The Structure of a Bluegrass Song
Bluegrass songs are typically divided into a series of breaks,
verses, and choruses. A typical bluegrass song might be structured
(1) An initial Break (often call the Kickoff), (2) Verse,
(3) Chorus, (4) Break, (5) Verse, (6) Chorus, (7) Break, (8)
Verse, (9) Chorus, (10) Break, (11) Chorus
In each of the individual units, there is a lead activity
and a backup activity. In a break, usually one
of the individual instruments takes the lead while the rest
of the instruments back him (or her) up. In the verse, usually
there is one lead singer. In the chorus, there are usually
one, two, three or four singers singing one, two, three of
four part harmony. In both the verse and the chorus, there
is instrumental backup music. The most important rule in bluegrass
jamming is IF YOU ARE NOT LEADING, YOUR JOB IS TO DO BACKUP
IN SUCH A WAY AS TO MAKE THE LEAD SOUND AS GOOD AS POSSIBLE.
A point often missed by novices is that backup in a
jam session is usually more important then the lead.
You can make really good music with a good backup and a modest
lead, but without a good backup, you cannot make good music
no matter how good the lead is. Since backup is so important,
I am going to talk about it first.