Bluegrass Owners Association Covenant

No, this blog doesn’t have anything to do with an actual real estate entity. Read on for what it is about.

I know how covenants work within a homeowners association. The new homeowner signs the covenant, promising to abide by the restrictions placed on the neighborhood by the association. This can include such things as not parking your car on the street, keeping your grass in tip-top condition, not erecting anything gaudy, and the like.

The bluegrass music community also has a covenant for you to sign. Didn’t know about it? If you play an instrument with other folks, then you are indeed a bluegrass music homeowner.

In actuality, all established forms of music have their own covenant for all participants to sign. Only trouble is, not everyone thinks they need to sign on, nor do newcomers generally know about them. And to make matters worse, everyone has their own version of the covenant, which can vary widely.


Join the club (not the homeowners association, either). Let’s clear the air, then.

First off, it’s generally good to have a set of rules to go by when playing music. These are how we define our particular genre of music (bluegrass, for instance) as well as how we define and refine our own style within the genre. People like to have a distinctive sound; that’s what sets them apart from other bands playing in the same genre. Music labels also like that distinctiveness, as it helps them with their bottom line.

The rub comes when people think that all musicians within this genre should play according to their own style.

This is different from trying to find like-minded musicians to join your band, for instance. I used to play in a band that didn’t like ‘progressive’ banjo playing. I found out the hard way. Obviously I didn’t last long there, but that’s life in the bluegrass jungle.

Secondly, there’s nothing that says you can’t crossover. Mix a little jazz in with your bluegrass or old-time and see what happens. Some folks don’t appreciate this, and that’s their prerogative, just like anyone else having their own preferences in anything. Maybe crossover music no longer belongs under the bluegrass label, but that’s also okay – this process has been going on as long as music has existed. Bluegrass bands bring nothing new to the music table here.

But don’t think that just because these guys play a different style that they aren’t a valid (and even respectable) bunch of musicians.

Lastly, don’t confuse the covenant with jamming etiquette. Etiquette is just plain common sense and being courteous to your fellow musicians.

About Pgibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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