Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Bluegrass Vocabulary

I’m noticing terms in song titles that seem to be spoilers for the type of song it is, but I’m not sure what they all mean. I’ve noticed:

[any others?]

What do they generally indicate?

That’s a good question. I’ll add “shuffle” to your list, as in “Cherokee Shuffle”.

I believe in bluegrass a breakdown is just indicating the song is nothing but a bunch of breaks.

Generally, I think rag, stomp, and shuffle all have to do with the rhythmic structure of the song, but I don’t know enough theory to define them. I"ll be interested to see a more detailed answer.

Good question BB. I hope to learn something from this one too. I guess you can throw a “reel” in there also.

I think a “rag” has a certain feel to it that I can’t explain. Like the beat is swung a little more or something.

Rag = ragtime

a little history … fault.html



The definition of a stomp is a beat-driven jazz dance or song.
An example of a stomp is the Black Bottom Stomp by Jelly Roll Morton.


c (1) : a rhythm where each beat of the measure is played as a triplet with the first and second parts of the triplet tied and the third part accented (2) : music played in a shuffle rhythm

A shuffle can also be a basic type of song in be-bop with a simple I,IV, V, I etc. type chord progression. It is similar to a Texas Two Step in execution but the back beat has a small difference in placement against the center of the beat. If the back beat is off your playing the wrong style…and they don’t work with each other feeling wise at all. :exclamation:

Some fiddlers just call a tune a shuffle because it may or may not have what they consider a “shuffle” in it. On fiddle there are several different kinds of shuffles. arguably the most popular are the double and triple shuffles done with double stops…Both of these are heard in most versions of* Orange Blossom speacia*l. the double (two low then two high) is and older sound and the triple (two low then one high) is a more sycopated modern sound.

Nice feedback fiddlewood!

Ragtime is one of those things I couldn’t describe without some help and effort, but you kind of know it when you hear it. I like this little bit from FW’s link: “containing a highly syncopated treble lead over a rhythmically steady bass” That does fit for most I can think of, but there is something about the chord progression and/or note selection I can’t quite put my finger on.


A stomp seems a bit different of a description in that things that are a stomp can also be defined as something. It’s almost like a modifier. Ferinstance, I think one could play St Anne’e by pounding the down beats hard and it could also be a stomp. That’s just a bit of speculation on my part. There might be stomp police out there that would be offended by my suggestion.

A stomp & a reel have a different feel. harder to explain then just listen to and compare. Also, the form may differ. not sure as I’ve not studied it that closely, bu will be doing so in the near future as I’m planning on starting back up on fiddle soon a I can (right hand is messed up & banjo isn’t doable at this time) so changing up again.

Thanks fiddlewood!

Yiannis (sp?) videos are great Mike! I would buy a CD of him and his buddy picking. I could listen to that all day!

There might be stomp police out there that would be offended by my suggestion.::: no offense all is fair in music . call it what you will it is all good . that tune they played is very near Black mountain rag emphasize the RAG part. We know so little about our music we play and should learn about its origins. Very informative post and I thank you all for it . Great question Bearded banjo ! :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: And thanks to Fiddlewood for all the info very good .

Of course then there is the stuff that is not, or just as much stuff out there that the term or name is off or wrong. Ragtime Annie - not a rag when usually played; neither is black mountain rag really; fishers horn pipe-not played in a horn pipe rhythm; Milwaukee Blues- not really a blues and mentions Georgia often, and Milwaukee only once; East Tennessee Blues- not a Blues, but could be a rag; New Camptown Races- no relation to Camptown Races; Lonesome Fiddle Blues- not a blues…the Holy Roman Empire, neither holy roman nor an empire…discuss umungst yourselves, no big wup!

We park on a driveway and drive on a parkway. I think that was from Steven Wright.