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Thread: How to learn a tune....

  1. #1
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    Default How to learn a tune....

    Hey all. I'm new to bluegrass though I'm an experienced guitar player. I'm trying to learn Blackberry Blossom though I'm having some problems getting started (I'm sure I'll have some similar problems when I get to other fiddle tunes). I've been scouring youtube and literally every version of it is different. I'm not really sure how to learn the melody when I can't find a consistent version, it seems everyone plays it differently, and the couple sheets of it I've seen are different. Any advice there?

    Thanks
    Paul

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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    Just pick one that sounds good to you, that you like. Put any + all other version out of sight and out of mind til you have the one that you like well+truly stuck into your mental "radio player."

    This stuff is folk music. It evolves. There are ENDLESS variations of most of these tunes that go back even as far as 50 years, never mind a hundred or two and more! It happens with every tune that gets played a lot, passed around a lot, played by lots of different people. Folk is probably the most highly variated. But it has also happened to the most popular jazz "standards," happens to the top pop tunes, etc. It's kinda like language- it's almost living organic evolving thing.

    find one you like, make it your own, have fun with it. Then once you really know it, evolve it yourself- add or change lil things, ornaments, turnarounds, harmonization, yadda yadda ... to make it "really your own." Keep working it to put the widest smile on ya when you play it.
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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    Chris put it well.

    if y
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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    Chris put it well. There are book with versions, but they vary a bit too.

    One consideration is to avoid learning highly ornamented versions, as these tunes are played quite differently across styles. A simpler version of a tune is more likely to fit more groups.

    Note, John McGann has a book with 5 versions of various fiddle tunes (this is in it) for mandolin that starts with the tune outline and 'straight' versions then a couple variations. I found it useful when I asked a similar question.
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    Registered User Mark Robertson-Tessi's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    Another consideration is whether you play (or will play) with other folks in your area. Then it would be best to learn it from someone you might play with so that the versions match up at the jam, etc. If that's not an issue, then pick a favorite version and start with that. Then try a different version, and another, and you'll soon see what the overlap between versions is.

    This might be more info than you want at this point, but every tune has an underlying structure, and with practice you can start separating this structure from the individual variations that people have put onto that skeleton. For example with blackberry blossom, the underlying structure at the beginning is a descending G F# / E D for the first 2 bars. Lots of ways to keep that structure but vary it a little:

    G B A G F# A G F# | E F# G E D B A G
    G A B G F# G A F# | E F# G E D E D G
    G B G B F# G A D | E F# G E D B G D
    G - A G F# - G F# | E - F# E D B G A

    Four ways the melody might be played, but the structure in bold has not changed.

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    Registered User EarlG's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    Nicely illustrated answer by Mark. Also, you can get up to speed pretty quickly on a bunch of fiddle tunes with Joe Carr's Mandolin Bluegrass Classics.

    The first two measures in Joe's book:
    G - G B F# - F# A | E - G E D B G -

    These are simple versions that sound good. I see lots of people try to learn really complex versions of fiddle tunes without realizing how difficult they are.

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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    I would learn two or three versions. They are undoubtedly similar enough. That way if and when you need to improvise, just play the other version, or interweave pieces of it. They will think you are a giant.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    I always like listening to my favourite players on that fiddle tune.

    A couple (Whiskey Before Breakfast, Fisher's Hornpipe, Billy In The Lowground) I have learned by stealing bits from guys like Chris Thile, Michael Daves, Tony Rice, Sam Bush etc and mashing them together into a melody that I really like - it's got all the best bits from those players' renditions.
    Doesn't have to be the mando player's interpretation either - you can come across some pretty cool stuff by transcribing melodies played on different instruments (guitar, banjo etc)

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to learn a tune....

    I probably know seven or eight versions of Soldier's Joy. I mix and match at any given playing of the tune. And Fischer's Hornpipe, I must know as many B parts to that.

    I am having the same problem with Beaumont Rag. I have three or four versions that I am learning. I don't know which is the standard, or standard enough.

    Right now I am leaning with East Texas Serenaders version. It sounds the most raggy to me. Beaumont is in Texas after all, though I don't know if Beaumont Rag came from there or started with ETS.

    I have a straightforward fiddle tune version, copied in one of my notebooks, and its ok, but it makes you want to hear the "real" thing.

    I have a piano version, which sounds great, but the harmonies available on the grand staff are hard for me to incorporate, and some of the fun of this particular version is how the left hand and right hand trade off.

    Doc Watson's Beaumont Rag is an amazing piece, blistering, but it is way too sparkly and showy than I like. I want folks to be carried by a rag, not by a sea of notes crashing into them. But if I learn some of it, I can use it during a jam to give a little excitement to the proceedings.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
    We cannot put off living until we are ready. -- Jose Ortega Y Gasset

    The entire staff
    funny....

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