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Sep 22, 2021 - 5:55:27 AM
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19 posts since 9/21/2021

Hey guys. Sorry if this isn't the correct place to be asking this, and apologies if I'm being inept here. I've always enjoyed these types of music, but haven't known many specific artists, groups, or songs for the most part. Even more, since I became interested in the banjo, I'm starting to realize that I may not know the real definitions of these genres and types of music!

What is the difference between Bluegrass and Appalachian music? Is Americana under the same umbrella as Appalachian? And Old Time?

Are 'String Bands' considered Americana music? Can they be bluegrass too?

Sorry if these are inept, but I really enjoy the older music of Old Crow Medicine Show, Dave Rawlings Machine, and the soundtrack of Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

I'm learning clawhammer on the banjo and trying to engulf my mind in it, but don't want to be focusing on bluegrass songs/acts while trying to learn old Appalachian tunes. I'd also appreciate you suggestions on who to listen to first as I learn these genres!!

I appreciate the input here!
Al

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 09/22/2021 12:34:36

Sep 22, 2021 - 6:20:22 AM
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YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

416 posts since 5/11/2021

Great question. I'm looking forward to this thread!

My 2 cents: Genre labels are tools used by salesman for marketing music. They're not really musical terms themselves, and they don't adequately describe anything other than where in the store to put the CD. I think when we try to describe music, it's more useful to describe instrumentation, rhythms, and influences, rather than use marketing terms.

Sep 22, 2021 - 6:33:25 AM
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11010 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

Great question. I'm looking forward to this thread!

My 2 cents: Genre labels are tools used by salesman for marketing music. They're not really musical terms themselves, and they don't adequately describe anything other than where in the store to put the CD. I think when we try to describe music, it's more useful to describe instrumentation, rhythms, and influences, rather than use marketing terms.


Big "like" for this. Follow the money!

Musicologists attempt to define...but music is a moving target that crosses categories at the least whim and without caring.

Sep 22, 2021 - 6:55:29 AM
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3897 posts since 3/28/2008

That said--

"Appalachian" would refer, technically, to a specifically defined region. Many of the founders of the bluegrass genre--e.g., Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Chubby Wise--came from outside the bounds of Appalachia (as strictly defined). Appalachia was/is home to some pretty diverse musical traditions, and shares much of that with other regions.

Bluegrass is a style of commercial country music that originated with the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s, and was soon adopted by other musicians. Despite its use of traditional material, it was NOT, initially, a traditional style. (One could argue, though, that in the decades since its inception, it has become one.) Like all genres it has spread out into a spectrum of subgenres. I don't want to get into the sticky mess of trying to define what it is and isn't, but at the core of the genre (right at the center-pole of the "big tent") is the stuff we all agree is bluegrass.

"Old time" is usually used to refer to the vernacular music played by white, rural, southern working-class people before and during the infancy of the recording industry. The term had been around for years, but the record companies seized on it as a way to distinguish some of their products from the more urban, pop material. Many nowadays think of "old time" as meaning "pre-bluegrass", but of course people have continued to play it up to the present day.

Americana is--actually, who the heck knows?!? This one is almost exclusively an invented marketing term. The others seem to have grown up more organically, at least by comparison.

The tricky thing--well, ONE tricky thing about a discussion like this--is that words end up meaning whatever people use them to mean. If millions of folks, for example, use "bluegrass" to mean ANY music that has a banjo, there is little that we bluegrass or banjo enthusiasts can do to set them straight, ultimately.

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 09/22/2021 06:56:04

Sep 22, 2021 - 6:59:43 AM

m06

England

10366 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Alrashid2


What is the difference between Bluegrass and Appalachian music? Is Americana under the same umbrella as Appalachian? And Old Time?
 


Musically? Feel.

And culturally - the interweaving of history, musical migration, ethnic integration and indigenous culture. Which can be shortened to people and place; and shortened further to community.

The too-neat, distinct labels create an illusion of separateness which is misleading and unhelpful. Both share common roots, and at grassroots level there is more overlap than difference.

That said, each has identifiable structural features within which strongly contribute to creative energy and identity.

