.

In light of all these things, it should be NO SURPRISE to anyone here on the MC that most of the large manufacturers are making mass-produced, Gibson-inspired A5 and F5 models. That's where the meat is on the bone.

Charlieshafer
Sep-27-2017, 2:41pm
I think the only thing I'd have to disagree with in the general theme here is lumping in "bluegrass-oriented" with traditional bluegrass. That's a fatal mistake from a promotion standpoint, and many presenters can't figure it out. The traditional bluegrassers are subject to the laws of the bluegrass police, pure and simple. The non-traditional are consciously avoiding the straight and narrow. Unless they're trying to get a gig at Greyfox, the last thing they want is to be painted as a bluegrass band. If I were to promote some of these as traditional bluegrass, and bluegrass fans showed up, I'd be criticized up and down the street. It's no different from those who holler about bands like Crooked Still being allowed at Grey Fox.

Having been doing this for over 20 years now, I can tell you with no hesitation: In New England, if I host a bluegrass traditionalist, I'll get an old, and small crowd. If I host a young non-traditional band, I get a mix of young and old in the seats, and a sell out.

There is no way that bluegrass bands should be equated with bands that simply use bluegrass-related instruments. I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm simply saying that they are entirely different genres, and to try to blend the two is a mistake. You'll get wrong statistics every time. It's the same thing as saying all Rock and Roll is still categorized as Mississippi Delta Blues. Fatal marketing error.

multidon
Sep-27-2017, 8:19pm
Ok, now this thread has veered into getting bogged down into the mire of what is or is not bluegrass. I did not want to go down that road. I stand by my earlier post where I stated that the general public has no clue what the difference is between traditional bluegrass and all the other myriad permutations. The general listening public does not split hairs like we enlightened ones do. To them, anything with acoustic strings is bluegrass. Please note the far out example I give above. Civil war music on dulcimers, bluegrass? We chuckle, but to the audience members it makes perfect sense. Can we all agree this is hat most audiences think, just because they don't know any better? I try to educate them, but they just want to hear us play, not talk.

My point is, to try bringing things back on topic, that bluegrass and all of its variants, offshoots, inspired bys, influenced bys, no part of nuthins, etc. have collectively influenced what types of instruments are offered for sale, what kind of lesson books are published, what teachers teach, what workshops and camps are offered, and so forth. Perhaps one could argue that the influence is out of proportion to actual participation levels. That happens to be my opinion. We can argue about what bluegrass really is until the cows come home. In fact we already have, many many times. That question does not apply here. The question perhaps should be "What does the music industry think bluegrass is?".

sblock
Sep-27-2017, 8:31pm
I think the only thing I'd have to disagree with in the general theme here is lumping in "bluegrass-oriented" with traditional bluegrass. That's a fatal mistake from a promotion standpoint, and many presenters can't figure it out. The traditional bluegrassers are subject to the laws of the bluegrass police, pure and simple. The non-traditional are consciously avoiding the straight and narrow. Unless they're trying to get a gig at Greyfox, the last thing they want is to be painted as a bluegrass band. If I were to promote some of these as traditional bluegrass, and bluegrass fans showed up, I'd be criticized up and down the street. It's no different from those who holler about bands like Crooked Still being allowed at Grey Fox.

Having been doing this for over 20 years now, I can tell you with no hesitation: In New England, if I host a bluegrass traditionalist, I'll get an old, and small crowd. If I host a young non-traditional band, I get a mix of young and old in the seats, and a sell out.

There is no way that bluegrass bands should be equated with bands that simply use bluegrass-related instruments. I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm simply saying that they are entirely different genres, and to try to blend the two is a mistake. You'll get wrong statistics every time. It's the same thing as saying all Rock and Roll is still categorized as Mississippi Delta Blues. Fatal marketing error.

Yes, I certainly do take your point about the difference in marketing bands as being "bluegrass," as opposed to "bluegrass-oriented" (or whatever word you prefer to use to describe this new acoustic music which has definite roots in bluegrass). One type of band seems alive and vibrant, and surely draws a younger but still fickle crowd; the other type seems to have fewer and fewer adherents of increasing age, but those folks are loyal, discerning, and die-hard fans.

That said, the bluegrass police have long had something to snipe at, ever since Flatt & Scruggs left Monroe's band in 1945/46! A Dobro ain't no part of nuthin', WSM said. Later came the Country Gentlemen, who also had to deal with "not being bluegrass." Ditto for Jim & Jesse, and even for Ralph Stanley, can you believe it?! And let's not even talk about Newgrass Revival, when they started out! Or consider all the flak that AKUS took. It's always been hard to forge new directions in bluegrass without being accused of breaking out of the genre. Or simply breaking the genre! But what creative young musician wants to just play in some kind of a Bill Monroe cover band?

But the point that's most relevant to this thread is the mandolins played by all these exciting "bluegrass-oriented" (or whatever) young groups are pretty much the same type of mandolins as those played by all the "trad-grass" groups, namely, Gibson-inspired A5s and F5s. Not many other designs. Rarely two-points (although a few). No flat-tops! No bandolims! No Irish style teardrops! And certainly no bowlbacks! And you don't see many electric mandos, either.

So yes, the vast majority of the mandolin economic market, I would argue, is still being driven by "bluegrass sensibilities," be these the New Age version or the Old Trad version!

Maybe if some breakout/crossover star, like a Chris Thile, were to switch to playing some other type of mandolin, and thereby inspire a new generation, it would drive the market in the future? But Chris seems to agree with Ol' WSM that the Gibson-style F5 still has the best sound when it comes to a mandolin. So there we are, and there we will likely be in the foreseeable future. :whistling:

Bob Clark
Sep-27-2017, 8:40pm
Indicative of probably nothing, but I just have to mention that Phoenix's 'best selling' mandolin is their Neoclassical. Certainly not bluegrass-oriented. I sure love mine, though.

JeffD
Sep-27-2017, 8:43pm
What is all of this telling us?

Basically that it is hard to see ourselves because we are in the way.

FLATROCK HILL
Sep-27-2017, 9:23pm
So, searching for something equals numbers of people playing what they're searching for? Wanting to play what they're searching for? Wanting to listen to what they're searching for? How many searching for it would be able to give a definition of it that would be agreed upon by any kind of majority? Or is bluegrass just a convenient term a lot of people have heard and don't want to see something that slices vegetables?

Just asking because I have no idea what those numbers mean other than more people entered a certain string. But how does that translate into something we know that is measurable outside of the number itself?

As implied, the Google chart that Old Sausage posted may or may not be a valid representation of the information Multidon was musing about.
A clue might be found though, if someone can determine just what it was that happened in early February 2017.

GeoMandoAlex
Sep-27-2017, 9:33pm
My take on the mandolin.....
I was first introduced to the mandolin by, none other then, Bill Monroe. I was following the Grateful Dead during the early 1990s and read an interview or heard Garcia (or Grisman) mention that Monroe said "to learn the music, but make it your own". It intrigued me to start down the road which with Grateful Dead roots, found myself listening to Grisman before i even heard Monroe play mandolin. I loved the sound Grisman was able to get from the mandolin and that started my journey.

Have been to Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival and listen to many bluegrass tunes on Sirius, but I do not play bluegrass.

Maybe not what I play, but hearing about bluegrass is what brought me to mandolin.

pops1
Sep-27-2017, 9:43pm
More people ask me what I am playing, or is that a ukulele or a little guitar, than what kind of music. More recently a few have said, "is that a mandolin". We are starting to reach them.

Charlieshafer
Sep-27-2017, 9:51pm
Ok, I get the point about all sorts of groups and musicians being influenced by bluegrass and therefore they play a bluegrass styled instrument, but Drawing the correlation that bluegrass has influenced the way the mandolin is designed or at least made a certain style the preferred option is a little bit of a stretch in the big picture. The F style took it's shape long before bluegrass, and it stayed largely the same because it works and it's aesthetically pleasing. While it may have kept pushing Loar's original design along, at this point I don;t think it's relevant to the design, or people's choice as to other designs. It's just what the mandolin looks like now, same with a guitar or a violin. There may be alternate designs out there, but the traditional shapes sell the most, regardless of the music being played on them. I think that it's just the shape it is, and it was that way before bluegrass, and it'll stay that way as things evolve. My bet is 50 years from now, it'll look else tally the same, regardless of where music goes.

grandcanyonminstrel
Sep-28-2017, 1:33am
Regardless of how much I personally may like playing bluegrass, every time I get offered a bluegrass gig it is $40 for the whole band and we have to drive two hours each way. Every jazz gig I get at least $100 per man and it is 10 minutes away...so I play a lot of jazz gigs...

dang
Sep-28-2017, 2:29am
So, searching for something equals numbers of people playing what they're searching for? Wanting to play what they're searching for? Wanting to listen to what they're searching for? How many searching for it would be able to give a definition of it that would be agreed upon by any kind of majority? Or is bluegrass just a convenient term a lot of people have heard and don't want to see something that slices vegetables?

