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Thread: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    This sent to me by Curtis Buckhannon, all meant in good fun, tongue firmly in cheek!

    The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands…now explained


    The Music

    Old Time and Celtic songs are about whiskey, food and struggle. Bluegrass songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girl isn’t dead by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass. If everyone dies, it’s Celtic.

    A Bluegrass band has between 1 and 3 singers who are all singing about an octave above their natural vocal range. Most Old Time and Celtic bands have no singers at all. If a Celtic band has a singer, it is usually either a bewhiskered ex-sailor, or a petite soprano. A Bluegrass band has a vocal arranger who arranges three-part harmonies. In an Old Time band, anyone who feels like it can sing or make comments during the performance. In a Celtic band, anyone who speaks during a performance gets ‘the look.’ Celtic songs are preceded by a call for silence and a detailed explanation of their cultural significance.

    Bluegrass tunes & songs last 3 minutes. Old Time and Celtic tunes & songs can be any length, and sometimes last all night.

    The Instruments


    Banjo
    Celtic banjos have 4 strings, Old Time and Bluegrass banjos have 5. An Old Time banjo is open-backed, with an old towel (probably never washed) stuffed in the back to dampen sound. A Bluegrass banjo has bell bronze “mastertone” tone ring and a resonator to make it really loud. An Old Time banjo weighs 5 pounds, towel included, and a Bluegrass banjo weighs 40 pounds. A Bluegrass banjo has 24 frets. An Old Time banjo needs no more than 5 frets, and some don’t have any.

    Fiddle
    The Bluegrass fiddler paid $10,000 for his fiddle at the Violin Shop in Nashville. The Celtic fiddler inherited his fiddle from his mother’s 2nd cousin in County Clare. The Old Time fiddler got his for $15 at a yard sale.

    Celtic and Bluegrass fiddles are tuned GDAE. An Old Time fiddle can be in one of a hundred different tunings. Old Time fiddlers seldom use more than two fingers of their left hand, and use tunings that maximize the number of open strings played. Celtic and Bluegrass fiddlers study 7th position fingering patterns with Isaac Stern, and take pride in never playing an open string. An Old Time fiddle player can make dogs howl & incapacitate people suffering from sciatic nerve damage. An Old Time fiddle player only uses 1/8 of his bow. The rest is just there for show.

    Guitar
    An Old Time guitarist knows the major chords in G and C, and owns a capo for A and D. A Bluegrass guitarist can play in E-flat without a capo. The fanciest chord an Old Time guitarist needs is an A to insert between the G and the D7 chord. A Bluegrass or Celtic guitarist needs to know chords like “C#aug+7-4.” A Celtic guitarist keeps his picks in his pocket. Old Time guitarists stash extra picks under a rubber band around the top of the peg head. Bluegrass guitarists would never cover any part of the peg head that might obscure the inlays on their $4,000 Martin.

    Mandolin
    It’s possible to have an Old Time or Celtic band without a mandolin. However, it is impossible to have a true Bluegrass band without one. Old Time and Celtic mandolin players play abused, vintage ‘A’ model instruments bought at garage sales, which is fine, because you can’t hear them anyway. Bluegrass mandolin players use ‘F’ models that cost $100 per decibel.

    Bass
    A Celtic band never has a bass, while a Bluegrass band always has a bass. An “old” Old Time band doesn’t have a bass, but “new” Old Time bands seem to need one for reasons that are unclear. A Bluegrass bass starts playing with the band on the first note. An Old Time bass, if present, starts sometime after the rest of the band has run through the tune once depending on the player’s blood alcohol content. Bluegrass bass players play all over the neck. An Old Time bass player may only use his left hand to keep the bass from falling over. A Bluegrass bass is polished and shiny. An Old Time bass is often used as yard furniture.

    Arrangements

    Except for the guitar and bouzouki, all the instruments in a Celtic band play the melody all the time. In an Old Time band, anyone can play either melody or accompaniment at any time. In Bluegrass bands, one instrument at a time solos, and every else plays accompaniment.

    Bluegrass bands have carefully mapped-out choreography due to the need for access to the one microphone on solo breaks. If Old Time and Celtic band members move around, they tend to run into each other. Because of this problem (and whiskey) Old Time and Celtic prefer to sit down when performing, while a Bluegrass band always stands. Because they’re sitting, Old Time and Celtic bands have the stamina to play the same tune for 20 minutes for a square or contra dance. The audience claps after each Bluegrass solo break. If anyone claps near an Old Time or Celtic band, it confuses them, even after the tune is over.

    Personalities—Stage Presence

    Bluegrass band members wear uniforms, such as blue polyester suits with gray Stetson hats. Old Time bands wear jeans, sandals, work shirts and caps from seed companies. Celtic bands wear tour tee-shirts with plaid touring caps. All this headwear covers bald spots.