Edited by - m06 on 09/22/2021 07:16:01

Sep 22, 2021 - 7:22:35 AM
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m06

England

10366 posts since 10/5/2006

The tendency in modern society is to artificially create niches and compartmentalise. That is a by-product of access and disconnection.

If you go to the communities where the music has been played for generations that artificial reshaping and niche mentality has less influence on the music (it’s still evident even there though).

Undeniably what we know today is a product of the folk revival of the 1950's and 60's. Rare are the examples of unbroken creative lineage. Most today have rediscovered and made deliberate choices.

Edited by - m06 on 09/22/2021 07:29:52

Sep 22, 2021 - 7:55:22 AM
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58226 posts since 12/14/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

That said--

"Appalachian" would refer, technically, to a specifically defined region. Many of the founders of the bluegrass genre--e.g., Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Chubby Wise--came from outside the bounds of Appalachia (as strictly defined). Appalachia was/is home to some pretty diverse musical traditions, and shares much of that with other regions.

Bluegrass is a style of commercial country music that originated with the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s, and was soon adopted by other musicians. Despite its use of traditional material, it was NOT, initially, a traditional style. (One could argue, though, that in the decades since its inception, it has become one.) Like all genres it has spread out into a spectrum of subgenres. I don't want to get into the sticky mess of trying to define what it is and isn't, but at the core of the genre (right at the center-pole of the "big tent") is the stuff we all agree is bluegrass.

"Old time" is usually used to refer to the vernacular music played by white, rural, southern working-class people before and during the infancy of the recording industry. The term had been around for years, but the record companies seized on it as a way to distinguish some of their products from the more urban, pop material. Many nowadays think of "old time" as meaning "pre-bluegrass", but of course people have continued to play it up to the present day.

Americana is--actually, who the heck knows?!? This one is almost exclusively an invented marketing term. The others seem to have grown up more organically, at least by comparison.

The tricky thing--well, ONE tricky thing about a discussion like this--is that
words end up meaning whatever people use them to mean. If millions of folks, for example, use "bluegrass" to mean ANY music that has a banjo, there is little that we bluegrass or banjo enthusiasts can do to set them straight, ultimately.


Sep 22, 2021 - 8:13:05 AM

19 posts since 9/21/2021

Thanks all for the great discussion and knowledge sharing. This helps me a ton.

Can I ask you guys, if I want to start learning to music that incorporates Clawhammer playing, what well-known acts should I listen to? What are some of the main traditional tunes to check out?

Also, I might be jumping the gun here, but what are the easier, base songs I should plan to start learning once I get the techniques down?

Sep 22, 2021 - 8:29:12 AM
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8988 posts since 8/28/2013
Online Now

Learn the tunes you most enjoy. It's the music that matters, not it's so-called "genre."

Sep 22, 2021 - 8:56:18 AM
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m06

England

10366 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Alrashid2

Thanks all for the great discussion and knowledge sharing. This helps me a ton.

Can I ask you guys, if I want to start learning to music that incorporates Clawhammer playing, what well-known acts should I listen to? What are some of the main traditional tunes to check out?

Also, I might be jumping the gun here, but what are the easier, base songs I should plan to start learning once I get the techniques down?


The FRC provide a wonderful archive resource of original recordings that are available to buy on cd or download. Wade Ward, Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed, Hobart Smith, Gaither Carlton, Sidna Myers are all there among many others.

https://fieldrecorder.org/shop/

The tunes you want to learn will find you from the listening you do. Learn the ones you like best, it's about having fun. In time you may want to learn tunes based on their regionality and link to place - particularly the players and tunes that were local to where you live. And if you jam with others that is another spur to learning the tunes that are regular at that session. The listening and learning never stops.

That you are keen to listen is probably the biggest asset you have right now. And what joy awaits...smiley

Edited by - m06 on 09/22/2021 09:08:06

Sep 22, 2021 - 9:14:47 AM
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YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

416 posts since 5/11/2021

I'll try to be more helpful, because the truth is that you're going to get some very esoteric answers here.

There's no such thing as "easy songs" or "hard songs". There's easy and hard versions of almost any song. How you learn is by getting the basic stuff down and then slowly adding in more complex techniques. Common "beginner" songs include Cripple Creek, Boil 'em Cabbage Down, Cluck Old Hen, and Soldiers Joy. You can start there. But there's lots more than that. 


