A Guide to Essential Bluegrass Music Instruments

A Guide to Essential Bluegrass Music Instruments

A Guide to Essential Bluegrass Music Instruments

If you’re interested in forming your own bluegrass band for an upcoming festival, make sure that your members are able to play any or a combination of the bluegrass music instruments listed below. Miss one and the music just won’t sound as authentic and powerful as it could have.


The modern banjo that most people are familiar with was probably derived from musical instruments that African slaves in America used to play traditional music. These instruments were referred to as banjars, banzas, or banias and were used to replace drums, which slaves had been prohibited from playing.

In the bluegrass scene, Earl Scruggs is probably one of the best known artists for playing the banjo.


The politically correct term for this instrument would be “resonator guitar” although it is more widely known by its brand Dobro. It is a type of acoustic guitar that has a built-in metal resonator in its frame. Its unique shape and design allows the Dobro to produce louder and more powerful sounds compared to other acoustic guitars.

Lester Flatt is one of the best known bluegrass artists who played the Dobro.


Bluegrass is one of the few genres of music in which the mandolin plays such a prominent part and this would not have happened if Bill Monroe, granddaddy of bluegrass, had not been a skilled mandolin player and incorporated its use in his music.

Mandolins, which are part of the lute family of instruments, rose to fame in the 16th to 17th century in Italy. They later on became popular in the United States in the early 1900’s. Its popularity waned until Monroe revived its use in the 1940’s.

Upright Bass

This is also known as a double bass. It is played using a finger-plucking method instead of a bow. The upright bass provides the rhythms for bluegrass songs.


Unlike other bluegrass instruments, the fiddle is just as popular in other genres of folk and traditional music. Although the term fiddle can also be used to describe a mandolin, the way they are used is distinctly different.


Finally, there’s the harmonica, which is probably one of the lesser used bluegrass music instruments in this list. It is the most portable of all traditional musical instruments, however, and one of the easiest to learn. A harmonica usually has a plastic or wooden body with a metal cover plate as well as a set of vibrating reeds.

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