PDA

View Full Version : Bluegrass Music Theory (?)



John Soper
Oct-18-2017, 8:25pm
A classic interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=181&v=e-NlSTerYRg

MikeEdgerton
Oct-18-2017, 9:54pm
Amazing. That is a classic that should be required viewing for all members.

CarlM
Oct-18-2017, 11:10pm
If that does not settle all debates about music theory I cannot imagine what possibly would.

ralph johansson
Oct-19-2017, 12:46am
Hilarious in places ....

Not sure I would trust Jimmy Martin as an authority on BG history (or music theory). The original recording of Blue Moon of Kentucky was in the key of Bb, not A. The rerecording in 1954 was in the key of C (not B) , and Monroe stuck with that as long as he could handle it (or perhaps even longer).

FLATROCK HILL
Oct-19-2017, 6:22am
Beyond Classic.

Fretbear
Oct-19-2017, 9:00am
Speak to me, Great One Tooth of Knowledge......

Ky Slim
Oct-19-2017, 9:46am
Finally! All the answers in one place

Willie Poole
Oct-19-2017, 12:46pm
Ralph...In the olden days a lot of bands tuned one note higher than standard so your info about what keys those songs were recorded in might be because the bands did just that....Also a lot of them just tuned to where ever the guitar happened to be on a given day, some did have tuning forks or a harmonica but that was about it....Grab an original Flatt and Scruggs record and see if you can play along with it if you are tuned to standard using an electronic tuner...I am not saying you are wrong with the info, just stating what might have been the case ...

Willie

farmerjones
Oct-19-2017, 3:37pm
All im gonna say iz, they's life befora I seen that video, and they's niyow.

ampyjoe
Oct-19-2017, 4:56pm
A classic interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=181&v=e-NlSTerYRg

Most enjoyable 20mins I've had since I don't know when. Thanks for posting!

Mandoplumb
Oct-19-2017, 5:09pm
I took in that interview then listen to some of the tapes and I guess home movies that YouTube had along with it of the first BG festival in fin castle. Monroe, Martin, Reno, Wiseman, etc. The sound was far from perfect, a large group of mic, all cluster together.
(I think each dj and recorder had their own) but only one for the PA apparently,yet the mix was acceptable. Anyone listening to this will know once and for all what is BG

Timbofood
Oct-20-2017, 5:19am
Now, THAT’S Bluegrass!

DavidKOS
Oct-20-2017, 8:06am
I guess I have some theory ideas that are not correct. I never heard chords explained that way.

MikeEdgerton
Oct-20-2017, 8:52am
It's easy, just move your finger up and the chord is diminished. Very straight forward :cool:

DavidKOS
Oct-20-2017, 8:58am
It's easy, just move your finger up and the chord is diminished. Very straight forward :cool:

Oh, and enharmonic to an E gads and a D molished, I assume.

Timbofood
Oct-20-2017, 9:58am
I think I understand why I stopped drinking moon shine after the he second taste!

Willie Poole
Oct-20-2017, 11:43am
Those two guys must have the longest arms in the world, They just can`t stop patting themselves on the back all of the time...I almost fell off of my chair when Martin said he was sorry for interrupting Carlton`s explanation...Never heard him do anything like that ever before...

Willie

jesserules
Oct-20-2017, 2:34pm
The expression on Jimmy Martin's face at 3:30 ... priceless. "What strange world is this? ..."

Andy B
Oct-22-2017, 10:15pm
Two men who knew more bluegrass than most anyone.

ralph johansson
Oct-23-2017, 8:12am
Ralph...In the olden days a lot of bands tuned one note higher than standard so your info about what keys those songs were recorded in might be because the bands did just that....Also a lot of them just tuned to where ever the guitar happened to be on a given day, some did have tuning forks or a harmonica but that was about it....Grab an original Flatt and Scruggs record and see if you can play along with it if you are tuned to standard using an electronic tuner...I am not saying you are wrong with the info, just stating what might have been the case ...

Willie


Professional bands have always tuned to a fixed common reference. In the studio that would most likely be a piano.