    Women in Bluegrass bands have big hair and Kevlar undergarments. Women in Old Time bands jiggle nicely under their overalls. The women in Celtic bands are either lassies with long skirts and lacey, high collars or wenches in apple-dumplings-on-a-shelf bodices and leather mini-skirts.

    A Bluegrass band tells terrible jokes while tuning. An Old Time band tells terrible jokes without bothering to tune. Bluegrass band members never smile. Old Time band members will smile if you give them a drink. A Celtic band is too busy drinking to smile, tune or tell jokes. Celtic musicians eat fish and chips, Bluegrass musicians eat barbecue ribs, and Old Time musicians eat tofu and miso soup.

    Bluegrass musicians have mild high frequency hearing loss from standing near the banjo player. Old Time musicians have moderate high frequency hearing loss from sitting near the fiddler. Celtic musicians have advanced hearing loss from playing in small pubs with all those fiddles, banjos, tin whistles and bodhrans.

    Festivals

    A Celtic band travels in an actual Greyhound bus with marginal air conditioning and then catches a ride from the bus stop to the festival any way they can. A Bluegrass band travels in an old converted Greyhound bus that idles in the parking lot all weekend with the air conditioner running full blast, fumigating the county with diesel exhaust. An Old Time band travels in a rusted-out 1965 VW microbus that blows an engine in North Nowhere, Nebraska. Bluegrass players stay on the bus and Celtic musicians stay at the nearest Motel 6, while Old Time musicians camp in the parking lot.

    Cases

    The Celtic band has their name on their instrument cases. The Bluegrass band’s name and Inspirational Statement are painted on both the side of the cases and the front of the bus in script lettering. Old Time cases are covered with stickers don’t make any sense (e.g. ‘Gid is My Co-Pilot’)


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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Sums it up pretty well........ROFL

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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    In my experience, a celtic player only knows how to play a "C#aug+7-4" because his guitar is already tuned to that chord.

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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    I take mild exception to the "tofu and miso soup", but the rest of this is pretty much spot on

    Rick

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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    brilliant
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    mandolinist, Mixt Company D C Blood's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    You've got it all except guitar...it's mostly bluegrass guitarists who do G and C, with capo for other keys. It's the guitarists who back contest fiddlers who know all them fancy chords...
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Bluegrass mandolin players use ‘F’ models that cost $100 per decibel.
    Good one!
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    If the girl isn’t dead by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass. If everyone dies, it’s Celtic.
    Spot-on
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    I knew I was "Old Timey"!!!!

    Rob Ray

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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Lindstrom View Post
    I take mild exception to the "tofu and miso soup", but the rest of this is pretty much spot on

    Rick
    I was asleep earlier when I posted this! Old time players don't eat tofu and miso soup, they eat "Squirrel Heads and Gravy" and a "Streak of Lean, Streak of Fat".

    Rick

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Lindstrom View Post
    I was asleep earlier when I posted this! Old time players don't eat tofu and miso soup, they eat "Squirrel Heads and Gravy" and a "Streak of Lean, Streak of Fat".

    Rick
    I think that gets into the distinction between "new" Old Time and "old" Old Time. Real Appalachian and Ozark hillbillies tend to eat as you say, but the "new" Old Time players tend to be urbanites from the granola set.

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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Then there is the group of fat-arsed, beer-gutted, grey-beared, balding Morris dancers with the little bent pipes clamped in their teeth and scraggly ponytails...(and the men, too.)

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    Registered User Chip Booth's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Gotta disagree with this statement!

    "A Bluegrass guitarist can play in E-flat without a capo... A Bluegrass ... guitarist needs to know chords like “C#aug+7-4.”

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip Booth View Post
    Gotta disagree with this statement!

    "A Bluegrass guitarist can play in E-flat without a capo... A Bluegrass ... guitarist needs to know chords like “C#aug+7-4.”
    Yeah, that doesn't apply to "Celtic" guitar either. In an instrumental Irish trad session, using extended chords on a guitar will get you the hairy eyeball from the melody players. No jazz chords allowed. Heck, you shouldn't even use too many chords with a third in them, so they're barely "chords" at all!

    The bit about Celtic fiddlers using 7th position and no open strings is also off, unless it's a song-oriented, folk type band where the key is accommodating the singer. Irish trad players use open strings all the time, and something like 99% of the repertoire is played in first position (and on the top three strings, at that). The few exceptions would be O'Carolan tunes adapted from the harp, and some of the weird, more modern compositions. Scottish and Cape Breton fiddlers sometimes use higher positions, but in general that just isn't a good description of Celtic fiddling. The bare notes are easy first-position stuff. The tricky bit is the ornamentation and phrasing that makes it sound Celtic and not like Bluegrass fiddling, or anything else.

