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Thread: I still don`t believe it...

  1. #1
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    Default I still don`t believe it...

    Recently I had to make a trip to Florida and while down there I went to one jam session where there was five mandolin players (not all in the same group) and I looked around to see what brand of instruments were being played, mostly Kentucky`s, and one Eastman that just didn`t cut it, anyway during some conversations I found that not one of those pickers knew what a signed Loar was, they knew Gibson was the original maker of the F-5 mandolin but had no idea who Lloyd Loar was....Four of the young men learned music while in school and taking violin lessons and then converting over to the mandolin, the other one was a guitar player and wasn`t really into bluegrass nor were the other four as far as that goes, they all seemed to try and out play each other when there were two or more in the same group....Needless to say this confirms my thoughts about the way bluegrass is headed, some seem to be pretty talented but when they talked it was like talking to someone about computers, they seem to have their own language, they talked about musical terms that I am not familiar with which I guess they learned from taking lessons and I never have and I play strictly by ear another thing they can`t understand or figure out...

    I know some of you here on the Café fall into the same category as those young men and there is nothing wrong with that, I just mentioned this to show where bluegrass is headed and some of us need to get out and really push it to get it to keep some relation to what Monroe had in mind when it all started.....I also know that some of you rely on your music to either make a living or help with money matters, much like I do and you will play what the audience wants to hear, I do also but I don`t know too many songs that aren`t either bluegrass or old country....I know there will be different opinions on this and some will disagree with me but we all have our opinions and taste...I JUST WANT BLUEGRASS TO KEEP THE TRADITIONL SOUND....

    Thanks....Willie

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  3. #2

    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    I agree and you're right--probably shows our age, but Monroe and Jimmy Martin are hard to top, IMHO!

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  5. #3

    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Bluegrass has been original music from its start, not so long ago. Play it how you love it Willie, and make people love it for how it sounds and how you deliver it, rather than the history of it.

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    mandolinist, Mixt Company D C Blood's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Don't panic, Willie...fifty years from now the jam standards will still be Blue Ridge Mt Home, Salty Dog, Blue Moon of Ky, etc...not these new ones with fifteen minor and dim7th chords that ain't "no part of nothin'"...
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  9. #5

    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    This hasn't been my own experience. I've met so many wonderful and talented mandolin pickers both young and old keeping the traditions alive - and doing other things too!

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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Come to Raleigh next week, Willie. I can guarantee you'll hear the grass done the way you like it, by young and old, rich and poor.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    A genre is like a country - you need the tourist invasion for its benefits but you also need to maintain your own identity, i.e. places where the tourists don't go. It's also no use arguing - if your playing doesn't show the difference between original and plastic surrogate, words never will.

    Invasion is a phenomenon you get in every genre, btw., not just in BG. In one of our Irish sessions a few weeks ago, a guy came in with a guitar, sat on a bar stool right behind me and played some arpeggio-up-and-down-the scale accompaniment right into my ear, very alien and distracting. Later he tried to be funny and told a joke "You know why the Irish all emigrated? They could no longer stand the music." I packed and got up and he laughed "you're leaving because of me, aren't you?" It's a good thing I can count to one hundred, slowly, quietly, albeit steaming slightly.
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Was this north or south Florida? Might be a regional thing.

    I'm a Miami native, and when I lived there (most of my life), there was almost zero Bluegrass music in the area. Just one little acoustic instrument store called The Banjo Shop in west Hollywood FL, north of Miami. They'd have jams in back of the shop on weekends, and I remember one yearly local festival. Not sure it's still there anymore.

    The music scene in South Florida has always been more modern Pop/Techno and Latin than acoustic-oriented. But I haven't been there in over 10 years now, so I don't know if that's changed much. Central and North Florida, basically anywhere north of Orlando, is a different cultural scene. I'd expect more interest in Bluegrass and "respect for the tradition" up thataway.

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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Willie, I have been singing the "You have to know where you came from to know where you're going!" chorus for years. Too many "new pickers" have no clue of anyone prior to 1980! Those that do, seem to be hard to find, I am sure they are out there but, you don't find them often. Lots of people think that Jerry Garcia is the beginning and end of the world of bluegrass, ask some Greensky bluegrass followers. My band shared a gig with them recently and precious few of their flock had any clue of what we do. I don't begrudge them for gaining following but, they don't really seem to offer any kind of link with their musical past. Just an observation.
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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    I find the development wonderful: boomy mandolins, simple downbeat chops, all traditional numbers at least a tad faster than the original, a punchy banjo, you name it. There doesn't seem to be much lovely cow pie smell in the music anymore.
    Willie, looks like us old people - heck, I'm 51 - will keep offering something very special.

  20. #11

    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    I don't know - even Bill's style changed quite a bit over the years.

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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Not completely my experience here in SoCal..I don't run across that many young pickers in the San Diego area, and because Bluegrass organizations really sponsor mandolin as an instrument more so than the Classical music genre for example, most young'uns round here get exposed to Bill Monroe. One of my young friends just finished his bachelor's degree at UCSD, he's a latino young man who was a kid phenom on mandolin around these parts(he has some nice Monroe-style chops!); and his master's degree goal is "bluegrassed" focused in relation to musicology. Pretty cool huh!
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  24. #13
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Well, I have to say this is a very interesting thread indeed! I actually think there are two different things going on here. One is the mandolin equals bluegrass attitude, and the other is those who learn music the traditional way versus learning by ear.

