Does a mandolin work well in Old-time music?

  1. woodwizard
    I think yes... You normally think of fiddles and clawhammer banjers when you think of old-time music but a mandolin IMHO fits in there very well AND there were mandolin players of old-time way back there as well. Like for instance Ed Hayley's wife played mandolin with him on most if not all of his recordings.
    But... I know, I know it's usually the fiddles that carry everything most of the time. In my band I usually play the melody with everyone. That's old-time man. Love it!
  2. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    It's true the mandolin often plays second fiddle to other instruments in OT groups, past and present.

    However, mandolin playing, both melody and rhythm, can be found on many OTM recordings from the late 20's forward. The Scottdale String Band from Decatur, Georgia (named for the Scottdale mill) recorded 30+ sides with mandolin and guitar accompaniment. Several sides were released by Three Tobacco Tags with mandolin and guitar accompaniment (from around Gaston County, NC). Ted Hawkins released several sides with Riley Puckett or The Skillet Lickers. The mandolin while not the primary go-to instrument in OTM from the past is well represented.

    There's many fine mandolin players in OTM groups these days (I recommend you check out two of my favorites Clyde Curley and Curtis Buckhannon). I have a reference type of website that's a work in progress where you can find more information about Old Time Mandolin Music ->
  3. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    Lots of mandolins show up at the OT jams I go to. Thanks for the link, Paul, that's a cool site.
  4. woodwizard
    Yes thanks for the link Paul and the fine information. I've listened to the Skillet Lickers a lot and I will take your advice and check out Clyde Curly & Curtis Buckhannon. Not many OT pickers around here. Mostly Bluegrassers. You have to head up a little north Arkansas toward Mountain View from the river valley where I'm at to find more OT. I was really lucky to hook up with some didicated OT pickers in my neck of the woods. Our line up is two fiddles, a clawhammer, guitar, upright and me on the mandolin. We are having a blast that's for sure.
  5. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    Clyde Curley and Curtis Buckhannon all good stuff. And of course you can't beat Norman Blake's OTM mando playing. It's scattered across his CDs and records. Well worth the effort to find it. One his last projects with Peter Ostroushko "Meeting on Southern Soil" yielded several great OTM mando tunes.

    You can listen to a couple of samples from tunes played by Clyde Curley here ->

    Curtis Buckhannon also played with Geoff Seitz and Jim Nelson as part of the IL-MO Boys. Sadly, I don't think the IL-MO Boys play together anymore, but you can still get their last CD Laugh and Grow Fat on the Vigortone Records label. Jim Nelson started a small OTM label called Vigortone Records and every release is a winner.

    IL-MO Boys ->

    You can read about the Buckhannon Brothers here and sample their CDs -> I think the only place you can get a Buckhannon Brothers CD is directly from them.

    I'll stop here. Happy Listening.
  6. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    One more post.

    I forgot to mention that I found some YouTube videos of the Buckhannon Brothers playing with a couple of fiddlers. I linked them to Old Time Mandolin Music website. Click on the OTMM on Video link in the navigator bar at near the top of the page. If you want to see all the videos posted so far, click on the archive link on the OTMM on Video page.

    Old Time Mandolin Music ->
  7. zookster
    You guys need to check out the Fog Horn String Band from Portland Ore. Very heavy use of the mandolin in the 5 piece group. They play so good, you'd swear they were Southerners! First album (Rattlesnake Tidalwave) is the best one, but all three recordings are terrific. Also worth a listen for the unusual banjo style (not clawhammer --not exactly three finger, but it works). From photos I think the mandolin player has a Gibson A model.

    I will also second the raves for Clyde Curley. The round hole F models were made for old time.

    I'd be interested to know what kind of mandolin the members of the group prefer.
  8. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    I second the vote for the Fog Horns with Caleb Klauder on mando. Sometimes the mando gets a bit lost in the mix. The Fog Horns are great band with a great tune selection. They'd split up awhile ago, but I believe they are back in some configuration or another.

    Check out my website, Old Time Mandolin Music -> For a list of OT musicians and bands both old and new that have the mandolin as part of their string band.