Just asking because I have no idea what those numbers mean other than more people entered a certain string. But how does that translate into something we know that is measurable outside of the number itself?

Google claims they can predict the spread of influenza (http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/11/technology/tracking-flu-twitter/index.html) in advance based on what people search for (symptoms), there are plenty of critiques to this but it’s not totally made up...
Of course there are relatively few mandolin searches it is probably statistically insignificant but interesting.

stevedenver
Sep-28-2017, 7:35am
I love rock, zep, jazz, folk, and americana. Love hartford, dillards, sam , and progressive pop, if you will.
I love playing little pink houses or steve earle, wilco, etc.

But.................
A huge factor, for me, unique to bluegrass, imho, is the jam.

I can think of no other music where strangers can meet, usually somewhere in a city, everyday of the week, have a common repertoire, and musical and social interaction. (Jazz, but this is a different animal entirely. Mando is....quaint.)

So, i play lots of bluegrass, by necessity. And, while i can play fairly well and fast, i actually see mando as a rhythm instrument, like drums. This may also be a factor.

Its not my passion, but, its fun, ive been exposed to lots of twists, and singing, and, as a guy who started mando about 7 years ago, this immersion and interaction required me to get into bluegrass.

Laugh as you may, it bought a banjo 2 months back.
I clawhammer (have been for. Few years on guitar as i love open tunings and the percussive sound) , play bach, beethoven, etc., (or try) and am trying mightily to learn scruggs. Again, if i want to be involved, and musically "competant" i know what others will expect of me in terms of speed and style.

I think too, by virtue of accoustic ensembles, and mando, it is easiest to find and fit into bluegrass.

Otoh, it does seem to be the realm of geezers.and men. Not always, but, often.

Odd, but in my "circles", i see a lot more mando players now than say five years ago/.....not scientific, but often i was alone or maybe one other at jams. Lets face it too, short of skilll intensive violin, mandos are a delight to schlepp. Light, compact.

Rex Hart
Sep-28-2017, 8:54am
Perfectly illustrates an uncomfortable truth for the hard core bluegrass truthers: how many of people in that list know how to play bluegrass? How many of them actually play it on a consistent basis? Very, very few. Thile, Bush, Marshall, Hull, etc. certainly may know how, but rarely do. They need to make a living. Bluegrass is in serious decline and has been for a long time. Look at the ages of the people in this list--if they're alive--and check how many are over 60. Compare that to the 30 and under crowd and how many are playing the music. I love bluegrass. I play it, but to bang a drum saying it's the dominant force in acoustic music? Nope.



Thank you for stating the truth about banjos. Bluegrass is banjo music, not mandolin music. Open back banjos have been outselling resonator banjos (the choice of bluegrass) by 5-1 and more for close to 10 years, a sharp reversal from 20-30 years ago. More proof of a dramatic decline of the music by most definitions.

YMMV.

I humbly disagree. Most the people on the list above started off by playing Bluegrass. Some may have moved on to other styles but Bluegrass was the early influence. When people see or hear a mandolin (at least in my neck of the woods) they think of Bluegrass, not Folk or Celtic, etc. Never underestimate the power of Grass:)

foldedpath
Sep-28-2017, 10:32am
I love rock, zep, jazz, folk, and americana. Love hartford, dillards, sam , and progressive pop, if you will.
I love playing little pink houses or steve earle, wilco, etc.

But.................
A huge factor, for me, unique to bluegrass, imho, is the jam.

I can think of no other music where strangers can meet, usually somewhere in a city, everyday of the week, have a common repertoire, and musical and social interaction. (Jazz, but this is a different animal entirely. Mando is....quaint.)

Well, Bluegrass isn't unique in that respect. That describes every Irish traditional music session I've attended in pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops. It's a group of strangers the first time you walk in, but sessions in my area are usually very welcoming to newcomers. Especially if you're bringing a melody instrument like mandolin. The repertoire is shared, although the repertoire is also huge. So it may take a while to pick up the local tune preferences. There is great social interaction, often lubricated by the availability of beer and spirits at most session venues.

Most of this applies to OldTime jams too, although the venues are more likely to be "dry" (churches, grange halls and such), unless it's a house party.

Many of these sessions are under the radar unless you look them up on thesession.org lists, so there may be some in your area that you're not aware of. Most big cities and college towns in the USA and Europe/UK have Irish trad sessions going on somewhere.

Back on the main topic, it may have been the case that something other than the "bluegrass mandolin" was used in this music back in the 50's UK session scene, or the 60's Folk Revival bands, but that was a function of what was available at the time. I know many people consider an archtop oval hole more of a Celtic-appropriate mandolin, but there are many people using f-hole archtop "bluegrass mandolins" in sessions and Irish/Scottish-related bands now. They just work, and are especially capable of being heard among a passel of fiddlers at an ITM session.

Generally speaking, nobody cares what your instrument looks like in an Irish session as long as it's one of the more common instruments in the genre (tubas need not apply). I've used my F-style mandolin in many local sessions and workshops without comment. This may be another factor in why "bluegrass mandolins" dominate the market. They're the ones most capable of genre-hopping like this. And you can get very good, functional instruments at lower cost than something more specialized for the genre, like a Sobell or Forster mandolin.

stevedenver
Sep-28-2017, 11:05am
Well, Bluegrass isn't unique in that respect. That describes every Irish traditional music session I've attended in pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops. It's a group of strangers the first time you walk in, but sessions in my area are usually very welcoming to newcomers. Especially if you're bringing a melody instrument like mandolin. The repertoire is shared, although the repertoire is also huge. So it may take a while to pick up the local tune preferences. There is great social interaction, often lubricated by the availability of beer and spirits at most session venues.

Most of this applies to OldTime jams too, although the venues are more likely to be "dry" (churches, grange halls and such), unless it's a house party.

Many of these sessions are under the radar unless you look them up on thesession.org lists, so there may be some in your area that you're not aware of. Most big cities and college towns in the USA and Europe/UK have Irish trad sessions going on somewhere.

Back on the main topic, it may have been the case that something other than the "bluegrass mandolin" was used in this music back in the 50's UK session scene, or the 60's Folk Revival bands, but that was a function of what was available at the time. I know many people consider an archtop oval hole more of a Celtic-appropriate mandolin, but there are many people using f-hole archtop "bluegrass mandolins" in sessions and Irish/Scottish-related bands now. They just work, and are especially capable of being heard among a passel of fiddlers at an ITM session.

Generally speaking, nobody cares what your instrument looks like in an Irish session as long as it's one of the more common instruments in the genre (tubas need not apply). I've used my F-style mandolin in many local sessions and workshops without comment. This may be another factor in why "bluegrass mandolins" dominate the market. They're the ones most capable of genre-hopping like this. And you can get very good, functional instruments at lower cost than something more specialized for the genre, like a Sobell or Forster mandolin.

Unique...of course not.

But, compared to celtic, irish, old time, in my experience, there is little room for improvising. One really needs to know the melody.

Nothing wrong with this at all. But, it does raise the bar as to casual participation.

In this regard, for me, bg , jazz, gypsy allow me to attend, listen, participate. I dont feel the need to study certain repertoires in order to be able to add to the jam. I can often pick up a new melody, but if im not right on, i dont get daggers.

Not saying folks arent friendly in other genres, ( and i also love and know some irish tunes) but some are more staid than others. And this often depends on the jam maven's influence. Galway girl is and isnt.....irish, depending.

allenhopkins
Sep-28-2017, 11:08am
...Drawing the correlation that bluegrass has influenced the way the mandolin is designed or at least made a certain style the preferred option is a little bit of a stretch in the big picture. The F style took it's shape long before bluegrass, and it stayed largely the same because it works and it's aesthetically pleasing. While it may have kept pushing Loar's original design along, at this point I don;t think it's relevant to the design, or people's choice as to other designs. It's just what the mandolin looks like now, same with a guitar or a violin. There may be alternate designs out there, but the traditional shapes sell the most, regardless of the music being played on them. I think that it's just the shape it is, and it was that way before bluegrass, and it'll stay that way as things evolve. My bet is 50 years from now, it'll look else tally[/I][essentially?] the same, regardless of where music goes.

