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Bluegrass Music: My Old Kentucky Harmony
One musical style instructors can help you master is bluegrass. Learn how this old American style has stuck around with Groupon's brief history.
Named after the blue-flowered grass of Kentucky, bluegrass's complex lineage shares elements of english ballads, scottish reels, african spirituals, and american jazz. Traditionally, bluegrass bands comprise five acoustic instruments: mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and upright bass. These strings contribute fast-paced melodies that are often delivered via finger picks and bow-shredding fiddle solos. Instrumental dexterity sets the style apart from older traditional music: rather than play the melody in unison, each instrument takes a turn improvising.
Vocal arrangements use a "stack" of a low, medium, and high voice to create complex harmonies around the lead, who traditionally delivers lyrics of hardship in the "high lonesome" timbre used by the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Monroe's band, the Blue Grass Boys, gave the genre—often called “hillbilly music” until then—its name and solidified the basic outline of the style in the 1940s, eventually landing at such venues as the Grand Ole Opry. Modern bluegrass groups often modify the formula with dobro guitars, harmonicas, and electric instruments.
Though extremely popular through the ‘40s and ‘50s, bluegrass eventually began to lose ground to the burgeoning rock 'n' roll and Nashville country genres. The route to the music's preservation ran through a youthful crush: in the early ‘50s, Bill Monroe's teenaged daughter went to stay with friends in a nearby town. She caught the eye of a local battery-plant worker, Carlton Haney, who asked her on a date. Though Haney claimed to not enjoy music, his connection with the Monroes landed him a job booking shows. In 1965, he conceived of a multiday bluegrass festival in Fincastle, Virginia. The idea proved popular with the folk revivalists of the ‘60s, leading to the modern network of hundreds of bluegrass festivals held every year throughout the country.