Check out these artists:

  • Laurel Premo (Red Tail Ring)
  • Clifton Hicks
  • Adam Hurt
  • Old Man Luedecke
  • Chris Coole
Sep 22, 2021 - 9:51:43 AM
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19 posts since 9/21/2021

Thanks guys for the suggestions.

I ended up finding this huge album on Spotify too that I'm really digging so far.

open.spotify.com/album/1BeXY0D..._branch=1

Sep 22, 2021 - 10:31:16 AM

129 posts since 6/5/2006

Clawhammer banjo performances are easier to hear today because of Youtube so its a good time to be learning.
Open YouTube and search for some of the following names (in no particular order; I've just saved videos from them for reference), then click on their name to see their home page. Click "Videos" and play some of them. You can also subscribe. By clicking the little cog wheel in the videos you can slow it down without changing the notes. This is the fastest and easiest way to learn. Tabs are for licks you just can't seem to figure out.

Also search for Clifftop on YouTube.
Also go to the iTunes store, search for "clawhammer banjo" and choose Clawhammer Banjo Vol 1, 2 & 3 (especially Kyle Creed & Wade Ward) click "See All" to see more like Ken Perlman ... but much of the modern solo clawhammer stuff isn't very good (not every tune needs to win a banjo contest) and some of it's even dreadful. Avoid learning Cripple Creek; it'll drive everyone nuts.


 

Edited by - restreet on 09/22/2021 10:39:14

Sep 22, 2021 - 1:13:50 PM

19 posts since 9/21/2021

Thanks for the comprehensive list! Will add these to the artists to study and enjoy.

In regards to Cripple Creek - is that because it's overplayed? ha! Or is it actually a bad tune to start off learning?

Sep 22, 2021 - 1:23:34 PM
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banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

11563 posts since 2/22/2007

Labels?

Americana is country music that is too country for Country Radio, along with some rock music that they don't know where else to put it.
Appalachian music is country music that is too country for any radio.
Old Time is the hillbilly string band music before 12/8/45
Bluegrass is the hillbilly string band music that began on 12/8/45, I know because I read it on the plaque!  devil

Sep 22, 2021 - 1:26:57 PM

569 posts since 5/22/2021

Pete Seeger has a lot of great old folk ballads! He believed, in following Woody Guthrie's footsteps, to combine both the old and the new: it did not have the one or the other when it comes down to songs :)

Sep 22, 2021 - 3:44:39 PM
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1817 posts since 7/4/2009

Ira's got it right.

Sep 23, 2021 - 8:45:41 AM
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58226 posts since 12/14/2005

I had the WRONG character in mind!

It wasn't the CATERPILLAR at all.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all.”

====================

My apologies to all the caterpillars, slugs, and bugs whom I may have offended.

Sep 23, 2021 - 9:34:52 AM

2786 posts since 2/10/2013

If a player has a question about "old time" music, posting the question on the "Fiddler Hangout" website would probably result in more informative replies. Quite a few of the people on that website are playing that type of music, and have definitive ideas about what constitutes that type of music.

Sep 23, 2021 - 9:55:31 AM
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1817 posts since 7/4/2009

Quite a few people on the Banjo Hangout are also playing old-time music, and have definitive ideas about what constitutes that type of music.

At the risk of being redundant (again, look at Ira's post, but I was at lunch when I saw this thread and got home late, so never replied properly), here's how I define those terms:

Appalachian music - music from the Appalachian mountains. People usually mean Appalachian folk music, old-time, or bluegrass, but technically there can be Appalachian music of any genre.

Old-time - the old-time name for real mountain-type folk music or for some very early recorded commercial country music. My only disagreement with Ira is the characterization of it as "white." Old-time music was and is being played by African-Americans, but for reasons that could take a thread of their own, very few Black performers with an old-time repertoire had those songs documented on records. Now, the participation by African-Americans in any country-style music other than blues is very rare.

For more on old-time music, here's Mike Seeger.

Bluegrass - a subgenre of commercial country music created by Bill Monroe and his band and the bands inspired by them.

Americana doesn't mean much.

A stringband is simply a band made up solely or mainly of string instruments. Most old-time bands are stringbands, and all bluegrass bands are.