Well, the carved-top, f-hole, raised fingerboard, long-scale F- (or A-) model is sure not the "traditional shape" of the mandolin; the lute-derived bowl-back instrument went back centuries before Orville Gibson decided that the mandolin should be built like the violin, and Lloyd Loar added the f-holes and the raised fingerboard -- around a century ago.

And it's only "what the mandolin looks like now" because that's what the manufacturers are building. It's not what the mandolin looks like around the Mediterranean, where you still find the bowl-back, the "Portuguese" style, and other oval-hole, flat- or canted-top instruments, with varying body shapes. It's not what you find in many Celtic groups, where the oval-hole tends to be preferred -- though, as correctly pointed out, you can play any style of music on a carved-top, f-hole instrument.

The point that emerges, in my view, is that regardless of what kind of music people are playing on the mandolin -- and I do take Scott's point that bluegrass, at least in its traditional form, can be seen as a shrinking if not qualitatively declining sub-genre of acoustic folk/country-based music -- the mandolin itself, as it's being manufactured now, is designed around the iconic bluegrass instrument. Yeah, Lloyd Loar thought that the F-5 was a wonderful instrument for composed classical-derived music, and look at the variety of ethnic music Dave Apollon got out of it, but we see it in the hands of Bill Monroe -- and Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne, Frank Wakefield, John Duffey, and all the bluegrass mandolinists we've heard over the years.

So, as I said back up the line, the mandolins that are being made today, in largest part, are the type of instruments that came into general prominence playing bluegrass, or its derivatives: arched-top, f-hole, raised fingerboard, longer-scale A- and F-models. That, to me, is undeniable. So Charlie S can say, "That's just what the mandolin looks like now." And yes, both the acoustic guitar and the violin have standardized on a basic single design -- you generally don't see square guitars, or cylindrical violins -- for whatever reason: optimum sound and playability, manufacturing necessities, generations of similar examples? I dunno, but there it is.

I'm actually glad that the mandolin is the [I]least standardized of the common folk instruments, that you still see many a bowl-back, flat-top, resonator, whatever played here and there. When someone asks me "What instrument is that?" and I say "mandolin," and they respond, "My uncle played the mandolin, but it didn't look like that," I say to myself, "That's great." Diversity is still there; hope it stays that way.

JeffD
Sep-28-2017, 11:30am
Well, Bluegrass isn't unique in that respect. That describes every Irish traditional music session I've attended in pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops. It's a group of strangers the first time you walk in, but sessions in my area are usually very welcoming to newcomers.

Absolutely. I have played in old time jams in a great handful of states all across the country. And I have always felt welcome. And after listening for a while I usually find I know about a third of the tunes right off, and can do something useful on another third.

I discover many OT jams through a google search while I am traveling, and I notice that many times the jam has a website where they post a list of their most commonly played tunes.


Most of this applies to OldTime jams too, although the venues are more likely to be "dry" (churches, grange halls and such), unless it's a house party..

Well its a mix. I have been to many OT jams in restaurants and pubs.

JeffD
Sep-28-2017, 11:36am
But, compared to celtic, irish, old time, in my experience, there is little room for improvising. One really needs to know the melody.


Yea, but that is a matter of taste. I mean, if one is not a strong improviser the speed bump is just as high for a bluegrass jam as being unfamiliar with the repertory is for a OT jam. Just a difference in abilities and tastes.

Some OT jams are more "staid" than others, Irish too, but I have attended many that were anything but. And... I have been to more than a few orthodox bluegrass jams that were "staid" in a different way. Where the point of the break seemed to be to intimidate others.

Its all a mix. Its all up to the individual to pursue their own interests, and overcome the unique speed bumps involved.

foldedpath
Sep-28-2017, 12:35pm
Yea, but that is a matter of taste. I mean, if one is not a strong improviser the speed bump is just as high for a bluegrass jam as being unfamiliar with the repertory is for a OT jam. Just a difference in abilities and tastes.

Some OT jams are more "staid" than others, Irish too, but I have attended many that were anything but. And... I have been to more than a few orthodox bluegrass jams that were "staid" in a different way. Where the point of the break seemed to be to intimidate others.

Its all a mix. Its all up to the individual to pursue their own interests, and overcome the unique speed bumps involved.

Exactly. Speaking of speed bumps, Another difference is that you can have an Irish/Scottish session without a banjo. I don't think the genre police allow that for a Bluegrass or OldTime jam. So Irish is a good format for the banjo-averse. A tenor banjo player might show up, but they'll be drowned out by the fiddlers.
:grin:

red7flag
Sep-28-2017, 3:16pm
David Curley of the Brock McGuire Band plays one mean tenor. I grew up in Philadelphia and came to hate the Mummers and the tenor banjo. David was able to put that prejudice aside. He is awesome.

Charlieshafer
Sep-28-2017, 5:01pm
Reading Allen's post, which makes a lot of sense, I'm also struck by another facet of this: it seems that mandolin styles can be based as much on geographical origin as style of music. So, here's a theory that's up for proving/disproving/whatever: can you say that because Gibson was the first large-scale manufacturer (at least as far as I know) to make mandolins, going back to the turn of the century, did the F style, which existed before Loar, become the de facto shape standard simply due to quantities being produced?

Once they were produced in relatively large numbers, did that shape grow on folks due to the fact that it's easier to hold than a bowlback, and had a more decorative shape?

I'm not saying that bluegrass's influence isn't large, but there were many, many sold before Monroe hit the stage, so by that time, it really was the standard for at least music in America (hence the geographic thing). Italy? Greece? Ireland? They're all different, so some guy reading this in Ireland is probably thinking that a Sobell cittern is the correct shape, and we're a bunch of nuts.

allenhopkins
Sep-28-2017, 7:46pm
Charlie, thanx for your post. We know Gibson as a major mandolin producer, in part because they're a company that endured -- mostly because they made guitars, acoustic and electric, as well as mandolins and banjos. After the 1930's, mandolins became a smaller and smaller part of their production, and soon Les Paul and ES-335 guitars, and such-like instruments, became the main staples of their product line -- though they continued to make limited numbers of mandolins, and introduce new models, right up to the present.

Around the turn of the 20th century, companies like Lyon & Healy, Regal, C F Martin, Vega, Bacon, Weymann et. al. were making thousands of bowl-back, later flat-back, mandolins -- not with carved tops, f-holes, raised fingerboards, etc., the hallmarks of the "bluegrass style" mandolins that we see everywhere today. Gibson was a major player, with their own particular design of mandolins, based on Orville Gibson's and Lloyd Loar's concepts, but there were many other makers, who probably took up the larger share of the market. Of that group, only Gibson is still making mandolins.

The F-model mandolin, as originally designed by Orville Gibson, has an aesthetic appeal that has led to its becoming the iconic shape of the bluegrass mandolin. Acoustically, it differs little from the more prosaic A-model, but it has the "look" that most bluegrass musicians seem to want -- largely through its association with Bill Monroe, who played F-model Gibsons almost exclusively during his professional career. However, as you point out, the F-2 and F-4 models -- without f-holes, raised fingerboard, centered bridge position (all of which were early-1920's Lloyd Loar innovations) -- were being produced and sold before Monroe was born in 1911. F-models surely didn't have the market share then, that they do now, but they were "out there," and the advent of the F-5 in 1924 or so established a new standard for Gibson mandolins.

Monroe was playing a Gibson f-hole F-model, an F-7 with a flush fingerboard, by the mid-1930's, with his brother Charlie. So his use of the innovative Gibson "bluegrass style" mandolin, predated his development of the full-band bluegrass style, which is usually dated 1946, the year Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and "Chubby" Wise joined his already-existing Blue Grass Boys band. Thus, Monroe took up the "bluegrass style" mandolin less than a decade after Lloyd Loar developed its basic concepts. We don't call the Monroe Brothers' music "bluegrass" -- it's a fast-paced, hard-edged variant of the so-called "brother duet" era in country music -- but the musical approach that later became bluegrass is evident in Bill Monroe's playing, a dozen years before he brought the 1946 band to the Opry.