    As to the first, well. It's a big wide wonderful mandolin world out there. Look at our interest areas sometime and see how many genres are represented. A lot of mandolinists never play bluegrass, ever, as hard as that is for some to grasp.

    The whole attitude of many bluegrass fans never ceases to amaze me. They want the style to remain unchanged in all respects. Some even restrict it further. They only want to play "Monroe style", only play from Bill's playlist, if Bill didn't do it then it "ain't no part of nothin'". If this is what you like fine and dandy, but just realize there are others in any musical genre who like to see new ideas and change. It's only natural.

    Willie just tells us it was a jam. He never said what kind of jam it was supposed to be. If it was supposed to be a bluegrass jam those fellows probably should not have come unless they were trying to learn about the style.

    I do think that every musician should know something about the history of the instrument they play. For fiddlers that would include knowing about Stradivarius and other great builders of the Golden Age. For mandolinists that should include Orville Gibson and Lloyd Loar. To not care about the history and development of the instrument one plays shows a lack of curiosity I cannot fathom.

    As for formal musical training versus learning by ear, I am trained and came to mandolin by way of violin like those mentioned above. But those who learn by ear have skills I lack. For example, they seem to be able to memorize much more easily. I have a lot of respect for the things that those who learned by ear bring to the table. But my theory training gives me a knowledge of chord structure and progressions those who play by ear envy. There has in my experience always been some tension between the groups but the truth is everyone has strengths and weaknesses and however one comes to the mandolin, it's all good.
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Growing up well before the internet, learning to play a non-mainstream instrument was a daunting task that required a lot of searching to find information. Heck, I had to hitchhike twenty miles just to buy a pitchpipe so I could tune the blessed thing - after I had finally found through a roundabout route how it was even tuned. These days, it's so easy to find instructional videos or just performance videos on the web that it must be really easy to get started. Also, one can find instructional books and videos etc that can be ordered and delivered to your doorstep. While this is very helpful in enabling people to find what they want, I think this breeds a tendency to seek out only what they want and not dig deeper, into the catalogue or the history of the instrument. I imagine a lot of people figure they've got all they need to go out and play with others, when there is still so much more out there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    I packed and got up and he laughed "you're leaving because of me, aren't you?" It's a good thing I can count to one hundred, slowly, quietly, albeit steaming slightly.
    I think saying "Yes" would have been fine and fitting. Perhaps "Yes, show-off" would have worked, too. You could have substituted something else for "show-off," of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I remember one yearly local festival. Not sure it's still there anymore.
    Perhaps that is the South Florida Folk Festival. I went the first two years I was here, whenever that was, a dozen years ago. Not a bluegrass festival by any means, but they had a decent lineup. You're right about central and north Florida. It's a different state, almost, a lot more conservative, redneck even - heck, it's cattle country - and I wouldn't be at ll surprised if there were a fair amount of pickers living there.
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  27. #15
    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Personally, I'd be happy to find some more young players who aren't in the Bluegrass Police Training Academy but still like bluegrass. The scene around here is almost entirely north of 60 and playing either very straight bluegrass or awful hippy cod-Irish stuff.

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  29. #16
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    ...As for formal musical training versus learning by ear, I am trained and came to mandolin by way of violin like those mentioned above. But those who learn by ear have skills I lack. For example, they seem to be able to memorize much more easily. I have a lot of respect for the things that those who learned by ear bring to the table. But my theory training gives me a knowledge of chord structure and progressions those who play by ear envy. There has in my experience always been some tension between the groups but the truth is everyone has strengths and weaknesses and however one comes to the mandolin, it's all good.
    I don't think it has to be one or the other. Our fiddler is classically trained, but simultaneously grew up going to fiddle camps, and plays by ear extremely well.

    I myself was classically trained on trumpet for 11 years and simultaneously learned and played by ear. During my high school years as I was playing in school and community orchestras, and having a trumpet teacher who was formally 2nd trumpeter with the Philadelphia Orchestra, I was playing in an R&B cover band on the weekends playing Tower Of Power, B,S&T, Chicago, Ohio Players licks, etc. all by ear.

    Of course my trumpet teacher thought it was all "rabble"...LOL!
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  31. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    I'm sure there were Skillet Lickers fans who found Bill Monroe too progressive. Uncle Dave Macon obviously disliked Earl Scruggs's banjo styles -- "And he ain't a bit funny," either! Frank Proffitt, North Carolina banjo builder/picker who taught us all Tom Dooley, said of Scruggs, "I'd like to be able to play banjo like that -- and then not do it!"

    Can't expect people two or three generations removed from the Monroe/Flatt/Scruggs/Martin/Stanley vintage to want to keep repeating what the "masters" have already done so well. If they're not well versed in bluegrass history or tradition, they've got years ahead of them to listen to those who venerate the early style and sound, for there are plenty of them around.

