Process Book: Instruments of Bluegrass Music

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project 3: collection

PROCESS BOOK Miles “Bread” Lee Word & Image I March 2019


contents 1 5 13 18

research exploration refinement reflection


objective “Make a visual display for a collection of artifacts, based on your assigned topic. Your display should be visually rich, integrate text and images (made or found), and should show clear and specific relationships between elements of your collection. Your display should communicate the sense of a set, and simultaneously show range and diversity.�

logistics 20 x 16 inches, either format. Collection should contain between 8 and 20 elements. Should contain a title and a subtitle, if relevant. Labels are welcome, as are legends.

color Maximum of three hues of unlimited values.

type Maximum of two typeface families.


research I received the topic of Bluegrass Music. Having no prior knowledge of Bluegrass, I Googled “bluegrass music,” looked at the instruments, and figured I could use the instruments for my poster. At that point I was by no means settled on making a collection of Bluegrass instruments, but I kept the idea in the back of my mind. After class, I began listening to Bluegrass music on Spotify and YouTube to get a sense of the genre. As someone who doesn’t like country music, I thought Bluegrass music was fine but not something I would listen to on my own. I noticed there was a lot of variety in the music in terms of instruments, vocalists, and covers. I even listed to some music by Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys, the band that became the genre’s namesake.

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For my research, I explored credible Bluegrass-devoted websites such as playbetterbluegrass.com and bluegrassheritage.org. My main focuses were the differences between Bluegrass and country music, Bluegrass’ origins, and Bluegrass instruments. To my surprise, I was captivated by the posters for Bluegrass festivals and concerts. Most utilized folksy typefaces and blue hues, and many contained imagery pertaining to instruments, nature, or wildlife. As I was researching, I noticed that Bluegrass is often cited as having “a high and lonesome sound.� I found this phrase intriguing, and eventually used it to title my collection.

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Because I felt that I hadn’t learned what I needed to from my preliminary research, I went to the Gaylord Music Library for 6 hours and picked out a stack of around 20 books on Bluegrass. I scanned their images, usually photographs of various bands, and checked out 3 books which had useful images or information. Looking at photos of Bluegrass bands, I found the size differences between instruments very amusing—the bass fiddle is much, much larger than the rest of the instruments. I later implemented this idea of representing scale in my poster. I also took interest in the use of collaged labels in the photo in the bottom right. I went on explore scale and labeling in my iterations.

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In choosing images, I was interested in seeing how the instruments were presented. I grappled between the choice of presenting the instruments by themselves or famous Bluegrass musicians playing each instrument. I decided to go with the route of presenting the instruments by themselves because I felt the scale of the instruments would be difficult to represent and the poster wouldn’t really be about the music of Bluegrass anymore; for example, the harmonica’s player would hold more real estate than the harmonica itself. I looked at already-existing posters portraying Bluegrass instruments and noticed that I would have to think very hard about how to place the instruments all together on a poster, because many of them are vertical with a clear body. Looking at the poster on the left, I figured I would most likely have to change the orientation of some instruments, which I did. However, I wanted to implement a sense of scale in my poster, because I felt like it would provide another level of information for my viewer.

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exploration Although I researched different categories of Bluegrass music (traditional, neo-traditional, gospel, and progressive), it was hard to visualize those categories. I explored different topics such as Bluegrass festivals, bands, and instruments, in different ways of representing, such as using maps or cladograms. I was asked the question, “What do you want people to learn about Bluegrass from your poster?” which really put things in perspective. As someone who wasn’t previously familiar with Bluegrass at all, I would want to present the core Bluegrass: the instruments that help produce its “high and lonesome sound.” Bluegrass music uses 6 core instruments—the banjo, acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, mandolin, bass fiddle, and fiddle—which is below the minimum number of items (8). In order to stay within the range of the project, I decided to include 3 auxiliary instruments to Bluegrass—the harmonica, accordion, and dulcimer harp. After researching, I knew that I wanted to explore the scale of instruments, the harmonica being the smallest and the bass fiddle being the largest.

