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Geek99

Has anyone played bluegrass bass?

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I don’t have an upright, just a jazz bass and a precision. I’d thought about putting a sponge under the strings near the bridge ? 
 

chap I spoke to today plays telecaster and his buddy plays banjo; I’m toying with asking if I can join although I know nothing about bluegrass. 

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26 minutes ago, Geek99 said:

I don’t have an upright, just a jazz bass and a precision. I’d thought about putting a sponge under the strings near the bridge ? 
 

chap I spoke to today plays telecaster and his buddy plays banjo; I’m toying with asking if I can join although I know nothing about bluegrass. 

Root and fifth old chap, root and fifth.

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8 hours ago, Geek99 said:

I don’t have an upright, just a jazz bass and a precision. I’d thought about putting a sponge under the strings near the bridge ? 
 

chap I spoke to today plays telecaster and his buddy plays banjo; I’m toying with asking if I can join although I know nothing about bluegrass. 

Traditionally bluegrass was played on all acoustic instruments, (with double bass and a dreadnought acoustic being standard kit ) so a Tele and a Fender bass aren’t strictly authentic.  Of course this doesn’t matter if that isn’t the route you’re going down - in my country band I used to use a bass uke to get an upright-ish sound on bluegrass tunes and it did the job well. I reckon your sponged Precision will do fine until you decide how the band may develop.

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It’s not really a band, more a jam, I think and kids and a wreck house have prevented me playing with anyone or even at all to speak of,  for nearly four years . I don’t care if it’s simple stuff I can always add walking or beat 2 /4 occasionally 

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1 minute ago, Geek99 said:

It’s not really a band, more a jam, I think and kids and a wreck house have prevented me playing with anyone or even at all to speak of,  for nearly four years . I don’t care if it’s simple stuff I can always add walking or beat 2 /4 occasionally 

Sounds good then, go for it! Nothing wrong with simple stuff either. Good luck.

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I did 10 yrs of UK Americana and we did a few bluegrass sets. I wound up on the upright bass for most of those but the advice here is correct, lots of root / fifth. You can liven it up with the odd cheeky run. Foam under the bridge and roll back the tone a bit, coupled with flatwound strings and you will be in the right area. And don't use a pick if you are after that sound.

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I don't recall his name, but there was a guy in the 80s playing electric bass for some of the big bluegrass artists at the time. It does change the feel a little, but still makes for good music! I'm sure Vince Gill has played some bluegrass on his Tele at some point too.

Bluegrass is a funny old genre, many proponents can be very traditionally minded when it was really fomented as a backward-looking, but quite urbane, sophisticated music from the 1940s. Wonderful stuff, though.

I have played some electric on Bluegrass-esque tunes for an Americana band, too. Flats'n'foam, playing toward the neck with a little more of the meat on the side of your finger, and keeping it simple all help. Don't worry about too many notes, but think in terms of the feel and the 'pulse'. I think of a bluegrass band a bit like a harmonised drum kit playing 2/4- the bass is the bass drum on the 1, the mandolin/fiddle the snare on the 2, the guitar backs those two up with its 'boom-chick' rhythm, and the banjo plays 16ths like a hi-hat. It's that strict interconnection which makes a good Bluegrass band and deviation (even the slightest) is where so many go wrong. There is room for some blistering virtuosity in the style, but only during solos, and with one instrument taking the melody at that point, the solid simplicity of the rest of the band is all the more important.

It's such a fun style and deeply evocative (arguably of something which never really existed), so enjoy- and a swig of something cheap and strong from a jam-jar always helps the session along, too!

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Familiarise yourself with classic Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys to learn the basic style and you'll fit in.  

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Is it like country ? 

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Yep..I’ve used EUB.  They want to see an acoustic, but if it does the job you’ll be mostly forgiven on a P bass with flats.  
 

Most important is play along with some of the old stuff, and 80’s revival.  It’s the feel and working together that makes it happen. 

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love the almost flanger / phaser overtones on the banjo... moves it in its own space...

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1 hour ago, Geek99 said:

Is it like country ? 

Not really, although both genres will inspire those of untrained ear to yell "Yee-haa" and do a little gold prospector dance when they hear them.

As NoRhino says, Bill Monroe is the originator of the style, so immersing yourself in him and the band is a pretty solid course in what bluegrass is at it's core.

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I did quite a few years ago and I just could not do it...Playing two beat felt like I was strangling myself, I could feel myself wanting to funk it up a bit, hopeless......Really admire those with the discipline to do it.

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10 hours ago, Geek99 said:

It’s not really a band, more a jam, I think and kids and a wreck house have prevented me playing with anyone or even at all to speak of,  for nearly four years . I don’t care if it’s simple stuff I can always add walking or beat 2 /4 occasionally 

Great job getting back out on the scene!  When my son turned 2 and I hadn't played in a band for years, but playing and gigging again got me some of my identity back.  I didn't only have Dad and Work mode, there was actually a bit of me left.

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If it's just for some fun jamming then it doesn't have to be strictly traditional bluegrass and some fun can be had with the basslines. Given that they aren't using traditional instruments then I see no reason for you to. Ignoring the boring regimented parameters of genres take a look at Bela Fleck & The Flecktones (what's known as 'New Grass' I think) and Victor Wooten is happy playing funky basslines on a far from traditional electric bass, and God only has knows what 'Future Man', Wooten's brother, is playing, a Synthaxedrumitar if memory serves. 

It has the traditionalists running for the mountains, oh hang on, they're already up there. 😉

 

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I've depped on bluegrass gigs a couple of times. It seems to really vary as to how purist people are in the UK - some will be happy with electric bass, and some will scowl at you if your double bass doesn't have gut strings!

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21 hours ago, gjones said:

Root and fifth old chap, root and fifth.

No need to complicate things with the fifth :)

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13 hours ago, Maude said:

If it's just for some fun jamming then it doesn't have to be strictly traditional bluegrass and some fun can be had with the basslines. Given that they aren't using traditional instruments then I see no reason for you to. Ignoring the boring regimented parameters of genres take a look at Bela Fleck & The Flecktones (what's known as 'New Grass' I think) and Victor Wooten is happy playing funky basslines on a far from traditional electric bass, and God only has knows what 'Future Man', Wooten's brother, is playing, a Synthaxedrumitar if memory serves. 

It has the traditionalists running for the mountains, oh hang on, they're already up there. 😉

 

The Flecktones are one of my favourite bands but they wouldn't be my first recommendation when it comes to Bluegrass. The influence is obviously there, but they can also fit in just as much with the Jazz/Funk/Fusion/Jam Band scene.

Bela Fleck's previous band, New Grass Revival, would be a better choice for a more modern take on Bluegrass. They were an excellent band.

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The Del McCoury Band is a good shout, too. Their version of Nashville Cats by The Lovin' Spoonful often pops into my head when I'm in a good mood!

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1 hour ago, Doddy said:

The Flecktones are one of my favourite bands but they wouldn't be my first recommendation when it comes to Bluegrass. The influence is obviously there, but they can also fit in just as much with the Jazz/Funk/Fusion/Jam Band scene.

Totally. It was more just showing you don't have to stick to the rules to still have a bluegrass vibe. 

Nothing wrong with sticking with traditional bluegrass either if that's what you want. 

 

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I go to the occasional Bluegrass gig and I’ve only ever seen a double bass or maybe no bass.

 

However seeing as it’s a jam and there’s already a tele in the mix hardly worth the layout😉 ( of cash and learning)

But a uke bass would be cheapish and not too hard to adapt to and would fit sound wise.

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