Flatt&Scruggs were indeed known to often tune a half-step sharp, at least in the early days. E.g., Why Did You Wander was done in Ab, whereas Monroe’s earlier recording was done in the key of G.

I know of only two sessions where either Monroe’s band tuned a half-step sharp, or there was some fiddling with tape speeds. The first was Christmas Time Is Coming/The First Whippoorwill. The other was the session that produced Brown County Breakdown.

In the 1954 version of BMoK Monroe takes a short solo over the chords of the bridge and there’s a very typical C major gesture: ripping from the low g to c on the 4th course (impossible if tuned sharp) followed by an octave jump; and Edd Mayfield is apparently playing in open position.

Of course, Monroe may very well have tried it in B with Martin in the band. And he was constantly changing keys on some of his songs — In the Pines could be in E or F, “Blue Yodel No. 4” (actually, No. 3) could be in Bb, B or C. The original recording of Georgia Rose (with Martin) was in C, the second (with Mayfield and three fiddles) was in B.

The first version of BMoK was recorded at a half-session that produced 7 or 8 complete takes in 80 minutes. It’s hard to imagine a band retuning (and re-retuning) in mid-session for the sake of just one song. It’s even harder to imagine them tuning sharp for a full session where the other songs were in the key of A, G, and C. Monroe’s solo is like nothing he would play in A, in a high position and to my ear without the use of open strings.

Mandoplumb
Oct-23-2017, 1:54pm
Before electronic tuners we always tuned to a harmonica if one was available. Don't know why one of us didn't buy one. In answer to a previous post, I never heard two pianos that were in the same tuning, maybe in a professional studio they would be standard but a piano tuner told me once they just tuned to the majority on what was already there not to any standard.

Denny Gies
Oct-23-2017, 2:41pm
I think I got some bad drugs.......what an interview. Thanks.

twilson
Oct-23-2017, 3:30pm
Phew, gave me a headache.

T.D.Nydn
Oct-23-2017, 5:16pm
That interview is amazing,,from what I can understand,,there's parts in there were I think you might need an interpreter...

John Soper
Oct-23-2017, 9:33pm
"That interview is amazing,,from what I can understand,,there's parts in there were I think you might need an interpreter..."

Or a couple of slugs of moonshine...

MikeEdgerton
Oct-24-2017, 6:47am
...Or a couple of slugs of moonshine...

Pretty much, yeah :cool:

AlanN
Oct-24-2017, 7:29am
Likely at IBMA, Loo-ville, 1998. And CH looked and sounded just like that till the day roll call was called up yonder.

Indeed classic.

UsuallyPickin
Oct-24-2017, 8:59am
I tried ..... I couldn't watch it. R/

Bernie Daniel
Oct-24-2017, 4:03pm
If that does not settle all debates about music theory I cannot imagine what possibly would.

Yes and here is proof that he knew what he was talking about:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8-bnZh8Zuc

DataNick
Oct-27-2017, 2:45pm
What's lost in the translation of CH's mannerisms and dental features is this: Bluegrass music properly played has distinct tonal registers that each instrument needs to stay in as their "role", otherwise the sound becomes muddy noise.

This is particularly true of guitar players that come into bluegrass from folk, r&r, indie, country, etc. and don't do their homework. Bluegrass guitar is playing in a picking fashion the bass strings (E,A,D) in a series of runs that complement and counterpoint the bass, without STRUMMING like a typical r&r guitar would! This ensures that the guitar does not compete with the banjo which is essentially rolling on the G,B,D strings and higher drone G; otherwise if the guitar is strummed, banjo and guitar are essentially in the same tonal register, or as CH puts it, "octave".

When CH is talking about the tonal frequencies of the instruments being uniquely in their own "octave", this is exactly what he is talking about.

It is extremely frustrating to play bluegrass with guitarists who don't get it, and want to STRUM their guitars instead of picking the bass notes/strings and complementing the picking with a light "brush" across the strings and then playing the G-run after 16 beats; as bluegrass guitar should be played!

