Jamming at Huck Finn Jubilee with other bluegrass fans is one of the greatest late-night activities over the weekend. After the main stage shuts down for the night and the young children have gone to sleep, the adults break out the banjos and mandolins to get down to bluegrass business.
If you haven’t already picked up an instrument to strum on at Huck Finn Jubilee or during your downtime at home, then it’s time to get started. Parents who play instruments can set a good example for their children, who could then, in turn, pick up an instrument themselves.
Huck Finn Jubilee 2015 may not be your grand debut, but it’s as good a place as any to start jamming. To choose which instrument you’d like to play (and hear), think about which one interests you the most as well as its pros and cons. And while you’re at Huck Finn Jubilee 2015, check out the artist who mastered it!
The twang of the banjo is one of the most recognizable sounds of bluegrass. Banjos are available with four, five or six strings; the one you choose to play depends on how you want to play it and what you want it to sound like. The five string banjo is the typical bluegrass banjo, and can be played in one of two popular playing styles: the clawhammer and Scruggs style.
There’s no shortage of banjo players around, though, so joining a jam session that doesn’t already have one (or two or three) skilled banjo players might be difficult. The abundance of players, however, gives you tons of resources to learn to play.
Famous Banjoists: Earl Scruggs, pioneer of the three-finger style; Steve Martin, who will showcase his skills at Huck Finn Jubilee 2015 with Steep Canyon Rangers on Saturday; Béla Fleck, playing at Huck Finn with Abigail Washburn on Friday; Dr Ralph Stanley, playing as a special guest at Huck Finn Jubilee over the weekend.
Despite lots of arguments, there’s no real difference between a violin and fiddle besides the way it’s played. With a fiddle, you can play bluegrass, and then switch to classical (although you may need to switch the strings out to get the sound you need). Fiddles provide a unique, soulful sound to bluegrass.
If you like to sing, playing a fiddle might not be your first choice unless you wait for a break. It’s not impossible to sing while playing a fiddle, but it does take some extra practice.
Famous Fiddlers: Vassar Clements; Kenny Baker; Alison Krauss.
The guitar is one of the most famous and versatile instruments around. With bluegrass guitar playing, the primary technique is “flatpicking,” in which a guitar pick is held between two or three fingers. Choosing the guitar can open you up to a range of techniques and music genres beyond bluegrass, and children are most often interested in this instrument due to its versatility.
Again, though, its popularity means there are tons of guitar players already out there; but that also means there are more people from which to learn!
Famous Guitarists: Jimmy Martin, the “King of Bluegrass”; Doc Watson, whose skills as a guitarist were renowned; Del McCoury, playing at Huck Finn Jubilee on Friday.
Not all mandolins are created equal—in fact, there are many different types and not all work for bluegrass. The most popular style of mandolin for bluegrass is the F-style, first created by Gibson and popularized by Bill Monroe.
The mandolin is a quintessential bluegrass instrument, but sometimes overlooked. Because it’s a specialized instrument (and you have to get the right one), it can cost a pretty penny.
Famous Mandolin Players: Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass”; Ricky Skaggs, playing at Huck Finn Jubilee on Saturday with Kentucky Thunder; Sierra Hull, playing at Huck Finn Jubilee on Friday; Jeff Austin, playing at Huck Finn Jubilee on Saturday.
The Upright Bass
Also called the double bass, stand-up bass, and string bass, among other names, the upright bass not only keeps the beat for the rest of the players—a hugely important part of jamming—but provides that deep, earthy twang that complements the higher-register instruments.
It’s certainly not the handiest instrument to play. Its large size means you can’t easily carry it around, and you’re often stuck to one position. The bass player, however, gets to set the beat.
Famous Upright Bass Players: Todd Phillips, a Grammy Award winner; Howard Watts (aka Cedric Rainwater) of Blue Grass Boys fame; Edgar Meyer.
Bluegrass is a genre whose instruments distinguish it within the first few notes: the banjo, the fiddle, the guitar, the mandolin, and the string bass. Jamming with friends and family is an aspect of bluegrass music that can be lacking in other genres, so pick up an instrument and join in the fun at Huck Finn Jubilee!