    (/end pedant mode) A funny list, regardless.

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    Registered User David Rambo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Great! This made my day!
    "Put your hands to the wood
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    And let your fingers find The Music in the Wood."
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Sir,

    As a "Celtic" fiddler, I feel obliged to address some misconceptions presented in the above description. I certainly do not wish to offend; however, for the sake of Celtic musicians and Celtic bands everywhere, I seek to clarify a few of the more common errors;

    Celtic fiddlers rarely play beyond third position.

    Some Celtic bands do indeed wear "uniforms," though we refer to them as Clan Tartans. For example, our band, Dodhéanta a Fhuaimniú an Ainm Seo, actually has two sets; the Utilikilt, and the popular Hello Kitty Tartan.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    On festive occasions, such as St. Patrick's Day, the bodhran - a traditional goat-skin drum that sounds remarkably similar to the modern-day pizza box - is often added to enhance the "Irish" flavor audiences have come to expect. It is played with a stick called a "tipper" (or sometimes with a small penknife). In more experienced bands the bodhran is decorated with ancient Gaelic symbols such as the beloved Guinness Harp.

    The guitar player's goal is to not distract from the melody. In very general terms the guitarist wants to preserve the modal tonality of the tune rather than locking it into major or minor. This is accomplished by eliminating the third degree of the scale. Some guitar players use DADGAD tuning while others stay in standard or Drop D tuning and utilize chord substitutions. Melody players frequently request the guitar player to also eliminate the tonic and fifth degree of the scale, making his/her job much easier.

    I hope this helps.


    Fretless

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Celtic fiddlers rarely play beyond first position.

    Celtic guitarists use 20 lb. bond copy paper for picks.

    Bluegrass guitarists use illegal dinosaur scales 5 inches thick.

    No bluegrass guitarist intentionally plays Eb, with or without a capo.

    A bluegrass guitarist would see "C#aug+7-4" as somebody's phone number.

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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    I think that gets into the distinction between "new" Old Time and "old" Old Time. Real Appalachian and Ozark hillbillies tend to eat as you say, but the "new" Old Time players tend to be urbanites from the granola set.
    Me, I'm cornfuzed. My dad's family comes from N. Texas by way of Washington County Arkansas. My grandpa played fiddle (old time I am sure) but my dad never picked it up so it wasn't passed directly. Must be my genes that made me start playing mandolin. Sure wasn't my mother's east coast-founding father-wasp heritage. My latest mandolin purchase proves I'm in the old-time group.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Fretless View Post
    ...Melody players frequently request the guitar player to also eliminate the tonic and fifth degree of the scale, making his/her job much easier.
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Nice one John - i really enjoyed that. The truth is out !!!. I don't know much about the food eaten by the musicians in the various genres,but in the DVD " Jimmy Martin - King of Bluegrass",at one point there's some stew being made of Possum & Squirrel with a side helping of Bear's a** i think - sound about right to you guys ?,
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    some stew being made of Possum & Squirrel with a side helping of Bear's a** i think - sound about right to you guys ?
    Good one. I can just imagine what would happen if I went to the butcher counter at my local Giant Eagle and asked for a pound each of possum & squirrel and a half pound of bear's a**! I imagine I would be asked to leave...

  23. #22
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    ...some stew being made of Possum & Squirrel with a side helping of Bear's a** i think - sound about right to you guys ?
    Good one. I can just imagine what would happen if I went to the butcher counter at my local Giant Eagle and asked for a pound each of possum & squirrel and a half pound of bear's a**! I imagine I would be asked to leave...
    I have heard of roadkill stew recipes elsewhere - there seems to be some truth about it.

    Not that this could put anybody off his lunch who grew up with British cuisine...
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Bluegrass guitarists can play all those weird chords, if they have to, but don't know what they're called. "It's like a G7 on the ninth fret, but you put yore other finger like this..."

    Old-time musicians give names to the different keys: G = "George," D = "Dog" -- that's pretty much all ya need to know...

    Old-time banjo players control what keys the group plays in; God forbid they should have to re-tune! Twenty-five consecutive tunes in D...

    Celtic guitar players may not even be allowed into the seisun. If they are, they get points for playing obscurely syncopated closed-passing-chord backups to standard 4/4 and 6/8 rhythms. You can blame Michael O'Domhnaill.

    Bluegrass musicians spend a lot of time talking about instruments. Old-time musicians spend a lot of time talking about octogenarian fiddlers they met at Galax. Celtic musicians spend a lot of time talking about their last trip to Ireland.
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    But they ALL share their disdain for bodhran players...

  26. #25
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    Default Re: The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands

    Meh.

    But I did love this part:

    "A Bluegrass band tells terrible jokes while tuning. An Old Time band tells terrible jokes without bothering to tune."
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