So this long-winded discussion, is just to contend that the arch-top, f-hole, raised fingerboard and longer scale mandolin has become inextricably identified with bluegrass music, and that its prevalence in the market today is clear evidence of the influence bluegrass exerts over the current crop of mandolinists, whether they're playing bluegrass or not. The "bluegrass style" mandolin may just be a optimal design for the instrument -- though there are many who would dispute that, here on the Cafe and elsewhere. But the situation is as it is: at least in the US, if you walk into almost any instrument dealer's showroom, you will see a bunch of "bluegrass style" mandolins. IMHO, that's where bluegrass has led the US mandolin market.

LadysSolo
Sep-28-2017, 10:01pm
I started out playing classical mandolin, and a little folk. I recently started playing a little Bluegrass, partly just to see if it was fun. I am thinking of branching into Celtic a bit. I think from reading the replies that most of us play more than one style. :mandosmiley:

sblock
Sep-29-2017, 3:25pm
I started out playing classical mandolin, and a little folk. I recently started playing a little Bluegrass, partly just to see if it was fun. I am thinking of branching into Celtic a bit. I think from reading the replies that most of us play more than one style. :mandosmiley:

This reminds me of an old joke: a physicist, mathematician, and an engineer are on a train traveling north from London, up into Scotland. Soon after crossing the border, they look out the window and see a flock of black sheep. The engineer says "I guess this means that the sheep here in Scotland are black!" The physicist corrects him, saying "No, all you can say is that the sheep in this particular field in Scotland are black." But the mathematician corrects them both, saying "No, all you can conclude is that in this particular field in Scotland, at least one side of each sheep is black!" :))

I think it might be dangerous to conclude that most of us on the MC play in more than one style. There are quite a few bluegrass-only and celtic-only and classical-only players, and I would not be surprised if they were the majority. :mandosmiley:

foldedpath
Sep-29-2017, 5:08pm
I think it might be dangerous to conclude that most of us on the MC play in more than one style. There are quite a few bluegrass-only and celtic-only and classical-only players, and I would not be surprised if they were the majority. :mandosmiley:

Maybe... but then you have to break that out between people who have only ever played one style of music, and those who can play many styles, but choose to focus exclusively on one style now. You may be seeing just one side of that sheep, if a person here only talks about a single genre most of the time.

I know how to play Blues and a little Jazz on mandolin, a result of a guitar background where that was my focus at the time. I've even faked my way through a quasi-Bluegrass break a few times at a casual not-too-serious OldTime jam. But I choose to play only Irish/Scottish trad and related music these days. It's a deep enough dive that I just haven't had time to focus on anything else. Doesn't mean I can't play that other stuff, and could brush up on it, if it still interested me.

Plenty of us black/white sheep around here, as well as the all-black and all-white ones.
;)

jesserules
Sep-29-2017, 6:48pm
My question is, just how big is the Bluegrass segment of our community? Is it a majority? Or just a sizable minority? I wonder if the question is even answerable.

You could try just looking at the main Forums page here on mandolincafe dot com. How many posts/threads in the "Bluegrass" forum? How many in the others?

I just did that myself. Interesting to see the [SPOILER ALERT] runnerup is "Classical, Italian, Medieval, Renaissance".

Charlieshafer
Sep-29-2017, 7:26pm
You could try just looking at the main Forums page here on mandolincafe dot com. How many posts/threads in the "Bluegrass" forum? How many in the others?

I just did that myself. Interesting to see the [SPOILER ALERT] runnerup is "Classical, Italian, Medieval, Renaissance".

Nice catch. However, if you add just two other threads, jazz and classical, they then how bluegrass into the minority of all mandolin players. Then again, how many post in many areas? But I do agree that this is somewhat telling. The interesting trend to try to catch, and it's probably way too much work if there's no automated way to do it, would be to see how the groups break out by year. Have other threads been catching up in popularity through the years? A constant ratio? Now you're talking some serious marketing information.

fidlplr1979
Sep-29-2017, 8:44pm
I play bluegrass primarily and play a "bluegrass" f-style mandolin but I also enjoy playing swing,ragtime,jazz and celtic music and never limit myself by staying within one genre. Where I live in Charlottesville there are wide array of players and playing styles so that would be a hard question for me to answer on a local level.

DataNick
Sep-30-2017, 5:21pm
...Thank you for stating the truth about banjos. Bluegrass is banjo music, not mandolin music...

Amen and Thank you ST!

DavidKOS
Oct-01-2017, 7:05am
Well, the carved-top, f-hole, raised fingerboard, long-scale F- (or A-) model is sure not the "traditional shape" of the mandolin; the lute-derived bowl-back instrument went back centuries before Orville Gibson decided that the mandolin should be built like the violin, and Lloyd Loar added the f-holes and the raised fingerboard -- around a century ago.

And it's only "what the mandolin looks like now" because that's what the manufacturers are building. It's not what the mandolin looks like around the Mediterranean, where you still find the bowl-back, the "Portuguese" style, and other oval-hole, flat- or canted-top instruments, with varying body shapes.

.......- the mandolin itself, as it's being manufactured now, is designed around the iconic bluegrass instrument. Yeah, Lloyd Loar thought that the F-5 was a wonderful instrument for composed classical-derived music, and look at the variety of ethnic music Dave Apollon got out of it, but we see it in the hands of Bill Monroe -- and Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne, Frank Wakefield, John Duffey, and all the bluegrass mandolinists we've heard over the years.

So, as I said back up the line, the mandolins that are being made today, in largest part, are the type of instruments that came into general prominence playing bluegrass, or its derivatives: arched-top, f-hole, raised fingerboard, longer-scale A- and F-models. That, to me, is undeniable.




So this long-winded discussion, is just to contend that the arch-top, f-hole, raised fingerboard and longer scale mandolin has become inextricably identified with bluegrass music, and that its prevalence in the market today is clear evidence of the influence bluegrass exerts over the current crop of mandolinists, whether they're playing bluegrass or not. The "bluegrass style" mandolin may just be a optimal design for the instrument -- though there are many who would dispute that, here on the Cafe and elsewhere. But the situation is as it is: at least in the US, if you walk into almost any instrument dealer's showroom, you will see a bunch of "bluegrass style" mandolins. IMHO, that's where bluegrass has led the US mandolin market.

Thankfully I am not the only person that seems to think that the mandolin does NOT have to be a archtop F hole!

Some of us actually PREFER the sound of old-style European mandolins.

Like me.

DavidKOS
Oct-01-2017, 7:06am
"Thank you for stating the truth about banjos. Bluegrass is banjo music, not mandolin music..."

Amen and Thank you ST!

Well, fiddle players and singer/guitar players seem to be a needed part of the BG band too, huh?

Mandoplumb
Oct-01-2017, 8:14am
No the F5 is not the traditional shape of the mandolin, no one said it is. The question is, is it the best or most preferred. Trad may not be best, at one time the treatment for most physical problems was leaches and blood letting.

allenhopkins
Oct-01-2017, 11:22am
No the F5 is not the traditional shape of the mandolin, no one said it is. The question is, is it the best or most preferred. Trad may not be best, at one time the treatment for most physical problems was leaches and blood letting.

Hmm...wouldn't compare the bowl-back mandolin to "leeches and blood-letting." I hope -- apologies to DavidKOS above -- that no one thinks I'm saying that the arch-top, f-hole, raised-fingerboard mandolin is better than other designs. It may be better for bluegrass playing -- that's hard to argue with -- but the other types of mandolin are equally valid, especially for other styles of music and playing techniques. (My Victoria bowl-back has a lousy "chop" -- jus' sayin'...)

What I have said, and believe, is that the "bluegrass style" mandolin has become pervasive in the marketplace, at least in the US. And bluegrass music, I contend, is largely responsible for this. Otherwise, why would Chinese factories be turning out thousands of copies of a Gibson F-5? Not because it's the be-all-and-end-all design for a mandolin, but because it's what US mandolin buyers expect to see -- and buy.

Not so true in Europe, evidently, where older mandolin traditions persist, and where bluegrass isn't the largest component of mandolin music -- as I'd guess it still is here. And there are highly visible mandolin virtuosi here playing other kinds of music on "bluegrass style" instruments. So things continue to evolve; we'll see (well, I probably won't see, some of you will) where we are in 25-50 years.

