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Thread: I'm stumped

  1. #1

    Default I'm stumped

    I'm just starting to play the mandolin and I want to learn the song O Death! but when when I play it in standard tuning it doesn't sound right or is that song to advanced for someone that is just starting out

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Have you tried looking up the tab on the internet? I, at times, have found it helpful. Good luck.

  3. #3

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    That song has quite a simple melody. Simple does not mean easier. Making that song sound right is all about atmosphere, feel and rhythm. Playing the notes straight may not necessarily sound all that great. Emphasis, articulation, dynamics and how you play the notes is at least as important as playing the right notes. Not knowing exactly where you are at, it is difficult to tell whether it is beyond you. This is a place where having a teacher to guide you would help you a lot.

  4. #4

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    Have you tried looking up the tab on the internet? I, at times, have found it helpful. Good luck.
    I have the tab it just the sound my mandolin makes when I try to play the 2nd and 3rd fret

  5. #5

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    That song has quite a simple melody. Simple does not mean easier. Making that song sound right is all about atmosphere, feel and rhythm. Playing the notes straight may not necessarily sound all that great. Emphasis, articulation, dynamics and how you play the notes is at least as important as playing the right notes. Not knowing exactly where you are at, it is difficult to tell whether it is beyond you. This is a place where having a teacher to guide you would help you a lot.
    I wish I could afford a teacher and I'm also homeless so I try to practice everyday for an hour to an hour and a half

  6. #6

    Smile Re: I'm stumped

    Songs like this can be really tricky on the mandolin because they often feel caught between major and minor modes. I made a quick version for you that is in G minor. It mainly uses frets 1, 3, and 5 and open strings on the E, A, and D strings. I like this key for the mandolin as you get the chance to use the low G as a nice drone. Hope this helps in your mandolin journey:

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  8. #7

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Notice in HarrisonMandolin's video how he uses hammer ons, slides and strums over multiple strings. It is a nice version. That is what I was referring to about how you play the notes being as important as the actual notes. The strummed chords establish the minor feel.

    Pay close attention to rhythm and timing. That is at least as important and perhaps more important than the actual notes. Dynamics is how hard or soft he plays the notes. That is critical to expression. These are right hand issues. The right hand does not get enough attention for beginners. Try strumming in rhythm to the song with the strings damped out by your left hand. See if you can get a recognizable rendition just by the rhythm.

    Also try playing the melody just by ear, looking for and finding the right notes. You might surprise yourself. Be sure to be able to hum or sing the melody so it is in your head.

  9. #8
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Welcome to MandolinCafe, for all things music and mandolin.
    What sort of mandolin do you have?
    (pics of your mandolin?)

  10. #9

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Welcome to MandolinCafe, for all things music and mandolin.
    What sort of mandolin do you have?
    (pics of your mandolin?)
    I have a washburn I got for a couple cigarettes and couple grams of weed

  11. #10
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Where are you located? There might be someone here willing to give you guidance or perhaps trade work (e.g., lawn mowing) for lessons. No guarantees, but there are many good-hearted souls here. Your trade can definitely serve you better than what you started with. Good luck.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  12. #11

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Where are you located? There might be someone here willing to give you guidance or perhaps trade work (e.g., lawn mowing) for lessons. No guarantees, but there are many good-hearted souls here. Your trade can definitely serve you better than what you started with. Good luck.
    I'm located in the United States I hop trains and hitch hike all across the country so I would be willing to do work for guidance anywhere in the U.S. or Canada honestly

  13. #12
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: I'm stumped

    I'm not a person who's skilled enough to teach. I won't advise you to cross the border illegally either. You might get more response if you say where you are, and let someone in that area reach out. However, I'm not in a position to help you, so I'll drop out of this discussion.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  14. #13

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    I'm not a person who's skilled enough to teach. I won't advise you to cross the border illegally either. You might get more response if you say where you are, and let someone in that area reach out. However, I'm not in a position to help you, so I'll drop out of this discussion.
    I'm in L.A. right now but we want to start heading east soon

  15. #14

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    If you are thinking of O Death as sung by Ralph Stanley in O Brother Where Art Thou, the mandolin of course won't sound exactly like that. The question is whether you can get close enough for your own satisfaction.

    There are some obstacles. Stanley sang unaccompanied, and so it's quite likely that he didn't sing in equal tempered tuning. My ear is not good enough to tell. If he didn't, then the mandolin, which is tuned in equal temperament, won't play exactly the same pitches.

    Also, as you listen to Stanley, there are numerous places where the first impression is that his voice is quavering because of his age. But I don't think so; to my ear, those "quavers" sound like extremely rapid arpeggios. I don't think anyone short of Chris Thile could emulate those on the mandolin.

  16. #15

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    Quote Originally Posted by Thatonestreetkid View Post
    I have the tab it just the sound my mandolin makes when I try to play the 2nd and 3rd fret
    Your mando might need a little TLC. If you can manage to meet up with any decent mando players, just ask them to try out your instrument. Most know a bit about setup, and there's a lot that can be done without any expense.

  17. #16

    Default Re: I'm stumped

    The Stanley Brothers recorded Oh Death twice, the first time it was fairly fast, the second time was the Oh Brother version.

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