Re: [Harp-L] Bluegrass
I am a fourth generation bluegrass player and I'm also from the south, where
people take bluegrass music very seriously. This notion that the body of
bluegrass musicians is primarily comprised of elitists who reject the harmonica
out-of-hand is without merit and an urban legend of our own creation. I used to
buy into that idea myself and backed it up with my own personal experiences,
until I sat down and looked at it realistically. I can think of very few times I
even got a look or something and I've played with hundreds of bluegrass
musicians. There are jackasses in every genre of music. Yet, we magnify that
jackassery and use it to create an unrealistic view of an entire body of
musicians. Overall, they respect musicianship. It's as simple as that.
One observation I'll mention is that the people who are closed minded about
harmonicas and dismiss it without hearing you are generally not very good and
other bluegrass musicians might not like them either. Those people are in every
crowd, I don't care what you're playing.
I remember one time I went down to Bill Duncan's house. Bill played with my
grandpa back in the 1950s and was one of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys later on.
I brought my harmonicas and mandolin. I played the mandolin for a while, I was a
little scared to pull out the harmonicas, until he said "why don't you let me
play that mandolin and you blow on the harps for a while." That's when I started
to think this idea of bluegrassers hating harmonicas was unfounded. Now I
believe, it's something mostly of our own own manufacturing, based on the
expressions of a minority of jackasses, whom we've let speak for the whole.
Bluegrass musicians are surprisingly TOLERANT OF BAD AND MEDIOCRE HARMONICA
PLAYING. They will get all excited about harmonica, even if it's not very good.
I've seen that happen probably 20 times for every time I've seen even a
anti-harmonica look. Harmonica players are generally given a great deal of
leeway and understanding that those playing other instruments don't enjoy. A
great number of novice players have a huge issue when they play bluegrass and
rarely called on it (chord rhythm is always the first thing I teach my
students) and noodle around when they should be playing a simple rhythm. I think
the bluegrass musicians are so understanding about it because they don't know
the harmonica is capable of a chord rhythm. If a guitar player noodled around
like that, he'd get the same looks, but probably a talking to as well. If you do
find yourself among the minority of haters, you'll shut them down once you
demonstrate an ability to play rhythm.
These chords below will get you through chording 95 percent of bluegrass songs.
On songs with other chords, you can switch between two diatonics, to get the
extra chord needed.
I chord - 234 draw
I7 chord 2345 draw
IV chord any three blow notes.
V chord - double stop tongue block octave 1 and 4 draw (it works better than the
456 draw Vm chord)
VI chord (relative minor) 1 and 2 blow.
Or you can just add a chord harmonica to you arsenal of axes. I used to play
rhythm on diatonics. Anymore, I use the 48 chord, then switch to diatonics or
sometimes a chromatic for lead, then go back to the 48. Bluegrassers love the 48
chord! I mean love it. When I play with guys I haven't played with before, they
are always amazed that it even exists. I keep it in a modified mandolin case. It
goes the same way every time, I say "Check out my mandolin" they open the case,
then there's shock while they figure out what it is, then they are impressed by
what it does.
Here's a little something I did with Steve Williams, Roy Clark Jr. and George
Hauser, on the 48 chord. If I were using diatonics I would be playing the same
thing pretty much. It was Roy's turn to shine, my job was to lay down the beat.
If you know what your job is at any given moment and do it, you will go far in
the bluegrass community and the same goes for any genre.
Also, if anybody is interested, I did make four bluegrass 48 chord lessons and
put them on Youtube a few weeks ago. Here's the first one:
There's a lot of potential for the 48 chord in bluegrass.
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