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Thread: How to play boom-chuck bluegrass accompaniment

  1. #1
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    Question How to play boom-chuck bluegrass accompaniment

    I was watching some videos of bluegrass jams and I'd like to know how I can play along on my baritone ukulele.

    The guitar was playing what they call "boom chuck" and he was picking the lowest string and then strumming the top 4 strings and then picking the 2nd lowest string and then strumming the top 4 strings. I think he's playing the root & 5ths on the two lowest strings.

    So I tried doing that on my uke but it's not so easy with 4 strings. I'm playing baritone, so on the G major chord I can play 2nd lowest, strum the top 2, and then the lowest, and then strum the top two. That's ok. When I play the C chord it gets more difficult. I have to pick the 2nd highest string and then what do I strum? And then I pick the 3rd highest.

    After that I thought well maybe the uke isn't capable of doing the boom-chuck (btw is that what it's called? I'm not sure I heard it right) since it doesn't really have the bass strings like a guitar. So I was watching the mandolin. and the mandolin player was just strumming on the back beats and I think he called it "chunking" but I'm not sure. He was strumming it but he'd mute the strings right away so they didn't ring long. I'm not sure if he was doing that with his right hand or left hand, I couldn't tell.

    I'd like to play along with some bluegrass tunes if I can just figure out the best way to do that on a ukulele.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    See here for some ideas for approaching string band music with a uke: http://ukesessions.com/?p=342

    I've heard banjo uke employed to great advantage in old timey settings. Not sure if this is helpful for bari.
    Why, for God's sake, popular song IS American culture! - Irving Caesar
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  3. #3
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    The key to this sound is right hand damping. Due to the nature of my hands I cant right hand damp myself so I often left hand damp but its not quite the same. This technique is also known as Travis picking. Here, take it from Travis's son,

    http://youtu.be/P6l3GKN6AEE

    Great video but long. You may have to skip forward to get to the point (EDIT: its first up after the intro, not far in).

    Anthony
    Last edited by anthonyg; 01-16-2013 at 11:07 AM.

  4. #4
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    I play bluegrass guitar and 5 string bluegrass banjo ( Earl Scruggs Style) The rhythm guitar is playing what we call a "boom chuck". There is also a "boom chuck ah", as well as a "boom ah chuck ah". These are terms used to describe the movements. For example: Playing a G chord on the guitar; Boom is where you pick a down stroke on the 6th string, the chuck would be where you strum down usually catching the bottom 3 strings. Boom chuck a would be to pick a down stroke on the 6th string, then a down strum followed by an up strum. These rhythms are used to keep time. Most guitar players, whether they realize it or not, are counting in their heads. 1 2 3 4 or 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & for 4/4 time . 1 2 or 1 & 2 & for 2/2 time. Most consider 1 2 3 4 to be down strokes and up strokes for & . Boom would be a down stroke, chuck would be a down stroke and the "ah' would be an upstroke. In my opinion, if I were playing an uke with bluegrass I would use down strums and up strums using all 4 strings. Boom and chuck would be a down strum using all 4 strings and the "ah" would be an up strum using all 4 strings. Put more strum emphasis on your boom down strum and less on the up strum. Hope this helps.
    Tenors: Lanikai NKT, Honu KXXXe-inf, Wixom #142, Pono RTSH PCC cedar/rosewood
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  5. #5
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    maybe some clawhammer tutorials would help you get on track

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by cunparis View Post
    So I was watching the mandolin. and the mandolin player was just strumming on the back beats and I think he called it "chunking" but I'm not sure. He was strumming it but he'd mute the strings right away so they didn't ring long. I'm not sure if he was doing that with his right hand or left hand, I couldn't tell.
    Well barrybush has you cover for the Boom Chuck. The mandolin would be "chopping" on the 2 and 4 beats. Chopping is different than "chunking" in that the muting is done with the left hand. Chop chords are always closed position (no open strings!) Mandolins are LOUD and a chop strum is relaxed and loose, but with full force and complete follow through. After strumming the chop, the left hand fingers un-stop the strings and choke off the chord.

    There's a quick explanation of a mandolin chop. That said, I don't think "chopping" (as a technique) will work on an uke. "Chunking" with a right hand mute is probably the best strategy here (to create those sharp accents on the 2 and 4).

    Also consider Scrugg's rolls (though you will never be as loud as a banjo).

    Personally, I think the 5-piece Bluegrass ensemble epitomized by the Flatt & Scruggs era of Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys is something special. The uke is going to have a hard time fitting into that circle.

    Old-Time Country, Mountain Music, Porch Picking, Brother Harmony... go for it. Lots of the same song material, all in a more pliable arrangement style.
    Last edited by Cooper Black; 01-17-2013 at 03:58 AM.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilUSAFRet View Post
    maybe some clawhammer tutorials would help you get on track
    Clawhammer is the dance pulse of the clogger in Old-Timey music, quite distinct from the Boom-Chuck feel of Bluegrass.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cooper Black View Post
    Clawhammer is the dance pulse of the clogger in Old-Timey music, quite distinct from the Boom-Chuck feel of Bluegrass.
    Thanks for clearing that up !!!!!!!!! I'm aware of that!!!!!!! Was merely suggesting that, since there are lots of clawhammer tutorials, it might make learning the Boom-Chuck a little easier.......did for me, maybe you are different.

  9. #9

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    Good point! I am probably making too-subtle distinctions that are not very useful to someone starting out (and sorry if I came across as correcting you).

    OTOH - Dance rhythms are what separate many musical styles from one and another, so listening for the differences in swing and pulse can help inform any player.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cooper Black View Post
    Good point! I am probably making too-subtle distinctions that are not very useful to someone starting out (and sorry if I came across as correcting you).

    OTOH - Dance rhythms are what separate many musical styles from one and another, so listening for the differences in swing and pulse can help inform any player.
    Big 10-4. I just picked up Lil Rev's 101 licks, have to wade my way through that.

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