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Old-Time-Twanger
10-10-2017, 04:41 PM
Anyone here ever play bluegrass on a ukulele? What techniques have you found most useful?

ksiegel
10-10-2017, 04:58 PM
Yeah, but I couldn't point out any techniques, since I play by ear. I just play what sounds right to me.

Same goes for Old-timey stuff, and jug band music.



-Kurt

Patrick Madsen
10-10-2017, 05:51 PM
I play some bluegrass also. Same technique I use on my guitar, including using a pick. Like Kurt said; I play by ear and what sounds right to me.

Old-Time-Twanger
10-10-2017, 06:57 PM
Thanks for the replies. I guess that's more or less what I've been doing so far, strumming like a guitar but also hitting the high G string a lot with my thumb so it kind of works as a drone string (I've been playing a lot in the key of G, so that works). Then for the instrumental breaks, I try to imitate a banjo a little bit. Hopefully it doesn't sound too ridiculous.

Rllink
10-11-2017, 03:16 AM
What do you mean by "playing bluegrass"? Are we talking playing bluegrass songs in the basement, showing up at a bluegrass shindig with a ukulele, or playing in a bluegrass band? I mean, you can play anything on a ukulele, but bluegrass music itself is pretty much defined by the instruments. In my own experience I've found that it is very difficult to fit into bluegrass music with a ukulele. There just isn't a ukulele part. Not saying it can't be done, because as sure as I say this someone is going to post a video of somebody playing a ukulele in a bluegrass band, but I've not found it to be the norm. There is a combination bluegrass/ukulele festival in Minneapolis next month, but the two don't mix .

Ukecaster
10-11-2017, 04:18 AM
I would think you'd be competing bigtime with the mando player, who often keeps rhythm with the chop style chords. Seems like a good soprano could do that, but the lightning fast mando leads with a pick would be tough to duplicate. Of course, if there's no mando player, you may fit right in for rhythm, as long as the banjo doesn't drown you out. I bet serious Grassers would sneer at a uke, many I've met can be very traditional: if the instrument wasn't in Bill Monroe's band, they don't want to include it.

Ziret
10-11-2017, 07:57 AM
If you want to experience invisibility, show up at a Bluegrass jam with your uke. No one will be able to hear you speak, either. ��

hendulele
10-11-2017, 08:00 AM
Aaron Keim has posted several clawhammer-style uke tutorials on YouTube, if that's what you're considering.

hendulele
10-11-2017, 08:02 AM
And BTW, our jam did an all-bluegrass night at a local tap room during the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual convention. Several of us brought banjo ukes and we had a bass player, but with enough of us in a small space, it sounded pretty good.

jer
10-11-2017, 08:04 AM
This reminds of a video I saw on youtube yesterday:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DELE3PNsIo

I say play whatever you want however you want on ukulele. Just don't expect to be accepted by the traditional bluegrass crowd. I do get where they're coming from. They're trying to maintain a tradition, and that includes only certain instruments.

That said there's a lot of what I've heard termed new-grass, or at least bluegrass type style mixed in with other rootsy type stuff. I've seen ukes with that.

captain-janeway
10-11-2017, 11:00 AM
If my hands were big enough to play banjo I would. When I can play better I'd like to get a good quality banjo Uke. Not the same thing, but since I'll probably be playing mostly for myself, it would make me happy. I'd just like to figure out the picking.
Love bluegrass. Get to see Alison Krauss next week!!

ramone
10-11-2017, 11:53 AM
Old-Time-Twanger, play what you want. there's always somebody that's going to say you can't or you shouldn't but so what, play it anyway.

jer
10-11-2017, 11:59 AM
Laurence is a member here at UU. He's also a very fine player.


http://youtu.be/xmM7GOEtRNE

Definitely some real skill right there. I don't think I've ever heard an uke played quite like that...maybe similar, but not just like that. Nice!
I really appreciate it when someone can play like that. I'm pretty much just a strummer, pick within chords, and noodler. ha. We all have our different things. There's just so much variety that can be had with uke playing....That vid is further proof.

TobyDog
10-11-2017, 12:48 PM
I have a Jumpin' Jim's uke book by Fred Sokolow called, "Bluegrass Ukulele". I'm having fun with it.

ksiegel
10-11-2017, 03:12 PM
Thanks for the replies. I guess that's more or less what I've been doing so far, strumming like a guitar but also hitting the high G string a lot with my thumb so it kind of works as a drone string (I've been playing a lot in the key of G, so that works). Then for the instrumental breaks, I try to imitate a banjo a little bit. Hopefully it doesn't sound too ridiculous.

Here's a link to one of my YouYube videos, so we'll see if that answers your question.

https://youtu.be/B4Qzd6WRiZk

As to Bluegrass being defined by the instruments, I have to disagree. Bluegrass is defined by the music, and was named by Bill Monroe who called it "Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound." ("Bill Monroe: The Father of Bluegrass (https://www.billmonroe.com/bill-monroe-bio)")

By that definition, it doesn't really matter what instrument you use, because the music evolves.

I was once told that I couldn't play a ukulele in an Old Time Jam, so I said "OK". About 2 hours later, someone noticed that I was playing a banjo uke, not a banjo, and the group decided that they were wrong, one could indeed play ukulele as part of an old time jam.

So if someone gets his/her undies in a twist, insisting that ukulele has no place in bluegrass, ask where his/her bagpipes are - then quote Duke Ellington: "If it sounds good, it is good."