    Caleb Klauder and the Foghorn String Band are listed on the site.
  9. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    FYI... Caleb has traditionally played a Summit F-5.

    I started playing OTM on a Martin A (70's era), then switched to a '23 Gibson A-4, then switched to a '25 Gibson A snake head, and have been for the past couple of years playing a "plain" Collings MT.

    The Collings doesn't have the Old-Timey oval sound like the Martin or Gibson. But the Collings cuts through the band better when playing at a Farmers Market, as you would expect with an A style F hole mando, and it's more comfortable to play with a radiused fretboard.

    I still have the Martin and the Gibson A-4, it's in my avatar picture. I sold the snakehead a couple of years back. While I liked the sound of the snakehead, the fretboard, as is common in that era, did not play in tune. I could tune it so the first five frets played in tune or frets above five played in tune. When I play OTM, I don't often play above the 5th fret, but I do like to double an A or E note by playing it on the 7th fret with the open string. It never quite sounded right with the snakehead.

    I recently got a Colling MT-0 (oval model) that I'm still getting used to. It has a wider fretboard, more like the A-4 in width with a radiused fretboard. It's very loud up close, I'm not sure how it would carry at a Farmer's Market. It sounds close, but not exactly like the Gibson A-4. It's x-braced where the Gibson just has a simple brace beneath the oval hole (on the bridge side of the oval hole).
  10. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    FYI... You can see pics of my Honey Amber finish MT-O on the Collings website -> Scroll through the pics until you get to the Honey Amber finish model.

    I ordered the MT-O with two options: a gloss top finish and a pickguard. I asked for the black button tuners instead of the white button tuners. The finish and tuner are options that Collings does not charge extra for. The pics on the Collings site show the mando with out the pickguard.

    While I was waiting for the mando to arrive at my dealer, I checked the Collings site one day and saw that Honey Amber MT-O model. I though boy that's the MT-O I'd like to have. When I picked up the mando a couple of weeks later, I thought it looked like the one on the Collings site. Sure enough the flame back matched up perfectly. Every once awhile you get lucky.
  11. woodwizard
    Norman Blake's mandolin picken' has been a great influence on me. I think I have just about everything he's done and pretty much have been studying his picken for quite a while. I Like to use my 1919 Gibson A4 when I pick Norman's tunes. It just seems to fit so well. But just as you mentioned about your Collings I tend to use my Gibson F5 Goldrush in a full OT band situation. It just seems to cut through better. My A4 really has a sweet tone though and plays true all the way up & down the neck. Your MT-O sounds like you really got a good one. Beautiful. Looks like your A4 in your avatar is a cherry burst like mine.
  12. sgarrity
    I think the mandolin works perfect for old time. I play both my A5 and my A4, depending on the situation. As for Foghorn......good stuff! Check out the Foghorn Duo as well. As far as Caleb's mando.....he's been playing a Sullivan F5 for quite a few years.

    I played in an old time jam last night with 3-4 fidlers, 3 mandos, guitar, tenor guitar, it was fun. And these fiddlers were great jam partners. You could actually hear the other instruments!
  13. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    woodwizard, are you familiar with Bill and Deanna Lisk from Siloam Springs. They host an old time pickin' on the second saturday May thru August, and play out as Two Cents Worth as a duo and Loose Change as a combo. I know them from Winfield, and they are great folks. That may be a bit far from you, but worth it. Their motto says it all;
    Good Music any Old Time.
  14. woodwizard
    "Good Music any Old Time" ... IS one of the best motto's I ever heard. Pretty cool. I think I might have heard of them. I have a really good flat picking guitar friend (Ed Carr)... that might have played guitar for them on one of their CD's. I have that CD somewhere. I need to try to find it. I also have a really good friend that lives in Siloam (Denise West). A really good upright bass player and he's been a gate keeper at Winfield for over 20 years. Siloam is about 2-hours from me.
  15. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    I googled Bill and Deanna Lisk to see if I could find a website with some of their music. I found a couple of MySpace sites. One for Two Cents Worth, nice Irish music, and one MySpace site for Bill and Deanna. On the Bill and Deanna site I found this pic that made me laugh -> Warning: This pic contains graphic material that banjo players and enthusiasts might find offensive.
  16. Joe F
    Joe F
    I'm very fortunate to live in an area (Minneapolis - St. Paul) that has a strong and active Old Time community. I'm able to attend three OT jams every week, ranging in size from 3-4 players to over 20. There are other mandolin players who show up, but more often than not I'm the only one.

