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Thread: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

  1. #26
    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Feb 2008

    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I have been working my way through the exercises in this book. One thing that struck me was that when I play these exercises or even just fiddle tunes in general, I do seem to make them all sound like exercises, i.e. they lack musicality. I even find this when playing Will Patton's tab version of Ornithology! Any time the tune has long passages of eighth notes, it finishes up sounding like an exercise.

    I have tried to get round this by playing along with CD's where possible hoping that this might let me copy articulation, but often I lack the speed to manage that. Maybe I'm just not muscial enough, but it's not through lack of practice or listening to music.

    Any tips on how others try to bring muscicality to what they play

  2. #27
    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Sep 2008
    Boston MA and environs
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Anything can sound "like an exercise" if it's not played musically. It's up to the player to put expression into the music, to make it music with a capitol "M". A few things to think about to bring more musicality into the picture:

    • Use dynamics, don't emulate a typewriter, think of how in your normal speech you have rises, falls and accents.
    Experiment with slurs (hammers/pulls) but not as a gimmick, use them like spice.
    • Vary tone color- try playing closer to the bridge on the low strings and closer to the fingerboard on the high strings.
    • Vary time feel- play with the metronome and try phrasing relaxed in back of the click (slightly), dead on, and slightly ahead (drive without rushing).
    • Think of what soul and emotion in music mean to you- who are the players that make you feel something? What are the elements of that feel that you can emulate?
    • Compose several variations on the memorized lines (and memorize them), so you can approach them as 'ideas' to play from, rather than licks that are slapped on like a Band-Aid™.
    • Being dissatisfied with elements of your playing and being willing to do something about it is a sure sign of impending growth. Have fun!

  3. #28

    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    A few months into my mandolin playing I worked real hard for a while on learning and polishing a "set" of three tunes so that I could have something interesting to play when somebody said "Can you play us something on the mandolin". Right when I getting pleased with myself over how evenly I could keep time and how smoothly and connected I could play, my mandolin teacher said "If you're going to play that for someone who doesn't know those Scottish fiddle tunes, you've got to give them some phrasing cues or it will just sound like a 2-minute string of eighth notes".

    The amazing thing was once that had been pointed out, what had sounded so smooth and even to me now sounded like one big blur of notes. Suddenly it seemed awful when I started listening to myself as a listener and not someone who, as a player, knew when the A part ended and B part started or whatever. Just when you think you're getting somewhere you gain some perspective and realize how far you still have to go.

    I am confused as ever, but now I'm confused on a higher level and about more important things.
    The first man who whistled
    thought he had a wren in his mouth.
    He went around all day
    with his lips puckered,
    afraid to swallow.

    --"The First" by Wendell Berry

  4. #29
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    May 2012
    San Diego CA

    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I bought this book a while back and used it a bit, but got side tracked with some other things I was getting in to. Long story short, I lost the CD somewhere in the shuffle. I was hoping I could find the tracks somewhere online but to no avail. Anyone (maybe John) know where I can get the CD or the tracks at least?

  5. #30
    Registered User
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    Sep 2012
    Outside of Paris

    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I'm working on the Fiddle version of this book and I was searching for some discussions about it but this is the only one I found. I also play a little mandolin but I don't have McGann's book. I know this thread is quite old but I'm hoping some people are still subscribed.

    I have a question about the first song Lamb Chops. It's not clear how he got the Level 1 Skeletal melody from the Mary Had a Little Lamb melody. I see parts of it in there but I'm not sure how to apply this to another tune.

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