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Thread: The rules according to Bill Monroe

  1. #26

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Really amazed there are so many people here who believe that bluegrass is *only* what Bill says it is. Guess that means you don't like Sam Bush, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, or Jerry Douglas. But what the heck would hacks like that know about bluegrass? Your loss.

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  3. #27

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Administrator: Where's the "like" button? Thanks.
    Last edited by humblemex; May-25-2017 at 4:13pm.

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  5. #28

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    I'm trying to imagine Duke Ellington or Elvis or Johan Sebastian Bach or anyone else associated with a genre saying "That ain't no part of …" blah-blah-blah. The trouble with art is it's got a life of its own and anyone who tries to stick in aspic gets stuck.

  6. #29
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    There are lots and lots of non-diatonic notes in bluegrass. There's frequent use of the minor pentatonic scale. Richard Greene and Chubby Wise, among others, played fiddle for Monroe and were never above using chromatic alterations when they could get away with it.
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    Administrator: Where's the "like" button? Thanks.
    Try the "Thanks" link; it amounts to the same thing.
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  10. #31
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    Really amazed there are so many people here who believe that bluegrass is *only* what Bill says it is. Guess that means you don't like Sam Bush, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, or Jerry Douglas. But what the heck would hacks like that know about bluegrass? Your loss.
    If there are people here who actually do believe that, it's a small minority.

    To me, bluegrass is more about timing, rhythm, and "drive" than about the specific instruments used. There's a local band here in Seattle that's been around for a few years; has bluegrass instrumentation; looks like a bluegrass band; plays the same venues as bluegrass bands; but doesn't understand bluegrass timing and consequently sounds nothing like bluegrass. There are people who use the term "bluegrass" for any kind of acoustic string band music, from Old Crow Medicine Show to Cajun/Creole to jazz manouche, and they make me glad I do not support capital punishment.

    You can play old-time music or other styles on the same instruments used in a bluegrass band. And, if you know what you're doing, you can play bluegrass on an electric bass, piano, accordion, pennywhistle, dobro, clarinet, harmonica, or drum kit. Maybe even a nose flute.
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  12. #32
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Well, let me start out by saying that I'm no Bluegrass expert. Not even so much of a fan. Much of what I know about it I learned here. But based on what I know, I don't think Bill Monroe realized he was inventing a whole new genre early on. I think he thought he was playing old time string band music his way, up tempo with drive, vocals the way he liked them, and using virtuoso musicians who could solo and keep up with him. That's my theory anyways. Other people started imitating the style and the world called it "Bluegrass". When he did realize he had something new and revolutionary, he attempted to codify it.

    I like the comparison with J.S. Bach. The Baroque period of music history had a great number of "rules". Bach stretched these rules as far as they would go. After he came along, the only thing left to do was to have a quantum leap to the next musical style. So Bach lead directly to the Classical period, as Beethoven (another rule stretcher) lead directly to the Romantic. And so it goes in music history. Always someone who takes it as far as it will go. Revolutionaries who bend and finally break the so called "rules".

    Did Monroe really think he should tell everyone else how to play the style he invented? Did he really intend for every other Bluegrass band to be clones of his, with the same clothes, hats, instruments, and set list? Personally, I doubt it.

    And as far as Dobro is concerned, well, a Weissenborn is kind of a kissing cousin, and Dr. Ralph Stanley had one prominently featured in his band when I saw him years ago. He has a pretty good BG pedigree, don't you all agree? But Bill didn't have no durn Weissenborn! So that ain't no part of nothin'...right?
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  14. #33
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Dr. Ralph preferred the term "mountain music"; he didn't play Scruggs-style banjo and was more willing than Monroe to experiment with instrumentation. Still, he and his band played the mountain music so well that most folks couldn't tell it apart from bluegrass.
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    The Stanley Brothers were bluegrass, at least by the time Carter died IMHO. After that Ralph slowly became more and more mountain music. Listen to the Stanley Brothers sing Old Death, then listen to Ralph moan Old Death on the OBWAY. You can see how much Ralph regressed in his style.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    Did Monroe really think he should tell everyone else how to play the style he invented? Did he really intend for every other Bluegrass band to be clones of his, with the same clothes, hats, instruments, and set list? Personally, I doubt it.
    In a way I believe he did. Saying it from the other side is less controlling sounding. Something like "you can do what ever you want, really, you can. But it is only if you do this and this, that it can legitimately be called bluegrass music".

    Now, what you or I or Ralph Stanley or Mike Seeger or Marty Stuart or Tim Rice, or Sam Bush calls bluegrass, that's fine. But not in all cases would Mr. Monroe call it bluegrass.

    Its not really about stifling innovation as it is about terminology and nomenclature, but we argue terminology and nomenclature all the time too so its all good.
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  20. #36
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Please remember that when you're playing bluegrass, or a close derivative, you're not playing "songs" or" tunes" you're playing "numbers".
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  22. #37
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    Did Monroe really think he should tell everyone else how to play the style he invented? Did he really intend for every other Bluegrass band to be clones of his, with the same clothes, hats, instruments, and set list? Personally, I doubt it.
    I seem to recall people who met him saying that he told them to find their own sound. From those stories, I got the impression that he didn't particularly want people to copy his style exactly.
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    going way back into the foggy memory banks, I recall listening to a Garcia and Grisman concert on cassette tape. Between songs, I believe it was Grisman, said that Bill Monroe said to learn bluegrass (or any music) and make it your own. In a nutshell, what Tobin has said.