    My approach to old-time is alternate between closely following what the fiddles are doing, and playing open chords. If someone is singing, I'll play chop chords, but I do them gently and not nearly as percussive as bluegrass chops. In smaller jams, especially when no guitar is present, I tend to play chords more than melodies.
  17. woodwizard
    Sounds good Joe. You are very lucky to have all that OT going on. My OT band will get together with everyone about once a month because the clawhammer and one of the fiddle players live pretty far up in the hills but that leaves another fiddler, upright bass, guitar and me on mandolin to get together at least once and sometimes 3 times a week. I have been learning so much from the fiddle players. Like Hangman's Reel, Yellow Barber, Ft. Smith, Cuffey, Julianne Johnson, Magpie, Redbird, New Money, Old Joe, Rock the Cradle Joe, Hell Amongst the Yearlings, Indian Ate a Woodchuck, Ship in the Clouds, Folding Down the Sheets, Avalon Quickstep, Cowboys Dream, Old Mother Flanagan, and many more. Those guys know so many tunes. The ones that I mentioned plus quite a few I already knew I can pick pretty decent but they know so many tunes that a lot of the time I'm playing chords and mixing it up as you mentioned ... just trying to help them sound better. It's all fun.
  18. woodwizard
    Hey Paul I put that picture on my computer at work desktop. So funny. I got to send it to Dave our banjer guy. Thanks
  19. Paul Lucas
    Paul Lucas
    Hey Mike, your going to get me in trouble with all the banjo players! That pic was supposed to be just between us mando guys.

    I like the banjo really I do. Especially when know one is playing it. Did I just say that?
  20. coletrickle
    I also play mando in an oldtime band. I've found a nice ballance between following the fiddler and hamming eighth note chords. If you ever listen to a good banjo uke player, like Linda Higgenbothem (Brad Leftwich's wife), I try to accomplish something similar. Sometimes it is hard to blend into the rhythm, and if you are off at all it won't work...but I enjoy the challenge.
  21. Bob Buckingham
    Bob Buckingham
    I got hooked on old time music while in the service. Kenny Hall lived down the road and played the heck out of the mandolin. Do I need to say anymore?
  22. catmandu2
    Most definitely, yes. I can think of few instances where mandolin wouldn't be appropriate. Over on the jug band group, someone commented that they couldn't think of a jug band tune that wouldn't be good for mando. I concur!
  23. JeffD
    Absolutely and perhaps especially bowlbacks! I have been having a ball at our local OT jam playing bowlback, especially on the older and more southern tunes.
  24. woodwizard
    I think the bowlback or we call tator bug mandolin was the first kind I ever played. They are a lot of fun especially when you get used to the bowlback slipping and turning on ya. They have their own kind of sound too.
  25. Malugssuak
    Am watching a clip on YouTube of Pete Seegar playing mandolin with the New Lost City Ramblers, and you cant get much more old timey than that. The tune is Ragtime Annie Medley.
  26. JeffD
    Of course you are not going to find a defined role for the mandolin in old time music, as you do in bluegrass. Partly because old time music is not as well defined and boundary/role oriented; and partly because the mandolin is a relative new comer to Sourthern Appalachian string band music (the kernel of OT).

    That said it gives us mandolinners a wide latitude of freedom. Here are some things I love to do, over and over and over and over and...

    Play melody in unison with the fiddler, tremolo of course, on everything a quarter note and longer.
    Play a subtle counter melody with the fiddler.
    Play chords and heavy tremoloed "high lonesome" double stops.
    Straight chord back up filling in the gaps.

    What ever you do can work, with the exception of heavy bluegrass style chop chords.
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