Songwriters who aspire to write traditional Bluegrass music may find that it is not always easy. They say simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, and the greatest practitioners of Bluegrass have been those who could convey even the most complex topics in common, everyday terms.
Steeped in a long history involving migrants and rural living, Bluegrass is one of the most charming styles of music. It incorporates elements of country, gospel and even jazz, with often laidback lyrics that depict a relatable way of life. But it’s the timelessness of Bluegrass which has made it a favorite for folks from all walks of life throughout the years.
If you want to become good at writing Bluegrass songs, it would do you well to examine the works of some of the greats who excelled in this area. Here are the basic elements you should look out for:
- Character Definition
Good Bluegrass songs clearly establish characters that are being written about. In “Just a Little Talk With Jesus,” it is quite clear why a talk with Jesus’ makes things right. The biblical icon is clearly described as a good listener and advice giver in this case.
- Song Setting
One important characteristic of great Bluegrass songs is that lyrics often do not zero in on specific locations or addresses. They instead use geographical markers that anyone can relate to, such as a white sand beach, rocky mountain, old house, or a narrow street. Otherwise, names of states and other large-area land masses are used to tell the story. ”Kentucky Waltz” by Bill Monroe is one example.
- Time of Day
Some of the greatest Bluegrass songs use time in a way so that they remain relevant many years later. They are not bound by dates, but utilize times of the day that all people can relate to, including morning, sundown, night and midnight.
- Emotional Connection
The blue in Bluegrass is there for a reason. It represents grief and sorrow, often from lost love. However, Bluegrass songs can also convey common emotions experienced by all people, including love, faith, loneliness, joy, among others. Whatever you write about should be clearly expressed to create an emotional connection with listeners.
From “Dear Old Dixie” to “Unclouded Day,” Bluegrass music remains part of the national psyche. Becoming good at it could make you a household name for many years to come.