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In my media explorations, I used a pencil, ink brush, crayon, ink and pen to make blind contours in my sketchbook. I also used sticky notes and pastels to highlight the bodies of the instruments. I liked how the blind contours gave a sense of the instruments’ spirits. I continued with this idea to create blind contours with a sharpie on printer paper, 5 for each of the 9 instruments. As I sketched out thumbnails for the poster, I noticed that using the 16x20 inch format made it difficult to fit all the elements (text and image) cohesively onto the page. Since I am most familiar with using 11x17 inch formats for posters, which is much more vertical, I found that the 16x20 inch format felt too close to a square. I also did not have a sense of the relationships of scale between instruments on paper, so I made that a priority when beginning to make digital iterations.

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a high & lonesome sound

The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

Instruments of Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass music, a strain of country music with ties to Appalachia, irish folk, scottish folk, blues, jazz, & more, originated from the Appalachian region in the 1950s. It is distinguished by its five or six core instruments and its high and lonesome sound.

The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

fiddle

banjo

The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

r

c guita

acousti

I placed these drawings on a draft of my poster, but decided that the images weren’t doing enough work to provide information to people who know nothing about Bluegrass music.

accordion

ica

on

rm

ha

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The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

mandolin

dobro The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

dulc im

er

The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.

le bass fidd The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the music genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion in their early years.


color & type To create the color palette, I eyedropped colors from existing Bluegrass festival posters, which often utilize blue and tan colors. I added an orange as a highlight color for contrast. For the type, I felt that slab serifs would be appropriate for the music genre. I examined different typefaces for the title, description, and captions. After many variations, I settled on the typefaces Carton, Museo Slab, and Museo Sans.

A high & lonesome sound Instruments of Bluegrass music

Bluegrass music is a genre with ties to Appalachia, Irish Folk, Scottish Folk, blues, jazz, and African American music. The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass.

A high & lonesome sound Instruments of Bluegrass music Bluegrass music is a genre with ties to Appalachia, Irish Folk, Scottish Folk, blues, jazz, and African American music. The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass.

A high & lonesome sound Instruments of Bluegrass music Bluegrass music is a genre with ties to Appalachia, Irish Folk, Scottish Folk, blues, jazz, and African American music. The accordion is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass.

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imagery harmonica

accordion

fiddle

mandolin

banjo

acoustic guitar

resonator guitar

After deciding against the blind contour instruments, I explored the process of creating these instruments digitally. I first wanted to establish the scale of instruments, based on pictures of Bluegrass bands and the instruments next to each other. My biggest challenge after creating the imagery would be to place the images around the poster.

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bass fiddle


Barbican, Classical Music 2019-2020 publication This cover uses simple shapes (circles, rectangles, triangles) and overlays to represent instruments.

I attempted to imitate this style but was unsuccessful because the simple shaps don’t work for all of the instruments, especially the mandolin due to its distinct swirl. I also attempted to recreate the instruments using vector shapes, as well as loosely tracing the instruments with my drawing tablet. None of these digital explorations satisfied me because the styles didn’t fit for every instrument or I was concerned about applying the instruments’ scale.

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refinement After exploring different methods of image-making, I eventually decided to take transparent images of the instruments and use Illustrator’s Image Trace function. This would help me retain the true shape of the instrument while also creating consistency in their colors and textures. It was difficult to choose which images to use to create clean shapes, as I found in my search for the perfect accordion image.

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After using Illustrator’s Image Trace function with 3 colors, I set each instrument in 2 colors (the orange and dark blue), and add a shadow and outline to create a sense of depth. Because Image Trace never works perfectly, I edited each instrument to make sure there were no flyaways and spots of colors in the wrong places.

unedited

edited

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For this draft of the poster, I received feedback that the description text could be smaller and in a sans serif typeface. I changed the text from Museo Slab 11 pt to Museo Sans 8 pt for my next draft. Additionally, I made the instruments larger and put them at angles so wouldn’t just be perpendicular. My professor and classmates commented that the harmonica was too small, possibly even in relation to the other instruments, so I made that larger in the next draft as well. I tileprinted the poster drafts at each step to check the color. The first time printing, I had forgotten to put my document in CYMK so the colors printed differently, but one of my professors enjoyed the temperatures of the orange of the instruments against the green of the background. I decided to keep my document in RGB.

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The fiddle is the same instrument as the violin but played differently and is set with a lower bridge. Fiddles are mostly used for lead or melodic purposes within bluegrass bands.

The guitar is now commonly played in a flatpicking style, but was originally played with a thumb or finger pick. In bluegrass bands, the guitar is used as a rhythmic instrument.

a high & lonesome sound

The banjo originated from gourd instruments from West Africa that were brought to America by slaves in the 17th century. Today’s modern banjo consists of a plastic membrane pulled over a resonator. Bluegrass players pluck five-string banjos.