Mark Gunter
Oct-27-2017, 5:20pm
I tried ..... I couldn't watch it. R/

Had no trouble watching it. Now, the video Bernie posted OTOH ... probably not even with moonshine could I watch it :)

Timbofood
Oct-28-2017, 8:07am
Nick, you are correct about Carlton explanation of the role of the various instruments which “we” should try to impress on musicians dipping their feet in the bluegrass pool. That is a wise little piece of shareable information.
But the ”Pythagorean mathematics” of the Bass A string beating at 55 bps, made me drop a whole handfu of mashed potatoes and gravy!

DataNick
Oct-29-2017, 10:24pm
To be fair Tim I think he reffered to hz, not BPM, but I feel ya!
More than the exact frequencies of the instruments,
Bluegrass is interesting in that 4 instruments played in this style complement each other's tonal registers in a real unique melodic and rhythmic way, with the mando as the 5th instrument chopping the rhythm...as long as you follow the formula that Monroe set.

AlanN
Oct-30-2017, 6:05am
It is extremely frustrating to play bluegrass with guitarists who don't get it, and want to STRUM their guitars instead of picking the bass notes/strings and complementing the picking with a light "brush" across the strings and then playing the G-run after 16 beats; as bluegrass guitar should be played!

I understand completely what you're saying, Nick...and I agree, BUT....there are guitarists out there, good ones, who don't follow this exactly as written, which is a bit too didactic (and perhaps limiting) for being an effective and complementary guitar picker in a bg band.

That said...(sung to the tune Blues Stay Away From Me):

Strummers, stay away from me
Strummers, why don't you let me be
Don't know why, you keep a-hauntin' me...

Timbofood
Oct-30-2017, 8:39am
To be fair Tim I think he reffered to hz, not BPM, but I feel ya!
More than the exact frequencies of the instruments,
Bluegrass is interesting in that 4 instruments played in this style complement each other's tonal registers in a real unique melodic and rhythmic way, with the mando as the 5th instrument chopping the rhythm...as long as you follow the formula that Monroe set.
I’ll buy that Hz over Bps but, it I’m not sure he knew of Hertz as any more than a car rental.
I do agree with the harmonic distribution of instrument voicing, it really makes it very easy to explain the duties of each musician (in the Monroe (band) doctrine)much easier.
Sorry the doctrine bit was just waiting to be used, sorry.
Off to my corner!

Steve Ostrander
Oct-30-2017, 9:40am
The only time Haney was stumped was when Jimmy asked, "Where did Bill Monroe record "Blue Moon of Kentucky"? He should said, "In the studio!"

doublestoptremolo
Oct-30-2017, 11:37am
I understand completely what you're saying, Nick...and I agree, BUT....there are guitarists out there, good ones, who don't follow this exactly as written, which is a bit too didactic (and perhaps limiting) for being an effective and complementary guitar picker in a bg band.

I agree, but I think any aspiring bluegrass guitar player should probably spend several months with boom-chuck/G-runs/walk-ups before they try to get beyond it. It's not the way I and a lot of others learned how to strum the guitar, but it's the foundation for good bluegrass rhythm. Dan Crary, in his Flatpicker's Guide book, wrote that the boom-chuck was probably the most effective accompaniment "lick" of all but was "almost never heard."

DataNick
Oct-30-2017, 2:22pm
I understand completely what you're saying, Nick...and I agree, BUT....there are guitarists out there, good ones, who don't follow this exactly as written, which is a bit too didactic (and perhaps limiting) for being an effective and complementary guitar picker in a bg band.

That said...(sung to the tune Blues Stay Away From Me):

Strummers, stay away from me
Strummers, why don't you let me be
Don't know why, you keep a-hauntin' me...

I hear ya Alan; but what invariably happens (at least out West) is that guitarists coming into bluegrass strum everything and the sound just becomes unbearable noise as the sonic conflicts with banjo happen; it's really no fun at all, and hence you rather would not play with a lot of folks, and so the "private" jams come into being, which is in a sense a shame, but necessary if your bluegrass palette is sensitive.

