Ukes in bluegrass?
 



No. I did run across a fellow who sat in on a few jams awhile back. In 35 years of picking bluegrass this is the only time I've actually seen it. He was a nice guy, but... It just didn't fit.--Robert L. Steelman, Jr

Hey lisa, A couple of uke players have been to the bluegrass jam in Kingston, Ont-one comes just about every week. Its a stringed instrument with 4 different string sounds, like a mandolin. Someone else on the L advertises a bluegrass and mandolin jam so why not?--Brother Brian

Here is Fred Sokolow's take on bluegrass and old-timey ukulele: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg-SgIlWJlA You can decide if you think the sound fits bluegrass.--David Naiditch

Thought I'd chime in here with my 2 cents worth.....I have been playing Ukulele for almost 2 years now and have in-corporated it into my monthly Bluegrass jam, here on the banks of the Ohio. Mainly, we keep the Ukulele portion of our jam separate from the Bluegrass. We will take the first hour of the jam and dedicate it to Ukulele, and afterwards, carry on with the Bluegrass jam. On most occasions, I will pick the Uke back up and play along with the bluegrass on a few tunes. Biggest problem with that is volume! We keep our jam purely acoustic and don't use a PA system, so add a banjo (or 2 or 3) a few Martin guitar boxes, etc. and the Ukulele just gets lost. Still, that really doesn't deter me very much...most times I don't need to be heard anyway. But on the other side of this, we really don't play very many bluegrass tunes at the Ukulele portion of the jam. I have received a lot of positive feedback with the Uke and many of the bluegrasser will join right in with the Ukulele portion of the jam, although they may have to tone it down just a bit, as to not overpower the rest.--Nelson

In the McReynolds Family band, Jesse's granddaughter, who sings lead, strums the Uke. It seems a good instrument for a singer who isn't an accomplished instrumentalist on one of the traditional bluegrass instruments. However, the use of one in a jam at one of Pete Wernick's jam camps seemed out of place, even intrusive. I guess it all depends on context. The big advantage of a Uke is that it's easy to play.--Ted

Well, I can say...you can play Uke at one of my jams anytime, but you do so at your own peril! I can say, that ultimately, playing the Ukulele has helped my guitar playing tremendously. It has helped with learning new chord shapes and strumming techniques that transfer to my bluegrass playing. Now I'm off to my Bluegrass / Ukulele Jam...my jam...I make the rules! Nelson Something I always think of is how many different things people have tried and continue to try in Bluegrass. So hypothetically, lets say someone writes a song with a theme that sort of opens the door for the Uke, maybe it mentions Hawaii or whatever. Putting a Uke in there wouldn't be a bad thing. When the song is over put it away and get something more Bluegrassy out of the case. But that would be for the professional stage. When having fun, anything goes! Well, within reason.. I think people have biases against things and they won't allow for something a little different. I used to not respect the Dulcimer until I met Don Pedi. He played all weekend at an Old time festival, on the stage and in the jams, hanging right in with the hardest fiddle tunes they could throw out there and his breaks were very meaningful, not the usual you hear from people who just pick around on it for fun. His Dulcimers are hot rods too. Not the usual thing someone builds from a kit. And don't forget, there are Ukes of different builds, some with a lot more growl than the normal. Some really command respect in the right hands...We need to be open minded but there is still a time and place for that which is different---Like one band that brought out a little piano for a short part of the show, then wheeled it out of the way, then another band came along and ran it into the ground. It's like the difference between using a little salt on your food vs the whole shaker on one plate... But if you bring something different with you on the road and give it storage on the bus, haul it from the bus to the stage, are you willing to use it sparingly? If not, is it really worth having to keep up with? People say there are no rules and maybe there isn't but there are no lines drawn on the earth and still, no one argues that there is no Equator, no reason for latitude and longitude lines on the map, no territorial limits. Do what you like but know your boundaries...--Terry I Tipton

Better a uke than an accordion.--Larry Stephens

 
Posted By:  Rick Cornish



Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email rickcornish7777@gmail.com.