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Thread: Newbie "break" question

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Newbie "break" question

    Just a beginner here, but I'm trying to understand what the most common "break" would be. Is it most always played over the verse chords? I know enough chords to lead a song in a jam and have a decent voice but am light years away from taking a solo, so I'm wondering if it's song specific or is it generally the verse chords that are played. Obviously if verse and chorus are the same like " In a Gravel Yard", there is no problem but I'm listening to stuff like "Footprints in the Snow" and others and I can't always tell (especially, if the solo doesn't follow the melody line too closely). I don't want to be screwing up if I'm leading a song, but not taking the solo. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    First off, don't worry bout screwing it up, everyone does. It's no big deal. Secondly, most times the solo is over the verse chords and it is good to know the melody if you can.

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    I'm in the process of learning the melody but I'm not up to speed yet. I just don't want to be playing the wrong chords when someone else takes the solo.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Mando Mort got it right; play the verse melody when it comes time for your break. We all make mistakes but keep on keeping on.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Well ... firstly learn the chords and when to change them. When you have played long enough this will be more natural. Secondly learn the melody of the verse. Breaks can be played in three different ways. One is to stay strictly with the melody. Another is to play some of the melody and then add some "licks" . Lastly is to play the chord changes with pieces of scales .... arpeggios or blues or pentatonic scales changing with the chords. All are appropriate but IMO it is best not to stray too far from the melody and it's "feel". As Mando Mort wrote don't worry about screwing up..... everybody crashes and burns it's part of the process. Play along with recordings or streaming sites after you learn what chords work together in what keys and you will be on your way.... R/
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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    No, no, no. I'm NOT taking the breaks. I'm just a beginner. I can start a song, take the lead vocals and play along with the chords. BUT, when it comes to the solo, some other random person at a jam might take it but I just am not sure if there is an agreed upon formula for what chords are going on in a song w/ an A part & B part, verse vs chorus.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Mort View Post
    . . . Secondly, most times the solo is over the verse chords . . . .
    (Unless you're Dave Grisman.)

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    You decide before you start the song. Then you tell everybody you'll do A A B B (or A B A B or whatever sequence you want) and then keep that going for the break. There's no right or wrong way to do it -- you can even say "For the breaks we'll just do A A over and over until everybody's taken their break, then back to A B A B for the final time through the melody."

    The only wrong way is to not tell the group what you plan on doing.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Quote Originally Posted by dhbailey View Post
    The only wrong way is to not tell the group what you plan on doing.
    All I typically get is potatoes. If you've been more than once it's usually enough

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Thank you! Questioned answered. I did think in the back of my mind that I should just asks the better players who might be taking the break, whether we should be playing the verse or not (verse would be my default), but I thought it might be a stupid question, so I thought I'd ask it here first.

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    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    No rules here. Sometimes we don't, jam over the B part on a AABA song but the B part is the juiciest and I will hollar out "bridge" on my solo so I can play over those changes.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Long ago I learned to watch our lead singer when I'm coming out of a break. If he's not going back to the microphone, I know he's forgotten the next verse. That means I continue until I get a nod or something to indicate he's ready. It happens often enough that watching him is routine. On a few occasions, he will throw in an unscheduled break just for the halibut.* He says it keeps me on my toes.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    I don't think there is a deffinate verse or course, generallywhich ever one picks best. I have even taken a break that didn't follow chord progression of verse or course. Of course that must be discussed before hand.

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Interesting...no one seems to communicating with anyone at the jams I've been to but I'm now guessing that they have played together before and have come to a certain agreement or folks just course correct trying to follow whatever direction the soloist takes. I just didn't want to be the one going off in what might be an obviously wrong direction. I would just hang back and go with the flow and listen to what others are doing, until I got a sense of the group but I get pushed to start up a song and sing lead but experience-wise, instrumentally, I'm challenged. Gonna try to hang a bit to the perimeter and absorb more.

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    NY Naturalist BradKlein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Just to be a bit clearer - in a bluegrass jam the default answer is to solo over the verse, and if another player takes a break, they'll usually repeat the verse unless the leader of the tune says clearly, 'play over the chorus'. If there are a lot of people taking breaks, a typical bluegrass jam might go:
    kickoff
    sing verse, sing chorus
    solo over verse chords
    sing another verse, sing chorus
    solo over verse chords, repeat,
    sing another verse, sing chorus
    solo over verse chords, repeat, maybe repeat again
    sing chorus only
    end
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    The "AABB" mentioned above is generally for instrumentals, fiddle tunes, banjo/mando tunes, et. al. Most of these tunes are "two A parts, two B parts, then repeat." Lots of exceptions but it's a base to start from.