Mandoplumb
Oct-30-2017, 2:31pm
I agree with Alan and DataNick. Yes there are good guitar players that don’t play like we’ve said, but they ain’t playing bluegrass and if they want to they need to learn how. I’ve heard great claw hammer banjo players but they are out of place playing Foggy Mt. Breakdown, Rawhide or Cabin Home on the Hill. Why? ‘Cause they ain’t bluegrass.

AlanN
Oct-30-2017, 2:44pm
I agree, but I think any aspiring bluegrass guitar player should probably spend several months with boom-chuck/G-runs/walk-ups before they try to get beyond it. It's not the way I and a lot of others learned how to strum the guitar, but it's the foundation for good bluegrass rhythm. Dan Crary, in his Flatpicker's Guide book, wrote that the boom-chuck was probably the most effective accompaniment "lick" of all but was "almost never heard."

Fully agree. I don't hear near as much of a solid G run as I'd like to in the jams I hit. And I don't know why that is. If a picker is going to learn bg guitar, that is just such a big part of it, why wouldn't they learn it? As bg mandolin pickers, we learn to chop, pretty much right off the bat.

I'm fond of picking New Camptown Races, the Wakefield number. I've come to start it out the way he does on End Of The Rainbow. He plays a short closed-position line, then the guitar plays the G lick (in Bb, of course; capo on 3). Simple, simple, simple...and perfect. Yet, many of the guitar pickers at the jam won't/can't do it. They do not hear that thing. I don't get it.

DataNick
Oct-30-2017, 2:49pm
I agree with Alan and DataNick. Yes there are good guitar players that don’t play like we’ve said, but they ain’t playing bluegrass and if they want to they need to learn how. I’ve heard great claw hammer banjo players but they are out of place playing Foggy Mt. Breakdown, Rawhide or Cabin Home on the Hill. Why? ‘Cause they ain’t bluegrass.

I'm with you on your sentiment, and I understand Alan's perspective.

If I could invoke a "master" as an example: Tony Rice.

Certainly progressive enough for someone like Alan, but listen closely to his playing on Rounder 0044, or the BAB, or All-Star configurations like Live at MerleFest, etc. You don't hear Tony when he's playing rhythm except on that G-run or single strum G chord for end-phrase emphasis. Why? Because he's picking bass notes in runs/phrases complimented by a light "brush" across the strings; it's there but you have to listen for it; it doesn't jump out at you like a R&R strum would. And when he solos, everybody shuts up except bass; otherwise everyone else just chucks. He's a prime example of when he played Bluegrass, he did it right!....Carry On!

AlanN
Oct-30-2017, 2:54pm
Yep, Nick. TR had the rhythm down, in spades. And nobody, I mean nobody ended a solo with a definitive G run like he did. Man, I miss him...

DataNick
Oct-30-2017, 2:57pm
Go to 4:09 of this video where the Rounder 0044 lineup plays the Old Home Place and you get a perfect example of what I'm talking about...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py9ZPX-8CUE

Mandoplumb
Oct-30-2017, 3:13pm
Have to put in my 2 cents worth. Tony Rice was good and played a great BG rythem guitar player. But the guitar player that followed the spirit of the rules but made it is own and I always tell guitar packers wanna be listen to Clarence White. For as I’m concerned he leaves em all in the dust.

AlanN
Oct-30-2017, 3:26pm
No argument from me on CW. He was the 'first' (of the modern breed), Doc notwithstanding. But Tony had a certain essence that CW lacked...and vice versa. Plus, Clarence could rock out. Never have heard Rice in that context.

DataNick
Oct-30-2017, 3:52pm
And I think to sum up where we've been headed: it is precisely this style of playing BG rhythm guitar that keeps the guitar in the tonal register (CH "octave") that does not conflict sonically with a Scruggs style banjo rolling on the banjo G-B-D and drone G string; thus each BG instrument played in their own distinct manner keeps a distinctiveness/separation to the tone, note fabric, and rhythm of Bluegrass as Monroe set in his formula when Earl walked thru the door in Dec '45

This is essentially what CH was referring to I believe in his rather "ambitious" description of Bluegrass "mathematics"

Timbofood
Oct-31-2017, 9:15am
I think that’s pretty good Nick, pretty fair assessment.
I feel the same about the Clarence White statements of “early innovation” but then there’s Riley Puckett and His synchopated style from years before. It’s all “in process” still.

ralph johansson
Dec-21-2017, 11:33am
To be fair Tim I think he reffered to hz, not BPM, but I feel ya!
More than the exact frequencies of the instruments,
Bluegrass is interesting in that 4 instruments played in this style complement each other's tonal registers in a real unique melodic and rhythmic way, with the mando as the 5th instrument chopping the rhythm...as long as you follow the formula that Monroe set.


