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date: 08 April 2020

Bluegrass musiclocked

  • Neil V. Rosenberg

Extract

A style of American country music that grew in the 1940s from the music of Bill Monroe and his group, the Blue Grass Boys. It combines elements of dance, home entertainment and religious folk music of the rural South-east. A bluegrass band typically consists of four to seven individuals who sing and accompany themselves on acoustic string instruments: two rhythm instruments (guitar and double bass) and several melody instruments (fiddle, five-string banjo, mandolin, steel guitar and second guitar). Lead instrumentalists take solo breaks between verses of a song and provide a harmonic and rhythmic background often in a responsorial relationship to the vocal part. Instrumental works have alternating solos as in jazz. Notable performers who have initiated bluegrass instrumental techniques are Earl Scruggs (banjo) and Monroe (mandolin). The vocal range of bluegrass music is higher than most country music singing, often reaching c″. In vocal duets the second (tenor) part lies above the melody, trios include a baritone part below the melody, and in religious songs a fourth (bass) part is added. Usually these parts are harmonic, but in duets particularly they provide vocal counterpoint. The music is mostly in duple meter with emphasis on the offbeats. Tempos are generally fast: an average slow song has 160 crotchets per minute, a fast one 330....

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