-Kurt

Old-Time-Twanger
10-11-2017, 04:19 PM
Honestly, I'm drawn toward old timey string band music in general, whatever you want to call it. My inclination has been to play stuff that sounds more like old-time (as I understand it at least, still learning), but I've been experimenting with speeding it up a bit and going for that "high, lonesome sound." But if anyone told me that ukulele doesn't belong in old-time music, I'd have them take a good look at this picture of the Fiddlin' Powers Family, one of the first string bands on record: 103610

rubykey
10-11-2017, 08:02 PM
Honestly, I'm drawn toward old timey string band music in general, whatever you want to call it. My inclination has been to play stuff that sounds more like old-time (as I understand it at least, still learning), but I've been experimenting with speeding it up a bit and going for that "high, lonesome sound." But if anyone told me that ukulele doesn't belong in old-time music, I'd have them take a good look at this picture of the Fiddlin' Powers Family, one of the first string bands on record: 103610

problem solved. Old-time music is what you describe -- String Band dance music happy, peppy, doesn't require vocals, played with other instruments but not rigid like Bluegrass. Bluegrass is related but different. Bluegrass is driven by the four instruments and it has a vocal component with screaming high Lonesome sound and themes of God and church. Serious Bluegrass players do not want ukuleles. It's non-negotiable. Ukuleles and Bluegrass -- no. That's not a problem for me because I'm not a fan of bluegrass. I do however like Old-time music and that genre is more welcoming of ukuleles. I have friends who play Old-time music and I have asked them about ukuleles and they will say " there are some people who don't welcome ukulele but I don't feel that way." They seemed apologetic about those "some people." I haven't been rejected by old time musicians. And because they focus more on listening to one another you can actually hear the ukulele.

Another difference is when it's time for solos. Bluegrass each instrument takes their solo. Old-time music all solo at the same time. Old-time music is more amenable for community music-making. And the tunes are catchy. That's not to say there aren't professional old time musicians. I know quite a few of them. In fact in Berkeley there's an old-time music convention that happens once a year and another Spring Fling just because they love it so much. And the musicians are top notch.

phil hague
10-12-2017, 12:59 AM
Yes I try. Use Fred Sokolows book and Ken Middletons. Fingerstyle playing and quite challenging. Never had the opportunity to play proper bluegrass where each player does a solo and then passes it on , because very few uke players do fingerstyle playing.

TobyDog
10-12-2017, 10:53 AM
Yes I try. Use Fred Sokolows book and Ken Middletons. Fingerstyle playing and quite challenging. Never had the opportunity to play proper bluegrass where each player does a solo and then passes it on , because very few uke players do fingerstyle playing.

Is that true, that very few uke players do fingerstyle? Fingerstyle is what I like best. :confused:

Nickie
10-12-2017, 04:07 PM
What do you mean by "playing bluegrass"? Are we talking playing bluegrass songs in the basement, showing up at a bluegrass shindig with a ukulele, or playing in a bluegrass band? I mean, you can play anything on a ukulele, but bluegrass music itself is pretty much defined by the instruments. In my own experience I've found that it is very difficult to fit into bluegrass music with a ukulele. There just isn't a ukulele part. Not saying it can't be done, because as sure as I say this someone is going to post a video of somebody playing a ukulele in a bluegrass band, but I've not found it to be the norm. There is a combination bluegrass/ukulele festival in Minneapolis next month, but the two don't mix .

I agree with you. I knew Bill Monroe, and am an avid Bluegrass fan, but am by no means an expert. I was never a good enough musician to keep up with my Bluegrass pickin' friends.

" if the instrument wasn't in Bill Monroe's band, they don't want to include it. "
Not quite true. Bill's original band had an accordion in it. When Bill saw Flatt And Scruggs perform with a Dobro (by Josh Graves), he said "That ain't no part of Bluegrass." Guess which instrument stuck.

While mimicking Bluegrass on a uke is fun, "It ain't no part of a Bluegrass band." IMHO.
Do we consider the uke a jazz, rock, symphony, blues instrument? No, but by the gods, we still do it!

Rllink
10-13-2017, 03:16 AM
The original post listed above, simply asked if "Anyone here ever play bluegrass on a ukulele? What techniques have you found most useful?" Why do we have to waffle on about all this other stuff?Because it is something to talk about.

Nickie
10-13-2017, 09:07 AM
Surely we can play any style of music we choose on the ukulele, there are no rules............or are there?

Campbell,
I only have one rule, when it comes to playing. Wash your hands before playing. Food and skin oils mess up frets and strings. Especially chocolate cake.
I have no problem with folks playing Bluegrass on a uke, but it will never be accepted as a Bluegrass instrument. Just as drums and pedal steel guitars won't.
If anyone comes up with an audio or video of themselves playing Bluegrass style, I'd LOVE to hear it.

Nickie
10-13-2017, 12:56 PM
Thanks Campbell,
I really liked what Kris did. I could barely tell what most of Jake's rendition was.
Aaron and Fred are both coming to TBUG in just 3 weeks, maybe they'll show us some of this stuff.
I kinda grew up with Bluegrass, went to Nashville and Bean Blossom all the time. I was always very disappointed that I could not learn to play it on guitar, mandolin, or fiddle.
Maybe I can satisfy my poor ego by learning to play the simpler tunes on my uke and banjouke.