From The Side of the Road… a discipline of collective bluegrass nouns

Filling in on two different SiriusXM channels all this week has left me busier than usual, at least by COVID-era standards, so I offer this encore presentation (shameless rerun) of one I wrote a couple of years ago about bluegrass collective nouns:

We in the bluegrass music community have our own vocabulary, like referring to the banjo as “the five,” an instrumental solo as a “break,” a professional bluegrass income as “a living,” etc. I think we could all still stand to expand our repertoire a little by becoming more familiar with the little-used terms for our collective nouns.

When I refer to a “term for a collective noun,” I mean, for example, “a gaggle of geese,” an “archipelago of islands,” a “murder of crows” (who seriously uses that one?), and others. We have our own in bluegrass music, but sadly they’re no longer taught at music camps and workshops as they were when I was a kid. Why I can remember hours of being forced to memorize all of Bill Monroe’s fiddle players in chronological order, and learn the name for every single bluegrass collective noun. If we got a single one wrong, we were slapped across the knuckles with a monogrammed mandolin strap, and we were grateful for it. Bluegrass education is going to the dogs (a pack of dogs) I say, and what is ETSU and the IBMA doing about, huh? A whole lot of nothing, that’s what. I’m firing off an angry email on this very subject as soon as I’m done writing this. Unless I forget to do it, or my anger wears off.

What were we talking about again? Oh right, the bluegrass collective nouns. Here’s a list that if I had my way, every aspiring young bluegrass musician would learn backwards and forwards (they may sound better backwards):

A screech of fiddles

A tuning of mandolins

An alarm of banjos

An expense of guitars

A cartage of basses

A forbidding of drummers

A torture of sound checks

A guzzle of buses

A crowding of vans

A coif of lead singers

A bar of dobro players

A pronunciation of MCs

A gab of DJs

A pitch of songwriters

A loss of picks

A decline of CDs

An obligation of encores

A pinkie-ring of managers

A percentage of agents

An exhaustion of engineers

A squeal of sound men

A buzz of stage lights

Nest week: “banjoing,” “tenoring,” and other “verbing” of bluegrass nouns.