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Bluegrass Guitar Lessons: Listening and Common Sense

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Bluegrass Guitar

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up to a point now talking about rhythm
where we've discussed lots of basic ways
to play rhythm.
A little more advanced, a little more
enhanced ways to play rhythm and
ways to think about things.
And so it sorta begs the next level of
question is.
And how, how do I, how do I use this in a,
in a song?
Or when do I, when do I use these things
in a tune?
There's, there's you know, a lot of
I've, I've given you sort of a lot of
tools if you will
to apply to bluegrass rhythm at this
And and so again we're going to, I've got
some, some tunes coming up that we're
going to, we're going to you know, look at
specific instances of, of what to use but.
I thought it'd be good to have a little
bit of a talk here just about kinda,
some of the, some of the underlying
concepts of of what's going on here.
And if you think about it, bluegrass
rhythm is kinda like its own little,
you know, improvisational world, you know,
compared to soloing, which,
you know, uses a lot of knowledge of
and getting all around, thinking of
musical melodic ideas.
Rhythm is kind of its own improvisation.
Its own little dance within that of, and
some of the, some of the common sense
ideas that I wanna try to impart
are going to be you know, how to, how to
think about phrasing.
How to think and it's,
these are all things that improvisational
soloists think about.
And, and rhythm players can think about
the same thing.
It's sort of in a, in a mirror image of,
of, of, you know, if a soloist or
a vocalist is thinking about phrasing a
A rhythm player is going to be listening
that and the common sense that's derived
from that over time is that.
If they're doing this, I'm gonna lay back
for a little while.
In the middle of the phrase, I'm gonna
through in a G run or
I'm gonna through in you know, I'm gonna
add some, some more strum kinda things.
And that's ultimately where you get this
sorta dance back and forth.
Which is when you think about, you know,
small ensemble
acoustic music like bluegrass and old-time
and, and swing music.
One of the things that really makes it pop
as a, as a style is, you know,
you think about all these little, all
these little cogs.
All the little parts of the engine kind of
working together.
And as a, as a rhythm player I can help
you develop a sense of,
of where to use these things and how to
use these things.
And we're at a point where I think we can.
We can look at some tunes and
some specific instances and, and throw out
I, I can't just, I can't teach you common
If we could teach common sense my wife
would've taught me common sense
14 years ago.
She's still working on me.
So you know, it's one of these sort of
things that develop over time.
And, and one of the best ways is to just
jump into tunes.
And you can practice at a jam session,
you can practice playing with your buddies
around the house.
And and also when you're listening to
music, listen to it,
listen to some of your favorite
traditional or modern bluegrass
recordings, and you'll hear, especially,
you know, guys like Jimmy Martin, guys
like Del McCoury, Lester Flatt,
you'll hear them doing a lot of these
things that we're gonna talk about.
Because you know one of the more modern
sort of things that's going on in
bluegrass is that you have more dedicated
guitar players and more dedicated singers.
There was as an era where usually when you
think of Lester Flatt,
Jimmy Martin they were the lead singers
and the guitar players.
They didn't do a lot of lead stuff but
their, but
their rhythm style is important to their
sound because they would sing a phrase and
then follow it with some sort of
interesting rhythmic kind of component.
And a, they would, and, and by doing that
it created this sort of big
big picture and that's what we're going to
talk about is sort of the give and
take of, of melody and rhythm.
And and, and that's,
you know, being aware of that kind of
stuff opens the door to, you know, intro-,
common sense, you know where these things
can just fall.
So, you know, as you kind of develop this
stuff you,
you develop an instinct just the way an
You think of improvisation with, with
soloing, you know.
It doesn't, doesn't happen immediately.
You have to sort of try some things, you
have to realize.
Okay, this was not good.
I should've, you know, gone this way
instead of this way.
And so moving on from here, we're gonna,
we're gonna try to put a lot of these
things together.
With that, with that kind of idea in mind,
we're gonna try to move forward into some
tunes and really put these these concepts
to use.
One of the things you can do for
homework I, you can, consider this a
homework assignment.
Is to take your favorite bluegrass CD and,
really pay attention to nothing but the
rhythm guitar that's going on.
Some of the things I could, I could
recommend are the Tony Rice's
rhythm playing in the Bluegrass Album Band
Volume 1.
Yeah, it's a classic.
Listen to the the original recordings of
Lester Flatt, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs
listen to Jimmy Martin when he,
in the, in the recordings he made with
Bill Monroe.
Listen to Del McCoury and you're gonna
hear all these things and be aware and
every time that you, you, you hear a G
run, every time if, if you're new to this,
every time you hear a G run.
Pay attention to how it, how it falls in
the phrase and
what happens to the band around it.
And and we're gonna work on some of those
things now, but
that's, that's that's a good thing to do.
You can do it in your car.
It's good to put on a pair of headphones
just kinda dive into these kinds of
And you know, get, get your mind really
wrapped around the, the,
the possibilities of what you can do with
with you know, bluegrass rhythm.
That's, you know, where the basics behind
it are are listening and common sense.