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Thread: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I just picked up the Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin book and CD by John McGann.

    My feeling was that he's pretty much the boss teacher out there, and this is his new 'textbook.' So, I bought it this week, and so far it's money well spent. The songs and arrangements on the cd are first class and varied in style and complexity. As for the book, his approach to improvization is structured, systematic, and sensible. I'm hooked on "The Ark and the Saw" his arrangement of "Arkansas Traveller," and I experimented with his take on "Blackberry Blossom."

    Though there aren't any peeks at the book on the web that I know, it's like any other instructional book (Hal Leonard, etc.) with standard notation and tabs, preceeded by some explanation. I expect this to be my primary text for the next several months (I'm in learning mode right now). Spudo from the "Parking Lot Pickers Songbook" thread asked what level "BBM" is. I'm beginning my 3rd year playing, and I find it challenging but 'do-able.' I'm looking forwad to it. The songs and arrangements get into your head, so - hopefully - the improvisational elements will get in there too.

    It'd be cool to hear from others who are using the book. What say you, others?
    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



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  2. #2
    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Thanks for starting this thread, and for the much appreciated props!

    - as per Jonz's request, here are two sample pages.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by John McGann; Jul-17-2011 at 6:18pm.

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    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I've just ordered a copy of this book.

    I haven't learnt any theory for a number of years but I think I have developed as an improviser in that time so it will be really interesting to lean about theory behind this.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Any and all questions welcomed, happy to share ideas/insights/complaints

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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I'm really groovin' on "The Ark and the Saw."
    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Nice! It's the genius of Matt Glaser; the book's CD includes the full studio Beacon Hillbillies version from 1992 with Tony Trischka on banjo along with Matt, myself, Jimmy Ryan and Jim Whitney. That was a pretty atmospheric track...

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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I've been thinking about picking this one up. As a player for 10 years, I haven't bought an instructional book in years, since a good majority are focused towards beginners. I'm definitely looking for a way to spice up my bluegrass stylings.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    It's funny; I don't think of it exactly as an "instructional book", but a collection of tunes that each focus on a specific idea, without being dry or pedantic. It is fine to bounce around from topic to topic, it is in no way a "graded tutor" kind of thing at all...

    My suggestion is for folks to just listen to the CD a bit first, to get an idea of what the music actually sounds like, before digging into the text and notation. I always enjoy approaching things from this angle when possible- check the musical results, and then work forward...

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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    My suggestion is for folks to just listen to the CD a bit first, to get an idea of what the music actually sounds like, before digging into the text and notation. I always enjoy approaching things from this angle when possible- check the musical results, and then work forward...
    I think of that as learn the song first, then learn how to play it. Something I'm starting to try and incorporate in my own learning but it kind of goes against the grain for me.
    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

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Hi Brent- i mean just listen and enjoy first, rather than "learn by ear"- listening for pleasure, let the sounds get in your head, and hopefully that leads you to pulling out the piece in the book (tho learning by ear is excellent, too!)

  11. #11

    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I think that's what I meant too...or it's what I meant to mean...

    I've been making a few attempts at learning songs by ear. And it's such slow going that's going to just have to be a long-term goal. In the mean while, if I'm going to mostly learn tunes by reading them from sheet music I'm trying to at least "learn the tune" in the sense of having it running through my head first, before sitting down with the music to "learn it" in the sense of what note comes next.

    If that makes any sense.
    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

  12. #12
    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Makes total sense, having tunes "in your head" will really help speed up getting them on the fingerboard.

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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    i mean just listen and enjoy first, rather than "learn by ear"- listening for pleasure, let the sounds get in your head, and hopefully that leads you to pulling out the piece in the book (tho learning by ear is excellent, too!)
    In the words of the great band "Boston" - "Well, I'm takin my time (I'm just movin along)." It's a good way to get your head around the material. Take your time, and we'll all discuss and share as we make progress.
    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Here's my first - really rough - take on "The Ark and the Saw." I haven't got the ending...

    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



    Instruments

    Mann 2 Point - 2011
    Girouard Mandola - 2013
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    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    I have just started working through this book, but a few questions straight away to make sure that I get off on the right foot.

    1. Do the asterisks on Level 1 example on page 2 denote the skeletal tones or are they downstrokes?

    2. On page 2 last paragraph is the reference to level 1A, 1B and 1C an instruction to create your own improvisations based on the skeletal tones above?

    3. On the level 2 example on page 3 what is the best fingering for the succession of A#,B, C notes in measures 2 and 5?

    Apologies if these questions appear simplistic, but as I said I'm determined to get off on the right foot and the book looks to be a worthwhile exercise to pursue.

    Thanks.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Thanks for asking!

    1. Asterisks are beats 1 and 3, and are chord tones of the chord of the moment (think D7 in bar 3) and are also vestiges of the original melody. Downstrokes on all quarter notes (the whole example) or downbeats, upstrokes on upbeats would be the basic rule of alternate picking, a very important concept.

    2. Exactly.

    3. I'd use a 1st finger shift on the A# to B if the tempo was reasonable, if it was fast, a chromatic (one finger per fret) fingering would be more reliable.

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    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    John,

    Thanks for your reply and for all the advice we pick up from you on the Cafe. Much appreciated by me and I'm sure countless others.

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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    Any and all questions welcomed, happy to share ideas/insights/complaints
    I had the pleasure of listening to Matt Glasser at Grey Fox recently taking a class in improv. Very insightful and that's why I bought the book. Looking forward to big leaps.....just hope I can understand all the theory.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Thanks Tony (and Mandrian and everyone!)

    There's not a ton of theory in the book, just listening to and playing through the pieces should make for a kind of self-explanatory experience. I wouldn't sweat the theory too much, just enjoy the sounds...the theory can come after you can hear and play whatever the idea is...

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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Here's 'High Windy.' Talk about aptly named!!!

    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    ...and again on the mandola...

    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Here's my version of chapter 5 - "Act Natural," done in a slightly swingy sort of way.

    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    Thanks Tom! The next step would be to slow down a bit and work with the metronome to get everything in a really tight rhythmic pocket...it's a real challenge to play slowly, get each note legato and fat, and to keep a good groove, but time VERY well spent and will pay off in making your playing sound great.

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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin - First Impressions?

    That's where it's headed (woodshed...just me and the metronome). What I'm getting out of this practice right now is a much greater sense of fretboard awareness and finger autonomy. It's like learning more vocabulary words. Next up, proper expression of the words and phrases (time wise).

    Thanks for looking it over!
    ma dh'fheumas tu tarraing, dčan sin gu socair



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    Mann 2 Point - 2011
    Girouard Mandola - 2013
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