JeffD
Oct-01-2017, 1:22pm
When people see or hear a mandolin (at least in my neck of the woods) they think of Bluegrass, not Folk or Celtic, etc. Never underestimate the power of Grass:)

When people hear about bluegrass in my neck of the woods the tell that joke about canoe paddlers, don't stop, I hear bluegrass.

JeffD
Oct-01-2017, 1:26pm
No the F5 is not the traditional shape of the mandolin, no one said it is. The question is, is it the best or most preferred. Trad may not be best, at one time the treatment for most physical problems was leaches and blood letting.

I don't know that the F5 is the most preferred, outside of bluegrass and its variants. Further, I am not sure how highly prized it is outside bluegrass and its variants.

I mean, that is the whole thrust of the thread.

Here is an even more crazy thought, I am not sure folks care what mandolin you play all that much, outside of bluegrass and its variants.

And lastly - the bluegrass audience probably don't know one brand of mandolin from another.

FatBear
Oct-01-2017, 1:34pm
Arguments over things like "Is a Blue Chip pick worth the price?" is about as controversial as I'd like to get here.
Rollin' up my sleeves, man... :)

sblock
Oct-01-2017, 1:42pm
When people hear about bluegrass in my neck of the woods the tell that joke about canoe paddlers, don't stop, I hear bluegrass.

This is going too far.

That might seem funny to you, but it's pretty offensive to many of the people -- including many on this forum -- who like to hear and to play bluegrass music. That includes me. Bluegrass music transcends crude stereotypes about Southern white trash, and allusions to "canoe paddling" out of the film Deliverance. Some of the greatest players and innovators in bluegrass music hail from places like California (Chris Thile, Tony Rice, Clarence White), New York/New Jersey (David Grisman, Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka), Massachusetts (Bill Keith), and so on. Bluegrass fans and players are not all country bumpkins. Some of us hold doctoral degrees. Furthermore, Bill Monroe himself was always careful to dress the Bluegrass Boys onstage in formal wear, like suits and ties, simply to try to get away from the prejudice of folks like you. It does a disservice to this fine, original American art form to promulgate rude stereotypes about ignorant hillbilly hicks. It takes every bit as much musical virtuosity to play bluegrass well as to play jazz or classical music.

Yes, we all get it that you don't really like, and don't choose to play, bluegrass music. But no one is holding a gun to your head about doing that. Just because you don't prefer bluegrass music is no reason to keep knocking it here in the threads on the MC. You don't see folks like me knocking classical music or ITM, or belittling its proponents, do you?

FatBear
Oct-01-2017, 1:48pm
The bad - people assume I'm going to play Bluegrass just because I have a mandolin.
Last year I was sitting out on my bench next to the river (I miss my houseboat!) and a neighbor walked up and asked if I knew how to play O Sole Mio. Thankfully, I did. In Oregon, strangeness is not just accepted, it is expected.


As a player of primarily jazz, classical, Italian, Klezmer, choro, Greek and even Afghan music, there's a LOT more than Bluegrass!
Old time, blues, classical, Italian and one or two bluegrass songs that I can't really play as such because I'm just one guy. Bluegrass is a band format. I doubt that I've ever played three chop chords in a row, though once in a while they do work as punctuation for my pathetic solo performances on the couch.


Hey, there are some of us that do NOT think a Loar style F mandolin is the best instrument.
I wouldn't turn one down. As was mentioned earlier, it was actually designed as a classical instrument. Though at my level of playing, it would be smarter to sell it, pay off the house and buy a really nice A style.

multidon
Oct-01-2017, 3:03pm
Just in the interest of accuracy, I would like to point out that the above Deliverance related joke has been quoted inaccurately.

It SHOULD be "Paddle faster! I hear BANJO MUSIC!".

Now, this version of the joke is much more in keeping with the details of the film which inspired it, and doesn't insult any BG fans. Or does it? Someone else mentioned that Bluegrass is banjo music. I guess the guitar, bass, fiddle, and mandolin players don't need to show up.

This is the sort of thing that happens when a thread devolves into "what is Bluegrass". I've seen it many times before. I already asked, as the OP, that we stay away from that. But some of you just can't help yourselves, can you? My original question, just to refresh everyone, was why does Bluegrass, and its related sub-genres, hold such sway over the mandolins available for us to buy, the method books we use, the lessons we take, and the camps and workshops that are offered, when those players are not in the majority?

jesserules
Oct-01-2017, 3:51pm
why does Bluegrass, and its related sub-genres, hold such sway over the mandolins available for us to buy, the method books we use, the lessons we take, and the camps and workshops that are offered, when those players are not in the majority?

Because the people who build mandolins, write and publish method books, give lessons, and organize camps and workshops perceive bluegrass players as the market segment most likely to purcha$e their offerings.

A perception that is based upon the apparent reality that bluegrass players constitute at the present time at least a plurality of all mandolin players.

Probably worth noting that "bluegrass" as presently used is quite a vague term, often meaning nothing more specific than "acoustic (for the most part) countryish folkish music".

DataNick
Oct-01-2017, 4:52pm
Well, fiddle players and singer/guitar players seem to be a needed part of the BG band too, huh?

Hey David!
My point is that unlike rock, blues, country, indie, etc.where the guitar is the lead instrument, in bluegrass the banjo is the lead instrument, this is a sore spot with soundmen who don't know bluegrass, carry on!

stevedenver
Oct-02-2017, 8:49am
Wow. Need a sense of humor, i think.

Playing with others has taught me that many players , with whom i play and get along, think very differently about music, and what they like.

Im for a bit of tolerance, after all, theres not one on this forum i wouldnt like to play and have a beer with, regardless of what we decided to play.

DavidKOS
Oct-02-2017, 9:29am
What I have said, and believe, is that the "bluegrass style" mandolin has become pervasive in the marketplace, at least in the US. And bluegrass music, I contend, is largely responsible for this. Otherwise, why would Chinese factories be turning out thousands of copies of a Gibson F-5? Not because it's the be-all-and-end-all design for a mandolin, but because it's what US mandolin buyers expect to see -- and buy.


Well, this is true, at the NAMM show MOST of the Asian-made factory mandolins were archtop F hole styles.


Bluegrass fans and players are not all country bumpkins. Some of us hold doctoral degrees. Furthermore, Bill Monroe himself was always careful to dress the Bluegrass Boys onstage in formal wear, like suits and ties, simply to try to get away from the prejudice of folks like you. It does a disservice to this fine, original American art form to promulgate rude stereotypes about ignorant hillbilly hicks. It takes every bit as much musical virtuosity to play bluegrass well as to play jazz or classical music.


This is true, Monroe and his band tried to be PROFESSIONAL, hence the suits rather than the overalls look.

BTW, I have no issue with Bluegrass per se. But I do prefer the older guys like Monroe to the guys from urban areas. I have never really taken a shine to Grisman, for example, and his influence is very pervasive in the mandolin world.


Hey David!
My point is that unlike rock, blues, country, indie, etc.where the guitar is the lead instrument, in bluegrass the banjo is the lead instrument, this is a sore spot with soundmen who don't know bluegrass, carry on!

I sort of thought the vocals were the lead instrument in BG. Of course, the sound of a BG band is heavily based on banjo and fiddle, with mandolin and dobro being the 2nd instruments.

But you are right, a sound man needs to understand what the balance of a BG band should be, or you'll get some strange sounding mixes.

FatBear
Oct-02-2017, 10:09am
I think part of the problem here is that there are lots of different views of bluegrass. Why? Because it is still an evolving style. We here in America have really been blessed in our musical heritage. Back in the 1800s there were only a few "genres" of music. Three of those - "negro music", "cowboy music", and Appalachian music (mainly Scottish and Irish) - grew and evolved into jazz, country, and bluegrass. They cross-pollinated along the way and out cropped rock and roll. And look at them. They are all still evolving. You could play modern popular rock and roll for me and I wouldn't recognize it any more than George Washington would have recognized cowboy music.

Jazz, country, rock and bluegrass are pretty much small band forms. (Small as opposed to orchestral or choral.) They can be front porch bands or mega-star bands, but they generally only have a few instruments/players and mostly just one of each type. This makes them portable, versatile, flexible, adaptable. And that has allowed them to take advantage of the cultural changes of the 20th century.

