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Thread: Where to play melody on fret board

  1. #1

    Question Where to play melody on fret board

    I have some tab for a tune that is played up the neck (mostly frets 7-14). The tune can also be played as written - first position, which I think of as frets 1-7. I don't have a teacher other than books, youtube and other online resources so I'm wondering if there are reasons I've overlooked relative to the advantage or disadvantage of playing up the neck vs. first position?

    I think it might be good to play up the neck to familiarize yourself with that part of the fretboard. Or maybe play up the neck to have a smaller reach between notes. And I suppose some might like the sound played one way over the other as well.

    Are there other reasons to play one way vs the other that Im not considering? I want to start learning the tune but I'm not sure whether to go at it first position or not.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    One position may lay out and be easier than the other. Itís totally up to you to play it where you like it best. It never hurts to learn to play the same thing in different positions on the neck.

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    Quote Originally Posted by mevrowka View Post
    ... Are there other reasons to play one way vs the other that Im not considering? I want to start learning the tune but I'm not sure whether to go at it first position or not. ...
    Often the key determines where on the fretboard a melody works out the best. And often, the key of a song changes depending on where others are used to playing or singing it.

    I do a huge amount of chord-melody work, so this comes easily for me, but my advice is to become used to using closed chords (barre or non-barre) so you can pick the melody out of them, and for the same reason, get used to where the inversions for each chord are up and down the neck...

    With knowledge of the neck comes the flexibility to play melodies just about anywhere, in any key.

    Keep in mind, it's also handy to be able to play a melody in both the low and high registers so you can add variety to your arrangements.

    Edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by mevrowka View Post
    ... reasons I've overlooked relative to the advantage or disadvantage of playing up the neck vs. first position? ...
    I'll add, one pretty obvious reason for playing in the higher register is because higher notes penetrate and can be heard better than lower notes, especially when competing for sound space with other instruments.
    Last edited by dhergert; Oct-19-2021 at 9:27pm.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    The genre of music you play can be a factor. If you play Bluegrass, Jazz, or Classical music you'll want complete familiarity with playing up the neck.

    If you play Irish and Scottish "fiddle tunes" like me, you will most likely be playing in first position. You can tell what kind of music I play by looking at the fret wear on my mandolin. All the fret wear is in first position.


    Here's why: "Fiddle tunes" are written in a limited range of keys and modes, mostly centered on G and D with their related Dorian and Mixolydian modes (sometimes Aeolian). These are the keys/modes that sit comfortably in first position on the fiddle, and are also derived from the scales of diatonic instruments like pipes, flutes, and button accordions. That's where the music sits, and if you're planning on playing with other musicians you'll want to be in those same keys and modes. First position also has a technical advantage in allowing use of open strings for drones, double stops, and pull-offs. Using open strings also facilitates speed, and some of these tunes need to be played fairly fast.

    There is just no advantage in playing the same notes higher up the neck in this particular genre of music, with a few exceptions like arrangements of O'Carolan harp tunes, where you'll probably be using more of the fretboard. And again, if I played Jazz or Bluegrass I'd be all over the neck because you need that flexibility.

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    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    I'm working on a fiddle tune where the B part is in a higher register. A high b (1st string, 7th fret) is a key melody note. I often get my little finger in the wrong place playing out of 1st position in tempo. It's much easier to shift up, then back, to play that part of the tune.

    D.H.

  9. #6

    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    Play it wherever it works/sounds good to you. Staying 1st position has the advantage of using the open strings. Some keys require a small shift and then you can come back, moving up/down the neck gives you a break in another octave so thatís nice to have in your pocket for a jam situation.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    Another reason one might go "up the neck" for all or part of a tune is to keep the phrase on the same strings. It really can make something sound extraordinarily beautiful to avoid string changes in the middle of a phrase. Especially when going across from the wound courses to the plain ones.
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  11. #8

    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    There is just no advantage in playing the same notes higher up the neck in this particular genre of music, with a few exceptions like arrangements of O'Carolan harp tunes, where you'll probably be using more of the fretboard.
    Of course, since we're talking mandolins you prbly didn't need to elaborate. But I'll just add (since I play 'em) - while mandolin/fiddle generally don't double or play sections an octave higher, it's almost de rigeuer to do this for instruments that have the range such as harp, cello, guitar, hammered dulcimer...sometimes accordions. Mndln, fiddle, flute, pipe, whistle just don't have the range to exploit.

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to play melody on fret board

    And even if it's in the same octave, playing up the neck has a different sound. On my mandolin it's a little mellower. It depends on what you want to hear. Open strings sound a little different from stopped strings, and also stopped strings allow a little more control over attack, sustain, and timbre. I'm not saying that open strings cant be controlled.

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