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View Full Version : I have made an amazing discovery! Blue Grass Ukulele!



beginnerukeman143
04-23-2012, 12:42 PM
so I was jamming with a couple of my friends last night, (I wanted to after what you guys said in the other thread :P) one was playing a guitar like a lap steel, (he had raised the nut) and the other was doing a lot of fingerpicking on the guitar.

so as we were playing some old hymns, they started to realize that my uke sounded a lot like a Mandolin, if strummed like one. so i started doing just a down strum on every other beat.... as we were playing "Ill Fly Away" (one of my favourite old hymns) it started to click, then i actually got the rhythm down... and boom, Blue Grass Ukulele.... we played other more bluegrassy songs, and man it was great. '

I think, (if you haven't already tried this) you should get with some guitar players and strum up some bluegrass :)

Chris Tarman
04-23-2012, 02:18 PM
My neighbors are very accomplished Bluegrass musicians. I took a Martin uke and my banjo-uke to a big jam at their house once. They themselves are ok with me playing uke with them. However, most of the traditionalists there ( just about EVERYONE ELSE) either totally ignored me or were openly disdainful.
Bluegrass ukulele might be fine in some circles, but, as one old guy said to me, "Bill Monroe never played one of those". I wanted to ask "How do you know that he never played one?", but thought better of it.

consitter
04-23-2012, 03:00 PM
@Chris...It's a shame that most people look at ukes as toys. But, I think a few more years and folks will change their minds.

janeray1940
04-23-2012, 03:10 PM
You might enjoy these tutorials (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9A7CB82097A51568). Funny thing, I'm not a huge bluegrass fan in general but I LOVE playing this stuff on uke :)

peewee
04-23-2012, 03:14 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay-rvPy4VyY

oh um, edit: what Jane said.

Hippie Dribble
04-23-2012, 03:26 PM
I think the ukulele and bluegrass are a perfect match really. You have the high G which gives the uke a banjo -like voice and makes it a great fit for clawhammer melody style playing. Plus you can get that mandolin type chopping technique going rhythmically which makes it well suited to accompaniment. Such a versatile instrument. :)

Steedy
04-23-2012, 03:39 PM
It's a safe bet that Bill Monroe never played an ukulele, but that's no excuse to look down upon the mighty uke. :wtf:

hibiscus
04-23-2012, 04:20 PM
I really enjoy Ken Middleton's Bluegrass e-book. Check out his site if you have a chance!

Chris Tarman
04-23-2012, 04:21 PM
I'm not saying I disagree... just that Bluegrass musicians are often... ummm.... "Conservative" in their opinions about what does and does not qualify as Bluegrass. Not the younger ones so much, but still, a lot of them. The old "How many Bluegrass musicians does it take to change a light bulb?" joke is based on TRUTH! The answer: "One to change it and 100 to say that's not how Bill Monroe would have done it" (alternate answer: "100 to complain about it being electric".

Nickie
04-23-2012, 05:52 PM
Steedy, You're right, Bill never had an ukulele. I met him when I lived near Nashville, and knew some of his band members as well. No ukes. I simply adore Bluegrass, tried to learn to play it years ago. Seems like it would be fun to play it on my uke. I would think that a Bluegrass musician would be flattered by the imitation.

beginnerukeman143
04-23-2012, 06:01 PM
I agree, but i do think that the 'Ukulele alone wouldn't really suffice and be called "bluegrass" I think it doesn't have to much of a hmmm.... earthy sound... I guess you could say, not like in a clingy sort of way, but in like a Lap Steel sort a way.

I think it was the Lap sliding that made the songs sound really good, and the 'Uke just sorta complimented it :P

ricdoug
04-23-2012, 06:15 PM
Ukulele is welcome in local bluegrass and folk circles. I jam with them on many occassions. Ric

mschway
04-23-2012, 06:44 PM
It's a safe bet that Bill Monroe never played an ukulele, [...snip...] :wtf:

But if he had, he might have become famous. ;)

I play a lot of old time Appalacian fiddle, and over the past 5 years or so I've seen more and more ukes at fiddle jams; mostly strumming the off-beats. It does add to the cacophony in an altogether pleasing way.

--Mike

Plainsong
04-23-2012, 08:27 PM
It's a combo of the instrument and how you play it. It would be too hard to resist replying "Well I'm not Bill Monroe... And neither are you." Seriously, the size of the ego is inversely proportional to the skill level of the player in those cases.

Most of the local players don't play bluegrass but they are oh so very close to it with southern roots type traditional stuff. It's like half a heartbeat from bluegrass. I tell ya, a group of Finns playing that music on ukulele.... It'd make that guy's head spin. And the fact they do it well would make his head explode. :)

Sporin
04-24-2012, 01:50 AM
That stinks that you got a negative reaction from those players. The various folky/bluegrass people that I've jammed with are all really pro-uke, no matter what style of music everyone is playing. I've definitely been working on playing a more traditional bluegrassy-ish style on my uke.