All of that growth and change was fueled by improved transportation, allowing the audiences better access to a variety of music and bands; and to amplification which allowed those people to gather in ever larger audiences which could pool their money and fund professional musicians. And they kept demanding more, newer, better and those pros kept giving it to them. Recording was the financial amplifier that matched the electronic ones and just swirled the mix more and more.

Bluegrass has progressed from the old Appalachian tunes that my father-in-law played with his friends on his porch in Boyle county Kentucky to where a bluegrass icon from southern California hosts a national radio show and plays some very cutting edge bluegrass along with every other genre he can fit onto his fretboard. And one day who knows, he may be a stodgy old man wondering at the changes that have come about during his lifetime.

Personally, I love variety and complexity and new, so I'm really eating this all up. But I think there are a lot of people who like things to be comfortable, familiar, traditional, etc. I can see how they might like to lock in the bluegrass style to a single definition and hold it there. It probably will happen some day, but hopefully not in my lifetime.

So back to the instrument question. Bluegrass is one of the big musical forms in our culture, and we are social (cultural) creatures. It is inevitable that it will wield a big influence in what is made and sold. Just as rock and roll influences electric guitars (Les Paul...) and country influences acoustic guitars (14 fret dreadnoughts). Thankfully there is a tradition of non-conformity in our country which presents a large enough market to support smaller manufacturers of alternative style instruments. Everyone can get what they want, you just might not be able to find it at the Guitar Center. I don't think things could be much better, so smile, be happy, and play what you like to play.

jesserules
Oct-02-2017, 11:12am
Personally, I love variety and complexity and new, so I'm really eating this all up. But I think there are a lot of people who like things to be comfortable, familiar, traditional, etc. I can see how they might like to lock in the bluegrass style to a single definition and hold it there.

It's not about being stodgy grumpy old getoffmylawnyoukids thing.

It's about using words correctly.

Some contemporary bands that some people want - for some reason - to label as "bluegrass" are more closely related to groups like the Limeliters or the Kingston Trio than they are to the Bluegrass Boys or Flatt & Scruggs.

Which is fine. But calling their music "bluegrass" isn't open-minded or otherwise praiseworthy. It just impedes communication.

Mandolin Cafe
Oct-02-2017, 11:42am
An observation.

The term "bluegrass" is a horse that left the barn a very long time ago and no longer carries the meaning some of you would like--as if there's even agreement about what it is. That's not the Mandolin Cafe talking. It's society in general which has been using it as a generic title to cover about anything. It's people that frequent this site, Facebook music forums, etc.

The horse is not returning. It's out of sight. It no longer remembers the past, and the red-faced ire some of you dwell in will be yours alone. Enjoy it, carry on if you must, but it won't change a thing.

Even IBMA's voting membership routinely awards bands and individuals with their highest prized titles, and even some of those recipients have noted with amazement at even being categorized as such. We don't personally have a problem with that because it can't be changed. It is what it is, and it's not going away.

FatBear
Oct-02-2017, 12:42pm
Which is fine. But calling their music "bluegrass" isn't open-minded or otherwise praiseworthy. It just impedes communication.
I bet Chuck Berry fans were really perturbed when people started calling those mop-headed Beatles a rock and roll band, too. It is going to keep changing. Better hang on for the ride.

OldSausage
Oct-02-2017, 1:03pm
An observation.

The term "bluegrass" is a horse that left the barn a very long time ago and no longer carries the meaning some of you would like--as if there's even agreement about what it is. That's not the Mandolin Cafe talking. It's society in general which has been using it as a generic title to cover about anything. It's people that frequent this site, Facebook music forums, etc.

The horse is not returning. It's out of sight. It no longer remembers the past, and the red-faced ire some of you dwell in will be yours alone. Enjoy it, carry on if you must, but it won't change a thing.

.

Is the horse called "Tenbrooks"?

FLATROCK HILL
Oct-02-2017, 1:54pm
Is the horse called "Tenbrooks"?

Well, that really is an interesting question David. The Cafe's metephor does suggest a living, breathing horse, one that left the barn and is now out of sight.
The dire finality of the post however, brings Molly to mind. "Coffin's 'ready made".

jesserules
Oct-02-2017, 2:27pm
I bet Chuck Berry fans were really perturbed when people started calling those mop-headed Beatles a rock and roll band, too. It is going to keep changing. Better hang on for the ride.

Well, you'd lose that bet.

Would you like to bet that Bill Monroe was outraged when Elvis recorded "Blue Moon of Kentucky"? Cause you'd lose that bet too. But Big Mon didn't call that recording "bluegrass". And neither did the King.

Mandoplumb
Oct-02-2017, 3:50pm
Yes BG has progressed or the horse has left the barn, BUT most people,including some of these poster, don't know when the horse was in the barn. BG did not exist until Scruggs joined Monroe, 1948 I believe, the folks sitting on some porch in the mountains, or playing on some school house stage in bib overhauls were not playing BG. It was old time, brother duet something called pre-bluegrass, or what was genericly called hill-Billie. People don't seem to realize BG and rock-n-roll are sibling, same roots same basic age. I know music changes and we debate all the time about how far we can stretch it and still call it BG, but really we can pinpoint its birth to a specific day.

Roger Adams
Oct-02-2017, 4:35pm
Some mandolin folks dislike bluegrass and dis the F style - Kind of a sour grapes sort of thing it seems! F styles generally are more coin than any other style of mandolin, and the F5 is the mandolin of choice for most bluegrass musicians. The add to the "injury" bluegrass is what comes to mind for most Americans when you uncase a mandolin - some folks really resent that! You are there to play classical, and they want to hear "Rocky Top.":crying:

Like it or not, those of use who play the little beast owe a lot to the influence of bluegrass on the evolution of the instrument. Me personally, make mine an F5, and let's play some Bluegrass!

I also play the banjo, and it's "Paddle faster, I hear banjos!":mandosmiley:

Charlieshafer
Oct-02-2017, 5:07pm
It seems that it's not that folks, or contemporary musicians, don't like bluegrass, it's that the term, as Scott said, has become meaningless. If the original post is about market segment, then that means marketing. If you're in marketing, and music marketing for sure, you need to be a lot more specific about exactly what you're playing, or listening to, or performing, or trying to sell. Tye simple fact is that in most parts of the country, with the people I deal with, calling an upcoming show "bluegrass" will limit attendance. That simple. It's in the numbers. I suppose there's a snapshot in time where bluegrass was easily identifiable, as it grew out of old-time, coalesced into the Monroe-style music we consider as bluegrass, and then moved on to all the more modern genres. So how long is that window of time you can specifically point to that traditional style and say "that's it." 20 years? I don't know, but based on two winners of this year's IBMA awards, Sierra and Molly, in another couple of years, whatever they are doing won't resemble what they;re doing now, which already isn't bluegrass.

Roger Adams
Oct-02-2017, 5:19pm
Yep, and then there's The Earls and Balsom Range....lookiing like pretty traditional Bluegrass. ;)

stevedenver
Oct-03-2017, 9:34am
Some mandolin folks dislike bluegrass and dis the F style - Kind of a sour grapes sort of thing it seems! F styles generally are more coin than any other style of mandolin, and the F5 is the mandolin of choice for most bluegrass musicians. The add to the "injury" bluegrass is what comes to mind for most Americans when you uncase a mandolin - some folks really resent that! You are there to play classical, and they want to hear "Rocky Top.":crying:

Like it or not, those of use who play the little beast owe a lot to the influence of bluegrass on the evolution of the instrument. Me personally, make mine an F5, and let's play some Bluegrass!

I also play the banjo, and it's "Paddle faster, I hear banjos!":mandosmiley:

Youre right. But....it seem things are changing. Although, mando has had a place in folk, folk rock and rock, for at least 50 years, albeit sparsely so.


Respectfully, the F5 came along before bluegrass.


Its ornate design and scrolls , imho, are unique, and, may stem from the period when ornate banjos were a parlor status symbol, all unconnected to music genre. They were special in a different way long before monroe, imho. And, always scarce until ???? The80s or 90s.

The les paul was not initially viewed as a rock guitar until bloomfield clapton and green.

Sneakers were for gym, until pro basketball made them a fashion statement.

Or, if you will, the tail wagging the dog.

Fs have an inherent aesthetic, neck feel, sound, and upper register access , at one time, and for decades, unique to the design.

