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February 2023
Vol. 22, No. 5
In Good Company

Bluegrass Corner

Summergrass Is Just Around the Corner

by Dwight WordenJuly 2019

The annual Summergrass Bluegrass Festival is just around the corner—August 16-18. The event takes place at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista. There will be top concerts on the main stage, workshops, vendors, camping, a kid’s music academy, jamming, a beginners slow jam, an adult boot camp, and more. If you have never been to a bluegrass festival, you owe it to yourself to visit Summergrass. Admission is reasonable at $25 for all day Friday or Sunday, and $35 for all day Saturday. You can get a three-day pass for $70 in advance or for $85 at the gate. Visit for info and to get your tickets.

Summergrass presents top national talent on the main stage. This year features the Grascals, David Parmley and Cardinal Tradition, High Fidelity, and the Old Blue Band, with top regional and local bands as well. For many, the highlight of the Summergrass Festival is all the jamming and sharing that takes place all day and night in the campground and throughout the grounds. Whatever your level of musical skill or interest, there are jam sessions that will welcome you and where you will have the time of your life. Even if you are not a bluegrass lover, there is plenty to see and do at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum. There’s an old school house, a miniature train, a working blacksmith shop, a quilting barn, a gift shop and more. Summergrass will
provide some fine entertainment. Give
it a try.

New SDBS sponsored Jam Session. SDBS and the Duck Foot Brewery in the Miramar area have started a new jam session for local bluegrass musicians. Plans are to hold the event twice a month. So far, the first jam session was held on June 9th and the second on June 23. Stay tuned for more info as it develops.

Bluegrass Day at the Fair. As we go to press Bluegrass Day at the Fair will be held on Saturday, June 29 on the beautiful Paddock Stage at the Del Mar fairgrounds. The event hasn’t yet happened, but there are seven band concerts, a band scramble, an old-time fiddling demonstration, and a youth performance planned. Check with this column next month for a post event report.

Learning to Play Bluegrass Music. There are lots of ways to learn to play and enjoy bluegrass music. YouTube has tons of resources. There are local teachers and music stores ready to help. The plethora of online resources, instructional CDs, Skype lessons, etc. is virtually endless. Many folks have rudimentary guitar or other instrument skills, are curious about bluegrass, and ask how they can get involved in a learning environment. One resource is the third Monday of every month “slow jam.”

The slow jam, sponsored by SDBS, presents a unique learning opportunity. Classic bluegrass tunes are sent by email in advance, and during the Monday sessions you will learn to play these tunes at a slowed-down pace led by a skilled instructor. Much of bluegrass music seems to move at an explosive pace, so this is where you can hear and learn the “real stuff” but at a pace a beginner or intermediate can manage. The third Monday sessions are held at Our Savior Lutheran Church at the corner of Lincoln and Ohio in North Park (4011 Ohio Street, San Diego, CA. 92104). Admission is $5 to SDBS members and $10 to non-members. You can join SDBS on site and get an instant discount. For more information or to sign up, email Mary Jane Cupp at

Learning to play bluegrass is fun, but it can be challenging. It emphasizes skill and high performance on the instruments, coupled with three and four part “high lonesome” singing styles. To get started, focus on the chord structure of the music. Most of the tunes are either three or four-chord pieces, easy to learn and easy to follow. From there, once you are able to hear and follow the chord structure, it’s time to try your hand at soloing, and that’s where the real fun and real challenge start!

To start, try a simple solo—play the melody and you won’t go wrong. Play it simple if need be, but the melody is always welcome in bluegrass. Once you start to feel comfortable with the melody, you can try altering the melody, adding inflection, runs, licks, and adornments. That’s when you’ll start to sound like a real bluegrass player! But, understand, it takes years to get good at high level soloing. Until then, join the fun playing the chords and you can always “pass” when it comes yourturn to solo. In a future column we will take a look at how to sing like a bluegrass professional.

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