Instruments of Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass music is a genre with ties to Appalachia, Irish Folk, Scottish Folk, blues, jazz, and African American music. It originated from the Appalachian region in the 1940s, when it was given the name bluegrass after the influential band Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. The music genre is distinguished by its six core acoustic instruments and its high and lonesome sound.

The mandolin is used in bluegrass bands as a lead and rhythm instrument. Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, set the precedent of playing a carved- top mandolin.

The bass fiddle, also known as the upright bass, or more specifically three-quarter size bass violin, carries the bass line in bluegrass bands. It is by far the largest instrument in bluegrass.

The harmonica is a reed wind instrument. It is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but is and was used by bands such as the famous Flatt and Scruggs.

The resonator guitar is a louder design of the acoustic guitar. Sounds are made by vibrations through its spun metal cones, or resonators. It is commonly called a “dobro guitar” due to the popular brand Dopyera Brothers.

The accordion is a bellows-driven instrument. It is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion.

The dulcimer is a fretted instrument in the zither family. It is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but is widely used as a folk instrument, especially in Appalachia.

To incorporate the feedback I received, I made sure all the instruments—except for the acoustic guitar and the bass fiddle, to keep the others grounded—were on a slight tilt. I also switched the placements of the acoustic guitar and resonator guitar, because I felt that the pattern of the resonator guitar (which is not something I added) drew the eye off the page instead of helping the eye move throughout the poster. This became the final version of my poster.

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The fiddle is the same instrument as the violin but played differently and is set with a lower bridge. Fiddles are mostly used for lead or melodic purposes within bluegrass bands.

The guitar is now commonly played in a flatpicking style, but was originally played with a thumb or finger pick. In bluegrass bands, the guitar is used as a rhythmic instrument.

a high & lonesome sound

The banjo originated from gourd instruments from West Africa that were brought to America by slaves in the 17th century. Today’s modern banjo consists of a plastic membrane pulled over a resonator. Bluegrass players pluck five-string banjos.

Instruments of Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass music is a genre with ties to Appalachia, Irish Folk, Scottish Folk, blues, jazz, and African American music. It originated from the Appalachian region in the 1940s, when it was given the name bluegrass after the influential band Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. The music genre is distinguished by its six core acoustic instruments and its high and lonesome sound.

The mandolin is used in bluegrass bands as a lead and rhythm instrument. Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, set the precedent of playing a carved- top mandolin.

The bass fiddle, also known as the upright bass, or more specifically three-quarter size bass violin, carries the bass line in bluegrass bands. It is by far the largest instrument in bluegrass.

The harmonica is a reed wind instrument. It is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but is and was used by bands such as the famous Flatt and Scruggs.

The resonator guitar is a louder design of the acoustic guitar. Sounds are made by vibrations through its spun metal cones, or resonators. It is commonly called a “dobro guitar” due to the popular brand Dopyera Brothers.

The accordion is a bellows-driven instrument. It is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but bands such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, the genre’s namesake, utilized the accordion.

The dulcimer is a fretted instrument in the zither family. It is not considered one of the core instruments of bluegrass, but is widely used as a folk instrument, especially in Appalachia.

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reflection From creating this poster, I learned how to be deliberate with my composition and placement choices. In order to fit 9 objects on a page, I had to not only consider their relation to the poster, but also to each other. After going through so many trials with my images, I learned that the type of imagery needs to match what the poster is trying to convey. Since mine was serving as an informational poster for people who weren’t very familiar with Bluegrass music, my images needed to carry a lot of information, which is something my blind contour sketches just weren’t doing. That process reinforced the fact that you can’t get too enamored with your first draft. I invested time and energy into the blind contour drawings, but had to continue to explore different ways of image-making to acheive the level of information I wanted my poster to convey. I received criticism that I didn’t edit the images thoroughly enough, because there are still spots that are the wrong color, such as on the acoustic guitar. If I continued working on this project, I would edit the images more and make sure all the strings are the same color, probably white, so the instruments are more closely connected. Even though I already considered the idea, if I were to make another version of this poster, I would try to present all the instruments as being played by a Bluegrass musician.

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Miles “Bread” Lee Project 3: Collection Word and Image 1, Spring 2019 Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts