View Full Version : Bluegrass and Acoustic shredding

04-18-2003, 02:08 AM
Hello everyone.

I was just wondering if anyone around here is a fan or player of bluegrass or any of its jazzier incarnations such as New Acoustic Music, Spacegrass, or Dawg music. While not completely unknown, it just seems like alot of the guitarists and artists in this genre get overlooked in many circles. Examples of artists in this genre.. Tony Rice, Norman Blake, Steve Kaufman, David Grisman, Richard Bennett, Gary Brewer, Clarence White... and so many more...

If anyone is interested in this style I'd be more than happy to provide some tabs, licks, pointers or general insight. As you may be able to tell, I love to blab, so feel free to contact me and let me talk your ear off.. lol


04-18-2003, 03:57 AM
I'm definitely interested in bluegrass!

If you have some tabs, please post them and list the CD it came from so I can go buy it. If at all possible, I'd like two or more songs from a single CD (I'm on a budget!)....

Maybe you could write an article for iBreathe on the basics of the style! That would be really cool!:D

04-18-2003, 11:53 AM
Hi there!

I'll put together a few tabs today that are from just one or two albums that will give an overall flavor of modern bluegrass guitar playing (or "flatpicking" as it is often called). In the meantime, I want to say a few words (or many words) about one aspect of bluegrass guitar, fiddle tunes. The sort of old time Scotch-Irish fiddle compositions are a gigantic part of the bluegrass sound and there are several competitions across the nation each year where flatpickers get together to display they're chops on these tunes. Fiddle tunes are a bit decpetive.. if you look at the tab of one it doesn't appear too intimidating, but one of the secrets is the amount of tone and phrasing work that must go into a song like this. Also, the mechanics of fiddle tune alternate picking may seem a little strange at first since it usually involved alot of moving between strings at a fairly good pace. Well, enough talk here is a tab of my version of an old fiddle tune called The Temperance Reel. Play it with a fairly hard right hand attack (on acoustic guitar of course..) and let as many notes ring as you can.

P.S. - I'll have some more tabs up this afternoon of the more bluesy type stuff and the bluegrass rhythm style....

04-18-2003, 06:32 PM
I’m going to do two posts on bluegrass guitar. The first on early bluegrass, focusing on rhythm guitar. The second on modern bluegrass guitar, focusing mostly on lead and fiddle tune playing in the style of Tony Rice. When I refer to a lick or passage that is tabbed it’ll show up in the power tab file under the indicated letter.

Bluegrass started as a blend of blues, ragtime, swing, Scotch-Irish fiddle tunes and gospel; in other words, music common in the rural south. These elements were first fused in the playing of Bill Monroe, a mandolin player and singer. I could go on and on about Bill and his influence on music but I’ll attempt to stay focused on the guitar work.
In early bluegrass the guitar almost always served as a rhythm instrument, bridging the sounds of the bass (usually playing on the 1st and 2nd beats) and the mandolin (playing on the 3rd and 4th beats). This rhythm showed up in the form of “sock” chords or “boom-chick” old time style. The focus was not on technique or fancy licks, but on keeping a solid groove. Example A shows a “sock” chord rhythm on a I-IV-I-V progression and example B shows the same progression in the “boom-chick” style.

The “boom-chick” style of playing gained more favor than the swing inflected “sock” chords and was soon embellished so it was not as monotonous. One of these embellishments is the famous “G-run” lick popular with many blues and country-western guitarists. It was used as an intro, an ending, and a turnaround. Example C shows several versions of the “G-run.” Note the Bb blues note; emphasis should be placed on the final open G. This lick is also called a Flatt Run after the guitarist Lester Flatt who used the G-run and several other similar licks to liven up his backup. Double strums, arpeggios, and a walking bass-line soon showed up in bluegrass guitar as each player added their influences. Example D shows a traditional bluegrass backup with embellishments.

You may have noticed that all of these examples are in the key of G. This is because the open G,C, and D chord shapes are the most common in bluegrass and the capo is used to change the key. Of course, G is not the only key used in bluegrass; in the other keys the same basic ideas apply: “boom-chink,” walking bass, and fill licks.

Guitar “solos” did exist in this early style and were pioneered by Maybelle Carter and the Carter Family. This style, sometimes called simple melodic playing, is basically the rhythm patterns with melody notes added. Example E shows the Carter Family classic Wildwood Flower. You’ll probably recognize the melody. This is a really stripped down and raw version allowing room for you to add your own embellishments.

Well, a few more words before I close this post. The early bluegrass style seems very basic and not very challenging mechanically. This is because the solos and fast passages were still primarily being played on fiddle, mandolin, and Scruggs style banjo. However, what the early bluegrass guitarists lacked in mechanics they more than made up for in pure tone and rhythmic drive. Early bluegrass is usually played on large bodied Dreadnaught and Jumbo style guitars from the Martin and Gibson companies. A Martin HD-28 is still considered the “standard” bluegrass guitar.

Until next time..

04-18-2003, 08:11 PM
Ok the second installment..

This time I’m focusing on bluegrass lead, especially that of Tony Rice since he has integrated most bluegrass and new acoustic styles into his playing. Bluegrass lead guitar playing started to show up as artists such as Don Reno, Doc Watson, and Clarence White began playing fiddle (Scotch-Irish sound) and mandolin (Monroe’s blues sound) style leads on the guitar. During the 60s folk revival, many bluegrass and old time musicians were rediscovered and this older music began to blend with contemporary folk, country, and even a bit of rock. A little later David Grisman and a few others started mixing modern jazz and international influences into bluegrass. Out of all these changes Tony Rice emerged with a unique blend of the old and new. He could hit the old time bluegrass sound full of blues notes like White, the smooth fiddle tune sound like Doc, and the spiritual phrasing and progression of Coltrane.

Ok, now for some actual music.
Example A is a Tony Rice style kickoff based on his intro to Freeborn Man on the album Guitar. The timing is not strict and this is made to be played loud. It’s in the key of G (capoed up to B); notice the blues notes and descending sequences. While not technically difficult, one should place the focus on tone and impact.

Example B is an easy lead to the fiddle tune Salt Creek which also appears on the Guitar album. Work on your alternate picking while still getting lots of bite into the string; this one is meant to be played fast. Capo on second fret.

Example C is a lick that works well over G and D. Tony has used it in several places, this one is based on the Your Love Is Like A Flower solo. Sweep the first four notes.

Example D is a jazzy line from the song Gasology from the Acoustics album. Phrasing should be clean and flowing. The Acoustics album isn’t really pure bluegrass, it’s closer to jazz but still has many elements of bluegrass. This style has been called New Acoustic Music and Spacegrass.

Example E is another lick from the Acoustics album. The song is Blues for Paradise. Note the sweeps and string skipping.

Well, that’s all for now. If anyone really likes this sort of stuff I’ll post more.

Wyll Watts

04-20-2003, 05:13 AM
Wow, your powertab skills are very impressive!

I'm just now getting around to analyzing the information you posted. Thank you, this is really awesome stuff!