Welcome to the Bluegrass Guitar Series! In this first lesson Steve covers some bluegrass basics. This includes history, which picks to use, and more. Steve gets you playing right away by teaching the foundation of most bluegrass guitar parts -- the bass/chop rhythm.
Taught by Steve Eulberg in Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg seriesLength: 16:00Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
The roots of early bluegrass can be found around the early 1920’s in the southern United States. Bluegrass emerged as a synthesis of many genres popular at the time combined with traditional music. The Scotts-Irish in the Appalachian region combined their traditional music with popular American styles such as blues, country, jazz, and ragtime. Bill Monroe is widely known as the father of bluegrass since the genre’s name was derived from the name of his band, The Blue Grass Boys. The sound of bluegrass is also often associated with the banjo picking of Earl Scruggs. Both of these acts are must listens in order to hear the fundamental musical techniques of bluegrass.B. Instrumentation of Traditional Bluegrass bands
As Steve mentions, the guitar is the backbone instrument of a bluegrass band. In bands that do not feature a drummer, the role of timekeeper falls upon the bass player. However, many traditional bluegrass bands do not have a bass player. As a result, the role of bass player, timekeeper, and rhythmic accompanist all fall upon the guitarist. This is possible since the guitar’s range overlaps somewhat with the four string bass.C. Bass Chop Technique
The mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, four string banjo, and vocalists typically join the guitar in a bluegrass band. Occasionally, a resonator guitar is added to the lineup. Resonator guitars are most typically referred to by the popular Dobro brand name. Most bluegrass bands feature three or four part vocal harmony. The lead singer typically has a high, nasal voice. He or she sings a high, nasal melody line above the primary melody.
Before you begin to practice the bass/chop technique, some slight right hand adjustments need to be made. When playing bluegrass, a heavy pick must be used. This is due to several factors. Bluegrass is primarily played on a steel string acoustic guitar. Thin picks will cause a plastic, clicking sound when they strike steel strings. Also, a heavy pick will create a clearer tone when playing low bass notes. This is especially important when a guitarist fulfills the role of bass player. Finally, the right hand wrist must be kept as loose and relaxed at all times. The bluegrass genre requires frequent, rapid strumming. You run the risk of dropping your pick or having your wrist lock up if you do not keep it relaxed.Chapter 3: (8:44) Flavor and Speed A. Bass Chop Exercise
Many styles of musical composition such as the march feature an emphasis on the so-called “downbeats” or beats 1 and 3. These accents create a very rigid, deliberate rhythm. However, many popular American styles such as jazz and rock and roll feature an emphasis on the “backbeat,” or beats 2 and 4. The emphasis on beats 2 and 4 gives a style its terpsichorean quality. If one of the performers in a bluegrass group flips the beat and begins emphasizing beats 1 and 3, the music will loose all of its rhythmic impact, and the audience will cease to dance.
The bass/chop technique may seem sound quite elaborate and difficult, but it is rather easy to perform. Start by fingering the basic open G chord that you learned from Phase 1 lessons. On beats 1 and 3, play the low G of the chord. On beats 2 and 4, strum all of the notes in the guitar chord with the exception of the bass note. A slight accent should be placed on these beats. Beats 2 and 4 comprise the “chop” portion of the bass chop technique. Observe Steve closely for a great example of how this technique should sound. As always, begin at a very slow tempo and gradually work your way up to the tempo that Steve initially demonstrates the bass/chop with.
Now that you have mastered the bare basics of the bass/ chop Steve demonstrates a great exercise that will take this technique to the next level. This basic exercise combines the bass/chop with a full chord progression. The progression is four bars long. Here is a measure by measure breakdown of the chords:B. “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain”Bar 1: GOnce again, the bass note of each chord should be played on beats 1 and 3. Be careful when you get to the C chord. You will have to avoid strumming the low E string. When playing D, you will have to avoid strumming both the low E and A strings.
Bar 2: C
Bar 3: D
Bar 4: G<
This basic traditional song will put what you learned in the last exercise into a practical musical context. Once again, the G, C, and D chords are used for this tune. Here is a breakdown of all the chord changes.C. "She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” Part IIBar 1: Beats 1 and 2-G Beats 3 and 4- C Be careful of this first measure! Each chord only lasts 2 beats.Once again, the bass note will be played on beats 1 and 3. The chop will occur on beats 2 and 4. For example, in measure 1, the bass of the G chord will land on 1. The chop of the G chord occurs on beat 2. Beat 3 is now the bass note of the C chord. Finally, beat 4 is the chop of the C chord.