And what exactly is that formula? If you listen to the Columbia recordings you'll find very little chopping. Monroe ofen twinned with the fiddle - there is at least one example (I forget which) with the mandolin leading and the fiddle seconding. He also played a lot behind Flatt's vocals. It's natural for the fiddle and mandolin to alternate in that role as they're in the same range. The switch to chopping on the afterbeat came about the time Monroe took to singing lead on the verses to most songs. Also, the basic groove in the early recordings was often 4/4, rather than 2/2, and the chopping strengthened the 2/2 character of the songs: 1-and-2-and rather than 1-2-3-4. The chop was probably inspired by the sock rhythm guitar in country music, or possibly by Ernie Newton's slap gadget.

I'd rather hear more of that (twinning on interludes and fills, playing behind the vocalist) in today's BG. With a fiddle in the band, and a good bouncing in guitar, the mandolin today is actually the most dispensible instrument.

And, on a couple of occasions when I watched Monroe, he sometimes hardly touched his mandolin while singing.

ralph johansson
Dec-21-2017, 11:54am
What's lost in the translation of CH's mannerisms and dental features is this: Bluegrass music properly played has distinct tonal registers that each instrument needs to stay in as their "role", otherwise the sound becomes muddy noise.

This is particularly true of guitar players that come into bluegrass from folk, r&r, indie, country, etc. and don't do their homework. Bluegrass guitar is playing in a picking fashion the bass strings (E,A,D) in a series of runs that complement and counterpoint the bass, without STRUMMING like a typical r&r guitar would! This ensures that the guitar does not compete with the banjo which is essentially rolling on the G,B,D strings and higher drone G; otherwise if the guitar is strummed, banjo and guitar are essentially in the same tonal register, or as CH puts it, "octave".

When CH is talking about the tonal frequencies of the instruments being uniquely in their own "octave", this is exactly what he is talking about.

It is extremely frustrating to play bluegrass with guitarists who don't get it, and want to STRUM their guitars instead of picking the bass notes/strings and complementing the picking with a light "brush" across the strings and then playing the G-run after 16 beats; as bluegrass guitar should be played!


With such a limiting view of the guitar in BG maybe you don't need a guitarist but a prerecorded track. I realy don't understand how anyone can attach such importance to an overused cliché. My favorite among rhythm guitarists in BG is Benny Williams Listen to his backup to Monroe on Danny Boy, or some of the numbers featuring Bill Keith - do we really need a G-run there?

Not sure I agree about that "light brush" - to me it's the guitar that really gives the bounce in BG. Have you heard Monroe's album Mr. Bluegrass? Either the guitarist is very weak or poorly recorded, and there's no bounce, really, and the mando chop in no way makes up for that.

By contrast, listen to the first Victor session, with Monroe playing guitar on two songs - Monroe claimed that this session was the beginning of BG (he probably wanted to minmize Scruggs' role) and that he played the guitar to establish the authentic BG groove (those numbers were also his first two vocal solos on record). His playing is quite vigorous - not what I would call a "light brush". But he did instruct one of his first guitarists to play runs in the style of brother Charlie - other guitarists contributed in different ways. Jack Cooke, Mac Wiseman, Jimmie Martin, or Edd Mayfield didn't sound that much like Lester Flatt.

Mandoplumb
Dec-22-2017, 5:03pm
Bluegrass must drive to be bluegrass. That can be accomplished in a number of ways, certainly as Martin explained and if that works for him so be it. His music had the bluegrass drive, for the most part, but so does a lot of others that didn't do it that way