What Is Bluegrass?

Community is a big part of what makes bluegrass music what it is.  People from all areas come together to listen and to play bluegrass music.  A lot of diversity can be found in bluegrass music and an example of this is the Asian bluegrass band that was shown in High Lonsome: the Story of Bluegrass Music.  Bluegrass music so easily brings people together because everyone can relate to it and it creates a feeling of nostalgia.

“Bluegrass tells a sad, sad story, I’ll tell ya that.  If you don’t have no feeling, there’s no use to singing it.” -Jimmy Martin

Often times bluegrass tells a story from the past and how things have changed, usually for the worse since the singer was growing up.  In the song I’m On My Way Back to the Old Home, sung by Bill Monroe discusses how he felt when he returned home and the place where he grew up had changed and was very different.

“High in the hills of old Kentucky
Stands the fondest spot in my memory
I’m on my way back to the old home
The light in the window I long to see”

Bill Monroe – I’m On My Way Back To The Old Home


When defining bluegrass by the mechanics of how it is played and how it sounds, it typically includes only string instruments and the vocals usually have a higher sound the most refer to as high lonesome.  This high sound is usually created in harmony by brother duos, trios, or quartetsThe basic instruments of a bluegrass band are the acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, fiddle, bass, and mandolin. Allison Krauss calls it “a natural kind of music” because no electricity is used to create an electric, autotuned, etc sound.