Un-Conventional Mixes of Instruments

7 replies [Last post]
Un-Conventional Mixes of Instruments

OK, first off, I like experimenting with a lot of sounds. That could have been another title for this thread.. 'Introducing Other Sounds'. How many of you have set up a mic and tried to record rain fall, rolling or a crack of thunder during a storm and worked with it in a recording? My point.

Tonight I was listening to some (hope you're sitting down) Calypso Steel Drum music from the Trinidad island area. It got my head wondering what and how could this be used in union with a 5 string, flattop, mando, etc?

When we think of acoustic only, we generally profile instruments made of wood and not electronics; have strings and a genuine soundboard. That is a pretty safe stance for all of us to agree on.

So I'm wondering, within the bluegrass community, how can the slide whistle, the washboard, harmonicas, and possibly others I can't think of off hand, be considered appropriate at an acoustic jam session? They have no strings nor soundboard or even require the rigors of tuning for that matter and then leave out the piano which has all and requires an occasional tweaking. They require no amplification or electronics to make them work.

Here is the kicker. I'm curious as to how a version of Earl's Breakdown would sound on a set of steel drums that came from the Caribbean? Why not a snare drum with brushes to keep the rhythm at a jam? If I showed up at a HABOT jam with a snare drum or steel drum would the roof fall on top of everybody? ..not that I have plans to do so.

My thought is and has always been... every instrument is 'an effect'. I say this not so much as a lead picker, but I place fills to enhance and boost the person doing the lead or taking a break. I believe in being subtle.. in and out. Timing is everything and if I don't think it appropriate... don't use it or play it just because I/you can. I don't need to be heard on everything or all the time.

Shoot for the recorded sound.

Your turn...

Commenting on this Forum topic is closed.

Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Groups: None
Un-Conventional Mixes of Instruments

First, what is Habot? I'm unfamiliar with the term.
A lot of jams allow other instruments. I know one guy who usually shows up at Buckeye Dulcimer Festival with a Hurdy-Gurdy. He plays other instruments as well, but he's always been welcome. Some jams are more restrictive. It really depends on the concept the people who formed the jam have in mind.
It also may depend on how traditional the people are, and what and how much the "new" instrument adds to the music. My personal tastes are pretty wide, but I like my music somewhat separated. If I jam with jazz players, that's fine, but I don't really want much jazz added into OT stringband music. I've been known to dabble in Clawhammer banjo versions of Beethoven and Mozart, at home by myself. I don't play these in OT jam sessions with other people. You have to respect what the other players are trying to do in a jam. Talk to the players you jam with, and see what their feelings are. You may be on the verge of creating something different. Bela Fleck mixed bluegrass with funk and hip-hop. He made something very different than any of the parts had been. Not everyone will like it, but so what? I don't care for opera, but it still has merits. Find some like minded players and see what you come up with.

I got to agree with you. I

I got to agree with you. I forgot to consider asking the others you sit in with. I've just seen people show up with something strange and then play the darn thing throughout the whole jam. Not everybody is into experimenting, but then some people who show up aren't into the music as much as socializing. There really has to be a balance and a lot of consideration shown.

btw, HABOT (Heart of America Bluegrass and Old Time) music is one of the larger oganizations of music which meet monthly here in KC. Their web site is not that developed but it's at http://www.habot.org

Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Groups: None
Unconventional instruments

I totally agree, adding unconventional or "unexpected" instruments can add tremendously to a piece. I've always wondered why a chello hasn't been used with some bluegrass music. It offers a sweet low end that would work well, I think, behind a fiddle or Dobro. Not just plucked like a Doghouse bass, but drawn with a bow. Or how about an Andean flute accompaning a banjo? I remember some you tube pieces of Guy Clark and Jerry Douglas playing with the Chieftans on the "Transatlantic Sessions." Really good music. Really good blend of instruments.

Nearly Normal Instruments

Bringing Laughter and Music to the World, One Group at a Time!

I have been to jams with

a harp...(think orchestra not harmonica)



world champion whistler


slide trombone


don't know what to do if a couple of tubas walked in..(with their owners that is)

Oh I have brought my zydeco tie...(think wearable washboard) to a couple of jams....but need to establish a bit more rhythm before bringing it back...

Joined: 9 Feb 2009
Groups: None
Cello in Bluegrass

You need to check out a group named "Crooked Still" on the web or otherwise for cello and bluegrass. "Shaken By A Low Sound" is their best CD.

I play cello but not well. I play guitar and fiddle too just about as well as I play the cello. I go to a couple of different jams around town and have always been made to feel welcome with the cello. It is kind of a pain to carry around, and it also requires a little more space. Sometimes I get lucky and it sounds pretty good.

Joined: 6 Jan 2010
Groups: None
we have a person that shows

we have a person that shows up to our local jam with a woodwind " clairinet "

explain that to blue-grass experts :)


Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Groups: None
nearly normal instruments

We have had accordian players. They were great.

User login

Find local musicians and jams through folkjam.

  • Improve your skills - play
  • Promote your local jams
  • Join/start local groups
  • Connect with local musicians
  • Receive details of new jams via email
Sign up!  It's free

Play well with others

Recent comments