Sep 23, 2021 - 10:53:31 AM
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3897 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

 

Old-time - the old-time name for real mountain-type folk music or for some very early recorded commercial country music. My only disagreement with Ira is the characterization of it as "white." Old-time music was and is being played by African-Americans, but for reasons that could take a thread of their own, very few Black performers with an old-time repertoire had those songs documented on records. Now, the participation by African-Americans in any country-style music other than blues is very rare.

 

An important point! But note that I said the term was "usually used to refer to..." etc. I think that much is indeed true.

Sep 24, 2021 - 12:21:38 AM

Paul R

Canada

14987 posts since 1/28/2010

We used to use the all-encompassing term "folk music", which included any form of home-grown or indigenous music. Then it got muddled with songwriters who wrote and played in styles similar to previously defined "folk". (Of course, someone had to write the original songs that had been altered by the "folk process".)

The music industry has always used terms to pigeonhole and market product. "Hillbilly" became "country", which today doesn't sound "country" at all. "Race" became blues became r&b, soul, and whatever terms they use today. "Americana" seems to be an evolution of "roots" which itself was a more commercially accepted (I assume) term than "folk", which is probably seen as old-fashioned and not as marketable (although "folk" festivals are still a going thing, or were until the pandemic came along). Just my opinion.

Sep 24, 2021 - 8:48:28 PM
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John Yerxa

Australia

11 posts since 9/13/2021

My friend Sam here in Oz says "Americana" is a type of Barista coffee:)

Whatever terminology you use I think it's helpful to distinguish what is fundamentally "concert" music and music that is meant to be danced to. I've always imagined what settings people made music in prior to radio and recorded music - primarily work (eg sea shanties, cotton field singing), church (harmony gospel), socials and barn dances (reels, breakdowns, waltzes) and sitting around the kitchen table after supper (ballads, novelty songs, brother duets, etc.). Part of Bill Monroe's genius was in cooking up all of these elements - with a healthy dash of blues- into a compelling concert style that became a whole genre.

Some people use the term "Appalachian" to mean a regional style (AKA Round Peak) specific to the southern Virgina/Western North Carolina mountains - and there certainly is a deep and vigerous tradition there - but forget that the Appalachian mountains run from Maine to Georgia, with all the various regional influences that implies. In fact there are distinct regional styles everywhere, from loosy-goosy Georgia, to slippery raggy Mississippi, to smooth jazzy Texas and beyond.

I refer to what I do as "Old Time Music", with no apologies for being heavily influenced by California friends and transplanted Missourians around Seattle in the 70s, and listening widely to styles everywhere. At the end of the day, when I sit down with a fiddler or three I just try to make a groove, don't worry about what it's called.

Sep 26, 2021 - 10:58:36 PM
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805 posts since 10/4/2018

Everything has been pretty well explained, I will add that I think Americana is Pop music by a string band. In general, it isn't rooted in any tradition, except maybe "folk music",which hasn't been real folk music since the folk revivals in the mid 20th century. It is young people trying to make commercially viable music on stringed instruments.

Here's a definition you didn't ask for. Folk music: The music made by the people of a country or an area of a country that is passed down from generation to generation and usually of unknown authorship. Not the acoustic pop music that is touted as Folk Music as performed by protest singers since the 1950s.

Sep 27, 2021 - 9:40:15 AM

chief3

Canada

1130 posts since 10/26/2003

For all intents and purpose, "Bluegrass", as demonstrated by Bill Monroe, has a backbeat.

Sep 27, 2021 - 10:27:18 AM

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

416 posts since 5/11/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Good Buddy

Everything has been pretty well explained, I will add that I think Americana is Pop music by a string band. In general, it isn't rooted in any tradition, except maybe "folk music",which hasn't been real folk music since the folk revivals in the mid 20th century. It is young people trying to make commercially viable music on stringed instruments.

Here's a definition you didn't ask for. Folk music: The music made by the people of a country or an area of a country that is passed down from generation to generation and usually of unknown authorship. Not the acoustic pop music that is touted as Folk Music as performed by protest singers since the 1950s.


This kind of reminds me of the definition of "Indie Music". Is it a genre, or is it a marketing/distribution model? Both, and neither, it seems. 

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