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Thread: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

  1. #51

    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    FWIW here's some data on the popularity of these search terms on Google over the last year.

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  3. #52
    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.
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  5. #53
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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).

  6. #54
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    ...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."
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    For perspective: https://trends.google.com/trends/exp...andolin,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.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    Bluegrass is banjo music, .
    Ain't that the truth. To the general public just about anything with a banjo must be bluegrass.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.
    ...

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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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?
    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; Sep-27-2017 at 12:18pm.

  15. #60

    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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..

  16. #61

    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    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.

  18. #63
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.

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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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?".
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    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.

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  23. #66
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    What is all of this telling us?

    Basically that it is hard to see ourselves because we are in the way.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.

  30. #72

    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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...

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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    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 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.
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    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.

  34. #75
    Registered User Rex Hart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about the Bluegrass mandolin market segment

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    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
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