I have mine in spite of the bg association. To my eye, they are a gorgeous anachronism, the steam punk of stringed instruments! LOL. My first mando gig was playing rock, little pink houses, take it easy, not fade away, on my fern..........amongst the stacks o' marshalls.

drbluegrass
Oct-04-2017, 8:32am
Not sure if it was naive or just plain misinformed but when I first came to MC I was surprised to learn the forum was not overwhelmingly BG oriented. I didn't realize the number of non-BG mandolin players was considerable. I certainly can't prove it but I have a feeling that BG mandolin players are in the minority here. Just how much of a minority, I don't know. It seems to me when reading the MC General Discussion sub-forum a lot of non-BG topic is discussed. Much more so than I would have thought. I play and listen to BG music almost exclusively. Although I do enjoy listening to old time music, classical, and jazz played on mandolin.

But, when it comes to BG music, this horse prefers to "stay in the barn". Along with a whole lotta' other horses. Don't kid yourself. Traditional BG is very much alive and very well. There will ALWAYS be traditional BG music that is Monroe/Flatt and Scruggs/Stanley Bros influenced. If anyone here thinks traditional BG music no longer exists then I very respectfully submit you don't know what BG music is. I certainly do agree the boundaries of BG music are being stretched to the limit. I ran into the same mentality when I played old school jazz and blues. Traditional, straight, old school, progressive, are all terms used to try and put a handle on a particular style of music. The old adage "I can't define it, but I know it when I hear it" comes into play here.

There comes a point when a genres' parameters are stretched so far it is no longer a part of that particular genre. It becomes something else all together. But I'm confident traditional BG music will be around for decades to come. All you have to do is attend one of the hundreds of BG festivals to see that. You might also see and hear groups with a more progressive style. They may/may not still fit into the traditional BG framework. But there comes a point when the music becomes so changed and evolved it no longer fits within the genre. Defining that gray area can prove all but impossible. But when it gets to that gray area one thing I can say with some confidence is it's no longer traditional BG.

As has been suggested above, maybe the term "bluegrass" has outlived it's usefulness. Maybe we need a new category. How about..."American acoustic music"? Then, "traditional American acoustic music" and "progressive American acoustic music? But, here we go again. Is that really any different than what we're doing now? You know..."traditional BG", "progressive BG"? I prefer sticking with the current descriptors. The term, bluegrass music, not only loosely describes a genre of music but brings a certain feeling with it. It's that rustic, cabin in the mountain top woods, sittin' on the porch playing your mandolin sort of feeling that no other term brings with it. OK, I've rambled enough and I'm probably wrong on all counts. Don't take it too seriously. It's just my 2 cents.

JeffD
Oct-04-2017, 8:48am
Yes, we all get it that you don't really like, and don't choose to play, bluegrass music.

Actually that's not true at all. I like bluegrass, a lot. I am not an uber fan but I do enjoy, especially the older music. And I do play in bluegrass jams now and then. I have nothing against bluegrass. Far from it. And separate from bluegrass music itself I am in awe of Bill Monroe. His playing and his accomplishments.

No, I meant no disrespect. I was trying to describe how niche bluegrass is, unless you are in the middle of it. There is so little bluegrass in this area that one could go an entire life time and not accidently bump into it. I attend the Pickin' in the Pasture festival in Lodi NY, something over two hours away, and while its a well attended festival, almost nobody from my area has ever heard of it.

My point is that there are many locations where the mandolin itself isn't recognized, and if it is there is an even chance bluegrass is not the first association in average folks minds.

I compare with banjo, which, of course, is hardly ever not recognized and almost always associated with bluegrass, whether accurate or not.

There are even pockets where bluegrass is a negative. One jam I go to, which is old time and contra dance fiddle tunes mostly, I mentioned I was going to a bluegrass festival, to see if anyone wanted to come with. Crickets was the response. Its like in some places its cool to hate country music, or something. (For the record, I know the joke I probably should not have shared before is normally told with regard to banjo players. It is sometimes heard the way I told it. Yes it is, there are people who actually say that, and have said it to me.)

No disrespect meant on my part. Just relating what not infrequently comes up in "my neck of the woods".

This is interesting, though perhaps not to be relied upon. (https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=%2Fm%2F0ggq0m,%2Fm%2F0gg8l,%2Fm%2F06by7, %2Fm%2F02w1p3,%2Fm%2F03_d0)

Willis
Oct-04-2017, 8:54am
I love bluegrass music, and that's mostly what I play. That being said, Bill Monroe wasn't listening to bluegrass music when he was developing his style and his music. One thing informs the other. There are lots of things I don't have the skill or desire to pursue, but I like hearing them done by someone who does have the requisite skill and desire.

jesserules
Oct-04-2017, 11:02am
There are even pockets where bluegrass is a negative. One jam I go to, which is old time and contra dance fiddle tunes mostly, I mentioned I was going to a bluegrass festival, to see if anyone wanted to come with. Crickets was the response.

Surprised? If there's any place where you're likely to find actual hostility (rather than indifference) toward bluegrass music that place is at an oldtime/contra jam. There are hardliners there who despise Bill Monroe as a sellout to commercialism.

JeffD
Oct-04-2017, 1:01pm
Surprised? If there's any place where you're likely to find actual hostility (rather than indifference) toward bluegrass music that place is at an oldtime/contra jam. There are hardliners there who despise Bill Monroe as a sellout to commercialism.

I would not agree with this as a general statement, but I have heard what could be pretty close to that opinion. There is a video "Why Old Time" which does a good job of trying to define Old Time music and to distinguish it from Bluegrass. The gist of the argument is that Bluegrass is the "comodified" old time, for stage presentation, packaged for consumers, while Old Time, is, well, the rest. I am not strong adherent to this, for many reasons, (and this whole discussion is more appropriately a different thread), but I do see how someone might come to that conclusion.

JeffD
Oct-04-2017, 1:03pm
Just in the interest of accuracy, I would like to point out that the above Deliverance related joke has been quoted inaccurately.

It SHOULD be "Paddle faster! I hear BANJO MUSIC!".

Like there is a huge difference in the mind of most people. :)

JeffD
Oct-04-2017, 1:11pm
So back to the instrument question. Bluegrass is one of the big musical forms in our culture,...

I guess this is one of the questions I am disputing.


Thankfully there is a tradition of non-conformity in our country which presents a large enough market to support smaller manufacturers of alternative style instruments. Everyone can get what they want, you just might not be able to find it at the Guitar Center.

Thinking about this, isn't that kind of the point. There is not enough nation wide interest in bluegrass or especially in bluegrass instruments for any nation wide bricks and mortar store to stock them. Or enough interest in mandolins of whatever genre.

Most nation wide music stores will sell guitar, perhaps piano, and often school band instruments. Some even sell violins.

Internet works because it is at once ubiquitous and available to all niches. And there are individual stores and luthiers in specific areas that can make a living selling to our niche within a niche.


... so smile, be happy, and play what you like to play.

On this we can all agree, and hopefully even play it all together.

doublestoptremolo
Oct-04-2017, 2:47pm
I guess this is one of the questions I am disputing.



Thinking about this, isn't that kind of the point. There is not enough nation wide interest in bluegrass or especially in bluegrass instruments for any nation wide bricks and mortar store to stock them. Or enough interest in mandolins of whatever genre.

Yeah I think bluegrass is ultra niche. But the Guitar Centers around here do have some sad examples of mandolins and banjos, usually at least one of each.

doublestoptremolo
Oct-04-2017, 3:07pm
There is a video "Why Old Time" which does a good job of trying to define Old Time music and to distinguish it from Bluegrass. The gist of the argument is that Bluegrass is the "comodified" old time, for stage presentation, packaged for consumers, while Old Time, is, well, the rest. I am not strong adherent to this, for many reasons, (and this whole discussion is more appropriately a different thread), but I do see how someone might come to that conclusion.

Bluegrass as defined by old-time fans always sounds so dismal. Community vs showbiz, working together vs. cutthroat competition, inclusiveness vs. virtuosity.

The reason I prefer bluegrass to old-time is simple: it's a form of pop music. 3-minute songs. The melody to "I'm Going Back to Old Kentucky" is easy to learn, and Bill Monroe uses it for half his songs. I had to hear "Billy in the Lowground" 75 times before I could even discern that it had a melody.