    On vocals, if you know the chords for the verse and the chorus, you can usually recognize which the lead instrument's playing, and play the correct chords behind it. From what you've said, you're not planning to take a break yourself, at least not yet. Brad's explanation above is a good start, but be aware there are lots and lots of exceptions as well. For example, there are what are called "turn-arounds," where the instrumental interlude after the first sung verse/chorus is just a "walk-down" to the "five chord," then back up to the "one chord" (the chord of the key the song's in). These can fool you, if you're expecting a full "break" on the verse melody. Fox On the Run is an example of of a song with a turn-around after the sung chorus, followed by either a sung second verse, or an instrumental break on the verse melody.

    And, sometimes the break on the verse melody is followed by another sung chorus, rather than a sung verse. Sometimes the song starts with a sung chorus, followed by either a sung verse and chorus, or an instrumental break followed by the sung verse and chorus. A couple songs I've done this way have been Think Of What You've Done (Stanley Brothers) and Tennessee (Jimmy Martin).

    The best advice I can give is to keep your ears open, follow the more experienced jam members, and when you're leading a song, figure out how you want to "intro" it, and structure it conventionally -- instrumental breaks generally on the verse melody, but sometimes on both verse and chorus. Be aware of some peculiarities of individual songs -- the "walk-down" on Friend Of the Devil is almost invariably used for both intro and "outro."

    The longer you participate, the more natural these things will seem; soon you'll get it right almost instinctively, and not have to consciously plan out the sung portions and the breaks. Learning the patterns is almost half the fun, really.
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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Alan, Brad thanks so much for the info. I've been listening to breaks on some of the songs commonly played and was thrown off by some of the nuances you mentioned. Like where the break is shorter than expected or sometimes it's exactly the same as the verse chords but then other times a bar or two is added at the end before they jump back in with the next verse. I will listen to more recordings of songs that I'm gonna lead and try to get a consensus on what's likely to happen. I'll also bring my ears with me to the jam and play close attention to what folks are doing on other songs, for future reference.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    The "AABB" mentioned above is generally for instrumentals, fiddle tunes, banjo/mando tunes, et. al. Most of these tunes are "two A parts, two B parts, then repeat." Lots of exceptions but it's a base to start from.

    -- the "walk-down" on Friend Of the Devil is almost invariably used for both intro and "outro."

    .
    Interesting comment, as I have always heard and played that song ending on the D chord of "night", which is the way the Dead did it.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    "Usually Pickin's" summation is one I'll print and refer back to, though all above is good insight.
    Time in the chair makes all things more clear and more easily accessible, almost begins to become muscle memory.
    I too am one to try to get my head around "theory", as I've read on here, discussing music is like dancing to Architecture.
    ............... something like that................Hope all are having a great start to the new Year!
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    80% of the time if you take a break and play the verse part of a song that would be fine, jams are fun but should also be kept as simple as can be so that "newbies" can join in, I have seen many a jam session break up because a few pickers wanted to throw in a lot of complicated stuff or play a song that had way too many chord changes for a newbie to keep up with....Don`t be afraid to tell the rest what part of a song you are going to play, it will only take a minute or so to get them on the correct chord progression and that will make it more fun for everyone...My band has been together for many years and at times I still have to let them know what intro or what I am going to do when I take my break...It`s what makes it so much fun, make it sort of sound like a joke...

    Good luck and above all enjoy the trip....

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    Registered User Tom Morse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    Sometimes they sing on porpoise but most of the time just for the halibut.
    Just be sure you get the cods right!
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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Thanks all, I will speak up and say something simple like "breaks after the chorus and I'm playing verse chords, ok?" I'm playing tonite. We will see how it goes.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    If he's not going back to the microphone, I know he's forgotten the next verse. That means I continue until I get a nod or something to indicate he's ready.
    Love it! That's a well-oiled machine, your band.

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    Default Re: Newbie "break" question

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    ...*Fish Quartet
    1st Tuna
    2nd Tuna
    Barracuda
    Bass
    Sometimes they sing on porpoise but most of the time just for the halibut.
    This stuff gives me a severe haddock. I wish the punsters would just clam up, and not post every fish reference that comes down the pike...

    Oh well --


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