    I got interested in bluegrass as a college kid in the '60's, and the band I listened to most was the Charles River Valley Boys, who played frequently at Club 47 in Cambridge. That band's most famous for recording Beatle Country, an album of Lennon/McCartney arranged for bluegrass band. Bet there were many in 1967 who expressed contempt for that effort, but these were young, adventurous pickers who wanted to adapt the style they loved to play, to the music that was being written in their time. As many do now.

    Went to hear my friend Bob's "country-grass" band last Friday, and they did bluegrass arrangements of Everly Brothers and Creedence Clearwater, as well as Flatt & Scruggs and Seldom Scene songs. Didn't find it offensive, and these are guys in their 50's-70's who listen to and play a lot of traditional bluegrass. The different repertoires can coexist without too much friction, and without seeming disrespectful of tradition.

    There are still a lot of people around who love the older styles, and who write "new songs that sound old." or just new songs that fit well into traditional bluegrass styles and themes. Just helped sponsor a performance by John & Cathy Cadley out of Syracuse, a strong duo very influenced by traditional sounds and styles. Here's Lou Reid's band doing John's song Time:



    Maybe a little dreamy and not hard-driving, but you know where John's roots are when you hear it. And I believe it hit the top of the bluegrass "charts," for whatever that's worth.
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  33. #18

    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Every interest group has folks who approach it from an academic stand point and those who approach it intuitively. As a former academic I approach it both ways, as I am very interested in instrument history (not music theory) and am interested in certain focus areas inside the larger group. Blues history for instance is one of my interests as a player and that is where my learning about players and instruments focuses.

    But I don't think you can predict where any music interest is going by your example. Those folks apparently had different learning experiences than you. And perhaps they were not experienced in group playing within the framework of Bluegrass.

    A few years ago I took my mando to an Old Time Fiddlers Gathering and had a great time joining in the group playing and i didn't notice that the longer i was there the smaller the crowd of players became. I was applying blues techniques and timing to "old time" playing and I apparently threw them off big time. But that had nothing to do with "the direction old time music was going". It was just me screwing up.

  34. #19
    Registered User Atlanta Mando Mike's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Willie, there are all types out there. Kids that like/know traditional bluegrass and kids that don't. Bluegrass and bluegrass inspired music is reaching a larger audience and your experience is an example of that. That said, the music can't stay stagnant, it has to evolve and change. Monroe took mountain music, made some small changes, and created a genre. Others are doing the same thing. Embrace it. I believe there will always be those that love the first generation stuff.

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  36. #20
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    I am somewhat involved in the Cajun/Creole/Zydeco music scene and it is the same there. Some of the youngsters care little or nothing about the roots of the genre, others are immersing themselves in it because of a desire to find their cultural roots.
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  37. #21
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    It the end, I don't think it matters a heck of a lot what us musicians think. It is the audience that holds the power. If they don't want to hear traditional bluegrass, it's chances of survival are slim. The same is true for any other form of music.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Bob View Post
    It the end, I don't think it matters a heck of a lot what us musicians think. It is the audience that holds the power. If they don't want to hear traditional bluegrass, it's chances of survival are slim. The same is true for any other form of music.
    If that was true, our entire set would consist of Freebird.

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  40. #23
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    I play strictly by ear, another thing they can't understand or figure out.
    I've run into this a bunch of times. It bothers me no end. One of the main factors in learning how to play an instruments is learning how to play by ear. You can't just play, you have to listen, and you have to understand what you're hearing, and quickly enough to respond with your playing, in real time.

    A related matter is learning how to figure out melodies and chords for songs one is trying to learn. It may be a challenge at first, but it gets easier the more you do it, and once you get the hang of it, it can get pretty easy. But I see a lot of requests for tabs around here, sometimes for very simple songs. It seems as though some people are unable or unwilling to sort this stuff out for themselves. I don't understand this. Part of the pleasure of playing music is learning how it works, and to do this, to achieve understanding, you can't just be taught, you have to learn. Sure, it takes some doing, but anything worth having or knowing is worth putting in time and effort.
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  42. #24
    Registered User dcoventry's Avatar
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post

    ..I JUST WANT BLUEGRASS TO KEEP THE TRADITIONL SOUND....

    Thanks....Willie
    First, I would like to add an A to traditionl.

    Second, it seems to me that music in general is a living and breathing things that waxes and wanes. New blood leads to new sounds. If something loses the ability to change, it by and large loses the ability to survive.

    Third, yes, maintaining the epic and old time traditions has merit. Truly, it does. But just as rightly, push the paradigm forward.

    Fourth, I believe you have to feel music and not just think it. BTW, I'm a thinker by nature and have to WORK to get feel and swing.

    Fifth, well, you drink fifth's so I'll end my post here.
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    Default Re: I still don`t believe it...

    Quote Originally Posted by dcoventry View Post
    Fifth, well, you drink fifth's so I'll end my post here.
    Right-e-o! I think you may have tumbled into something. Maybe Willie and some others (maybe even yours truly) prefer to play music with folks who think of drinks in terms of fifths, not dirty martinis. I mean down to earth types. Could be stretching it, I dunno ...
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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