    Grisman went on to say the Garcia made "Dead music" and Garcia replied, "David made Dawg music".
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  24. #39
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    From Humblemex - ".....There might be exceptions but I'm not aware of them.". The original recording of ''I Saw The Light'' had Earl Scruggs ( i think ?) playing banjo on it,
    Ivan


    Fro mrmando - "...he didn't play Scruggs-style banjo ...". I've played ''Scruggs style banjo'' for 54 years. I play a lot of Stanley Bros. tunes / songs - i play everything in 'Scruggs style' & it sounds just like 'Ralph Stanley's style'.
    Back before Flatt & Scruggs became really popular & at the time the Stanley Bros. started off,Ralph did indeed play a different style. He played in what was called ''drop thumb' style,but soon changed over to Scruggs style.

    I think that Ralph Stanley tried to get folk to believe that he came up with an ''independent'' style of playing - maybe he did,but it's just like Scruggs style.

    What's NOT Scruggs style about this ?. One of my favourite Stanley Bros. recordings & IMHO nobody does it better !,
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  26. #40

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    "Strike the dobro"

    Nooooooooooo...

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    So what were the rules of bluegrass according to Big Mon? I'm thinking strict instrumentation (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, bass, and sometimes Dobro), tight three- or four-part harmonies, traditional material, cowboy hats, and never a note outside the diatonic scale except a raised fourth now and then. Does that about cover it?
    Monroe rarely did trios. He often superimposed the blues, Dorian and Mixolydian scales over major chords. Can't recall that he used raised fourths much, if at all.

    Monroe's original intention was not "inventing a genre". Chiefly his idea was that of a string band with a beat. In fact, he left Columbia when the Stanley Brothers joined the label. His only rule seems to have been: "Stay out of my way, stick to your own thing".

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    You might be thinking of Flatt & Scruggs. Earl always played guitar on the gospel tunes. There might be exceptions but I'm not aware of them.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_cBOO3esAI


    As I recall Monroe never used the banjo on a quartet number before 1961

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Ivan I would classify Ralph's style as very similar to Earl's, much closer than say Reno's, but still slightly different. Ralph kept his thumb on the 5th string much more than most " Scruggs" style pickers, led with is first finger, perhaps because he played claw hammer first. I haven't heard you play but it would surprise me if you sounded like Ralph. My dad was one of the best banjo players I have known ( pro or amateur ) and we played a lot of Stanley numbers, he sounded good but he didn't sound like Ralph.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    Bill Monroe collaborated with John Hartford on occasion. I wonder what he had to say about John's hat?

    Probably not as much as he'd have to say about the guy in the pink ball cap

    Of course, then there's the photo of him with the pink tele, so maybe not
    Chuck

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  33. #45
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Well..he did create the music ,so he has the right to create the rules also...I also think harmonica was not on the top of his list either..

  34. #46

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    So what were the rules of bluegrass according to Big Mon? I'm thinking strict instrumentation (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, bass, and sometimes Dobro), tight three- or four-part harmonies, traditional material, cowboy hats, and never a note outside the diatonic scale except a raised fourth now and then. Does that about cover it?
    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    Really amazed there are so many people here who believe that bluegrass is *only* what Bill says it is. Guess that means you don't like Sam Bush, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, or Jerry Douglas. But what the heck would hacks like that know about bluegrass? Your loss.
    With all due respect, it is your thread and you asked about 'The rules according to Bill Monroe'.

    Whether he meant to invent it or not, Mr. Bill was a (the) major factor in the birth of Bluegrass music. While they may have evolved somewhat during the process Bill did have some rules. If you get a response or two from folks who love that music and still try to follow those rules (ambiguous though they may be), you really shouldn't be surprised or "amazed".

    In your amazement then, you jumped to a wrong conclusion. Just because someone claims to know what 'Bluegrass' is doesn't necessarily mean they (we) don't like the other players you mentioned.

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  36. #47

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    OK, strike the dobro.
    Or give it to me. I'll never play with Bill, anyway.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Monroe played a lot of music before Scruggs and Flatt joined him, as far as I am concerned that is the beginning of "Bluegrass" music Earl made the big difference in what Monroe was playing and that's when it took off...

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    From humblemex - "....and sometimes Dobro" - never !!.

    Bill Monroe's preferred line up was Banjo / Mandolin / Guitar / Fiddle - 2 if he could get them, & bass. That was the 'classic' line up of the first 'true' Bluegrass band. Only on what BM termed the '' Bluegrass Gospel Quartet '' songs were some of the instruments omitted. I think he got it right,
    Ivan
    Just one thing I would add, Bill Monroe is on record saying that he didn't care for banjo until much later as banjos got better tone and intonation. In fact he joked that banjo was the "5th" child of bluegrass. So mentioning that he was enamored with banjo at all isn't really true. Moreover, clawhammer wasn't frowned upon by Bill either, it was just that the three finger style was something fresh and almost exclusive at one point, so he used it.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Silly mortals, don't you realize that there are a lot of guys you can call the big hoss, but as long as mandolins are being made and bluegrass music's being played, Bill Monroe is gonna be the boss!

    That's all there is to it.
    Peace

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