Bar 2: G
Bar 3: G
Bar 4: D
Bar 5: G
Bar 6: C
Bar 7: D
Bar 8: G
The rhythm of this song sounds a little too empty compared to most traditional bluegrass songs. For this reason, a bass and chop will now be played within the space of every beat. Previously, all the notes you were playing were quarter notes. Now, all of the rhythms will be played in eighth notes. The bass note is now played on the first eighth note of each beat. The second eighth note of each beat is the chop. Watch how Steve plays these rhythms very carefully. Pause the lesson, and practice the song several times by yourself. Once you are ready, try to play along with Steve.D. Final Thoughts
The bass/chop technique is the rhythmic foundation to bluegrass guitar playing. The following lessons will continue to expand upon this important fixture in the bluegrass genre. Do not proceed to the following lessons until you have mastered all of the exercises in Lesson 1.
Bluegrass is one of the most recognizable styles of guitar. Some refer to bluegrass as a celebration of the simple things in life. Dive into this series to learn the essential components of the bluegrass guitar style.
Steve demonstrates basic, essential bluegrass techniques. In this lesson, you will learn the bass/chop technique.Length: 16:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Now that you have the bass/chop down, Steve demonstrates additional bluegrass techniques.Length: 21:06 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Steve takes our bluegrass song one step further in this lesson. He demonstrates how to play a walking bass line between chords.Length: 21:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
In this lesson, Steve discusses hammer-ons and pull-offs and how they are used in the bluegrass genre.Length: 33:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Steve explains double picking, also known as alternate picking. He teaches a scale that enables you to play an awesome bluegrass lick.Length: 30:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Steve teaches a widely used bluegrass lick.Length: 22:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
In this lesson Steve teaches a descending bluegrass lick.Length: 34:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Steve gives tips on playing a melody line in the bluegrass genre.Length: 37:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Steve demonstrates how you can use "closed chord" voicings in order to raise the octave of the melody. Great lesson!Length: 38:00 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Steve demonstrates some bluegrass licks that serve as introductions, endings, and transitions within a song.Length: 23:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Steve Eulberg teaches a classic bluegrass song entitled "I Am a Pilgrim." He covers strumming, the melody, and walking bass lines.Length: 28:57 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Steve teaches a bluegrass waltz titled "Angel Band."Length: 28:09 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Steve dives deep into another classic Bluegrass lick that you can use to flare up a jam session or song.Length: 20:46 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Steve Eulberg teaches the first part of the bluegrass classic, "Wabash Cannonball."Length: 18:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Steve continues his two part "Wabash Cannonball" series by teaching how to develop the basic rhythm and melody into unique solo sections.Length: 23:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Steve Eulberg teaches this old tune as if it were being played back in the old days. Here, Steve demonstrates the verse, chorus, and melody. Enjoy the story behind this one!Length: 15:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
In his second lesson of "The Ballad of Jesse James," Steve Eulberg demonstrates a more in depth look at how to play the song in a bluegrass form. This lesson is all about double stops, and when combined...Length: 21:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
About Steve Eulberg
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An Award-winning multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Steve Eulberg weaves mountain and hammered dulcimers with a variety of unusual instruments to create thought-provoking, smile-inducing, toe-tapping acoustic experiences.
He has sung and composed for religious communities, union halls, picket lines, inter-faith retreats, mountain-top youth camps, as well as the more familiar venues: clubs, coffeehouses, bookstores, festivals, charity benefits and showcase concerts.
Born and raised in the German-heritage town of Pemberville, Ohio, Steve was exposed to a variety of music in his home. Early piano lessons were followed by trumpet in school band, and he became self-taught on ukelele and guitar and harmonica. Mandolin was added at Capital University where, while majoring in History, he studied Ear Training, Voice and took Arranging lessons from the Conservatory of Music.
While at college, he first heard hammered and mountain dulcimers, building his first mountain dulcimer just before his final year. Seminary training took him the west side of Denver where he built his first hammered dulcimer. With these instruments, he was able to give voice to the Scottish, English and Irish traditions to which he is also heir.
Following marriage in 1985 to Connie Winter-Eulberg he settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There he worked cross-culturally in a church of African-Americans, Latinos and European Americans, with music being a primary organizing tool. He moved with his family in 1997 to be nestled beside the Rocky Mountains in Fort Coillins, Colorado.
Founder of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. he teaches and performs extensively in Colorado and Wyoming with tours across the US and the UK. He delights in introducing the â€œsweet musicâ€ of dulcimers to people in diverse settings and in addition to his own recordings, has included dulcimers in a variety of session work for other musicians.
In 2000 he was commissioned to create a choral composition featuring dulcimers for the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins. It was recorded in the same year (BEGINNINGS). He is currently at work on a commissioned symphony that will feature hammered dulcimer and Australian didjeridu.
Eulberg passionately believes that music crosses cultural and language barriers because music builds community. Influenced by a variety of ethnic styles, his music weaves vital lyric with rap, rock, folk, gospel and blues. Audiences of all ages respond well to his presentation and to his warm sense of humor.
Steve is a member of Local 1000 (AFM), The Folk Alliance, BMI and BWAAG (Better World Artists and Activist's Guild).
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