Chris Tarman
04-24-2012, 01:57 AM
These guys had a "No Hippie Chords" rule at this jam. So no 7ths, diminisheds, etc. I'm not sure they were even using any minors! They were all good players too. I think it was more of a stylistic thing than an ability thing.

Ellis Lowery
04-24-2012, 02:05 AM
36823They are already changing their minds...

ksiegel
04-24-2012, 02:09 AM
Bluegrass ukulele might be fine in some circles, but, as one old guy said to me, "Bill Monroe never played one of those".

Maybe not, but Roy Acuff did, and that's good enough for me.

http://www.gruhn.com/features/acuff2/uk0974.html



-Kurt

Plainsong
04-24-2012, 08:32 AM
You're a better person than I. I wouldn't have been able to resist driving that insult on home and turning it on him. LOL Hippie chords. So many great composers were actually hippies. You learned something that day!

garyg
04-24-2012, 09:46 AM
Well getting back to the original post, there is a thread in another board section called Appalachian tabs and chords that is full of old-timey songs and there was another called two and three chord songs or something like that, that was full of old timey uke songs. Several, actually many, of us have posted videos on youtube doing these songs. To me a uke sounds great on traditional songs as Chris or someone else mentioned, the uke can sound like a banjo or a mandolin (or a uke <g>) depending on how it's played in these songs. aloha, g

Ukuleleblues
04-24-2012, 03:50 PM
I always get a kick out it when I hear this about bluegrass. It's funny that it is actually a relatively new and progressive style of music, but seems to have gotten stunted, same instruments, even the same Brand and model of instruments, same runs, etc.

I heard that Bill started to have an accordion in his band toward the end, does anyone know if that was true.

Oh yea I agree, the uke does sound very mandolin like when played like one on Bluegrass songs.

Steedy
04-24-2012, 04:35 PM
Accordion? No. As Bill would say: "That ain't no part of Bluegrass!"

(He also said a snare drum sounds like an A-bomb back-firing.) :)

I got to see Bill Monroe at the Station Inn a couple of times, when he was so old and feeble that he had to be helped on stage. But the longer he played, the stronger he became. He could still sing that high lonesome sound, and he could still alter the space-time continuum with his mandolin playing. It was magical being there.

mschway
04-24-2012, 04:40 PM
[...stuff snipped...] ...I heard that Bill started to have an accordion in his band toward the end, does anyone know if that was true.

Bill did have an accordion for a while, but it was at the beginning, in 1945, before the Flatt & Scruggs era. Her name was Wilene Forrester, married to the great fiddler, Howdy Forrester.

Hippie Dribble
04-24-2012, 05:42 PM
Not sure anyone has mentioned this resource yet. it's brilliant.

http://www.amazon.com/Bluegrass-Ukulele-Jumpin-Jims-Songbook/dp/1423493168

also this interview on yootoob with the writer...


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg-SgIlWJlA&list=FLUb1xVeBabMCeJaFeTWLI8g&index=2&feature=plpp_video

Lalz
04-26-2012, 06:25 AM
Instead of trying to re-write history, start to write history, and follow in their genre creating footsteps.

Very well said! Traditions are great, but if people just kept playing things the exact same way as it has always been played and always told people who tried to innovate that no that's not the way to do it, then no new music genre would ever have been born, including bluegrass.

Wooville
04-26-2012, 09:44 AM
You are quite right, the Bluegrass purist do look down on anything out of the norn... drums, electric guitar, piano, even electric bass at times, and yes, the Uke would fit right in that list. That said, I host a once a month bluegrass jam, in which I'm using the first hour of the jam for Ukulele only. I tell the Ukers that when the Bluegrass Jammin' starts, that they can hang in the background and pick along with the Bluegrass. We can be a Ukulele Orchestra! <G> That said, I did get my Uke back out at the last jam and picked along with the bluegrass and the main problem is that you just can't be heard over all the loud guitars and especially banjos. We had 2 banjos, several guitars, and harmonica going and it was hard to get thru. I record all our sessions and when I listened back, you couldn't hear the Uke at all.

wooville




My neighbors are very accomplished Bluegrass musicians. I took a Martin uke and my banjo-uke to a big jam at their house once. They themselves are ok with me playing uke with them. However, most of the traditionalists there ( just about EVERYONE ELSE) either totally ignored me or were openly disdainful.
Bluegrass ukulele might be fine in some circles, but, as one old guy said to me, "Bill Monroe never played one of those". I wanted to ask "How do you know that he never played one?", but thought better of it.

Hippie Dribble
04-26-2012, 10:04 AM
I think there's a BIG difference between the bluegrass scenesters and the old-timey crowd. A lot of dovetailing re technique and style, but I'm sure you'll find the old-timey gatherings a lot more inclusive Chris... :)

Plainsong
04-26-2012, 01:28 PM
Very well said! Traditions are great, but if people just kept playing things the exact same way as it has always been played and always told people who tried to innovate that no that's not the way to do it, then no new music genre would ever have been born, including bluegrass.

