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How To Play Bluegrass Guitar:
A Rough Guide For The Rest Of Us

Acoustic guitar is one of the most played instruments

Guitars have been around for centuries. They are one of the most-played musical instruments in the world and come in a range of shapes and styles. The acoustic guitar is a favorite example because you can play it wherever and whenever you want. It could be one of your awesome hobbies.

Acoustic guitars get used in all different genres of music, one of which is bluegrass. Are you thinking of trying your hand at playing bluegrass guitar? If so, you might be wondering how to get started.

Today I'd like to share with you some tips on how you can begin playing bluegrass guitar. You might not think it, but it's easier than some other genres of music! The following rough guide will give you an insight into how you can begin your musical journey:

Male guitarists playing bluegrass music
As one the most popular string instruments, acoustic guitars are a regular feature at
many music gatherings, including bluegrass music.  (Image source: Flickr.com)

Familiarize yourself with bluegrass music

It might sound obvious, but I thought it worthy of a mention. You need to listen to some bluegrass music! There's no point looking at sheet music, for example. You need to have a feel for the rhythms and styles of bluegrass tunes out there.

YouTube is a brilliant place to check out some amateur and professional bluegrass sessions. I recommend listening to both classic and modern tunes so that you can decide which ones you wish to learn. For instance, there's the traditional and well-known Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Earl Scruggs.

For something newer, try songs from artists such as:

  • Alison Krauss and Union Station; 
  • Dan Tyminski; and 
  • Ricky Skaggs. 

Also, search for "bluegrass guitar players" on Google and you'll find plenty of inspiration!

Buy a guitar

When you've figured out what styles you like, the next step is to get a guitar! Of course, if you've already got one, you can skip this step. If not, here is what you need to know.

Female bluegrass band playing
As a subgenre of country music, bluegrass has its roots in the music brought by the UK and Irish settlers brought in the 18th century America. (Image: Wikimeadia Commons)

First, bluegrass uses acoustic instruments. So, if you wish to use your Fender Telecaster, perhaps something like newgrass music is more for you. Traditional bluegrass instrumentalists frown upon the use of electrified guitars!

You can use any acoustic guitar for playing bluegrass. But, it's crucial that you get one that "sounds" right when you play it. Anyone with a critical ear can tell the difference between a poor guitar and a brilliant one.

For example, Taylor guitars and ones by Martin will sound a million times better than budget ones. It might be worth seeking out some online reviews before you buy.

Schedule some practice times

Now that you've got a guitar, it's time to start learning how to play bluegrass music! As with anything new you learn, it's essential you are not interrupted in your sessions.

I suggest scheduling your practice times when you know you will be at home alone. Otherwise, consider renting a music studio for an hour or two. Or go and practice at a friend's house. It doesn't matter where you learn. What does matter is you can do so without constant interruptions.

Dan Tyminski and Barry Bales playing bluegrass
Daniel John "Dan" Tyminski and Barry Turner Bales are bluegrass music instrumentalists and vocalists for Alison Krauss and Union Station band  (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Start with simple tunes and riffs

Last, but not least, you should start with the basics. The bluegrass musicians I mentioned earlier have taken years to hone their skills. So, don't worry if you can't master bluegrass guitar in 24 hours.

There are plenty of online tutorials you can follow to learn basic bluegrass tunes and riffs. Keep practicing and you'll soon get the hang of it. Thanks for reading!

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