Date of Award
Ph.D. in Music
John C. Leslie
The present study investigated the bluegrass music genre of 2013 and compared it with bluegrass found in the 1940s and 1960s. To date, only one similar study has been identified. In 1963, L.M. Smith completed a study entitled, Bluegrass Music and Musicians: An Introductory Study of a Musical Style in Its Cultural Context. In the conclusion to his study, Smith listed five major characteristics found in the bluegrass genre: 1. "Bluegrass is hillbilly music, played by white Southern musicians for a Southern audience." 2. "Bluegrass is not dance music and is seldom used for this purpose." 3. "Bands are made up of 4 to 7 male musicians playing acoustic stringed instruments." 4. "Instruments function in three well defined roles and each changes roles according to predictable patterns." 5. "Bluegrass is the only string band style which uses a banjo in a major solo role."1 Subjects for the present survey study were bluegrass bands (N=183) located across the United States. An online survey instrument was emailed to the 2400 bands listed as members of the ibluegrass association. One hundred eighty-three bands responded to the open-ended and free response questions in the survey instrument. The survey indicated that bluegrass has not changed dramatically over the past fifty years. Participants acknowledged that 65% of bluegrass bands are no longer made up of predominantly white males. Fifty percent of the participating bands were located in the South and the rest were located around the rest of the country. Consistent with Smith's report, 81% of the bands had four to seven musicians. Acoustic string instruments still followed the set predictable patterns established in 1940 with Monroe. The survey indicated that although progressive bands use more electric instruments, 95% still chose the traditional acoustic instruments. Society has changed dramatically over the past fifty years and has brought some significant changes to bluegrass music along with it. 1 Smith, L. Mayne. "An Introduction to Bluegrass." The Journal of American Folklore. 78:309 (July-Sept., 1963): 245.
Butler, Elizabeth Rosanne, "A Comparison of Bluegrass Bands: 2013 Bands Versus the 1940s-1960s Bands" (2013). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 19.
Emphasis: Music Education