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Learn About Bluegrass Mandolin Music for Weddings

While many people are familiar with the term “Bluegrass“, many still do not know that the mandolin is arguably the most important Bluegrass instrument there is. The mandolin is commonly associated with Italian music, the music of the Mediterranean and South America. This is rightfully so, as these regions’ music heavily features the mandolin. However, the mandolin is equally as important to American Bluegrass music.

The Mandolin is Popular in Bluegrass Music

The first official Bluegrass band, Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, prominently featured the mandolin. Bill Monroe, who is credited with the invention of Bluegrass music, played the mandolin in the Blue Grass Boys. The band also featured the fiddle, the acoustic guitar, the banjo and the upright bass.

Bill Monroe began his musical career in the 1930′s alongside his brother, Charlie Monroe, in their band, the Monroe Brothers. The band broke up in the late 1930′s and both brothers continued to make music. In 1939, Bill formed the Blue Grass Boys. During this time, he completed the transition of mandolin music from the traditional parlor sound to the modern Bluegrass sound. Later in 1939 he joined the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry’s radio broadcasts spread Monroe’s music throughout the South and inspired many country musicians to begin playing the mandolin.

Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Mandolin

Monroe played the lead melodies of his music similar to a fiddler. He also created a percussive chord sound, which was referred to as “the chop.” Monroe also perfected the sparse, percussive blues style on mandolin.

Monroe’s style of mandolin Bluegrass has been highly influential on many of his successors. His style has been emulated, developed and modified by many mandolin musicians.

Bill Monroe Playing Mandolin Live

Stylistically, his most influential followers included second-generation Bluegrass musician Frank Wakefield and current musicians Mike Compton (of the Nashville Bluegrass Band) and David Long. Other major Bluegrass mandolin musicians who emerged after Bill Monroe in the 1950′s include Jesse McReynolds, of Jim and Jesse, and Bobby Osborne, of the Osborne Brothers.

Modern Bluegrass mandolin players include Herschel Sizemore, Doyle Lawson, and Sam Bush, who also plays rock, reggae and jazz music. In addition, Ronnie McCoury, of the Del McCoury Band, has been awarded numerous times for his Monroe-style mandolin playing. Finally, John Duffey, of Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene, helped to popularize Bluegrass mandolin among folk and urban music fans.

Bluegrass mandolin has had a large influence on American music. For example, Jack White, of the White Stripes, is an accomplished mandolin player. He played mandolin for the film Cold Mountain. He also plays mandolin on the White Stripes’ songs, “Little Ghost”, “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn” and the hit “Icky Thump.”

Other popular musicians who play the mandolin include David Bowie, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Martin Barre and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Win Butler of the Arcade Fire, Lol Creme of 10cc, Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies and George Harrison and Paul McCartney of the Beatles, among many others. In addition, fans of the Grateful Dead know that Jerry Garcia was in a Bluegrass band with mandolin player David Grisman, called Old and in the Way.

Bluegrass mandolin music has a unique, lively sound unlike anything else. It’s sound can be sweet, mournful or electrifying. It is a wonderful style of music appropriate for many occasions, including weddings.

If you’re interested in having live Bluegrass mandolin music at your event, contact us today!

( Posted on Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 4:59 pm )

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