Bluegrass is largely amateur jams. Only like 12 people in the entire country make any real money from it. It peaked commercially in the mid-1940s. I don't even know if it's more popular than old time anymore, I think the BG players just spend more on their instruments so the retailers cater to them more.

doublestoptremolo
Oct-04-2017, 3:14pm
Traditional BG is very much alive and very well. There will ALWAYS be traditional BG music that is Monroe/Flatt and Scruggs/Stanley Bros influenced. If anyone here thinks traditional BG music no longer exists then I very respectfully submit you don't know what BG music is. . . . But I'm confident traditional BG music will be around for decades to come. All you have to do is attend one of the hundreds of BG festivals to see that.

I dunno, man. I haven't been into bluegrass all that long but its long-term viability doesn't seem great to me. The majority of people I jam with are 65+. I went to a festival recently and it was pretty much the same. I know there are those 9-year-old bluegrass prodigies somewhere but not around here. I hope you're right.

Roger Adams
Oct-05-2017, 7:08pm
Bluegrass, and Old Time, are both populated with an aging demographic - self included! However, I just returned from a large BG/OT/Folk whatever festival, and was pleased to see some young talent not only doing good traditional BG but dusting off some of the popular folk anthems from the 60s. What was old is new again, I guess...

Mandoplumb
Oct-08-2017, 7:52am
I dunno, man. I haven't been into bluegrass all that long but its long-term viability doesn't seem great to me. The majority of people I jam with are 65+. I went to a festival recently and it was pretty much the same. I know there are those 9-year-old bluegrass prodigies somewhere but not around here. I hope you're right.

I'm 64, started playing at about 10 mainly so active in BG because my dad was. That's been at least 54 years and people were saying at that time that this music was dying because young people just weren't getting into it. I knew very few people my age in my teen years that were bluegrassers but now I'm playing in a group and at several jams with people slightly older, the same age, one even somewhat younger than me. I don't know where they came from but I no longer see the music dying. Very few have ever made a lot of money playing BG and I don't see that changing, but so many "fans" play to some degree that alone keeps it going. I stated in another thread that BG and rock are siblings, how many people under 65 are playing rock and roll now? I'm talking rock and roll not what it has progress to. There are still folks playing it young and old not many getting rich, not hearing it on too many radio stations but people still having fun playing it.BG is more alive than R&R just because it hasn't progressed as much and split the base as much.

Charlieshafer
Oct-08-2017, 8:12am
There was a thread not long ago about what cafe members go to festivals for, the bands or the parking campground picking. Overwhelmingly, it was the campground picking. I see this in younger players, too, of just about every genre. Sitting and listening to the same old guys playing the same old songs doesn't thrill very many people anymore, but picking away with friends sure does. I think this is what separates Old-time/Bluegrass/Alt-stuff from many forms of music: it's for playing in a social setting, or dancing to, or just having fun with. It works best when it's part of a community event, not an individualized they-play-you-listen sort of music.

To that end, it's never going to die, but it's also going to spawn all those new forms that may be descended from old-time, which is far more the root source of all this than bluegrass. So the constant trying to define the genres is sort of pointless, but at the same time, the popular market has shifted well away from wanting to hear much that's truly traditional of every form. What's that all got to do with the shape of a mandolin? Nothing. I still believe that the shape was defined and popularized well before it became a bluegrass staple. So if you want to say that bluegrass defines the shape of a mandolin, you'd have to say the same thing for the guitar and the upright bass, and the banjo.

JeffD
Oct-08-2017, 7:30pm
Bluegrass as defined by old-time fans always sounds so dismal. Community vs showbiz, working together vs. cutthroat competition, inclusiveness vs. virtuosity. .

That is one of the objections I have to the characterization in the movie. Since the movie is all about old time music, the description is entirely from one side.

Knowing many enthusiastic bluegrassers I think the characterization is too general.

I heard Ron Thomason of Dry Branch Fire Squad say that old time was about as close as you could get to not knowing how to pick at all.

Which is equally not the case, but may perhaps sting in that how many old time enthusiasts would love bluegrass if only they could pick that fast. :)

DataNick
Oct-09-2017, 6:59pm
Anybody else here remember this thread I started? Bluegrass:The New Americana! (https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?124832-Bluegrass-The-new-Americana!)
Much of what has been concluded here we said there, back then...

David Lewis
Oct-10-2017, 4:54am
I suspect a lot of the people who BUY a mandolin are those who wish to learn how to play REM, or the Mumfords, or the Unthanks, or any of a dozen rock/folk combos. Most of these people don't actually take it further than guitar like strums, or (WORSE!) devolve to ukulele, not realising the difference ;)

those who stick with it... I think the bluegrassers (and I'm lumping in progressive bluegrass, newgrass here) make up the biggest faction, but aren't a majority...

drbluegrass
Dec-01-2017, 10:00am
I really didn't realize that BG was actually a minority genre of mandolin players. I remember being surprised by that. Still am. I knew there were many other mandolin styles. I just wasn't aware the other mandolin genres were as dominant as they are. When I first joined MC I thought it would be almost exclusively BG oriented with the other genres being in the minority. How naive was that? Yep, you're right...pretty naive. Kind of the same with the Acoustic Guitar Forum. I thought I'd see more representation for BG guitars than I have. Go figure?

allenhopkins
Dec-01-2017, 12:07pm
Well, we all approach from our own backgrounds and perspectives. What makes the mandolin interesting to me -- well, one of the things -- is that it's a versatile instrument that can contribute to a variety of musical genres, without seeming odd or out-of-place (as some might find, say, bluegrass saxophone -- I'd like to hear one, but many others would say, "that's not bluegrass").

I would still maintain that on the Cafe, the largest group of mandolinists either play bluegrass now, or have in the past (me). In many cases, bluegrass music is what attracted them to the mandolin (me, again). But there are dozens and hundreds of Cafe members who don't play bluegrass, and are happy with their jazz, Celtic, classical, old-time, blues, rock, Italian, klezmer, folk, or whatever styles.

FatBear
Dec-01-2017, 3:17pm
...bluegrass saxophone -- I'd like to hear one, but many others would say, "that's not bluegrass").

I bet it's been done. Almost nothing in this world is new (except maybe for the music of
Valerie June.) Yakety Sax seems almost bluegrassy to me. I bet a BG band could back a good sax player and make it sound like they owned it.

Bonniej
Dec-09-2017, 6:14pm
I have never been a big fan of BG but have learned to appreciate Jim and Jesse and the Stankey’s and the like. I am taking a class that is an instructional jam session which is taught by an experienced musician and owner of the Bluegrass Shack in New Athens , IL. We have all age groups- the youngest about 16 - mandolins, guitars , banjos and a stand up bass- all acoustic.
Our members drive as far as 50 miles each way to attend the class. Chris Talley is the owner and instructor - very encouraging and very patient. I’m learning songs I’ve never heard before and working on my own playlist that I am including in open jams elsewhere. Really having a great time. Variety is the spice of life in my opinion. I can’t say I’m any one particular style.

jesserules
Dec-09-2017, 7:10pm
I bet it's been done. Almost nothing in this world is new (except maybe for the music of
Valerie June.) Yakety Sax seems almost bluegrassy to me. I bet a BG band could back a good sax player and make it sound like they owned it.

Sounds mighty good here. But not bluegrass (and not claiming to be, because why should it?)).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZBgY9fplCU

FatBear
Dec-09-2017, 9:22pm
Yeah, not bad. It has a bit of that scratchiness like a fiddle.

Tate Ferguson
Dec-17-2017, 9:54am
The immediate impression that bluegrass music makes on me is of male vocalists singing in harmony, in high tenor range, possibly with a nasal tonality and a mid-Southern accent. It seems more a vocal music than an instrumental music to me, know-nothing that I am. (Just let me duck out of range now.)

Elliot Luber
Dec-26-2017, 10:35am
I think Bluegrass is fun to play and I enjoy listening to Bill and his many followers, many of whom he ecouraged to develop other styles of music. When I start playing for the sake of playing I play some BG, but it soon takes me to other styles, other genres. This is both a reflection on my musical socialization -- what I've previously been exposed to -- and where my head is at at any given moment.

allenhopkins
Dec-26-2017, 4:52pm
...learned to appreciate Jim and Jesse and the Stankey’s and the like...

Especially Eddie -- he could really play second base.

Or was it "bass"?