Yeah, it's like what you and Bill1 said. PDQ Bach did a hilarious take on what Canon in D would sound like with the traditional instruments of the time. Time marches on and it's ok to experiment. People in just about every corner of the music world know this.... but the traditionalists.

Ron
04-26-2012, 06:21 PM
I think there's a BIG difference between the bluegrass scenesters and the old-timey crowd. A lot of dovetailing re technique and style, but I'm sure you'll find the old-timey gatherings a lot more inclusive Chris... :)

I'm sure you're right. Let's face it, all that "people's" music started as a bunch of people just playing together songs they all knew. I imagine any instrument you brought along was welcome. I have always loved the way they use brass bass (tubas and sousaphones) in string bands in some New Orleans music and I'm sure dulcimers and other simple string instruments - even whistles - would have featured on the porches and back rooms of those early jams that became BG. Like all art forms it codified into a "form" and some are more picky than others on what that form should be. Just think of all the ructions new visual art styles from Monet and Manet and Picasso caused when really it was just people putting paint on a wall. I have been to a few get togethers and we've had ukes, steel guitar, trumpet, sax, clarinet along with the usual harmonicas and guitars. We usually degenerate into low grade, messy blues, of course, but in the end it's just people having fun, making music and true musicians know that.

Cooper Black
04-29-2012, 12:43 PM
Jumping right in with my first post! LOL It's a doosey! So ...

I went to a picking party yesterday evening and brought along a piece of Aloha aquired on vacation, a Kanile'a K-1CSF. I've been playing guitar and other string-family stuff most of my life, but the uke is a brand new instrument to me, and I'm finding it a joy in every way.

I personally come from the Left-Coast Hardly-Strictly-Strawberry-School-of-Bluegrass. But this is Asheville, NC so even an open-minded jam will have traditional Bluegrass leanings. Last night was full of excellent musicians from a wide range of styles; various guitars, good singers all around, accordion, harmonica, percussion, carinet, onto which I added ukulele (with some trepidation). Bluegrass Rules framed our jam, but this was a social porch event, very inclusive.

It's always best to jam with better players than yourself; last night was an opportunity to hone my barely-existent uke skills, things like playing outside the key of C! Someone here at UU gave general-newbie-advice to the effect of: use your pointer-finger for barres and not much else; without that tip I would have faltered. Applying it, I was able to move into most any key I needed and even explore simple melodies and double stops.

Retuning to Topic of Bluegrass-Uke: Bluegrass wants certain instruments to do certain things at certain times. The important part of those rules is how everyone supports each other to create a common, driving rhythm. Whenever the mandolin player took a break, I emphasised my chunk/chop with short, tight chording. When the guitarsit took a break, I used more open voicings and let the strumming ring. Fingerpicked chords sounded nice in the mix, as we had no banjo player. Certain uke-like things also worked well, sliding into chords from a half-step below, swing syncopations, hammer-ons.

Nothing quite like getting drop-kicked into the swimming pool! I sang songs-not-in-C last night, and woke up an uke player this morning.

Conclusion: The uke can be a nice chameleon in a jam setting! It ain't Bluegrass, so I would not bring one to a public jam and expect to get very far into the circle. OTOH: It can be done.

Final Word: Use the right tool for the job. The ukulele is no serious match for resonator banjos, fiddles and a heavy-handed mandolin. I was on a porch with our audience nearby on the lawn ... an un-amplified barn dance would have kept my uke in its case for good reason.

Hello UU! Your happy new member,

- Mike

Steedy
04-29-2012, 01:15 PM
Wow, what a great first post! To quote: "Bluegrass wants certain instruments to do certain things at certain times..."

Never thought about it like that, but I think you hit the nail on the head. Bluegrass music is sort of like the ukulele in that it's easy to play, but difficult to play really well.

Bluegrass is also kind of a family tradition (dare I say a clannish thing). Where I live, most of the Bluegrass crowd was born into it, grew up playing it, now live and breathe it, and they all know the same million plus songs. I can't begin to jam with them. :(

There's a place for the Bluegrass purists and followers of Bill Monroe, but Bluegrass music has also evolved and adapted with the times as with the Earl Scruggs Revue, John Hartford, the Newgrass Revival, and many others. Heck, even rock groups like the Byrds and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were heavy into Bluegrass and (gasp!) Country music.

That's the coolest thing about music, there's something in it for everyone! :)

Plainsong
04-29-2012, 02:00 PM
That was a great first post there Cooper! And I think you're philosophy works for music in general. Much about making music is about listening to the people you're playing with, using that critical ear and responding appropriately. The style of music has more to do with how you play, than the instrument you play it on. The instrument is just down to personal preference. :)

I haven't been to Ashville in ages. We stayed at the Grove Park Inn and the entire trip was just lovely. There was a bluegrass jam but I didn't get a chance to go. Did go riding in the mountains, though.