The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Bluegrass music

Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music with its own roots in the English, Irish traditional music and Scottish traditional music of immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scotch-Irish immigrants of Appalachia), as well as the music of African-American slaves. It was this tradition that A.P. Carter used and collected for the songs played and written by the Carter Family. Bluegrass songs are played with each melody instrument switching off, playing the melody in turn while the others revert to backing; this is in contrast to Old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together, when indeed they are playing together rather than solo.

Stylistic origins: Country music, Scotch-Irish Appalachian folk music, Blues
Cultural origins: Mid to late 1940s US
Typical instruments: Fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro, and upright bass
Mainstream popularity: very limited
Newgrass - Progressive bluegrass - Spacegrass - Supergrass
Jam band
Other topics

Bluegrass as a style probably developed sometime in the 1930s. As with any musical genre, no one person can claim to have "invented" it. Rather, bluegrass is an amalgam of old-time music, blues, ragtime and jazz. Nevertheless, there is clearly a founding father, Bill Monroe. The bluegrass style was named for his band, the Blue Grass Boys , formed in 1939. Monroe's 1945-48 band, which featured banjo player Earl Scruggs, singer/guitarist Lester Flatt, fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Cedric Rainwater, created the definitive sound and instrumental configuration that remains the model to this day. Unlike mainstream country music, bluegrass continues to rely on acoustic stringed instruments. The fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar or folk guitar, mandolin, and upright bass are sometimes joined by the dobro (also known as a resophonic guitar or steel guitar), and a bass guitar is occasionally substituted for the upright bass.

Besides instrumentation, the distinguishing characteristics of bluegrass include vocal harmonies featuring two, three, or four parts, often featuring a dissonant or modal sound in the highest voice; an emphasis on traditional songs, often with sentimental or religious themes; and improvised instrumental solos.

Notable artists:

The following are/were also notable bluegrass artists, despite being better known for their contributions to other musical genres:

Movies about bluegrass or featuring bluegrass themes:

American roots music
Appalachian | Blues (Ragtime) | Cajun and Creole (Zydeco) | Country (Honky tonk and Bluegrass) | Jazz | Native American | Spirituals and Gospel | Tejano

Country music | Country genres
Bakersfield sound - Bluegrass - Close harmony - Country blues - Honky tonk - Jug band - Lubbock sound - Nashville sound - Outlaw country
Alternative country - Country rock - Psychobilly - Rockabilly
Styles of American folk music
Appalachian | Blues (Ragtime) | Cajun and Creole (Zydeco) | Country (Honky tonk and Bluegrass) | Jazz | Native American | Spirituals and Gospel | Tejano

Last updated: 02-07-2005 11:24:52
Last updated: 05-03-2005 02:30:17