Blues tune for new player??

  1. Patty Powers
    Patty Powers

    I've been playing mando off and on for quite a few years. I'm back full throttle again I play mostly bluegrass and want learn some blues tunes.

    I post on the Cafe and have learned a lot from reading posts and asking questions. They are a great bunch I'm hoping to get some suggestions on a good beginner blues tune. A couple of my favorites, that I play now, are Dusty Miller, Cuckoos Nest and Billy In The Lowground. I would like a bluesy "growling medium tempo tune. I hope this description makes sense.

    Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated

  2. bmac

    Welcome to this group!!!

    Rule #1 - Never say "bluesy" unless you also say "classicy" or "bluegrassy"; 'cause bluesy just ain't blues.

    Rule #2: There isn't any rule number 2.

    Enough of my pet peeves... My own approach to learning is to glean what I can from the thousands of Youtube entries. What an incredible resource! As blues tends to be slow by comparison with bluegrass the learning of blues techniques is fairly easy as you can get by nicely without ever using full chords. With your background I would suggest the Steve James video as an excellent learning video (though you probably don't need it). In my view the only techniques which are essential are learning to use tremelo (vibrato) and learning to create double stops. Unlike in bluegrass simplicity is a virtue. I think it is a natural tendency for folks to distrust simplicity and to try to make something which is simple "better" by making it complex. Often in blues the opposite is true. Simple is often better than complex.
    I speak with significant bias as I am legally blind and find reading music, though agonizingly possible, is a waste of my time and effort. Either I develop by ear and and then practice and experimentation or it doesn't get done.... But that's just me.

    This group has been much too quiet lately. Your comments and (or) musical contributions are most welcome!!! And whatever "growling" means doesn't really matter... It is a great word!

    I restored an old destroyed (sat on?) Stradolin mandolin and when I put the first string on, the G string, it literally growled at me!!!! What a thrill that was! After about five years it is still my favorite mandolin.

  3. Patty Powers
    Patty Powers

    Thanks for the input I guess Blues like quality is a more "appropriate" phrase instead of my "bluesy" adjective.

    We have more than just mandolin in common. I too am legally blind. I just purchased a low vision gizmo that I bought at a yard sale. I think it is going to work well for reading music books and TAB. I know how to read music but TAB is easier for me. I learned a lot of bluegrass from a Sam Bush set of tapes. Tell you how long ago I bought them.

    I like your feelings about simplicity. Since my eyesight has worsened, keeping everything simple is a must. Maybe that is why have been drawn to learn the blues I'll take a look at the Steve James video. Sounds like a good place to start.

    Thanks again for your response.

    Take Care
  4. zombywoof
    It is easy to learn blues songs - just figure out some basic chord progressions, bass runs, turnarounds and such. But to learn the blues - you will need to conjure up a heck of alot more than double stops and vibrato. The blues is far from simple - just sounds that way. That's the beauty of it.

    Best advice I can give is to just listen. Listen to how Skip James used thumb and finger pinches, the boom-chic, boom-chic left hand pattern of the Piedomont Blues guys, or how Blind Blake rushed the root of a chord an eighth note before the next downbeat.

    Then comes the fun part - trying to translate all that onto the mandolin. I have only been playing mandolin a few months now and it is slow going - but I am learning. I am hoping to get some tunes I have worked out like Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues" tabbed out and posted here.
  5. bmac
    "you will need to conjure up a heck of a lot more than double stops and vibrato."

    In my opinion when blues becomes about technique for techniques sake it ceases to be blues. Youtube is full of razzle-dazzle "blues" tunes with the player showing off decorative licks.

    It normally takes about three years of diligent practice to develope a competent tremolo and be able to move in and out of it at will (single string (pair) or double stops. That gives one the ability to draw out the note or double stop beyond the normally stacatto nature of the mandolin. By stacatto I refer to the norm for bluegrass playing with its almost machinegun-like speed and techniques. These are techniques which I personally have little interest in. Or may be my old reflexes just aren't good enough.

    Technical virtuosity is nice.. but the very nature of blues is its simplicity and unlettered power. Many of the blues artist of the 30s (almost all of them black) could neither read nor write music or text of any kind. And some knew no more than three chords. And that, in my opinion is what gives the blues its unique power.

    Blues is about economy of means... the old "less is more" idea and to my ear less (in blues) really is more.

  6. mandroid
    For example.. Ray Charles' .. "Born to Lose", is something to tremolo your heart out on ..
  7. ELSOL102
    Where's the blues tabs?
  8. simcha
    I know these are old discussions, but I'm new here, so I've been reading through them. A beautiful and apt phrase, Bart--"economy of means." It really says so much about what makes a good blues good.
  9. k0k0peli
    I've been a blues picker on guitar for half a century and a spottier plunker on mandolins for a couple decades. I mostly play instrumentals and self-accompaniment, and it's hard to treat mando as a standalone instrument. I'm thinking a mandola or CBOM-type axe would be more suitable as a blues machine, providing a bit more depth to the sound. I see myself with a harmonica rack around my neck, a mandola or cittern in my hands (maybe tuned open and attacked with a bottleneck) and a thick rasp in my voice. (That's to prove I've suffered enough to sing & play the blues.)

    Hmmm, I can see a role inversion with mandolin. Lots of blues contains thumping guitar etc behind wailing harp. Flip that: blow a low-octave or bass harp with the mando swirling above that. Oh yeah...
  10. Joey Anchors
    Joey Anchors
    I'm currently going down this same path as a solo jump blues/jazz instrumental act. What I've found pretty use full is learning the blues scale and chord voices.
  11. Willie Dutchman
    Willie Dutchman
    So, I am slippin' on an old hat here, but then the birth of the "blues" didn't happen just yesterday. In the blues scene (as with bluegrass), things started centering in on the "solo", therefore the "song" has gotten left behind. The various voices heard, whatever combo is being used, it may be one instrument or with voice added, etc.......the song itself is the center point of it all. When we swamp it up too much, we loose the whole purpose that attracted us in the first place. (I know if busking, we reach for a dollar by turning things up a notch, but that should only be a brief thing: some know no other way). When we are not prepared to reach inward and find our emotion, we can't deliver emotion on the strings, through the harp, or vocally. And now I ask, who the hell am I to say: I need to spin some Muddy or Wolf....
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