Bluegrass music is a genre with set ways of playing it. From the traditional instruments, to the boom – chuck rhythm to the focus of this article: the G run. This very important run is one that you must learn if you want to be a Bluegrass guitarist. It is as essential as the boom – chuck in creating the sound that Bluegrass is known for, and acts as a filler in moments when the guitarist has a chance to shine.
Bluegrass basics: The G run
The G run is used to define the ending of a phrase, verse, chorus or is sued in any place where a little embellishment is needed. You will hear it over and over again when you listen to Bluegrass music and that is why you must learn it if you want to play this style of music. For a free bluegrass video lesson showing many great examples of the G Run, watch the video above or click here to watch it in YouTube.com.
The G run dates back to early forms of music that didn’t have a percussion instrument – just like Bluegrass doesn’t have a traditional percussion instrument. Guitarists were instead relied upon to provide rhythm, as they still do today in many forms of music.
The G run itself is built on the Pentatonic scale. The point of playing it is to indicate to the listener, and the rest of the band, that you have come to the end of a phrase, are approaching a turnaround or are at the end of a 4 bar line.
How to play the G run
We’ll look at the G run in G major. The run involves a hammer on and a pull off. In the photo below (with the bottom line representing the deep E string and the top line representing the high ‘e’ string) you will see a hammer on from an open A string to the first fret, and a pull off on the D string from the second fret.
That right there is what all this fuss is about. It is the absolute basis for your guitar playing in bluegrass and should be practiced until you can play it blindfolded while asleep.
If you’re not familiar with the terms ‘hammer on’ and ‘pull off,’ a hammer on is when you play a note and then play another higher up the same string without striking the string again a pull off is when you play a note and then pull off that string to either a lower note or an open string.
The other most well known run in bluegrass: Shave and a Haircut
There isn’t a person alive who probably doesn’t know the sound of ‘Shave and a Haircut.’ This distinct musical call is played at the end of many Bluegrass songs as a way to let people know the song is over.
It is a relatively simple seven note run. The lyrics associated with ‘shave and a haircut’ are five notes, followed by the two note response ‘two bits.’ It is traditionally played on the two highest pitched strings of your guitar, the ‘e’ and ‘B’ but you can change this depending on the key you’re in.
Not only will you hear it in music as a sign that something is over, or that a transition is coming, but it is also used in The Beverly Hillbillies to signify a commercial break – a different kind of transition!